Ai Yazawa’s work is so distinctive that no one could mistake Nana as being written by anyone else. While the series isn’t perfect, it can be considered to be one of the frontrunners of modern shoujo romance.
I emphasize modern because of how backward and traditional other romance anime seems when compared to Yazawa’s work. While other shoujo series are still mucking about with idealistic conceptions of the One True Love, the feelings of Nana’s characters are much more complex, layered, and believable. Nana is amazing not only for convincing us that its characters love each other, but for convincing us that we know why they love each other.
Yazawa’s writing also reflects a fascinating social awareness that speaks of Japan’s changing society. In the radically different protagonists of Komatsu Nana and Osaki Nana, there is an undercurrent of conflict between the Japanese woman’s traditional dependence and burgeoning independence. While Komatsu seems determined, even destined, to become a housewife, Osaki struggles to forge her own path, even at the expense of love and friendship. Surprisingly, the series does not take sides, but is content to show the inherent limitations of both approaches.
Unfortunately, as great as Nana’s story is, two factors prevent me from recommending this to everyone.
For one, the storyline tends to lean heavily on melodrama, which will no doubt annoy a large portion of potential fans. While a healthy dose of (excellent) comedy prevents the show from ever becoming unbearably angsty, some may have trouble digesting the particularly manipulative plot twists.
More damaging is the fact that Nana is currently missing a true ending. Since the Yazawa’s manga is not yet finished, the final episode essentially stops midway through the story. While the producers seem open to a second season (see the “Nana’s House” at the end of episode 47), there is a distinct possibility that there will never be an ending to Nana in anime form. Moreover, even if this series is eventually concluded, fans may have to wait several years for this to actually happen.
Still, even with these potential problems, I can’t deny what Nana has managed to achieve: an intelligent, socially aware, and consistently entertaining shoujo romance.
The visuals here are much less experimental than they were in Paradise Kiss, but the result is still excellent. Yazawa’s character designs are as great as always, the coloring is nice, and character movement feels natural and smooth. There’s also a fair amount of visual humor, which tends to be hilarious.
OH BABY HELP ME FROM FROZEN PAIN
Say what you will about the Engrish, but Nana’s numerous JRock songs have a certain kick to them that makes them surprisingly listenable, in spite of the pop sensibilities and asinine lyrics. A lot of the time, the show uses a guitar riff of an OP/ED to underscore the more dramatic moments, which works amazingly well at setting a dramatic and somber mood. The rest of the soundtrack is more traditional (it’s mainly simple BGM synth music), but works almost as well. An apt comparison can be drawn to Full Moon wo Sagashite’s music, which managed to use a limited vocal soundtrack to a surprisingly powerful effect.
The characters of Nana had to be nearly perfect for the show to work, and for the most part, they are. As mentioned earlier, Aizawa writes her characters wonderfully and insightfully, and manages to inject more depth into them than perhaps any other show released this year. Most series are considered good if they can develop one or two characters well; Nana successfully juggles more than seven, and the results are suitably fantastic.
That said, there are many that will take issue with Komatsu Nana’s ditzy, impulsive personality. The script essentially requires her to make all the wrong choices at exactly the worst times possible, which will most likely frustrate those that expect anime characters to act rationally. However, Komatsu is nonetheless consistently written throughout the show, and is for the most immensely likeable, in spite of her numerous flaws.
As a whole, Nana is a great work. The only thing that prevents me from scoring this as a “must-see” is the aforementioned lack of a real ending. As hopeful as I am that Nana eventually ends well, experience tells me that a certain amount of pessimism is healthy in these situations.
Whatever the case, Nana is a great choice for shoujo fans, even if episode 47 turns out to be the final episode. The soundtrack is great, the storyline is intelligent and riveting, and the character development is easily the best of the year.
This show is highly addictive. When I started I wasn't that attached to any of the characters. I picked out all their character flaws, yet at the same time both Nanas had this fun vibe. Nana K. is (as Nana O. later states) just like a puppy, and Nana O. was both cool and fun.
At its start, the series seems to only be about Nana K. growing up, but there was a lot more to it. Both Nanas develop greatly throughout the show, and many other characters learn lessons as well.
On a base level the show is about facing reality and your decisions. Every decision changes your future and affects everyone around you. It does a great job of showing the true difficulties within relationships.
A flaw that I had was that characters seemed to jump around from relationship to relationship, but on the other hand Nana O. points this out. I think that is part of the shows message. People long for another person to help them get through life. No one wants to be alone.
The biggest shortcoming of the series is that the final episode doesn't work well. It jolts you by jumping ahead something like 5 years into the future before then jumping back. It also leaves many questions unanswered (which hopefully are answered in the manga).
Individual events are nothing special, but when pieced together the story is very nice. It works well to show many different kinds of relationships and ways that people try to deal with their problems. It even goes a step further by showing that being a famous rock star is not all that it appears to be.
I loved every song, even the typical "comedy" track. The comedy track was part of why I got so into the show. It really set an upbeat and engaging mood. I really liked the distinction between the music of Blast and Trapnest. Blast had the feelings of rebellion, strive, and deep, drowning emotion. Trapnest, on the other hand, had a captivating sound of heart. Layla really tried to write music with deep messages.
The characters were all developed well (despite the few minor characters like Yuri). In the beginning Nana K. seems to just be a naive girl who longs for love, but she really develops. Nana O. especially evolves near the end. Even characters like Junko are rounded.
Nana is a 47 episode josei, drama, romance anime with themes of music. I ignore older anime, due to having too many anime to watch, but this anime was recommended to me by someone who seems to enjoy unique anime, they also warned me Nana Komatsu is annoying. And then I find out this anime is 47 episodes long! Disclaimer: I have trouble watching long anime series and I also hate love-triangles, harems and ecchi. This sure is a unique anime, it definitely feels like a shoujo (josei) anime with some adult-oriented themes. Thus, this probably not one to watch for folks who dislike those sorts of anime. The strength of this anime is what viewers can learn from it, especially considering it has a very realistic setting and the relationships are believeable, the concept of love is much like that in real life. Which is a bad thing for fictional romance… (As one would find out were they to read the rant).
The animation quality is not that amazing for a 2006 anime. I watched it in 480p and it honestly felt average. Though at times it felt like this anime would be available at a higher resolution, it seems to scream quality. As for animation style, it looks like more like a shoujo anime. The style isn’t a common one, the characters look like their foreheads are slightly too large, the eyes aren’t as big as one would expect from a shoujo anime. The style doesn’t feel like it does anything too great, but I will admit the facial animation is done well, there are some comedic facial expressions.
Of course, while there is no perverted ecchi, fan-service BS in this anime, there’s a fair amount of ‘adult references’ with things like having affairs, sex, sleeping around, etc. There’s plenty of drinking too and thankfully there’s none of that one-drink-drunk (or no-alcohol-drunk) bullshittery. It’s all justified by context, even if that context is a bit immoral (married man cheating with a high-school student). In that sense, it makes this anime feel more like real-life, after all this is the sort of stuff that happens, don’t be surprised.
Okay, I may be a bit biased here, since I enjoy rock music, but damn is the music sweet! The rock here is specifically punk rock, I realise I don’t care too much as a metalhead, it still sounds great to me. Of course I nabbed the soundtrack. The intro and outro are both awesome and so is the music in the anime itself, whether background soundtrack or actual music played by characters in the anime. While the anime is partially themed rock, there’s good use of other music genres too, some piano and jazz when the mood suits it. The sound design is great, thankfully there’s no rock during serious scenes where the characters are emotional. However, at times it gets a bit repetitive. The protagonist band Blast seems like a one-hit wonder, with one exception, they only ever seem to sing one song, which is the first intro. Until the second half where it's another song on repeat.
This anime is available in both English and Japanese. While the singing is mostly in Japanese (the intro song is one actually in the anime itself), I was astounded at how similar the English singing was to the Japanese. On the occasion where the Japanese song was substituted in, during the dub, I barely noticed the change in voice. The songs also do have quite a bit of English in them, so well done to Romi Park (/Paku) for the good English, she’s done singing before for character songs and the like. I’d feel that this is one of those anime that the English dub is on par with the Japanese, even with the rare hiccup in Japanese name pronunciation. Unfortunately, subtitles may be more useful, due to the amount of unspoken Japanese text on-screen, usually on phones.
A quick shoutout to Romi Park the Japanese VA for Nana Osaki, who is known for Edward Elric in FMA. Nana Komatsu is voiced by Kelly Sheridan, who has voiced in anime I’ve not watched. Nana Osaki is voiced by Rebecca Shoichet, voiced in even less anime than Kelly. Junko’s voice Saffron Henderson was the one of the voices of kid Goku and kid Gohan in the Dragonball series. The only other character with an experienced voice was Yasu(shi) Takagi, voiced by Brian Drummond, he has voiced Benny in Black Lagoon, one of two Vegeta voices in Dragon Ball Z and Saito in the movie redub of Ghost in the Shell SAC: Individual Eleven. The other characters were voiced as follows: Kyousuke Takakura by Michael Adamthwaite, Ren Honjo by Samuel Vincent, Nobuo Terashima by Matthew Erickson, Shinichi Okazaki by David Kaye, Shouji Endo by Jeremy From, Layla Serizawa by Ashleigh Ball, Takumi Ichinose by Andrew Francis and Naoki Fujieda as Adrian Petriw. These people aren’t inexperienced, I’ve just not watched the few anime they’ve been in and thus they aren’t overused voices. This can be bad, but here it works out, the voices are done rather well.
Oh boy there are so many characters, pretty much all of them have some form of piercings and most of them smoke. Most of them are also around 20 years of age.
Starting off with the main character, or joint lead female protagonist, Nana Osaki. This 20 year old woman is a punk rocker, she specialises in singing and wears the fashion to boot. Short black hair and spikes, heck that’s how most of the characters in these two bands tend to dress. She is the singer of the band Blast (Black Stones) and her dream is to make a living off of her singing. She was a bastardised child, her father is a complete mystery and her mother left her when she was young. She lived with an abusive maternal grandmother until they died. She was anti-social in her early days and even took up smoking at the age of 15. Eventually the constant pleasantry of Nobu won her over and he was her first friend, he introduced her to the band where she joined as a singer. And she developed a relationship with the Bassist Ren, her love so great that she got a Ren flower tattooed onto her left arm. The two lived together till Ren got scouted for a band and left. Nana is a serious individual, she can’t imagine peaceful family life and she doesn’t open up to many people. She is hot-headed and often throws things at people, in a light-hearted ‘knock some sense into them’ kind of way. She later acknowledges that she doesn’t understand people well enough.
Nana Komatsu is the 20 year old room-mate of Nana Komatsu, the second of the daughters in her family and she is a slut. The other characters describe her ability to get excited and her jumpy personality as though she is an energetic puppy, thus she is given the affectionate nickname of Hachiko. She’s the type of girl that likes to gossip and do dumb things, the total opposite of other Nana. She slacks off and has no talents worthy of profession. Though she can cook well, she tends to get overexcited and cook a lot. Her favourite band is Trapnest and her favourite member of said band is Takumi. The complete opposite to punk Nana, she tends to sleep around and make terrible decisions. She is a dumb slut that throws around the words love and romance like snow on a mountain. She initially seems to have a thing for older men, but her current boyfriend is Shouji, a guy she met in an arts college at home. I will admit, I hate her character, but there is no fault with the design of this character. This character is honestly a bit realistic, I wouldn’t be surprised to find real people out there like her.
Junko Soutome and Kyousuke Takakura are Nana’s old friends from art’s college. They were the ones who introduced her to her boyfriend. The two are a couple and are pretty much set being together. Junko is like a mother to Nana, she looks after her, cares for her and even berates her when she does dumb things. Kyousuke (who also smokes) is like the gentle dad, except he has dreadlocks. The both of them attend an art’s school in Tokyo and are pretty much professional artists. I might as well mention Shoji. Shouji Endo is Nana’s boyfriend and also attends the art’s school in Tokyo. He is dumb and outgoing like Nana. Nana has crazy ideas that Shouji is cheating on her with a dream girl called Sachiko. The funny thing is, later on a girl who seems to be the very manifestation of Nana’s crazy nightmares appears.
Ren Honjou is Nana Osaki’s boyfriend. He’s a serious guy and was the bassist in Blast, before being recruited to be the lead guitar in Trapnest. Ren lived with Nana for a good few years and loves her so much, that he admitted he’d happily settle down and be a family man if Nana were to have his kids. Nana of course, doesn’t want this, so she takes contraceptive pills. Ren cleans up his act after having met Nana, before he was just sleeping around with any old woman. He even takes baths with her and is happy to scrub her back and clean her. Of course, when he had to leave Trapnest, folks realise how human and soft he is on the inside. He misses Nana so much and promised that he would end up settling down with her someday. Ren knows how to deal with people and is just an all-round nice guy.
Time to meet the rest of the Blast band. Yasushi Takagi AKA Yasu is the bald and serious man, who is the drummer in Blast and has also successfully studied law and works for a law firm. He’s a good friend to the members of his band is very protective of Nana, he knows what she needs to be happy, even if she’s unaware of it herself. He’s like the big brother to Nana. Yasu has also had his own relationships in the past, he was once with Reira, the now singer in Trapnest. He ended it and seems happy living on his own, not being in a relationship. The truth with Yasu is… he has male pattern baldness, so he decided to be completely bald and get used to it. He smokes the cigarettes that are the bands namesake, a brand called Blast Cherry, which tastes like shit according to Nana.
Nobuo Terashima AKA Nobu, the lead guitarist in blast is a happy fool. He’s the one guy that the rest of the band picks on for some reason. He’s not as stupid as he may seem to be, he’s just the typical nice guy who gets pushed around a bit is all. Heck, he’s the only band member who doesn’t smoke. He also can’t hold his alcohol, so he tends not to drink much. He’s got balls and is a very kind person, his persistent kindness towards Nana, helped her make a friend and he was the one who recommended her to sing for the band. Nobu is single of course… but he has feelings for a certain character. Couple with his desire to stay true, expect great things form this character. He also writes the songs for Blast. He is rather protective of Nana Komatsu, he thinks of her as a shining sweet angel.
Shinichi Okazaki AKA Shin is the newest member of the band and the youngest character in this anime at 15 years old. He plays bass and was inspired by Ren, perfect replacement then. He has no place of his own and often stays over at Nobu’s place. But this character is perhaps the most messed up of the lot. His father is a mystery and his mother committed suicide shortly after he was born. He was an ‘accident’ child. He was born and grew up in America, rasied by a foster family. He suffers from a very deranged mind, at times he’ll say things like ‘he wishes he was never born.’ He has also taken up smoking at the age of 15, even though Nana scolds him for doing so, in a hypocritical way. He is also a male prostitute, sleeping with various older women for money, often for large sums. He’s pretty damn fucked up, he even watches porn for ‘work inspiration’ at Nobu’s while Nobu is trying to get to sleep. He also is slightly concerned with Nana Komatsu, though his idea is that Nana is the bands mascot and must be protected from harm. His services are commonly bought by a certain single famous singer…
Takumi Ichinose is the centre of the popular band Trapnest. He is the bassist and looks over all decisions, the band is his. Despite this, he isn’t the most popular member of the band. He’s had his troubled childhood too (he was the delinquent at school), but here he’s very serious and business-like. He can get pretty angry at times and he’s very good at being kind and considerate, but in a business-like way. He just doesn’t seem genuine. At times his jokes go very far and if he offends other folks, he isn’t afraid to back down from a fight. Some people don’t seem to think very highly of him, claiming he sleeps around and is a player. But he’ll never be as much of a man-whore as Shin.
The singer and driving focus of the band, Layla Serizawa AKA Reira, is perhaps the most popular member of Trapnest. Her singing talent knows no bounds and she lives to sing, to her it’s all she has. She was once in a relationship with Yasu, but she broke it off when she moved to Tokyo to be in the band. She hasn’t exactly forgotten, but there isn’t love between them like there is between Ren and Nana. She also seems to have a crush on Takumi. Despite her sensible and happy outwards appearance, this girl is troubled. She seeks solace in… forbidden things to help her deal with life.
The last member of Trapnest, Naoki Fujieda, is the drummer and as far as this anime goes, he’s just a background character. He’s upbeat and seems to have no worries in life, other than constantly insisting that he is best buddies with Yasu. He’s not in any relationships, he doesn’t sleep around and he doesn’t care about that sort of stuff. He’s like the Nobu of Trapnest, except he truly is happy without love. Probably the most normal of all of these characters. He reminds me of myself, personality-wise, except I don’t insist on claiming other people to be my best friend.
There are a bunch of minor characters, Mai Tsuzuki is the one who appears to be the most important. She’s a higschool girl and probably the number one fan of Nana and Blast. What’s more, she’s a good friend of Nana’s too. She’s always cheery and upbeat and really cares for Nana, she’ll skip school and come over to Tokyo if she feels she is needed. Such a die-hard fan. Nana’s younger sister Nami, is the stereotypical dumb girl, bleached her hair blonde rapped in some dumb-hairdo, tanned so much she is literally brown and she dresses like a slut. She also has no manners. Nana’s older sister on the other hand is Nao Komatsu is aging a bit, she drives and lives at home with Nana’s parents. She’s more grown up and sensible, compared to her two younger sisters. There’s Sachiko Kawamura, the physical manifestation of Nana’s crazy ideas that Shouji is cheating on her. She’s dumb and obviously flirts with Shoji. Mari is Reira’s handler/keeper. She keeps tabs on her and makes sure she has no issues. She’s kinda cute and most of the band members casually flirt with her much to Layla’s disgrace. There’s various other minor characters like the many characters like Nana’s old crushes.
While the first episode covers the move of both Nanas to Tokyo, the following few episodes delve into the backstory of both characters over a period of few years leading up to their move to Tokyo. From there on the story follows their adult life from that moment onwards. Though I swear episode 6 is pretty much a rehash of the first episode. In my book it’s lazy and pointless to replay an entire episode just 5 episodes later! This would be a better anime if it was just 46 episodes. It’s 20 of my minutes wasted, if I wasn’t writing this while watching said episode.
It’s a complex story with many unexpected turn and twists. There’s a lot it seems to say about life and this realism is the big appeal. Shit is going to go down and the fallout effects on the characters are easily observable. Even in the later episodes there are revelations based upon small jokes and/or assumptions made earlier.
RANT INCOMING/ -ignore, not part of review
The thing that annoyed me the most in this anime is how easily the word ‘love’ is thrown around, especially by Nana Komatsu. She is the last sort of individual who’d be able to feel honest love. She seems to fall in love very quickly with any person, too easily without even getting to know them, as if by sheer looks alone. I admit it’s realistic and it’s too much alike the false concept of love and romance that seems to plague the real world. This is unlike the textbook romance that I’ve grown to understand from good romance anime. Love should take time to develop and should be more than the simple superficial relationship formed on just aesthetic (most people claim to love someone, when the attraction is just a physical one), it’s difficult to find love with just anyone. There is some truth in this anime, in that most guys will be willing to sleep with any woman, especially outside of a relationship. I also guess that Nana is representative of many real women, they’ll get with any guy thinking its love. Even in most other anime, it feels like girls just have terrible taste in men. That and there’s too much cheating and sleeping around in this anime for my taste. I don’t want to know about other people’s BS.
/END OF RANT
This anime talks a lot about love. With the possible exception of NanaXRen, the love depicted is the real world equivalent, something superficial. There are a lot of disturbing themes here, about psychological issues, illness, depression and of course all the nasty grown-up stuff like cheating, sleeping around, prostitution (underage at that!) and there’s even a sad tale of a failed singer turning into a pornstar. This is a very adult story and despite what impression this may give to people (adult story? Cool!), the sad truth is that it won’t appeal to everyone once they realise how real and soap opera this is.
This isn’t a spoiler, but just my thoughts on the end, feel free to skip this last paragraph if one so desires. The big let-down is the ending. It’s rushed and incomplete, a lot of things go unexplained and it feels like they just ran out of time. Were, this to be a 50 episode anime, it would have been much better. Certain things are said and certain thing happen in the last episode that hint at more story. Such a wishy-washy ending after a full-throttle plot is pitiful. This isn’t the type of anime for vague endings. At least there’s passage of time…
I almost didn’t watch this. While I did hate a good amount of it, I can definitely see its charm and the further it went, the more I started to enjoy it. It’s a lot like the anime School Days in my book, except with more story and a more appropriate setting (except for Shin). It has balls, but goes places where people may feel uncomfortable and the characters may be dumb and do things that we hate. But like School Days this is a realistic depiction of some soap-opera drama, without the crazy conclusion that anime had. Some folks may feel upset at the comparison I’ve made. But I feel it’s valid. Unlike School Days, it doesn’t have a satisfactory conclusion in my eyes.
So who is this for? It’s not for the faint of heart or those with more common anime interests. This is a niche title, for grown-ups and folks who like soap-opera type stuff and enjoy the tension and nonsense it involves. If anything, I at least appreciated this anime simply from what it can teach people. People should watch this and get a feeling for the world they live in. Thus I’d recommend all folks to watch this to the end, especially if they think they are in love or are in a relationship. This will be very relevant to them and may challenge their beliefs. I know mine held strong, but will yours? Are the viewers willing to see the morals of this story?
Family-friendliness Rating: 5/5 Underage drugs, prostitution and many other adult themes (lower is better)
Overall Rating: 7/10 (higher is better)
ahhh this anime drove me nuts! i got through it quickly because it was a total soap opera and you had to know what happened next with all the relationship drama llama yada yada, but it left me very unsatisfied. I thought all the crazy things that were happening were important, like at the end it would all mean something or it all had a reason, but the way it ended, it just kind of trickled off. So I guess you could say this anime is an accurate depiction of adult life- important relationships trickle off, pride keeps you from the most important things and people, having to decide between love and security, that type of thing. But after about 20 episode of this, it wasn't entertaining to watch anymore. Especially with all the dramatic flashbacks from both nana's in the beginning and ending of each episode, I really thought something big was coming. Similarly, I thought she meant it when she said she had a plan to get nana back and i was wondering what she meant when she said "but i forgot about one thing." I was absolutely sick when she chose Takumi over Nobu and then never came to her senses. I was absurd the way she claimed to be so in love with this man after what she said herself was a one night stand that she regretted. Then she waits months for him to call and calls him her boyfriend and can't get over him or give him up for someone who she wants so badly. I really was terrified that she'd choose a man who I saw forced her into sex several times. She never seemed to regain her relationship with nana either. I wanted nobu to fight for her, i wanted nana to go after her. I was so disappointed with the ending. I've never seen two anime characters more convincingly crazy over each other and they gave it up. None of it seemed to have much point in the end, so many things left unresolved. I guess after awhile I'll see some meaning in the choices they all made or maybe I'll learn from their mistakes, but right now I'm just ticked off with the whole story.
an ode to real life.
Writing this from a post-Twighlight era, I have never more appreciated the value of genuinely tragic soap operas aimed at girls like Nana. I always return to Nana Osaki's wistful narration: 'I wanted you to see me as a strong person. Like a manga heroine who is too good to be true.' Her confession is all the more poignant because she is an excellent character too flawed to be fake. The show goes further than just entertaining; it dares to tell dreamy-eyed young women that life has few absolutes and even fewer easy answers, and that, despite their best efforts, they will make terrible mistakes. Characterised by troubled women and their misadventures in love, sex, and the music industry, it creates an edgy noise that resonates more strongly with the modern girl than almost anything else available.