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.
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.