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Othello (Volume 7)

Ikezawa, Satomi. Othello 7 (2006). 192 Pages. Del Rey. $10.95

Previously: Volume 1, Volume 2, Volume 3, Volume 4, Volume 5, Volume 6

The Story This Far…

Yaya Higuchi is your typical Japanese teenager; she goes to school, hangs out with friends, and tries to fit in. Unfortunately, in her efforts to fit in, Yaya has taken it too far, and has become an incredibly quiet, timid girl who gets picked on because she takes it.

Enter Nana, a loud-mouthed opinionated girl who thrives on violence and will enforce Justice upon those who deserve it. She confronts school bullies of varying calibers; from Yaya’s “friends” Seri and Moe to the Hano the pimp, Nana cleans the school. But Nana’s work is never done; there are gropers and molesters and perverts and all sorts of icky people for Nana to beat.

However, there’s more going on for Nana than just Justice; she longs to be a singer, a real rock-star. When an opportunity presents itself (in the form of an invite from Shohei himself) Nana takes it, determined to follow through, no matter what.

Yaya, meanwhile, has withdrawn, unable to comprehend everything which has been going on in her life; she cannot handle the turmoil, and reality is just too upsetting. This leaves Nana in charge of their body until further notice. Will Yaya ever come back? And if Yaya does come back, what will happen to Nana?

In This Volume

Moriyama is worried that Yaya will never come back to him, can he do anything to coax her out? Nana, meanwhile, is pursuing her dream, and wondering what will happen to her if Yaya never returns. Everything comes to a not-so-surprising conclusion.

Thoughts

The series as a whole is very interesting; Nana and Yaya are opposites, completely different people stuck in the same body, yet they need each other. Without Yaya, Nana wouldn’t have restraint, and without Nana, Yaya would lack the courage to do nearly anything. Having been forced to abruptly come to terms with the fact that there she has another personality which she is not aware of is difficult, at best.

Interestingly, the two share the same dream, though Nana pursues music with a more single-minded determination than Yaya, who would not go against her father’s wishes to chase her dream.

There are some issues; characters fade in and out as convenient, setting is frequently established in one frame, and then the characters float in empty panels for a while, and sometimes the story doesn’t seem to know where it’s going. However, the story still fights on through all this, and ends up being a very fun, interesting approach to discovering your identity.

This volume gets a 3.5, because it was a bit rushed, and got a little too cheesy right at the end. However, the series gets a 4/5.

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Filed under Book Review, Contemporary Romance, Graphic Novel, Shojo Manga, Young Adult Fiction

Othello (Volume 6)

Ikezawa, Satomi. Othello 6 (2005). 192 Pages. Del Rey. $10.95

Previously: Volume 1, Volume 2, Volume 3, Volume 4, Volume 5

The Story This Far…

Yaya Higuchi is so painfully shy and timid that she cannot stand up for herself, which is why Nana– her alternate personality– exists; to deal with the situations which Yaya cannot cope with.

Of course Shoujo Manga just wouldn’t be Shoujo Manga if there weren’t a dozen obstacles between every potential couple ever. Just as Hano-chan is taken care of, a new competitor emerges; Shuuko. How will Nana and Yaya deal with this latest problem?

In This Volume

Moriyama decides that it may be time to tell Yaya what’s going on, though he may not get the chance.

Shuuko– Moriyama’s ex girlfriend– shows up unannounced and throws Moriyama and Yaya’s delicate relationship into turmoil.

Thoughts

With only one volume left, it’s not surprising that Yaya finds out that she is Nana, but what is surprising is her reaction. It’s a little unexpected (though not completely) and it promises to complicate her life even further. There are a few ways to go with this– it will be interesting to see which path it goes down.

As with the other volumes, I really appreciated the cultural notes at the end– even when I already “get it”, it’s nice to have a refresher.

This volume gets a 4.5/5.

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Othello (Volume 5)

Ikezawa, Satomi. Othello 5 (2005). 192 Pages. Del Rey. $10.95

Previously: Volume 1, Volume 2, Volume 3, Volume 4

The Story This Far…

Nana exists for the sole purpose of protecting timid Yaya Higuchi, though Yaya doesn’t know that yet. It’s probably a good thing that Nana is there to save Yaya, because she is in over her head with Hano-chan.

Having figured out that Hano’s “jobs” to help pay for “talent school” are little more than prostitution, Nana gets Yaya out of it, which unfortunately leads to Hano figuring out that Nana is Yaya. Armed with this knowledge, and determined to make Nana and Yaya suffer, Hano will be a formidable foe.

In This Volume

Hano makes Yaya work for her freedom, offering her a chance to get out of her contract if she will just play a game.

Yaya faces a subway groper– a Chikan— and with the help of Nana, justice is done.

Nana and Yaya meet a mysterious new girl.

Thoughts

Hijinks abound in the beginning of the volume, which is a slightly silly story. Unfortunately, the tone of the next section takes a sudden twist, and the closeness of the two does them both a disservice.

The second portion of the book– the part with the subway rapist– manages to touch on a serious Japanese problem* without being too heavy-handed. The story, however, dances away rapidly having poked at the topic a little bit.

Volume 5 ends with a bit of a cliffhanger, which is frustrating, to say the least. However, this volume gets a 4/5.

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* Unfortunately, much of the world still believes in the idea that “she was asking for it” or any other permutation of victim-blame. In a society like Japan’s, where standing out is considered shameful, and victims are blamed, it’s a wonder that any women speak out at all. However, it is something which has been getting somewhat better; every year more girls and women know that they can and should speak out against this. I won’t get too much more into it, because my goal was not to go off on too much of a tangent/rant, but victim-blaming is the least-productive, most hurtful practice possible.

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Othello (Volume 4)

Ikezawa, Satomi. Othello 4 (2005). 192 Pages. Del Rey. $10.95

Previously: Volume 1, Volume 2, Volume 3

The Story This Far…

Quiet and timid Yaya Higuchi doesn’t know it, but she has another personality– the outgoing and determined Nana. Unfortunately, quite a few people are very interested in the very noticeable Nana, most notably Shohei, Yaya’s idol.

So far, Nana has gotten Yaya into as many bad situations as she has gotten her out of. Sure, she got rid of Seri and Moe, but her attention-grabbing ways have brought her to Megumi Hano’s attention, and that may not be a good thing. Meanwhile, Moriyama has figured out that Nana and Yaya are the same girl, and does his part to try to protect the innocent Yaya from Nana’s mistakes.

At the end of volume 3, Megumi Hano asks Yaya to help her track down Nana, and Yaya agrees, wondering what she’s getting herself into. In volume 4, we find out.

In This Volume

Hano convinces Yaya to help her find Nana at their school, which is no mean feat, considering how many students there are.

Yaya gets a job with Hano’s father’s talent agency, which is not exactly what it seems, and may not be the good idea Yaya initially thought it was.

Nana gets Yaya out of some financial troubles.

And Hano gets suspicious of the relationship between Yaya and Nana.

Thoughts

I don’t really like the fake-friends that seem to make so many appearances in these series, I consistently think of Sae from Peach Girl when looking at Hano– who calls herself “Hano-chan” which is approximately the equivalent of speaking about yourself in third person constantly. Giving yourself honorifics just isn’t done, and Hano’s use of it is one of the more obvious displays of how unhinged she might be.

Yaya has more issues, and Nana seems to be getting her into a lot of trouble, even when she tries to protect her. The dynamics are interesting, and because this is the 4th book of 7, things are really beginning to build toward a climax.

This particular volume gets a 3.5/5, because I am so very annoyed by parts of it.

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Othello (Volume 3)

Ikezawa, Satomi. Othello 3 (2005). 192 Pages. Del Rey. $10.95

Previously: Volume 1, Volume 2

Yaya and Nana are one person, sort of. They are opposite extremes, two very different personalities sharing one body. Nana tries to protect Yaya and bring vengeance down upon the heads of those who hurt her. Most of the time, this is okay, but sometimes, it’s more trouble than it’s worth. Meanwhile, Yaya doesn’t have a clue what’s going on.

In This Volume

Things just don’t seem to get better for poor Yaya. She’s more and more concerned about her blackouts as they become more frequent, and she’s not sure what’s going on.

Nana, on the other hand, has decided that she is interested in pursuing Yaya’s dream of becoming a singer. What this eventually leads to is her singing for Black Dog as a “guest singer,” which is a mixed blessing. It attracts the attention of Shohei Shingyoji, a manager-of-sorts for Moriyama’s band (Black Dog) and the enmity of Megumi Hano, the president of Moriyama’s fanclub.

Thoughts

Yaya doesn’t seem to be able to get control of her life, which makes her the sort of character you want to protect. She’s sweet and innocent, and exactly the sort of girl who would drive you crazy if you met her, but who makes you worry about her in a comic.

The series slows up a bit with this volume, introducing several “love-rivals”– classic shoujo archetypes– which promise to make the story even more crazy and angst-ridden than it is currently.

This volume gets a 4/5.


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Othello (Volume 2)

Ikezawa, Satomi. Othello 2 (2004). 208 Pages. Del Rey. $10.95

This is book 2 in the series; click here for book one.

The back cover on this particular volume is… not well done. It uses names we don’t know yet, references things that don’t happen, and generally messes up its description.

Yaya is still painfully shy and timid, but this year, she’s wise to Seri and Moe’s tricks; she spends her time avoiding the cruel girls. Things aren’t better though; people keep mentioning things Yaya doesn’t remember doing, and every time she sees her reflection, or bumps her head, she forgets what’s been going on. What’s a girl to do, when she thinks she’s having a breakdown?

In this Volume

Yaya is confused and bewildered by her blackouts. Seri and Moe are evil. Moriyama is a bit clueless, but starts to figure things out by the end. A mysterious stranger is interested in Nana. And there is more “justice”, more concerts, and more mystery in this volume.

Thoughts

Othello starts out strong, and keeps up the pace. Yaya is starting to realize that something is not completely right in her world, and Nana realizes that she needs a hobby; something besides beating up the people who have hurt her.

Part of what makes this series so interesting to read is the fact that Yaya and Nana are on opposite ends of the spectrum; Yaya is the girl who fits in, who may be bullied, but who is exactly what a Japanese high-schooler should be while Nana is outrageous and over-the-top, and incapable of blending in anywhere. (This dichotomy is discussed here)

This volume gets a 4/5.

 

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Othello (Volume 1)

Ikezawa, Satomi. Othello 1 (2004). 208 Pages. Del Rey. $10.95

From the Back Cover

Yaya’s high school friends haven’t been very nice. They call her “Yaya the cry-ya! Yaya the misfi-ya!” But no matter how badly they act, Yaya is just too naive and trusting to believe the worst of them. Hard-rocking, butt-kicking Nana is just the girl to grab hold of Yaya’s timid demeanor and turn it upside down. Nana exposes Yaya’s “friends” as slimeballs, doles out punishment, and does it all with style. Can there be anything that terminally shy Yaya and hyperconfident Nana have in common? Well, for one thing, they’re the same person.

Yaya Higuchi is, in a lot of ways, your typical Japanese high-schooler. She goes to school, and sometimes goes out with her “friends*” Seri and Moe. She is especially typically Japanese in that she is completely determined to fit in at all costs. It frequently seems like she has a clue that Seri and Moe are up to something bad– even if she doesn’t know what, exactly– but Yaya doesn’t want to be alone.

In This Volume

We meet the dramatis personae; Yaya, Seri, Moe, Moriyama, and Nana.

We learn about Yaya’s weekend hobby, and learn who Mimi is. Yaya gets a letter from her 10 year-old self, asking if she’s a singer yet. Nana makes an appearance at Moriyama’s concert, and Yaya’s class goes on their end-of-term trip.

Thoughts

Yaya is an interesting character in a lot of ways; she is Yaya, Nana and Mimi, which are all repetitive names, which are not very common.

This is a series which is simultaneously a great and terrible place to begin reading manga; it works within many established conventions, which can be confusing to first-time readers, however it also has cultural notes, which will help with things readers may not be familiar with; the beginning explains Japanese honorifics, –chan, -kun, -senpai and the like. The back explains specific references which they have preserved; for example, an explanation about why Moriyama is incredulous about Yaya, Seri, and Moe going out to party on New Years**.

One thing which makes this relatively unique is the fact that Yaya has a split personality which she is completely unaware of. It is not something which occurs as the focus of a manga series very frequently.

For being a fairly fun read, and being extra informative, this volume gets a 4.5/5.

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* I don’t know when “frenemy” came around, but I think this is the situation it was made for.

** In Japan, Christmas is the party holiday, New Years is the quiet, family holiday.

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