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NANA Project #9 — Volumes 17 and 18

Greetings everyone!  This month, Melinda, Michelle and I return to discuss volumes 17 and 18 of NANA.  Michelle decides she likes Miu, Danielle has a Yasu-epiphany, and Melinda takes on Takumi and Reira’s dysfunctional relationship.

Danielle: I’ll start by noting that I personally found volume 17 to be a bit exposition-heavy while volume 18 was rather nerve-wracking, what with the so-called “countdown to tragedy” slowly but surely winding down.  But for once instead of skipping ahead to dessert (i.e. the juicy stuff in volume 18 or the compelling flashback to Takumi’s early years), let’s start with the revelations about Misato.  Did her backstory work for you?  Do you think it fit with all we’ve come to know about her?  And what do you think Nana would do if she knew about Misato’s connection to her family?

Melinda:  I’d say that Misato’s story *works* for me, and yes I do think it’s consistent with what we’ve seen in her up to this point, but it’s not as compelling for me as the other things that are going on around it. I am grateful that it doesn’t dominate the entire volume. I’m not sure what to say about Nana’s reaction, though. I think she might actually not want to be around her for a while if she found out. Misato has represented a kind of pure adoration for Nana up to this point. I think finding out that Misato’s secrets actually have to do with *her* could be difficult for Nana. She doesn’t trust easily, after all.

Michelle:  I thought Misato’s backstory did a good job at explaining how she came to know and adopt the name of Nana’s little sister without making it into some huge drama. I’m not sure how Nana would react—she’s always known that Misato idolizes her, but probably thinks it’s something purely positive and not an obsession in the service of which Misato has withheld crucial information.

I was thinking that a lot of this series is about people having idealized views of one another, and it occurs to me that the relationship between Nana and Misato is just another example of that.

Melinda:  Oh, that’s a wonderful insight, Michelle!  I’ll take this a step further and say  that much of the series is about people’s perceptions of each other in general, and how skewed that can be for various reasons. Something that struck me sort of profoundly early on in this volume, was Hachi’s observation about the real Misato, and how she was “not old enough to consider her parents as people with their own lives apart from her.”  I think I spent half the volume pondering that in the back of my mind, and how easily it applies to people in all kinds of circumstances, including adults.

Danielle:  Ah, such excellent points about how Nana idealizes Misato.  I remember how miserable Hachi felt when she first met Misato because she felt so *selfish* for wanting to be special to Nana in a way no other person was.  A lot of this series is about how people try to hold on to those that they love in exclusionary ways that can be harmful to both individuals.  There has to be a balance somewhere…between Yasu, for whom all loved ones are equal in status, and Nana’s suffocating desire to completely own Hachi or Ren.

Michelle:  I was thinking that maybe Miu is the best at not wanting to completely own someone. She’s a little jealous of Yasu’s connection with Shion, but I didn’t get the impression it’s going to make her hyperventilate or run away from the relationship. She’s also able to see almost instantly that *Hachi* is the strong one and Nana the weak one, no matter what Hachi herself thinks. Am I the only one who began to seriously like her in these two volumes?

Melinda:  Anyone who befriends Hachi is fine by me, so Miu definitely grew on me during these volumes, yes.

Danielle:  *raises hand* Not only did I start to like her, I had a total Yasu EPIPHANY.  I’m like a Yasu-convert now.  I’ve been very critical of him in the past, but watching him respond to the disaster that is Shin with tough love, I realize he’s almost always taken the right approach with the others (the big exception in my mind is his unquestioning support of Ren, because Ren totally needs to be set straight by someone with a lot more sense than him and Reira is a disaster as a friend).

Michelle:  There’s a lot of great Yasu stuff in these volumes. His approach to the Shin situation was strict but ultimately more loving than any more lenient suggestions. While Nana and Takumi thought of the tour first, and Hachi thought of Shin first, it was Yasu who was able to see both simultaneously. I suppose he and Miu do make a good couple after all, since she’s a fairly impartial observer who hasn’t concocted idealized notions about the other characters.

Melinda:  I found Yasu’s comment stating that making Shin feel guilty for canceling the tour was less awful than making him feel expendable to be, actually, very moving. I’ve been a fan of Yasu from the start, but he’s really shown to his best advantage in this situation, I think.

Michelle:  It’s interesting how strongly Ren seemed to feel the same, too. Maybe it’s because of their shared background that they’re both very sensitive to making someone feel unneeded.

Danielle:  I can’t give Ren any credit here at all because he’s never *useful* in these situations ever.  He tries for Yasu’s distant protection and ends up as performing a fairly cool self-interest instead. Ren’s refusal of Nana’s attempt to enlist him into the band for their first major arena concert really grates with me.  Can he never ever step up and be a hero for Nana?  Is this expecting too much of him (or anyone?)  Just once I’d like him to put Nana first.  Just.  Once.

Melinda:  You know, for once I can get behind intense anger towards someone other than Takumi (heh), because I absolutely agree with you, Danielle. Though it doesn’t *surprise* me, it infuriates me that Ren won’t step up to help Nana here, at least just for the one concert. How could that have possibly hurt him? Yet it might have saved Blast.

Michelle:  I’ll be the lone voice supporting Ren’s decision here. Okay, yes, maybe doing it for one concert might not have hurt, but it’s obvious that Shin is not going to be released for a while. What then?  What about the other shows?  What happens when Shin realizes they all went on without him?  There’s no good answer here, because going on with the tour with a different bassist and canceling the tour altogether *both* have the potential to derail Blast’s upward trajectory.

Interesting that Takumi sort of took responsibility for it all.

Melinda:  And yes, helping for one concert doesn’t save the whole tour, but at least it buys them some time to find another bassist, or some other solution.

Danielle:  Well, I think what really infuriates me isn’t just the refusal but the way he *digs* the knife into Nana, telling her that he wouldn’t want to help out someone who didn’t support her own bandmember.  Now, Nana’s sinking in quicksand at this moment and she’s mad at Shin, but she has a right to be.  She’ll forgive him in time, but I think she’s allowed to be mad right now.  And Ren’s hypocrisy — when he knows he departed the band for greener pastures to benefit *him* and *only him* — is just disgusting to me.

Michelle: That’s a good point about the hypocrisy.  That angle hadn’t occurred to me.

Melinda:  Yes, YES, Danielle, *that*. Oh, look, I’m all riled up. I really do think, too, that Nana (and everyone in the band) has a right to be angry at Shin here, whatever his own pain has been, and really Ren’s just looking for an excuse not to have to step out of his comfort zone.

Danielle:  Even though I’m not surprised Ren said no, something still seems off about *why* — deep down — he’s refusing her.  Is he that afraid to “step out of his comfort zone” as you say?  It is something else?  Could he really want to torpedo Nana’s career?  I can’t see that of Ren, no matter how self-absorbed he can be (and remember, this is the person who could have “fixed” the entire Takumi-Hachi-Nobu triangle by simply opening his mouth and giving Nana a head’s up about Takumi not understanding that Hachi’s done with him).  Is it he’s just so self-involved he doesn’t want to get involved…because it’s a bother?

Melinda:  I don’t think it’s so much that he’s self-involved, but that he’s really, really a coward. He’s terrified of putting himself on the line, even to save himself. That’s what makes Reira such a comforting friend for him. She doesn’t require anything of him except what’s easiest.

Michelle:  Whereas Nana is needy and requires quite a lot, hence his “I’m sick of catering to her” response.

Danielle:  Perhaps it is time to turn to the reason Blast is in this mess in the first place…poor Shin.  It is interesting to see both how lost and self-destructive Shin is as a teenager but in the flashforward we see a young man who has taken accountability for his actions and works very hard to gain a foothold in the entertainment industry.  I’m kind of proud of how both he and Nobu turned out, to be honest.

Melinda:  I think Yazawa manages this brilliantly. By showing us future Shin juxtaposed against current Shin as he’s making the worst mess of his life, she’s avoided having to tell us what’s happened to him via awkward exposition later on.  It’s wonderfully effective storytelling shorthand.

I’d agree, too, I love seeing both future Shin and future Nobu, and the men they’ve become. They’re even lovelier than I might have hoped. Do you think they could have turned out so well if Blast hadn’t been forced to break up at this point? With Shin in particular, I have to wonder if this ugly wake-up call might be exactly what he needs in order to figure out how to live a healthier life, even if it comes at others’ expense.

Danielle:  Even though Shin’s a walking disaster and is engaging in risky behavior, I have to point out that it is hilarious to me there’s such a big scandal over pot of all things.  I mean, I realize this is a representation of the Japanese music industry and not the American one, but still…Shin self-identifies as a punk.  How exactly is he *supposed* to act?  Sheesh.  And while the underage sex is a component of this, he’s really just busted for the pot as far as I can tell.  In the U.S. he’s be released immediately on bail and probably go off to give a concert the next day.

Michelle:  Well, marijuana laws in Japan are really strict. Paul McCartney was busted there for pot in 1980 and spent nine days in jail. I suppose to them, it *is* a huge deal and a big scandal.

I agree that seeing future Shin, who has obviously turned out pretty well, before we learn the details of his fall from grace is reassuring. It’s interesting to me how much closer current and future events are getting. (Or should it be past and present?  I’m not sure…)  Before, we had this ominous retrospective narration but no clue as to what was going to happen, but slowly, like a funnel, the edges of the story have been coming together and now we can see the other side. We still don’t know exactly what sends Nana running away to England, but we can see that she’s there and that she’s hurting, and it’s only a remembrance of Hachi’s faith in her that has kept her alive so far.

Danielle:  I really like the funnel metaphor, because slowly but surely we are beginning to see the whole picture.  We see why Shin has become an actor, where the seeds of Hachi’s business came from (Miu teaching her how to dress herself in a kimono), why Nobu splits his time between his parents’ inn and the music scene, etc.  We know Nana is alive but we also know that she’s only hanging onto her current life by a thread, which is quite heartbreaking.  Nana wishing for the oblivion of death is just…so broken.  The mystery remains — why does she feel she can’t reach out to Hachi

Melinda:  That really is the great mystery, isn’t it? While it’s easy to imagine any number of reasons Nana might leave the music business in Japan, and maybe even why she might lose touch with her bandmates, who are inextricably tied to memories of her youth and her hometown, it’s much, much harder to imagine why she might cut all ties with Hachi, to whom she obviously still clings, if only in her mind. What could have happened to drive the two of *them* apart like this?

Michelle:  I honestly think this goes back to the issue of having an idealized view of someone. Nana is still trying to be Hachi’s shoujo hero, and probably feels like she’ll be too big of a disappointment. Hachi’s faith in her was a source of strength at times, certainly, like when she prepares to embark on her solo career, but that kind of faith also comes with expectations that she might feel that she’s unable to live up to.

Danielle:  This is interesting theory particularly because of how *not* upset Nana was once the tabloids ran the story on her mother.  I was actually kind of impressed with the fact Nana decided to take the “good” that came from the story — a real reconciliation with Hachi — and not cling to the fact her mother abandoned her all those years ago.  Of course, this could be because as Michelle notes, she’s turned Hachi into an idealized version of herself (and I would argue a kind of mother figure at the same time).

Michelle:  I think, too, that she’s taking comfort in the fact that Hachi is still herself, even after the ideal-busting liaison and union with Takumi. They’ve finally got back into a place where Nana can sort of forget some of that stuff happened and allow herself to see Hachi as someone saintly once more.

Danielle:  Now that we’ve speculated on the characters’ future, let’s return to their past — or Takumi’s past, at least.  “Takumi’s Story” — unlike Nobu and Naoki’s stories, both of which had a heavy layer of romanticism / nostalgia filtering their respective childhood experiences — is a rather unflinching, almost brutal, portrait of the anti-hero of NANA.  In spite of the fact I will always find his treatment of women despicable, I also found his development from violent, empty-headed thug to hard-working bandleader impressive.  A lot of the characters in NANA have impressively shitty childhoods but Takumi’s seems like a living hell.  The fact that unlike a lot of the other characters he doesn’t go out of his way to sabotage his own life or success (because he’s so “damaged” or some excuse we might make for Nana, Shin, Ren, etc.) is a mark of a very tough individual.  I suspect, though, that I am probably alone in my weird respect for this character….

Melinda:  I have a lot of respect for Takumi as a businessman, and his side story here enhances that, for all the reasons you describe, Danielle. I also think his ideas about women are horrifying, and this story only enhances that perspective as well. Interestingly, the person I came out of this story feeling a new sense of sympathy for is Reira.

As much as I despise the ways Takumi uses his girlfriends (and oh, the way he deals with one of them getting an abortion makes me want to punch him in the face) I actually think the girl he treats the most cruelly is Reira. His idea of her as an untouchable doll may be keeping him from defiling her or whatever, but it’s also responsible for pretty much everything that’s wrong with her *now*. All those things we find maddening/annoying about her? Takumi created them. By keeping hold of her so tightly, but refusing to actually touch her, he has, in a very real way, I think, driven her mad. She can’t be with him, because she’s too precious for him to touch, but she can’t be with anyone else either, not really, because he’s still holding on to her.  If anything, this story makes me despise Takumi more, but it definitely gives me a new appreciation for how much it sucks to be Reira. She really *is* a songbird in a cage, and Takumi’s left her in there so long, it’s a wonder she can still sing at all.

Danielle:  I think I feel the exact opposite of you in terms of who is responsible for Reira — I think only *Reira* is responsible for Reira.  She knew he was never going to love her the way she loved him…so why should he take responsibility for the fact she couldn’t leave his side?  The girl we saw in the flashback had spirit and fire.  She even demands to know what she means to Takumi and when he can’t answer her that should have been her cue.  GET AWAY FROM THIS MAN.  She didn’t take it and as she sinks into Takumi’s comfortable birdcage I feel she only has herself to blame.  Takumi’s a strong personality but he didn’t drag her kicking and screaming into his orbit (and, therefore, his control).  She *walked* right into the cage knowing full well what he was like.

I have very little pity for her, because while I respect the teenager who was able to defy him but not the infantilized women who cedes to his every direction / whim.  I totally agree he used her to make his career but I think she let herself be used.

Melinda:  I disagree that this is all her responsibility. The very last page of the side story, when he makes it clear that he wants to keep her by his side… he *knows* how to do this. He knows exactly what to do to keep her with him, and even though he rejects her romantic advances, he never actually lets her go. I’d be willing to come halfway and say they’re both playing their part here, but I just can’t absolve him of responsibility when he’s so consciously keeping her with him. And I don’t actually think he’s made it clear to Reira that he’s never going to love her the way she loves him. In fact, I think he *does* love her exactly that way, but he’s not willing to touch her, because then she’s be tainted by him and couldn’t be his precious angel anymore. To me, that’s just sick.

Michelle:  I kind of feel like y’all want me to cast a tie-breaking vote here, but I really can’t. I agree that Takumi does love her in a way—again with the idealized views!—and is purposefully keeping her by his side, but it’s Reira who keeps staying there. Maybe if he had made clear the impossibility of the kind of relationship she wants, she would have left, but I rather doubt it.  They’re both responsible, and neither one of them is willing or able to walk away from the relationship.

As a side note, I found it very interesting that she does with Yasu exactly what she’s doing now with Shin. She purports to love him, they’re in a relationship, but ultimately, in the end it’s really all about Takumi. In fact, there really are quite a few characters in this series with conflicting romantic feelings for two people.

Danielle:  I’m starting to come around on Takumi deserving a hefty share of responsibility for the status quo between him and Reira, although I think I resist reading him as “in love” with Reira.  I think that’s because he clearly finds it sickening when he tries to think of Reira in a sexual way, which makes me believe that his love for her can’t be read in romantic terms, but rather something much more complex.  In a way, I think he actually holds love for Hachi in his heart, while Reira is part of his soul / extension of himself.  Takumi can do without his heart (i.e. he can discard Hachi when it suits him), but I don’t think he can manage without that which defines him, i.e. Reira.  This may be a silly distinction between love / self but for some reason it just works for me.

Michelle:  That makes sense.  Y’know, learning Takumi had impregnated someone before and urged an abortion makes me wonder why he didn’t do the same to Hachi. Is it because she, although no pure angel, is still more fundamentally *good* than the other women he came across and he realized that, with her, he had the best chance of creating the happy family he himself was denied?

Melinda:  Well, he was a teenager (maybe even a middle schooler?) at the time, so it seems likely that has *something* to do with it.  He certainly felt no responsibility for it having happened back then, and resented having to play a part in it at all.  I do have doubts that the difference would have much to do with Hachi herself, since I don’t think he loved her in the slightest back at that time, or even thought of her as being worth much. She was just something he didn’t want Nobu to have. I think perhaps he’s grown to feel love for her, but back then, she was just part of his need to beat Nobu, and taking care of her and offering to support her baby was what he could do to best achieve that.

Michelle:  I’m pretty sure he was in high school, but given his history of refusing to use protection, that girl and Hachi *can’t* be the only two girls he’s impregnated.

I don’t mean to ascribe better motives to him than he had, because I think you’re right that he wanted to take her away from Nobu, and maybe the notion of building a family came afterwards. I just think it might factor in somewhere, even if only a little.

Danielle: I guess I think it is significant that the woman he chooses to allow complicate his life (something he’d always seen as a “bother” before) is Hachi.  And pregnancy seems like a major complication to a guy whose first response to trouble of any kind is to cut ties with the woman in his life.

Of course, Takumi’s status allows him to support Hachi and a baby in a way he couldn’t as a teenager….but what’s really interesting is that he accepts Hachi *knowing* that the child might not be his.  I mean, that is a complete 180 in attitude from when he didn’t even give a damn about a girlfriend aborting a child he knew was his.

I don’t agree with Melinda that he only valued Hachi because Nobu wanted her…even for a man as extreme as Takumi it seems irrational to commit himself to a woman simply because some other guy loved her.  I *do* agree that he doesn’t love her then, but I think Hachi *interests* him.  And that interest he had for her may be the closest he had ever come (up to that point) to *feeling* something for someone outside his immediate family…besides Reira, of course.

Michelle:  Probably you guys are never going to see eye to eye where Takumi is concerned! :)

Melinda:  Probably not. But at least we both love Hachi!

Michelle:  And you both want to kick Ren in the shins.

Danielle:  And I can’t even begin to tell you both how much it pleases me to wrap-up this month’s NANA project with the image of us kicking Ren in the shins.  Join us later in the spring when the three of us will tackle the final three volumes of NANA that have been published in the U.S. and then try to figure out where we’ll go next.

25 Comments

[…] as I’m convalescing with the flu, but here’s a quick link to the latest installment of The NANA Project, in which Danielle Leigh, Michelle Smith, and I discuss volumes 17 and 18 of Ai Yazawa’s […]

[…] Melinda Beasi, Danielle Leigh, and I have completed our penultimate (for now!) edition of the NANA Project over at Comics Should Be Good. You can find that post here. […]

I want to give you thumbs-up for a great series of articles, unfortunately I have read Nana only up to book 15 so far, so can’t read this now.

Thanks for the comment anyway! :) But you’re right—NANA is definitely a series you don’t want to get spoiled on.

Aw, thanks AS for stopping by!

Great stuff, as usual. It’s interesting about how you all seemed to point out the idealization of characters in the minds of others. It seems like an interesting parallel between romantic love and celebrity culture and how those two things always seem to feature idealized figures of fixation.

To stick up for Ren slightly, I think part of the reason playing with Blast would have been a bad idea is because if he becomes their bassist, even for a little while, suddenly their tour is about him and Nana. It marginalizes Nana’s own talents and more or less sends the message that she could never make it as a singer without Ren’s support. That’s why Ren left her behind when he went to Tokyo, because he understands how Nana needs to make it on her own.

Ironically I don’t think Red realizes just how much Nana needs him emotionally, and he can’t seem to make himself available that way either. I think Nana is confused in how she wants Ren to be with her, and he’s just as confused as she is. The perfect couple!

I don’t think Takumi loves Hachi. He likes the idea of a family that he could theoretically love, but coming from his background, that family has to be something over there without his being an abusive member of it. It’s a lot like Hachi wanting a family, but feeling like a man could never truly love her, so she settles for the Takumi situation, a husband and father that doesn’t have to be her husband. He can go find his romance with mistresses elsewhere and she can demand devotion from her children. It’s the most convenient situation for them and their baggage and I think that’s about it considering the relationship is firmly based in self-loathing on both their parts. If they could get over those issues, yeah, it could work, but getting over the issues involves addressing deeper feelings or the possibility of deeper feelings for other people and then figuring out if they’re actually emotionally compatible with each other.

If Ren would have helped out on bass that night, that would have been a definite end to the band and his relationship with Nana. She never would have been able to accept that her success was anything but having to rely on Ren after that and it would have eaten away at her. It really wrecked her just having to ask, but at least with his refusal she had a bad guy she could blame for the failure rather than herself. I totally agree with all your thoughts on Ren’s selfish reasons for declining, but I think there’s also a crazy subconscious “Black Knight” complex behind it too. A lot of his self-destruction and sabotage add up to protecting her from failure by playing the villain. It’s pretty sick, he assumes she’ll mess up absolutely everything, but he pretends it’s his own fault out of some stupid sense of inverted chivalry. They’ve been together so long that Nana has become dependant on the side of him even while asking him to sub bass for that show.

I’m glad to see some folks sticking up for Ren here, and agree with both of you that Nana would be plagued by doubts that Ren’s contributions were somehow responsible for Blast’s success (and that their being together on stage would become some media circus). I want to think that this was, indeed, his motivation, but then he goes and makes that shitty remark about her, which puts me in doubt.

I totally ship Miu/Yasu. I was torn at first (maybe still am, some), because I really do like Nana/Yasu as well, but I really like Miu and think she can be good for him. I also like Nobu’s new girlfriend (I can’t remember her name because it’s been ages since I read it), even though I still hold out a little hope for Nana/Nobu. One thing about this manga is that I ship so many different conflicting pairings!

As for Takumi, I don’t know whether or not he *loves* Nana, but I do think he genuinely cares for her.

I thought for sure that the stuff with Nana’s mom would be the Big Thing that caused her to disappear and was really surprised when it wasn’t. Now I think it’s almost certainly SPOILER (and I have to give huge props to Yazawa-sensei for the way she did the future bits to trick the readers re: SPOILER).

I’m really pleased for Yasu that he’s getting together with someone he doesn’t need to micro-manage and parent like he does with his band members!

Jade Smith is right, I think – Takumi (now that he’s relatively financially stable and even if Trapnest falls through could easily use his connections to put together another band) is looking for an ideal family without understanding (or usually bothering) to put in the work involved. I don’t think he loves Hachi but he is in love with the idea of a nice little home for him to come back to when he feels like it – he’s always thrilled when she makes him food.

I’ve been looking foward to the point when you guys got to Takumi’s story, because it’s one of my favorite parts in the series. Takumi fascinates me, even when he does horrible things.

I find it interesting that all three of you claim that Takumi “urged” the girl to get an abortion. He was a teen; he didn’t want the responsiblity, sure, and hoped she wouldn’t keep it (although that could also mean that he hoped she would give it up for adoption), but it was solely the girl’s decision to abort. I’m looking over the story right now… The girl tells Takumi she’s pregnant. Takumi thinks “Don’t say you wanna keep the baby!” but asks her “What are you gonna do?”. The girl immediately responds that she’s getting an abortion — which actually seems to stun him a little — and demands money for the procedure, which he manages to get from Yasu.

The thing is, I think Takumi felt really guilty about the abortion. He respected the girl’s right to choose what to do with the baby, but I think he would have preferred she’d have the baby and give it up for adoption. Just look at some of these quotes:

“I think it’s cheap, considering you’re getting rid of a life.”
“The money I make to keep my mom alive, I now have to spend to kill my spawn. What the hell am I doing?”
“She took the money and ran. She didn’t care about how empty I felt. Girls are so selfish.”

I believe it was the guilt over the girl’s abortion that prompted him to step up with Hachi when she decided to keep the baby, even though there was a chance it might be Nobu’s. I think he saw taking responsibility for the baby as a way to atone for what happened back then.

It’s really weird, but Takumi reads very “Catholic” to me. (And I’m saying this as a Catholic myself.) He refuses to wear a condom and seems to have “pro-life” personal leanings, even if he might outwardly appear to be “pro-choice”. Plus, when Hachi decides to keep the baby, he immediately proposes to her. I highly doubt he actually is, of course, but I just can’t help reading him like that.

As for Takumi’s feelings for Reira, I agree with Danielle and think the heart/soul comparison is really apt. Like her, I can’t imagine him feeling romantic love toward Reira, but she is clearly somebody very important to him — maybe even more so than Hachi, who I do believe he has truly fallen in love with.

I need to be clear about something here. Here’s the actual quote from me on Takumi & the high school girlfriend’s abortion: “and oh, the way he deals with one of them getting an abortion makes me want to punch him in the face”. I never said he “urged” her.

My problem with his part in this is not that the girl wants an abortion or that Takumi lets her get one, but that he treats the girl like dirt when it happens. He only grudgingly helps her and he belittles her fears and feelings. He’s cold and dismissive of her when she’s obviously freaking out. And then after that, all he thinks about is that she’s stupid and selfish, and he blames her for leaving him when he treated her so coldly. The window into his thoughts here doesn’t do him any favors, that’s for sure.

Travis – I totally agree, the abundance of pretty cool pairings in this manga makes it hard to choose ‘ships! :) I like Miu/Yasu and Nobu/Yuri too!

Oops, sorry, I guess Michelle was the only one who actually said that. I guess all the anti-Takumi sentiments colored my view of the discussion about that.

I actually think Takumi responded…okay, considering the circumstances. He could have reacted better, sure, but he was young. Even if he resented having to help pay for the abortion — which is very understandable, considering that money could have been used toward his mother’s hospital bills — he still did it in the end. That’s the important part. And they were both freaking out about the pregnancy. It’s a bit much to expect a middle school — yes, it happened in middle school, not high school — boy to be sensitive and caring in that situation when he’s freaking out, too. Not to mention that she decides to have the abortion without discussing it at all with him first. Of course the mother should be able to make the final decision about what to do with her body, but cutting the father completely out of the equation is pretty cruel, in my book. The baby is half his, after all. He may not have been very considerate about her feelings, but she didn’t consider his feelings either. Who knows, if she had decided to keep the baby, Takumi might have stepped up and help her raise it just like he did with Hachi, but he never had a choice in the matter. He just had to go along with the girl’s decision and took responsibility for it the best he could.

No, I was wrong. It was high school after all.

I suspect we’re going to have to agree to disagree about Takumi, but I’ll make one last pitch for my point. :)

Where I don’t feel like he responded “okay” is… yeah, things are hard for him too, etc., but no matter what? He wasn’t going to be having a baby. It’s just the inequity of biology, but despite the fact that the guy carries at least as much of the responsibility here, the girl is left alone with the consequences. He can walk away. She can’t. So her pain and suffering here just weigh a whole lot more, as far as I’m concerned.

@Travis I never expected to like Miu/Yasu because I did like him with Nana so much, but she is totally growing on me. She’s got vulnerabilities, sure, but she’s also quite astute.

@Zoe Yeah, I did say “urged” and probably that was the wrong word, given the actual dialogue in that scene. It’s endlessly fascinating to me that Yazawa has created characters so rich that there’s tremendous potential for discussion points when trying to understand their outlook and actions. For example, I think you support your claim that Takumi felt guilty about the abortion while at the same time thinking Melinda’s point of view is also supportable.

Maybe I’m just a fence-sitter here, but I think I dislike Takumi less than many do, but still stop short of attributing good motives and deeds to him.

Danielle Leigh

March 2, 2011 at 12:42 pm

Zoe — re: Takumi. I’m the only one of us who could honestly say they *liked* Takumi, but as a human being he can be a real scum bag. I mean, he’s fictional and stuff and if I knew him in real life I’d despise him but because it is manga and isn’t real, I totally dig on him for being a complex and endlessly fascinating (to me) character.

Still, as a feminist I back Melinda here on the issue of the role he played in his girlfriend’s abortion. Two human lives — his own child and the girl who was carrying that child — were no more than an annoyance to him. And that’s the sort of person he really is. I still enjoy the character, but I’m not blind to what he really is.

(I’m being outrageously frank here to contrast the fact I can still like Takumi and also absolutely find some of his behavior abhorrent. And I can still respect him as a businessman and for his emotional directness with Hachi).

Travis — heh. Thanks for the use of SPOILER language. Melinda and I are caught up on the manga but Michelle isn’t and I’d hate to have anything ruin her reading experience of the last three volumes.

Yes, I’ve been the one of us who’s been reading everything for the first time in preparation for each installment of the roundtable. :)

I also did reckon that the article on the Uehara family would be The Event, so now I wonder in what clever way I have been tricked. :)

Ah, as long as someone brought up shipping, I like NanaxHachi and ShinxNobu. As much as I like the idea of Hachi and Nobu together, it would seriously be a bottomless rut of listless co-dependence until the both of them learn to be themselves, which ain’t happening any time soon. Despite the problems, the Nana’s supported each other in the healthiest way, by encouraging the other to become a better person. Shin has a way of reigning Nobu in that isn’t domineering or behind-the-curtain manipulative like Yasu can sometimes get, he shines a light on what Nobu knows to be true and just doesn’t accept and lets him make his own choices.

Adult Shin and Hachi might make a good couple too. He can offer everything Takumi provides plus he’s good with the kid.

Danielle — I agree with you. Takumi is my second favorite character after Yasu, but as a person, he does do some pretty scummy things. There are some things I truly like about him — his sense of responsibility (except for his incredibly stupid refusal to wear condoms), his hard-working nature, his tell-it-like-it-is attitude — but some of the things he does…. That what makes him so fun and fascinating to read about.

I felt sympathy for both Takumi and the girl, but I think the reason I’m more on Takumi’s side — other than the fact that I actually know him, while the girl doesn’t even get a name — is the fact that she demanded he pay entirely for a procedure she alone decided to have. It would be one thing if they had discussed their options and came to the decision together, or if Takumi had offered to pay of his own free will, or even if she had simply said, “You are half-responsible for this happening, so it would be nice if you paid for half of the abortion,” but she didn’t. Putting all the financial responsibility on his shoulders when he was already working hard to pay for his mother’s medical bills just seemed really crappy and selfish to me. (Of course, she might not have known about his mother, since I doubt Takumi told many people, but telling a high school kid to cough up a thousand bucks — I think that’s about what 100,000 yen comes to — is asking a bit much anyway. I know I certainly didn’t have that kind of cash when I was in high school!)

Jade, for me, I think Nana x Hachi is pretty much *the* ‘ship, despite the fact that I like Hachi x Nobu so much. Shin x Nobu is a harder sell for me, just ’cause I don’t see the attraction so much. Maybe Shin x Ren, though! ;)

I thought I remembered that one of you was reading for the first time, but I also figured there might be other commenters who were not caught up and I definitely don’t want to spoil!

Shin x Ren? Hmmmmmmm……I can’t see it, they’re too much two sides of the same coin like my problem wit Hachi x Nobu. They seem like an older and younger brother to me, I’d secret family relation ship them instead, haha. Like maybe Shin is a secret lovechild of Ren x Nana’s Mom, hahaha.

Ooo, maybe Reira, Nana and Takumi are all secret siblings? It would really explain a lot, haha.

Nana and Ren seem to be a bit afraid to realize that their actual mutual attraction no longer exists. For all their outer signs of rebelion, both are insecure and afraid of change.

Jade Harris, I like your analysis of both Hachi-Takumi and the Ren dilemma.

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