My first feature on Mesmerising Manga is Nana to Kaoru, one of my favourite manga series. It is drawn and written by Amazume Ryuta and is available for purchase in Japanese and German. It is a manga I sincerely hope will get published in English some day. There has been an anime OVA based on it, which I have done an overview of here: Nana to Kaoru OVA. There have also been two live-action films about it before, which I may or may not do a post on another time.
Nana to Kaoru (ナナとカオル) is not only one of the best manga I have ever had the pleasure to read, but it is centred around the emotional and mental aspects of BDSM. For those in the know, this isn’t a hentai manga (like hard porn) but an ecchi one (as in, soft porn). This means that though it has quite a few arousing scenes, the main focus is on how the characters feel and what they want. There is a lot of character introspection and many chapters dedicated to showing them when they are apart, which I like very much. In fact, characterisation is the thing I value most in a story.
It is long-running at over 90 chapters at the time of this post and yet it doesn’t seem to get stale. Some arcs can drag on more than others if they’re not your kink but I find them all to be well-written and excellently executed. It doesn’t hurt that I love the art as well. While the character of Nana is drawn to be very beautiful and idealised, Kaoru is drawn frog-like in appearance and many other characters often comment on how ugly and creepy he is. The manga showcases a lot of differing body types and makes each appealing in its own way.
The cast of kinky characters is as varied as the body types they sport: there is an insecure Dom, a reluctant sub, a bratty sub and an older D/s couple with issues of their own. Each practises BDSM for their own reasons and gets something different out of it. The range of ages and settings is truly wonderful, too. Of course, not all the characters are kinky; there are also ‘normal’ characters like the student council president, Nana and Kaoru’s parents, the teachers at school and everyone’s classmates.
If I had to say whether it is realistic or not, the answer would be no. If you read the first two chapters you would see why. There are a lot of things in it that are drawn out longer than they probably would be in real life but that doesn’t make it any less fun or interesting to read. It can be a very frustrating manga to read but I think that adds to my enjoyment. Of course, I am a masochist so you can take that with a pinch of salt.
Like most other 17 year olds, Kaoru is interested in porn. Unlike most 17 year olds, the porn he likes most is S&M. Kaoru found out about BDSM when he stumbled across a particular erotic book one day and has since done everything in his power to build his own toy collection. He even has someone he dreams of using the toys on; his childhood friend and next-door neighbour Chigusa Nana. Unfortunately, he suffers from an inferiority complex and can’t tell Nana his feelings because he feels like a loser when he compares himself to her. He always seems to be chasing her shadow and can’t quite admit his own feelings towards her even though they’re obvious to pretty much everyone else (except Nana).
The childhood friend of Kaoru and the main heroine of this manga, Nana is a girl who is an overachiever in basically every way. She always has great marks at school, does extremely well in sports, is very polite and is even on the student council. Nana is the type of girl who cannot turn down a request from anyone, even if she is swamped already. Many people look up to her but all the admiration and high expectations weigh heavily on her shoulders. The stress that builds up from putting on her façade has begun to make her suffer in terms of studying and it seems she may not get into the university she wants. Her teacher advises her to take breaks every now and then but Nana finds it difficult to let go of her responsibilities. That is, of course, until Kaoru’s mother asks her to look after a bag of his things for one night…
One of Nana’s self-proclaimed rivals, Tachi Ryouko absolutely loves running. She is on the track team and goes to a different school to Nana and Kaoru. When she lost to Nana in a race a while ago, she swore she would have her revenge and beat her the next time they met. She has been working towards this goal for a long time now and runs into Kaoru one day while he is trying to up his stamina to perform better ‘breathers’ for Nana. After the two become running buddies, Ryouko accidentally stumbles upon Kaoru as he is preparing for a breather with Nana and misunderstands what is going on. As the two try to convince her it’s alright and beg her to keep their secret, she gets more involved than she expected…
One of Kaoru’s first confidants in BDSM, Tachibana-san runs a sex and BDSM shop that he often goes into. She has quite a lot of interest in Kaoru because she enjoys hearing about his struggles and she is always lending him equipment to use on Nana even though it isn’t the best idea for business. Tachibana always seems like a teasing and knowledgeable adult but there may be something more to her hiding under the surface.
Sarashina Shuutaro is Kaoru’s favourite author. He was the person who wrote the first S&M erotic book that Kaoru read and since then Kaoru has aspired to be just like him. Kaoru bases a lot of the breathers he does on the works of this author, though he has never met him before.
Some of the kinks involved:
- Collar and lead
- Public urination
- Shibari bondage
- One Dom and two subs
- Sensory deprivation
- Pet play
…and many more!
If any of this sounds like it would be exciting to you (or perhaps you’re enchanted by the art like I am), then you should definitely go and check this manga out. If you can’t read German or Japanese, there is an English scanlation floating around the Internet that can be found all in one place at MangaFox though I would strongly recommend you download it from the scan teams themselves instead. It may not be a story that everyone can enjoy but I think it would be a shame for anyone interested in BDSM to miss out on it. And remember: native Japanese manga is always read right-to-left, not left-to-right!