Othello, by Satomi Ikezawa

Four stars for the whole series, read in January/February 2016.

I decided to start trying manga, and after one disappointment and one with pretty good potential, I was surprised to fall instantly in love with this series. The cover of the first book was not at all promising for me, but luckily (for some reason), it doesn’t look anything like the illustrations inside. This is Yaya, the main character . . .

yaya

and this is Nana.

tumblr_mvb0lpJR7S1r01yhro1_500

They’re the same person.

Yaya is cripplingly shy, totally unable to stand up for herself even when she knows people are taking advantage of her. She has cruel “friends” who mock her and put her in terrible situations, and if not for Nana, some really serious things would happen to her. But when Yaya gets pushed too far, Nana comes out. And then things get violent.

I was wondering how Ikezawa was going to deal with the actual mental illness that is the premise of the series. Not knowing a lot about it myself, I can’t say whether it was handled correctly, but I liked the way it was wrapped up in the final book, along with the translator’s note at the end—a little information about Dissociative Identity Disorder (formerly called Multiple Personality Disorder), and a statement that Yaya’s situation is more metaphorical, not a real example of the disorder.

Aside from all that, I just loved the story and characters—especially Nana. She seems so over-the-top, but I’m pretty sure that’s only because we’re all so conditioned with the idea that girls shouldn’t show anger when they’re mistreated. When you think about the ways Yaya is treated, Nana’s responses are actually quite proportional. Usually.

After Yaya and Nana we have Moriyama, the love interest, and really the only other character who’s featured in all seven books. The people who abuse Yaya kind of cycle through, and there are a couple other characters here and there, none fleshed out beyond their immediate effect on her. I didn’t have a problem with that, because the focus of the story is Yaya’s internal struggle. The others are just the catalyst.

Spoilers for the last book:

I love that, in the end, Yaya is able to internalize some of Nana’s strength while balancing it out, acknowledging that it isn’t always right to respond with such aggressive violence, and that it’s okay to be weak, too. “I decided that being weak . . . that being the way I am was enough . . . There aren’t any real “strong” people in the world. If you can see those parts of you that you find lacking, and accept them as being a part of you . . . in a way, that’s being strong.” Part of me wishes that Nana could stick around, but we’re given a little hint that there might be more of her in Yaya than it seems. The only things left for me to wish are that there were more books in the series, and that they’d make an anime of it.

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4 thoughts on “Othello, by Satomi Ikezawa

  1. You might also like Karin, she’s a teen vampire but she’s a “reverse” vampire in that she has to give blood to survive… it sounds weird but I thought it was super cute and engaging. It’s been a while since I read it but I remember really liking it.

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