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.
I will admit right off the bat that I was never interested in NANA because I do not necessarily consider myself a fan of shojo. Still considered a fairly new anime (2006), it is relatively unheard of unless you are familar with the story's author Ai Yazawa, who also did Paradise Kiss. And yet, after watching it on a whim this last summer, I found myself strangely drawn to its story, its art, and its music.
Nana Osaki is a punk rocker from a small coastal town who comes to Tokyo to make a name for herself as a singer in the music scene, greatly influenced by her pseudo ex-boyfriend Ren who now plays for a band named Trapnest. Nana Komatsu (nicknamed Hachi because of her puppy-like characteristics) follows her friends and boyfriend to Tokyo after earning enough money to try and make it on her own and prove her independence. After a chance meeting on a train in which the girls discover they have the same name, the two end up sharing an apartment and becoming very close friends. Their world is filled with sex, music, all night parties, love, and loss as the two women struggle to find a place for themselves. The first half of the anime is focused (with voice-over narration) by Hachi, while the second half centers on Nana's budding music career.
Grade: B These characters were hardly born with silver spoons in their mouths and have to struggle for everything they get - it's main theme being "Well, I Guess This Is Growing Up" - but it's similar to a lot of other stories as well; just the names and faces have changed.
In accordance with Ai Yazawa's style, NANA is very realistically drawn and nicely streamlined. There are some moments where the characters become cutesy and cartoonish, but these are largely for comedic effect and do well adding to the character development. The music scenes which make up about 40% of the anime are done extremely well - the character's fingers actually move like they're playing the guitar - and the realistic little details of the town add to the setting.
Grade: A- The art style is free and flowing, but could take a little bit of getting used to.
A splattering of punk rock mixed in with instrumental numbers, the soundtrack makes for some good party music. Considering also that this is an anime that revolves around the music scene in Tokyo, it adds to the story very well, the ending and opening themes (there are five and three respectively) are reflective of the current plotline and are also catchy.
Grade: A The message is in the music and it's telling me to go out and take some chances...or go to a club...whatever floats your boat.
The story never changes, just the names and faces, but despite the running into walls, the whining, the crying, and the general wanting to punch people in the face (which didn't actually happen for me until episode 30 something), it makes you both worry and feel sorry for the girls. It has definite promise as a growing up story and as a testimony to the staying power of freindship, no matter what walk of life you're from. There are also two live action movies that basically follow the same storyline as the anime (with a few minor exceptions) which looked enjoyable.
Right after finishing.
Story Enjoyment Level: 2/10
Animation Enjoyment Level:7/10
Sound EL: 0/10
Overall EL: ... Meh? I super loved it in the beginning, but now it just is, like whatev you know?
Reminded me of Nodame Cantabile. (Focused more on relationships though.)
It's not so much about what's happing but how the circumstances affect the characters.
Animation got some getting used to, but I think I liked it.
Characters were good.
I didn't like the sound, but not because I don't like the genre. (I'm comparing it to my Nodame Cantabile "Hey, classical music has some sort of emotional content" revolution. So yeah, the music in the thing sounded like buzz to me. Plus they kept butchering English. *sigh* Two seconds people, two seconds!) The background music was fine, but I didn't really notice it, though I suppose that means it was doing it's job.
During the concerts I felt like they used too many stills which messed with the flow of the animation. But the fireworks we good. But everyone seemed to have the same face shape.
Overall enjoyable, but 'm giving it a seven because I was disappointed.
PG-13, don't skip the redo of the first episode until she gets on the train, and don't run away because of the animation. Not that I think you'd be scared or anything....
Nana. Fantastic! Here's one of those shows that I didn't expect to really care about much, but on a whim I accepted the recommendation and dove in. SOOOOOO glad I did. Nana is now in my top 10 list, and I expect it to hang out there for a long time.
Positives: This is Shoujo, and as with most of these types of anime you'll find that the characters and their relationships are far more complex and realistic than those found in other types of anime. For me, this is often a huge selling point. I like the depth and complexity. Most all of the characters are both engaging, and believable.
The music in Nana is also a big plus. Sure, there's the occasional butchery of English grammar and the common nonsensical sentence, but the music is well done, and very fitting. I found myself wishing the "concerts" would continue as those scenes often were so fun to watch.
Without spoiling anything I want to touch on the Nana relationship for a moment. It's fantastic, and in fairness, I really didn't know where it was going for much of the time. The depth though in this relationship is so much like real life. It's odd that one can find such enjoyment in watching a false reality, but...I do!
Negatives: I only gave Nana an 8/10. I'm not sure why, because I really, really enjoyed it, but that's the score I felt it had earned in the end, and I have a strict policy of not editing scores post review. I like to give the score I feel right at the end of watching without allowing time to change my thoughts of feelings on a show. That said, here's my negatives.
I kept shaking my head while watching and thinking to myself. Wow, these people have a lot of problems. Worse yet, I kept thinking that most of them would be easily solved if they weren't such unprincipled people. Ahah! Some of you are now thinking I'm a pretentious arse. So be it. Fact remains, that if you aren't a prick in life and have some standards it resolves a whole lot of pain for everyone involved. That said, a show about people who don't do anything stupid probably wouldn't have been nearly as interesting or emotionally involving.
So another minor gripe I had was how crazy the love "triangles" become at times. Yes, it's a why the show is compelling, and I can see it happening, but I did find it distracting at times. Yes, I've been there, and I know the emotions and situations many of them are going through so I can see how these ties would develop, but there were times when watching that it pulled me out of the story. Maybe it's just me. Either way though, a tiny complaint (I'm stretching to find negatives...heh).
And now for the worst part about Nana. It ends. Yes, that's the worst part. Now if you've seen Skip Beat you'll understand what I'm talking about. The show ends...BUT THE STORY DOESN'T. Argh. The writer has fallen ill in recent months and was in the hospitol, but now is apparently back home. Hopefully her recovery continues. First off for her, and then for her fantastic world. I'd love to experience the conclusion to the story someday.
So overall I can't but recommend Nana for most people who enjoy madly insane love triangles, punk music, or the ever continuing drama or "real" life. Oh, and for those turned off by the comments about the show not having an end, it does have an ending, and in fairness it's WAY more solid that Skip Beat, but there's still some open endedness to it that may drive you crazy. At least if you're like me. =)
Plot: "Nana Komatsu is on her way to Tokyo; now she can finally be with her boyfriend after a year of dating long-distance! On the train there, Nana Komatsu meets Nana Osaki – a girl who shares her name but seems to be everything Nana Komatsu is not; cool, street-wise, and a punk rocker. The two hit it off and spend the entire journey getting to know each other, but when they get to Tokyo, circumstance separates them seemingly forever. However, fate is not finished with these two. Whilst hunting for a place to live the two Nanas again cross paths. They decide to share a flat and become best friends in no time. Nana K. must learn to be independent and mature, while Nana O. works on becoming famous with her band; but together, they will learn about love and loss, and the growth that comes with it." (not my work, this is the site synopsis)
Story: Before starting with this review, I have to mention that this might contain a lot of spoilers. Nana has been for a long time my favorite romance anime, surpassing many superficial romantic comedies or romantic dramas that show up nowadays which feature overused plots, many similar elements and not even a new concept that could make that show more watchable, more unpredictable. Nana is not only an example of a very distinctive art-style which can be quickly observed just by taking a peek at several wallpapers or screenshots but its unique plot presentation and the unpredictable twists. This show can also be considered a modern type of a romance show, since the love relationships are being presented in a more contemporan manner, with a lot of modern elements, issues that occure during these days. Rather than presenting a straight romance relationship between a couple, this anime starts in a more interesting way. As the show begins, we are introduced to Komatsu Nana, a countryside girl (if that is the case because, the setting where she spent her childhood period did not seem like a countryside landscape at all but rather as a city landscape, but nevertheless, compared to Tokyo, that place can be considered as countryside) who has been working in a library for the sake of earning money so that after a year she can move to Tokyo to be around her boyfriend Shouji, who has been both studying and working there. Though Nana did not want to just merely move with him and live together with him, instead she wanted to find a job and an apartment so that she can manage on her own until Shouji will graduate from university. Fate has it that during her journey by train towards Tokyo, she meets a rather punkish girl, a more rebel type, that surprisingly has the same name like her. Oosaki Nana same like Komatsu Nana is moving to Tokyo but for other reasons. When they parted at the train station in Tokyo, they never thought that fate will once again interfere since both of them will meet once again in the apartment that they will eventually share and live together. Even though these two had very different personalities, somehow both of them managed to sort things out and coexist. After the first episode we are introduced to another arc which features the two main female leads as they recall their own memories from childhood before moving to Tokyo. Nana Komatsu was the second child of the family and her personality differed a lot compared to the other family members. She experienced several failures in love that left her with scars which always opened when she gets drunk. Her best friend Junko, introduced Shouji to her and things started to move between them. While Junko starts to be involved in a relationship with Kyousuke, Nana and Shouji realized their feelings for eachother later, since both of them are rather complicated characters. While Junko and the others try to approach Nana in different ways to do not affect her mentally dew to her past experiences, without knowing both Shouji and Nana will eventually fall in love. However life proves to be cruel for both of them, not only that Shouji moves to Tokyo so he can study and work there, Junko and Kyousuke follow him there as well, leaving Nana all alone. On the other hand Oosaki Nana had a more painful past than Komatsu Nana. Unlike Nana (nicknamed Hachiko later), Oosaki Nana barely experienced the love of her parents since her mother abandoned her when she was only four years old leaving her alone with her grandmother. However her grandmother died when she was still young, and Nana remained with noone around her to support her. Being a lone wolf type, she barely had any friends, and rumors about her being a prostitute circulated during her school period. The only boy that had the guts to approach her is Nobu, and with an effort made by him, he managed to win her trust and to truly become friends. Nobu introduced her to his upperclassmen, Yasu and Ren, which later they all will be part of a popular punk band named Blast. Although they tasted the fruit of their hard work and had made a big fanbase, the band is disbanded when Ren moves to play together with the most popular Japanese band at that time, named Trapnest, together with the popular Reira and the founder of the band, Takumi. Twists, drama, comedy moments, happy and sad moments, this show oscilates from a humorous beginning to a more melancholic ending. However Nana is one of those shows that human nature is described and presented in an almost perfect manner. I like the fact that not like most of the other romantic shows, Nana does not take lightly the meaning of being in love, because in many cases, to be with the one you love, is not always possible without fighting. Nonetheless Nana is far from being over, the ending of the anime show opened the way for another continuation that is hard to anticipate since the author has placed her own work on hiatus for more than 2 years. Fans of Nana, don’t worry, because the popularity of this show will not go unnoticed and as soon as the manga will be done, I am sure this show will get a finalization in the end.
Animation and Sound: Most of the people that I recommended this show to watch, quickly noticed a difference between the standard Japanese animation style and the art style used in this manga/anime. It is a big plus that the anime made justice to the manga by completely grasping the art-style and portraying it in a perfect manner into a 47 episode show. The reason why the art is so distinctive is because this manga is drawn in a more Korean style, rather than a Japanese style, focusing a lot on elements that are rarely presented in the Japanese art-style and that is fashion. You can take notice that the characters are very stylish, the way they are portrayed or what they wear as well. Regarding the sound, this anime is probably a masterpiece. People thought that Angel Beats! Had nice soundtracks but this one exceeds what we might call, awesomeness. Anna Tsuchiya and Olivia sing the soundtracks performed by Oosaki Nana for the band Black Stones and for Reira Serizawa for the band Trapnest. Nana shines beautifully especially from the staggering soundtracks that delights your ears (even though I am a big metalhead I enjoy punk music as much as metal). Aside from shows where Yuki Kajiura casted her spells on, I would recommend Nana mainly for its soundtracks which make this show much more enjoyable.
Characters: Even though the story is pretty much simple and predictable, the most redeeming point in my opinion regarding this show is about the character issues. This show does not feature such a big cast, but the ones that are portrayed during these 47 episodes are well developed. The main female leads, Komatsu and Oosaki Nana have their share of information right from the beginning of the show, by describing in detail their life, their personalities and later their goals. However the development between these two is proceding slow dew to their difference in personality. As we dig deeper in the story some other characters are revealed which will play a vital part in the show. Characters such as Nobu, Yasu, Junko, Shouji (mainly in the first half) and Kyousuke are described little by little as the story becomes more complicated. Through the creation of Black Stones it is not long until Oosaki Nana will get a reunion with the love of her life, Ren and the band Trapnest starts to play a vital role in the relation between the two Nana’s. The way the things are developing is too complicated, unless I write like 5-6 pages to describe the depth of the story. But I seriously doubt someone sane would try to read such a huge length review.
Overall: I clearly portrayed the redeeming points of Nana, but such shows do not appel to all tastes. Nana is not a shounen type nor a shoujo type, it’s a more mature one, a josei type (the genre features very few anime adaptation, another well known one is Paradise Kiss, made by the same author that made Nana). I recommend this show for those that are looking for a slice of life show and for the die hard romance lovers. I guarantee this won’t disappoint despite the fact that it is not yet finished.
~Enjoy and have fun~