As always, not a review, just me talking about things I like.
Today, let's talk about the manga series TALENTLESS NANA.
The set up: in a world several decades in the future from our own time, super-humans are a reality. Nobody has been able to explain it, but since the mid-1980s, a small, but increasing number of people are being born with super-powers. The next stage of evolution? Something in the air? Who knows - and nobody really cares. What they do care about are the so-called Enemies of Humanity - a supposed alien race that briefly ravaged the Earth several years (the time-frame is given as 199X) after super-humanity began appearing. In order to combat this threat, various world governments came together to build regional training academies for the burgeoning super-human population, taking in children as their powers develop and training them both academically and, in theory, in the use of their powers to combat the Enemies of Humanity.
Into Japan's training school comes Nana, a girl seemingly like any other there, and with the self-professed power of limited telepathy. Students are encouraged not to show their powers, or even talk about them, to other students for fear that Enemies of Humanity will learn their strengths and weaknesses and use them against the students, but on her first day at the academy, Nana's abilities apparently slip, causing her to respond outloud to someone's thoughts, outing her. After that, there's some standard first day at new high school manga stuff until the twist at the end - Nana not only has no special ability and isn't there to study, she's there to kill the students.
You see, there is no alien invader, though the Enemies of Humanity are real - they are simply super-humans whose abilities have gone violently out of control (whether willfully or not is up for debate). The entire myth of alien invaders and the training academies are simply designed to quarantine and isolate super-humans and put them in a long-term holding pattern. It hasn't been shown yet (I'm on volume 3 of the collected series) what becomes of them when they eventually graduate from the school, but either way, some shadowy group (again, it's yet to be revealed who they are, though it's hinted that they are rogue elements of the Japanese government) disagrees with the whole program and has sent Nana, a highly-trained spy and killer, to infiltrate the school and eliminate as many classmates as possible before they can be released into the world and do any damage.
Nana pursues this goal, one she fully believes in, and the manga quickly becomes a game of cat and mouse as another student--an unkillable immortal with an unorthodox mind who proves to be a fairly astute detective--catches on to her after there are no possible, logical suspects for the multiple strange deaths that have occurred since Nana has shown up besides Nana herself or the Enemies of Humanity (which he personally isn't convinced exist).
What follows is a series of brilliant set ups, traps and solutions as Nana pursues her agenda while Kyoya tries to catch her in the act. Many times he's nearly caught her only for author Loose Boy to come up with an unexpected, but logical (honestly a couple solutions stretch believability, but never fully break it) way for her to put Kyoya off - at least temporarily. At this point in the series--where I've read to--he is 99.9% convinced Nana is the serial killer on campus, but has yet to find proof he can bring to anyone else. In her cover personality, Nana is a cute, cheerful, friendly girl whom everyone likes, while Kyoya is seen as an odd loner. Accusing Nana without iron-clad proof would do nothing but turn the student body against him. Slowly, he brings a few others around to the point where they, too, doubt the Enemies of Humanity really exist and it's all building up to the inevitable confrontation.
And I can't wait for their final showdown. I'm honestly excited as new chapters of this manga are published in English. This is a series that could have become rote fairly quickly, but instead has consistently surprised and delighted me.
I've focused a lot on the writing here, but that's because it deserves it. The artist of the series, Furuya, is perfectly competent, but unexceptional. His designs are fairly generic (and a couple are noticeably reminiscent of My Hero Academia characters) and his layouts functional more than anything, but there's nothing actually wrong with the art. Perhaps it's better this way as a more dynamic artist might have taken some of the focus away from the brilliance of the solutions to the problems Nana finds herself in in favor of giving us flashier art. Either way, this is the artist on the series and I have no complaints.
All told, this a series I'm enjoying a lot and one I'm looking to forward to buying print editions of when Yen Press finally gets around to publishing them (which I hope they will.)