Who’s Ai Yazawa?
Ai Yazawa is the mangaka behind the hit series Nana. While many westerners have never heard of Nana or its creator, it’s one of the most popular manga in Japan. At about 43 million copies sold it has flown past other major manga in sales such as Sailor Moon (with 35 million copies sold).
Nana has been adapted into many forms of media from anime to live-action films and even a video game. The success of the original story is mostly due to Ai Yazawa’s skill at story telling. However, her art style is another reason why she’s amassed so many fans, who particularly admire her attention to characters’ fashion sense.
In Nana, characters change their clothes with every day that passes in the story, sometimes to the point of it feeling unrealistic for each character to have such extended wardrobes.
In all of Yazawa’s work there’s a large emphasis on fashion, her characters frequently change clothes and in her manga Paradise Kiss (later adapted into anime), the story actually revolves around fashion students.
Paradise Kiss is the only anime I know of that is blatantly about fashion. Despite being highly praised by many, Paradise Kiss still remains slightly obscure to most western fans. Though Paradise Kiss seems plenty popular when compared to its predecessor Gokinjo Monogatari (Neighborhood Story) which never saw a US release as either manga or anime.
Yazawa has been notoriously secretive about her private life, giving very few interviews and only having one picture of herself be published. Little is known about her ongoing hiatus from work aside that it is due to illness.
However, we do know that at one time she did attend fashion school but later dropped out before finding success as a mangaka. She has also confirmed many of her influences those mostly being British rock music and British fashion. Her past as a fashion student combined with her interest in British subculture manifests in all of the outfits her characters debut. These influences are easy to see in writing as well, most of her stories involve rock bands, art students, and emphasis on clothing.
One popular example of this in Nana where one of the main characters (who’s in a rock band) has affinity for Vivian Westwood, the British fashion designer that is credited with bringing punk street style to mainstream fashion.
In particular Nana Osaki’s jacket and ring are not simply Easter eggs for those who follow fashion but part of the story. Characters discuss how expensive the pieces are and seem impressed by the designs, drawing the audiences attention to the importance of fashion within the story.
Punk music and punk fashion is a particularly noticeable influence in Nana since Yazawa has confirmed the inspiration for the character of Ren Hojo was inspired by Sid Vicious, a member of the band the Sex Pistols.
Yazawa is also influenced by other mangaka particularly her close friends Miho Obana, Megumi Mizusawa, and Wataru Yoshizumi, the names behind Kodacha, Hime-chan no Ribon and Marmalade Boy respectively.
(Comparison between Nana, Kodacha, Hime-chan no Ribon and Marmalade Boy.)
Ai Yazawa is a name to know, especially for fans of Shoujo and fashion. Her clothing designs for her characters are diverse and memorable. So if your tired of seeing characters wear the same school uniform every episode then consider looking it Yazawa’s body of work.
[This post was originally posted: Sep, 5th 2015 on the Otaple 1/2 Tumblr]