It's always amazing to see talent at it's highest potential, especially in the form of art. Art comes in a variety of forms, but perhaps the greatest of them all is writing. Writing in its purest form is an art that can transcend time, and can captivate millions of people just by simply creating a powerful message. Manga is essentially writing and drawing combined together to create a force like no other, expressing a story visually while allowing our imaginations to soar freely through very moving dialogue. There are some mangaka out there who just have the knack for story telling and one of them is Ai Yazawa.
Being one of the few female mangaka in Japan, Ai has made a name for herself in an industry that is predominantly male, with most stories consisting of action, super powers, and heroism. Ai tries to capture her audience by being more down to earth, providing a dose of every day life into small volumes that we can relate to. Whether it's a breakup, life of fashion, a new found love, or just a tale of ups and downs, Ai Yazawa has managed to exceed all expectations to create pieces of work that can hold their own in a sea of Shonen manga. To pay our respects to Ai for her outstanding achievements, we'd like to provide you all with some of her best works and going into reasons why we think they deserve their spot on the list. So without any further delay, let us jump right into all of the fun.
5. Kagen no Tsuki
- Genres: Drama, Mystery, Romance, Shoujo, Supernatural, Tragedy
- Volumes: 3
- Published: 1998- 1999
We start off our list with a classic work which looks at the emotional roller coaster life of Mizuki. Much of her life has been full of turmoil, and all she wants to do is start over and make a change. As each day passes, she tries to smile to stay focused, but her heart carries such a burden that it becomes harder each time. Her only means of happiness lies in one individual named Adam, who is a talented English singer. However Mizuki finds it hard to believe that it's all real and feels that it's more like a dream than actual reality. Even more bizarre is that Adam sees his deceased girlfriend in the eyes of Mizuki, but that nobody else aside from him and another girl can see her.
This story is very heartfelt because Mizuki is totally unaware of what's happening around her, and so now most of her journey consists of interacting with the real world to find the answers. It's a tale of a woman who fails to express her true emotions, which leads her to feel not only dead outside but more so within. Friends try to come to her aid in order to piece all of the clues together, as to why she's unable to leave the house she's situated in, and what her object of desire truly is. It's gripping because it reminds us of how important love is, realizing life and death are one in the same, but more so the hope that we can find within to make everything better again. Every moment is a sombre one, as Mizuki is unaware of the tragic events that occurred and all that she wants is more clarity. It pulls at your heart because you see a young girl who's trying her best to regain a lost love, but reminds us yet again to never take true love for granted because once it's gone, that's it.
4. Tenshi Nanka ja Nai
- Genres: Comedy, Drama, Romance, School, Shoujo, Slice of Life
- Volumes: 8
- Published: September 1991 - November 1994
This is one of Ai Yazawa's earlier works, and she does a fantastic job with it. Tenshi Nanka ja Nai looks at the romantic and youthful life of Midori, as she comes to discover her true feelings for someone, while learning to understand love and maturity. Midori witnesses a young man attending to a stray kitten, and is immediately smitten by his nurturing ways. Due to a sickness however, she returns to school a few days after summer vacation only to realize she's been selected as a candidate for student council. After a few mishaps along the way, she and this mysterious boy she fell in love with cross paths, as the two of them end up being in the same council.
As the two start to get to know each other, they come together to create new traditions that take place within their school, but also start to develop stronger feelings towards one another. Ai wanted to really capture the essence of youth in this charming story, while providing a nostalgic feel to the days where your emotions were unstable and you had all the freedom to express yourself. Both Midori and Akira are both inexperienced in the realm of love, and so throughout the series we see a constant back and forth of emotions between them. This very playful type of love is one we rarely get to see in our more mature days, since so many people forget the importance of self love and being playful. The two demonstrate how important communication really is, and through many ups and downs in the relationship trust is formed along with compassion. At times you're laughing at all the nonsense that the two go through, but are then clenching your chest at how moving their bittersweet love story is. Tenshi Nanka ja Nai is sure to bring back memories of those wonderful innocent times, but also be a great reminder that love is an adventure that is meant to be full of twists and turns, and thrilling moments that only make the heart grow fonder.
3. Gokinjo Monogatari
- Genres: Comedy, Drama, Romance, School, Slice of Life, Shoujo
- Volumes: 7
- Published: February 1995 - October 1997
Gokinjo Monogatari focuses on the upbringing of Mikako, as she strives to live out her dreams of being a fashion designer, but learn to cope with her emotions with regards to childhood friend Tsutomu. Both of them lead their own lives but eventually find their paths crossing as they grow older. Tsutomu is always mistaken for a leading member of a popular rock band, and so girls are always swooning over his chiseled looks. Mikako decides to devote her time towards a new club she created, but no matter how many times she tries to avoid bumping into Tsutomu, they always seem to run into each other at the most critical of moments.
This slice of life comedy is very entertaining because it shows us just how powerful our emotions can be when it comes to love. Mikako tries so hard to resist her feelings but often finds herself falling head over heels for Tsutomu, who just seems to be soaking up all of the popularity with the girls. The story that Ai is trying to explain here is that you should never let go of an opportunity when it's standing right in front of you, but more importantly to follow your heart since it knows where to go. This story deserves its spot on our list because of the romantic adventures that we're led on with Mikako and Tsutomu, as the two must come to terms with their true emotions and at some point admit them before it's too late. They come to learn the difference between mutual and unrequited love, but also must realize that following their dreams is just as important since in life, you find who you love doing what you love.
2. Paradise Kiss
- Genres: Drama, Josei, Romance, School
- Volumes: 5
- Published: March 23, 1999 - March 22, 2003
Paradise Kiss looks at the life of the young and beautiful Yukari, who aims to make her parents proud by enrolling in college and becoming successful. All of these dreams turn into a surprising turn of events that change her life forever. Yukari is kidnapped by an obsessive group of fashion artists named Paradise Kiss, who introduce her into the crazy world of fashion and must now come to terms with living the life of a clothing model, instead of the original bookworm lifestyle that she had chosen.
Being thrown into a world unknowingly is something nobody ever wants to experience, since you're never truly prepared for what's to come. Fortunately, life has its way of turning even the darkest moments into something we can all learn from and in Yukari's story, it works out in her favor. The premise of the story looks at how many of us are led to live a life in accordance to what our parents think is best for us, when deep down there's a passion that lies within that we want to live. Yukari felt that it was in her best interest to study hard and go to college, since that was perhaps what her parents initially preferred in the first place. As the story progresses however, we get to see the more truer side of Yukari despite the unfortunate way she was introduced into it all. She learns overtime of the wonders of fashion, while coming to understand her own body and developing a stronger sense of confidence.
Ai really wanted to emphasize how important it is to live outside of the box, and be taken to a place where you never imagined you'd be, but eventually it ends up being the very purpose you came here to serve. In a metaphorical type of view, her parents were like the jail, while her kidnappers were the key to set her free from the mundane ways of living, and release her into a world where she can express herself as a true woman in every form.
- Genres: Drama, Music, Romance, Shoujo, Slice of Life
- Volumes: 21
- Published: May 26, 2000 - May 26, 2009
Everyone in life has experienced some rough moments, and would just like to start fresh in a different world far from their own. That's exactly what Nana Komatsu decides to do as she moves to Tokyo in hopes that she can create a new beginning and leave the past far behind her. On the other end of the spectrum lies Nana Osaki, who arrives in Tokyo at the exact same time, but with aspirations to become a popular rock idol. Despite coming from different walks of life, the two connect through fate and we follow their lives, as they learn about the wonders of love, sex, music, and more in this fantastic story of companionship.
Nana is a spectacular story that looks at the life of two girls who just want to make a difference in their lives. Both coming from different walks of life, they come together to share their experiences on love, sex, friendship, and just about every topic you can think of. This is such a wonderful piece by Ai because it demonstrates just how important relationships are, and that in order for humanity to even flourish we need communication to help build it all. In a world where technology has become our very means of communication, Ai brings us back to a place where it wasn't about that last text from your ex boy/girl friend, but a meaningful face-to-face discussion where expressing your deepest emotions really felt pure. You'd travel miles just to see your friend, and spend hours of your day just carrying on about life and it's mysteries. Ai makes a very good with regards to life in that :
“People like hurting each other, but loving is not a waste.”
A relationship can only go so far without love being there to help guide it along the path of life. Nana truly emphasizes this and so we definitely suggest reading and watching the series to help you better understand the finer aspects of life. Just as a reminder, this manga has been on hiatus for more than seven years, but don't let that stop you from going out and picking up this amazing series.
Many of Ai's works are usually based on the premise of fashion, since she was once a fashion school student. Her characters are usually centered around young women who must deal with relationships, and are crazy about fashion. Once you dive into her very captivating story you get to see the more sensational side of what Ai is truly about. Her stories either drive you to tears, or drive you to laughter, but either way she gives you the keys and allows you to absorb yourself in whatever way you choose. Her freedom of expression is beyond the norm, and her word play is splendid. There's never a dull moment when it comes to the works of Ai Yazawa, so we highly recommend that you pick up her manga, sit down with a nice cup of your favorite beverage, and let your imaginations roam free. Let us know which manga you loved most by Ai Yazawa and post your comments below! As always, for your sweet manga fill, always be sure to stay updated at Honey's Anime. See you again soon!