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.
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