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Manga / Othello

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Othello is a manga series created by Satomi Ikezawa. It was serialized in the shojo magazine Bessatsu Friend from 2001 to 2004, and compiled into 7 volumes.

It tells about Yaya Higuchi, a girl who's always dreamt of becoming a singer, but due to her shy nature, she's always been bullied. Now in high school, she still feels isolated, even by her "best friends": her only way to escape reality is by dressing up in lolita fashion and talk with fellow fans of her favourite band, Juliet.

However, once even this secret is brought to light and mocked upon, she snaps and develops a Split Personality: Nana, a hot-blooded Action Girl who will turn Yaya's life outside down without her even knowing.

Not to be confused with Othello, a Shakespeare play. The title of the manga is probably inspired by the board game (which was itself named after the play).

Tropes included:

  • Action Girl: Nana is so skilled at fighting and defense she can even jump to a train in motion without getting injured.
  • Alpha Bitch: Seri is usually the one to handle Yaya's bullying.
  • Beware the Nice Ones:
    • The reason why Nana was born from Yaya's stress. Nana is the complete opposite of Yaya, and will do anything to protect her.
    • Yaya's cosplay buddies are a Nice Girl troupe. But if they catch you insulting them or attacking one of their own, it's a mercy if all they do is draw on your face.
  • Big Sister Instinct: Even though they are the same person, Nana treats protecting Yaya as this. To the point that even when she disagrees with the messes that Yaya gets herself into, Nana will always help out the original personality.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Yaya manages to overcome her fears and debut as a singer, as well as start dating Moriyama. However, Nana has faded from her mind after her Character Development, but it's implied she still lives somewhere inside her.
  • Bullying a Dragon: Most of Yaya's bullies when they encounter Nana don't get the memo that putting Yaya in danger or insulting her only triggers Nana to come out and protect her. Shuko, who is a Nice Girl all things considered, manages to disable Nana merely by telling Yaya that she became a different person.
  • Catchphrase: Nana's "Heavenly punishment!" followed by "Justice is done!"
  • Character Development: Both Nana and Yaya undergo parallel character arcs and character growth.
    • Yaya learns to stand up for herself, overcome her fears and pursue her dreams and desires rather than simply be a people pleaser and forcing Nana to solve her problems.
    • Nana in a parallel arc, learns to think before simply beating up Yaya's bullies and also tries to be her own person and figure out what she wants outside of violence.
    • Their parallel arcs highlight how the two personalities share things in common which foreshadows their Split-Personality Merge
  • Concert Kiss: During Moriyama's band concert, Nana climbs the stage and kisses him.
  • Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass: Yaya and Nana.
  • Didn't Think This Through: Nana has a flaw where she doesn't consider how her actions can bring negative consequences to Yaya. Her violence often causes a Cycle of Revenge which got Moriyama hurt. She also doesn't think about how spending nights working or recording music might tax Yaya's body.
  • The Ditz: Nana's only flaw is being very clumsy, which occasionally is the cause of her turning again into Yaya.
  • Elegant Gothic Lolita: Yaya as her "Mimi" persona.
  • Extreme Doormat: Yaya has tolerated all her life being bullied and being toyed with by her supposed friends, without ever following her own wishes. Her cosplay hobby helped her to escape reality, but once this is discovered, she develops the Nana personality. However, since her original personality isn't aware of Nana's existence, she thinks she's going crazy and losing her memory, making her even more pitiful.
  • False Friend: Seri and Moe at the beginning of the story, Megumi later on the plot. Nana sees through all of them, though.
  • Fluffy the Terrible: Shouhei has an alligator called Elizabeth. She's extremely violent, specially around Nana.
  • I Just Want to Have Friends: Yaya. Everyone she befriends ends up being a bully or mostly ignoring her existence. This doesn't stop her from thinking of them as friends, though.
  • Handsome Lech: Shouhei.
  • Informed Attractiveness: Shouhei is considered to be as beautiful as a prince in-universe.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: While it was a moment of Brutal Honesty and causes disaster for everyone in the long-term, Shuko is correct when she tells off Moriyama for keeping Yaya's split personality a secret from Yaya. It was something that Yaya should have known a long time ago. Moriyama admits that she's right.
  • Light Feminine and Dark Feminine: Yaya is sweet, soft-spoken and wears mostly light coloured dresses. Nana, on the other hand, prefers jeans, tank tops that show her belly and has a much more sexier look in her eyes than Yaya.
  • Missing Mom: Yaya's mother died when she was in elementary school.
  • The Missus and the Ex: Yaya ends up meeting Moriyama's ex Shuko
  • New Old Flame: Shuko. She's quickly dealt with, though, since she is a Nice Girl.
  • Nice Girl:
    • The other cosplay girls are this to Yaya, or Mimi as they know her. When they see she's morose about Moriyama telling her not to visit her concert — the reason being that Moriyama's band is having Nana sing — they tell her to go and enjoy herself and not worry about them.
    • Shuko is the only romantic rival that is perfectly cordial to both Yaya and Nana. While her moment of telling Yaya about her split personality is Brutal Honesty, she is correct that Moriyama shouldn't have hidden the truth from Yaya.
  • Nice Guy: The construction grew that lets Nana work the night shift with them to Work Off the Debt to Megumi. After they are impressed by how she delivers justice to Megumi, and in addition to her pulling her own weight, they give her a tiny bonus out of their various paychecks.
  • Official Couple: Moriyama and Yaya.
  • One-Steve Limit: When Megumi enlists Yaya's help to find Nana, they look through the school directory. There are at least four Nanas, including one Nanako. Megumi realizes none of them are the Nana and wonders if she's a dropout. Yaya wonders the same thing.
  • Please Wake Up: When Nana vanishes, Yaya begs her to come back and stop hiding. Moriyama has to break the bad news to her.
  • Read the Fine Print: Nana thinks that it was pretty stupid for Yaya to sign a contract from Megumi without checking the details. Rather than meet celebrity singers, it was to escort creepy men. What's more, Yaya can only get out of it if she pays the fees and steals back the contract.
  • Real Women Don't Wear Dresses: Zigzagged and ultimately subverted. At first it seems that Nana is forced to solve problems that Yaya gets herself in leading to this dynamic. But Nana's violence often causes problems and gets Moriyama seriously hurt and Yaya successfully starts to stand up for herself in her own way. The story lands somewhere in the middle that there are pros and cons to everything and every personality.
  • The Rock Star: Moriyama wants to become this. Shohei is a straight example.
    • Yaya is persuaded to pursue her own singing career
  • Romantic False Lead: One may think Yaya will get romantically involved sometime in the story with her platonic idol crush, or at least develop the plot in a Love Triangle involving them and Moriyama... but once Shohei is revealed to be an older (and rather creepy) man her platonic crush seems to disappear.
  • Secret-Keeper: Moriyama, Shuko, and Shohei.
  • Shrinking Violet: Yaya.
  • Split Personality: Nana to Yaya.
  • Split-Personality Makeover: Yaya has Tareme Eyes and barely noticeable lips. She usually also wears her hair properly tied in a bun or pigtails. Nana, however, has Tsurime Eyes, very flashy lips and likes to loosen her hair, making it look longer than when she's Yaya.
  • Split-Personality Merge: As Yaya overcomes her fears, Nana decides to disappear from her mind. However, sometimes Yaya still acts like Nana.
  • Stock Shoujo Bullying Tactics: Yaya withstands getting pictures of her dressed as a lolita shown to the whole class, being forced to sit in her chair with a tack on it, being forced to beg and then getting a bucket of water thrown of her... Luckily, Nana has got her back.
  • Surprisingly Realistic Outcome:
    • As Shuko points out in her What the Hell, Hero? moment to Nana, delivering "justice" violently, even to people who deserve it, doesn't solve problems outright. In fact, it tends to make things worse because the other person will engage in a Cycle of Revenge. This is what happens to Yaya with her bullies as Nana retaliates.
    • Nana spends an entire night working with a construction crew. The next morning, Yaya wakes up sore all over and confused.
  • Talking the Monster to Death: Shuko is the only person that manages to put Nana in their place, by telling off Nana for resorting to violence for every problem, then telling Yaya that she has a split personality that's taking over her and acting violently.
  • Talking to Themself: Yaya and Nana.
  • Visual Kei: Juliet, Yaya's favourite band, followed this style. She seems to imitate it too when she doesn't dress up as a lolita.
  • Violence Really Is the Answer: As Surprisingly Realistic Outcome shows, Nana punching all of Yaya's bullies brings mixed results. However in a hilarious subversion, Nana beating up Keisuke does successfully get him to back down where Yaya's more peaceful route of apologizing and begging failed.
  • Wardrobe Malfunction: During the concert where Nana replaces Moriyama, her blouse gets tied with the bass' strings and gets ripped off. She quickly takes it off and replaces it with a nearby piece of cloth.
  • Wham Line: When Seri and Moe try to make Yaya sit on a tack, Nana shouts internally to Yaya, "I can't use a mirror anymore!" and takes over to save Yaya.
  • What the Hell, Hero?:
    • Shuko actually manages to put Nana in her place by calling out Nana for how her violence only puts Moriyama in danger, and that you can't solve every problem by beating the tar out of everyone. Much as Shuko would like the world to be that way, violence isn't always the solution.
    • Then she delivers another one to Moriyama for not telling Yaya about her split personality. She's completely right, as Moriyama acknowledges.