|Read or Die character|
|Age||17 (manga), 23 (TV Series)|
|Voice Actor||Wendy Tomson|
Nenene Sumiregawa (菫川ねねね Sumiregawa Nenene), a.k.a. 'Sensei,' Nene-neesan: A prodigy novelist in her high school years, featured in the Read or Die manga and novels as a teenage friend of the older Yomiko Readman. Due to the disappearance of Yomiko, she has become very self-sufficient but unfortunately wistful and bitter at times. She remained in Japan, despite her parents' wishes, in order to housekeep and tend to Yomiko's personal effects until her (assumed) return. She is often threatened or kidnapped by crazed fans, literary rivals, and malevolent organizations; these incidents serve as important ROD plot mechanisms. For example, the Paper Sisters first appear in the ROD TV series when Nenene's publishers hire them to escort Nenene during a booksigning in Hong Kong.
Appearance and PowersEdit
Nenene's appearance changes significantly. When Yomiko and Nenene first meet in the ROD manga and novels, Nenene is 17 years old and still in high school. She has light brown hair cut fairly short, and wears typical Japanese schoolgirl clothing: white shirt, dark vest, tie, and a very short skirt. In the ROD TV series, however, Nenene is now a young woman aged 23. Her hair is longer and she wears glasses with fairly heavy frames. She wears more contemporary or dressy office clothing as well.
When she is a teenager, Nenene's dress tends to emphasize her good looks and impressive figure. In some respects, she resembles the schoolgirl "loli" (Lolita) figure so common in anime/manga. In her 20's Nenene is an attractive young woman with a large bust; but (like Yomiko) she does not go out of her way to emphasize this, either in her dress or her manner.
Unlike her friend Yomiko and her bodyguards the Paper Sisters, Nenene has no special powers. Her greatest skill is her writing ability. This is so great that at different times both Dokusensha and the British Library Special Operations Division attempt to make use of it to advance their plans.
Nenene is often placed in dangerous situations, and she has the qualities needed to survive in them. Though she is sometimes frightened when she is young, she becomes very brave and determined, and is remarkably tough both physically and mentally. She refuses to yield under torture, and at one point recklessly plugs an adversary's gun barrel with her middle finger, a gesuture of insult in many countries.
Nenene as a WriterEdit
For Nenene, her writing is everything. She began her career as a child prodigy, making her literary debut at the age of 13 and winning a prize as Japan's most promising young writer. Nenene's works sell extremely well, both in Japan and abroad, at least as long as she can keep writing them. When she is in the writing groove, Nenene works fast and intensely. When Yomiko first meets her in the ROD manga, Nenene is writing two different works simultaneously. She is willing to sacrifice anything and to go to any lengths to make her writing better. When she wants to describe a kiss accurately, she simply kisses the first person handy.
Nenene is the author of at least four published books, and possibly more. Her first work was "Kimi wa Boku wo Shitteru" or, "You Know Me." At least two other titles followed later, "Love Songs from Beyond the Ceiling" and "Crimson Study." In Volume 1 of the ROD manga, she is hard at work on two more pieces. At least one of these may be "Midnight Liberation Zone" (often abbreviated to either "Midnight" or "Liberation Zone"). When we meet Nenene again in the ROD TV series, this is the last book she has published. It was evidently completed and published just before or just after Yomiko disappeared from Nenene's life.
The precise nature of Nenene's works is unclear, but some hints are given. Yomiko describes her in the ROD manga as an "author of youth novels," and says that her works are "romantic." It is probable, then, that some of Nenene's early works deal with typical youth and romance themes. At least one of the stories she is working on in the ROD manga appears to be a sword-and-sorcery fantasy tale, while the other seems to be semi-autobiographical. Whatever its themes, in terms of quality Nenene's writing is clearly far above the sickly sentimentality offered by Haruhi Nishizono, Nenene's later and younger rival. If the cover is any guide, "Midnight" appears to be a novel that is mature in both theme and treatment.
When the Paper Sisters first encounter her, Nenene is suffering from an epic case of writer's block. Since Yomiko vanished from her life, Nenene cannot concentrate or find inspiration. Nenene makes repeated attempts to start writing again, but nearly all of these fail. She still has a body of dedicated fans and she attends book signings, but she has published nothing since "Midnight," and she is no longer the young literary star that she was a few years before. Nenene's fame is increasingly eclipsed by Haruhi Nishizono, whose talent (if not her moneymaking ability) is plainly inferior to Nenene's. Only Nenene's editor, Lee Linho, still seems to have faith in her as a writer. This dismal state of affairs no doubt accounts for much of Nenene's ill-temper and her frequent bouts of depression.
With the influence of the Paper Sisters, Nenene begins to find inspiration to write again, which becomes important to the plans of Dokusensha and the British Library. At the end of the TV series, it is seen that she has finally written another book titled "Staircase to the Angel".
Nenene is a vigorous personality. She is utterly dedicated to her work, and usually very sure of herself. She cares almost nothing for the opinions of others (though she makes a great exception in Yomiko's case). She can be blunt to the point of rudeness and beyond, yelling and even making obscene gestures in public. She cannot stand untidiness and disorder, and insists on quiet while she is working. As she becomes a mature woman, Nenene's temper appears to get worse. She often quarrels with the Paper Sisters, and even yells at Yomiko. She seems to be on particularly bad terms with Anita King, whose own fiery personality is a match for Nenene's.
Beneath this militant exterior, however, are other elements in Nenene's character. She has a playful and humorous side, though she seldom shows it to others. She is prone to occasional self-doubt, especially about her career. For all her proclaimed self-sufficiency, Nenene has a need for companionship and affection. Much though she complains about the behavior of the Paper Sisters, she accepts them in her home and forms a strong bond with her bodyguards.
Nenene and Yomiko ReadmanEdit
The affectionate and loyal side of Nenene's character is shown most strongly in her complex relationship with Yomiko Readman. In the ROD manga, Yomiko is an obsessive fan of Nenene's work, having learned even the smallest details of Nenene's life. In both the ROD novels and the manga, Yomiko rescues and protects Nenene from lunatic fans. For Nenene, Yomiko becomes much more than a fan and a bodyguard: she is Nenene's muse, critic, and inspiration, and possibly an object of romantic interest as well. The extent of her dependence on Yomiko is graphically demonstrated when Yomiko is absent from her life; without her around, Nenene is unable to write.
The relationship is not one-sided. Yomiko has the deepest respect for Nenene's ability and calls her "sensei" (master or teacher). Nenene attempts to look after Yomiko and to correct her sloppiness and absent-mindedness; she often leaves post-it messages in Yomiko's room, reminding her to do the daily tasks she would otherwise forget. During Yomiko's unexplained absence, Nenene looks after her apartment.
Nenene and Yomiko obviously have a deep affection for one another, and many in the ROD fandom speculate that this affection may be romantic or partly sexual. Several scenes in the ROD manga (including a bizarre and humorous dressing-up sequence) seem to hint at this. When she needs to kiss someone for purposes of her work, Nenene chooses Yomiko--who finds the experience (her second kiss and Nenene's first) unexpected, embarassing, and pleasurable at the same time.
The issue of Nenene's sexual nature becomes much more central in the ROD TV series. After one of Nenene's most colorful public outbursts, Michelle Cheung cries "so masculine!" It also emerges that Nenene was never interested in boys when she was in high school, and two of Nenene's old high school friends tease her about Yomiko. Nenene twice denies any romantic aspect to her friendship with Yomiko, insisting that she doesn't "swing that way." Later on, however, Nenene admits to the old man in Toto Books that Yomiko is more than just a muse to her and that she finds her absence "painful." After she finds Yomiko again, Nenene becomes extremely emotional and reproaches Yomiko for the pain her absence has caused. Nenene also seems somewhat concerned when she learns that Yomiko has been living alone for nearly five years with another woman--the stunning Nancy Makuhari. Some fans also speculate that Maggie Mui may have a romantic crush on Nenene. As is usual in ROD with such characters and situations, however, no definite conclusions can be drawn and Nenene's sexuality remains something of a mystery.
Sources and LinksEdit
This article is based on the ROD manga, viewings of the ROD TV series, and information and discussions found at: