NANA is an anime based on the manga series by celebrated (and now seemingly, vanished) mangaka Ai Yazawa. The manga inspired a string of adaptations including the 2009 anime directed by Morio Asaka and two live action film adaptations. It also inspired several studio albums and a video game produced by Konami. The official website can be found here.
NANA has all the ingredients to be a classic and timeless anime – good art, great music and a bittersweet story line (Personal observation: Good combination of art + music seems to be a success mantra. Refer: Nodame Cantabile, Your Lie in April, etc). I doubt any other anime or manga has ventured into a sphere like NANA other than some works by Kye Young Cho (of Girl in Heels fame), which again, are either unfinished or untranslated. (WHYYY?!)
Two story revolves around two diametrically opposite girls girls named Nana. Nana Komatsu is a naive, 20-year old prone to falling in love at first sight. She has orange hair, is ready-to-please, gets nicknamed after a dog (Hachi) halfway through and travels to Tokyo to find her ‘true calling’ and also for her boyfriend Shouji Endo.
Nana Osaki is a punk rock vocalist with a lotus tattoo, hailing from a rural background who dreams of making it big in the city. Despite being a member of a fairly popular band and dating one of its members – Ren, she leaves it behind to travel to Tokyo and fulfill her dreams.
The two meet on the same train, and later as they hunt out apartments, and thus begins an unlikely friendship in room 707.
“Say, Nana… Do you remember the first time we met?”
As the duo begin to live and survive together, they help each other through thick and thin, their deeply intertwined lives filled with romance, music, challenges, and heartbreaks that will ultimately test their seemingly unbreakable bond.
If I could go back and warn my 15 year old self from watching this anime, I would because it is the most heartbreaking and warmest thing ever. And I would have appreciated it that much more in my late teens than just then.
The Final Verdict
Ai Yazawa needs no introduction to shoujo and josei fans and rightly so. Unlike her previous works (Paradise Kiss or River’s Edge – dealing with a more dream-like reality), she has created a more realistic version of the world, one each of us can identify with. NANA falls under the category of josei rather than shoujo.
The concept of the story isn’t anything that hasn’t been done in movies before. It’s 2 different people living together and their struggles – falling in and out of love, dealing with some betrayals, setbacks, helping each other through and trying to be a better version of themselves.
But what makes it so unique is the freshness in approach. The plot is devoid of any overused trope – it does not have any proverbial tsundere, yandere or moe characters. No sudden amnesia or childhood friend turning hot.
The characters struggle with real issues and we struggle with them. We struggle with Hachi to make the ultimate sacrifice and we cry as Nana decides on her new path, we mediate between Nobu and Takumi and feel bad for Yasu as he turns away. These are real people dealing with real problems, trying to reach their goal or just trying to fit. Whether it is dealing with heartbreak, or a band break-up, the stress of trying to put out new music, or the guilt of hiding secrets, NANA portrays them all with a vivacity rarely seen in anime.
That is not to say that they are all likable or without flaws. Several of Hachi’s decisions are questionable, but what is to say we would have dealth with it any better? We are all guided by emotions and it is difficult to rationalize in the face of the situation. Takumi’s character might be despicable, but who said the world is devoid of such people? Nobu might be noble, but are all sacrifices rewarded?
Watching the anime is a depressive feat by all means. It is bittersweet and raw and while the anime doesn’t end as abruptly as the manga – it still leaves you with a gaping emptiness. You think you could abate it by reading the manga but DON’T! It only gets sadder and then it never ends! (The manga has been on hiatus for 10 years now.)
The art is very different and might take time getting used to for some. The characters are long, with unique features, and detailed attention is given to their garment. When they are not smoking…they are talking. The backgrounds are great and overall, the art style has a mature and distinctive edge to it.
Despite the reality and the tear jerking moments it brings, the anime is truly magical. Even the various opening and ending songs performed by Anna Tsuchiya and Olivia are bound to impress themselves on your memory. The album NANA Best includes all the opening and ending music, including “Nothing’s Gonna Take My Love” and Tsuchiya’s cover of the Sex Pistols’, “Anarchy in the UK“.
Foxy Turnips gives it 9.5 Turnips out of 10! We take away 0.5 for the shoddy English dub. And if you’re done crying after finishing the anime, you can check out the entire soundtrack here.
No. of episodes: 47
Avg. run time: 21 mins
The fandom page can be found here.
MyAnimeList has rated it 8.49/10.
NANA has an impressive 8.3/10 on IMDB.
If you haven’t seen it yet, decide by watching the trailer below. But I strongly recommend this to anyone irrespective of gender or preference!
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