This stuff is going to be old news for the hardcore manga readers out there.
I was reading Nana 19 last night-- a Valentine's Day-themed story I wish I'd saved for February-- and decided to flip to the back to read "Junko's Place." If you've never read Nana, "Junko's Place" is a bonus feature where the characters hang out at a pub owned and managed by Junko, a minor character in the main storyline. She was once Hachiko's best friend but due to her inherent common sense and the stability of her own relationship, has been relegated to an occasional appearance here and there, usually trying to talk sense to Hachi.
And yet she gets her own pages in the back of the book. Which she promptly skips, leaving other characters in charge. "Junko's Place" is where Yazawa Ai showcases fan art and makes fun of herself, where Nana and Hachi give into fangirl urges to stalk characters from Yazawa's Paradise Kiss and other neglected characters can show up and comment on the real-world behind the scenes stuff that goes with being a popular comic book artist in Japan whose works have inspired all kinds of ancillary merchandise, TV animation and motion pictures.
Finally, there's a short message from Ms. Yazawa herself. Due to publication lag, English-only readers like myself are a little behind the times. But sometimes things echo. In 2007, she suspended work on Nana due to health problems. The current Viz Media volumes hit right around this time. So in number 17, she discusses a health check-up, in 18 talks about having had surgery and quitting smoking and in 19, some kind of relapse that required an ambulance. That's scary.
What's scarier still is, something similar happened again in June, 2009, but after the initial announcement... no news at all. It's like deja vu. One of those strange moments of synchonicity. She could have been writing about last summer. The most recent Nana released in Japan was #21, which was fifth on the best-seller's list for single volumes last year, with 1,505,575 copies sold. The first four places on the list were held by four consecutive volumes of One Piece. After the suspension notice, nothing.
I'm hoping whatever news Ms. Yazawa chooses to release will be good news, and I wish her a speedy recovery. As addicted as I am to Nana, I can wait it out (possibly watching the Viz Video DVD set of the TV animated series will help some). What's more important than the comic book drama is the real life drama-- and for that, we definitely want a happy ending.