Sunday, January 24, 2010

Captain James T. Kirk Discusses Nana...

Greetings, People of the United Federation of Planets--

As a Starfleet captain in command of the USS Enterprise, I rarely have time to sit and read. So when I do get a chance to head back to my quarters for some Kirk-time, I want my reading material to be something special. That's why I usually have the computer archives call up a classic volume of Ai Yazawa's 21st century comic book series Nana.

You might think it strange that a man responsible for the lives of 430 highly trained and dedicated crewmembers would become so caught up in the fictional world revolving around the loves and lives of a group of fashionable young people in and around Tokyo. But consider this-- the pressures of a 5-year mission of exploration and interstellar diplomacy have broken men from time to time. I'm thinking specifically of Garth of Izar, a captain whose exploits at the Battle of Axanar are still required reading at Starfleet Academy. I submit if Fleet Captain Garth had availed himself of Ms. Yazawa's comics, he might have found a release from his own troubles by focusing on those of the two Nanas and their friends.

And perhaps he might not have gone mad and ordered his crew to annihilate the peaceful beings of Antos IV. How fortunate his people recognized in this illegal, immoral and horrifying order the symptoms of insanity and justifiably relieved him of his command. We can only hope he receives the treatment he needs and the compassion he deserves at the mental health facilities on Elba II.

Shin's been arrested for marijuana possession? But what about Blast's big TV performance? Although I had studied the books in my 21st century literature class in high school and had even written many a paper on them, events of Nana 18 proved especially turbulent for me as I re-read it for the thousandth time.

I can't help but think of the time my Enterprise crew and I encountered the same dikironium cloud creature on Argus X that had, years earlier during my posting as a junior officer aboard the USS Farragut, killed 200 of my fellow crewmembers. I became dangerously obsessed with destroying the creature-- an obsessive state I found mirrored in several Nana characters. Nana for singing, Ren for drugs, Reira and Shin for each other. Through Ms. Yazawa's tortured cast of characters, I was able to come to grips with guilt I still held from earlier events...

And overcome it.

This, indeed, is the power of any good work of fiction, be it a comic like Nana, or a lithofilm of one of the narrative aura projection classics of the kind found among the psychic plant-minds of Tychus IX. A famous novelist from Zeta Orionis, a planet circling the far left star in Orion's Belt constellation(as seen from Earth) wrote a classic using the theme, "Let me help." He recommended those three words even over 'I love you'. Ms. Yazawa's characters, however, would argue that love is also necessary and no less important.

Of course, we've all seen the many film and holographic adaptations of this story over the years. Some have even updated the setting to various eras and planetary colonies of more recent vintage. Like the works of Shakespeare, Nana remains an evergreen and a source for the works of others. It's even been translated-- or so I've heard-- into Klingon, for a people not known for their tenderness. No doubt something has been lost in the translation. Nana has even proven surprisingly popular on Vulcan, home planet of our own science officer Mr. Spock. Apparently, the story's sometimes violent feelings appeal in a cautionary way to the Vulcans and their impressively subdued emotions.

Mr. Spock himself has become quite addicted to the series as well, despite its familiarity among learned Vulcans of a certain age. Of course, he's drawn to the punk rock Nana, and cites as the reason her "fascinating volatility, quite human and therefore, extremely illogical." I, however, prefer Hachiko's more traditional femininity. Dr. McCoy, the ship's chief medical officer, claims never to have read a single chapter and to have never watched any of its many adapted versions. But he seemed to know a surprising number of facts about the character Nobu when communications officer Lt. Uhura and helmsman Lt. Sulu became engaged in a heated debate over his merits as a friend to Nana, as well as his place in her band the Black Stones as a guitarist and lawyer.

When Mr. Spock asked the good doctor about his expertise, "Bones" (as we've nicknamed him) noticeably flushed, then muttered something about "damned Vulcan curiosity" and claimed to have left some important cultures unrefrigerated back in the medical laboratory. He quickly exited the room.

Recently, during some much-needed shore leave, I was able to visit Tokyo and tour the Ai Yazawa Cultural Museum. Numbers of school children, all excitedly discussing their favorite Nana moments in a polyglot of languages, surrounded the larger-than-life bronze statue of Ms. Yazawa. It did this star trekking rocket man a world of good to see new generations being exposed to this literary classic.


Captain James T. Kirk, USS Enterprise, NCC-1701 (commanding)

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