Yet another repost of an old anime review. My life is not yet together enough for me to start producing new stuff.
Finally got thru ep. 47 of Nana. Neither the anime nor the manga was completed because the author, Ai Yazawa, fell ill in 2009 and spent a year in a hospital. She got out in 2010 but has not shown any interest in continuing.
I’ll get to it later but the final episode has a kind of ending feeling to it. It wraps up many things while leaving others to speculate on. Episode 47 did not leave me with the bad taste in my mouth like the non-conclusion of Yona of the Dawn.
The “Nana’s Room” segment at the end of the episode indicated there would be 3 more
episodes and the hostess was expecting to be back the next week. “Nana first season” implies their would be another. What I believe is that Yazawa saw her hospitalization coming and compressed the last chapters just in case there wasn’t a next season. Having done that, it didn’t seem worthwhile to start the anime up again, so she just let it be.
The manga goes on for quite a while after the anime but never got adapted.
The manga and the anime proved so popular that two live action movies were made. The Black Stones and Trapnest, the two rock groups features in the series both spun off very popular IRL groups as merchandising.
Be prepared for spoilers ahead!
Nana is a flawed masterpiece. It follows the lives of two women named Nana who happen to meet on a train heading to Tokyo. The two end up sharing an apartment. Nana Osaka takes the other Nana (soon to be called “Hachi”) under her wing and the two become close friends
The very best part of the anime is the music. As soon as she gets to Tokyo she begins assembling her group from old friends from back home. They end up naming it “The Black Stones” from the Blackstone brand cigarettes they smoke, soon to be shortened to “Blast.” It is a hard core punk band all the way. Nana reminds me of Joan Jett.
Another reason for Nana to go to Tokyo is her boyfriend. Ren has made it big with a group called Trapnest. Their lead singer is Reira, a stunning beauty who somehow reminds me a bit of Pat Benetar. Trapnest is mostly a J-pop band but they still have their punky moments.
On to our dramatis persnonae.
Nana Osaka is our protagonist. She is a tough punk rocker with big dreams and is off to Tokyo to fulfill them – and maybe just reunite with her old boyfriend Ren. Her past has been full of pain and misunderstanding as she wasn’t exactly the Japanese feminine ideal and being pretty wasn’t enough to overcome it.
Nana Komatsu is the same age as the other Nana. She has absolutely no life experience and finds living on her own very difficult. Due to her seeming defenselessness, her nickname becomes Hachi or puppy. Her only dream is to be a good housewife and she is in pursuit of a boyfriend who went to Tokyo before her. Also very pretty, her operating plan is to live with a boyfriend and let him do all the hard lifting. She can’t seem to hold onto a job for very long.
This is the band The Black Stones, aka Blast. They were formed in high school with Ren Honjo as the lead bassist but broke up when Ren was convinced to go to Tokyo to join Trapnest
Yasushi Takagi may shave his head but he is probably the only person in the entire show with his head screwed on.
He has a law degree. Yasu and Ren grew up in the same orphanage and he views Ren as his brother. Because of this he has always been Nana’s support and protector but would never make a move on her. He plays drums and handles all their business dealings. In high school he and Reira were lovers but they broke up when she went to Tokyo to join Trapnest. (Kind of makes him a male Nana.)
Nana Osaka – Already talked about her. Vocalist for Blast.
Nobu Tereshima is still a bit immature. In High school he befriended Nana while everyone else isolated her which developed into a real love of punk rock. He has a thing for Hachi that develops. He is the only one who doesn’t smoke but has a real weakness for alcohol.
Shinchi Okazaki, the current bassist. He is an unwanted child from a wealthy family who wants to make it on his own in the music business. His mother committed suicide soon after he was born. I never managed to catch whether he was a product of infidelity but it sounds like he was. (Supposedly he is half Swedish.) The man his mother was married to did not accept him as a son. In fact he, is completely indifferent to the boy’s existence and only hopes Shin does not shame family name.
Shin is only 15 years old. In an interesting twist, his sideline is as a male prostitute.(There is a female pimp in the background.) One of his clients is Reira. Their relationship shifts from a business arrangement to being lovers. He dreams of exceeding Ren in musical skill.
Now here is Trapnest. It a popular group at the time the anime begins. However there are lots of interconnections between the two bands.
Reira Serizawa (aka Layla) Former client of Shin, now his lover. The relationship would spell the doom of both bands so they keep it on the QT from everyone. Reira was formerly Yasu’s lover until she left town to join Trapnest. Despite her affair with Shin, she also is in love with Takumi Ichinose who doesn’t return her feelings.
Ren Honjo is Nana’s love interest. He left her to make a name for himself in music on Yasu’s advice. He and Yasu were as close as brothers in the orphanage where they were raised. Yasu is still looking out for him and for his woman, Nana. Ren has a substance abuse problem. The manga takes this a long way but it doesn’t show up all that much in the anime.
Takumi Ichinose is Trapnest’s version of Yasu. He is level headed and has the best mind for business in the group. Unlike Yasu he isn’t very demonstrative of emotions and one wonders what lurks beneath that cool and businesslike exterior. Takumi is the guy who coaxed Reira out of Yasu’s bed and into Trapnest, so Yasu isn’t very fond of him. He becomes a critical character later in the anime. He is always tall, dark and elegant.
Naoki Fujieda – The fourth member of Trapnest, doesn’t get a big role in the anime.
We have a josei/shoujo soap opera here. Everyone is either sleeping with someone they shouldn’t or not sleeping with who they want. Look at all those interesting characters to develop! And there are others of some importance I haven’t even mentioned.
Nana loves Ren. Ren loves Nana. Both of them love making music more than anything else. Nana loves Hachi like a prized possession.
Hachi… I’m not sure if Hachi can truly love another person. She tends to go thru boyfriends because of her self involvement and neediness.
Yasu loves Reina. Reina loves Takumi but Takumi doesn’t reciprocate. Yasu loves Ren as a brother and therefor loves Nana like a little sister. Nana starts to love Yasu but it gets quashed by Yasu who gets her back in with Ren. Ren needs Nana for stability. Ren is completely faithful and wears a padlock on a chain around his neck and Nana has the key. (What dead punk star does this remind you of? Is this foreshadowing? Alas, the anime never caught up to the manga.)
Reina also loves Shin. At first she just loves sex with Shin as a substitute for the Takumi she cannot have. (Apparently he has an astonishing skill level and is extremely popular.) However in her case he starts to feel love towards her and she begins to reciprocate. They are not longer client and provider, they become lovers.
Does Takumi love anyone? Can he love? I’m inclined to think he can and does. His emotional display is subdued and hidden behind a front of elegance and sophistication. In his own distant and stand-offish way, he eventually does step tentatively into love. He would never “fall” into anything.
Nobu is just a shallow kid. Break his heart on Monday and he will be repaired by Thursday. All it takes is an enigmatic woman who looks like a beautiful teenager and keeps hiding her left wrist. That worked out until it turns out she’s a budding actress of 27 and his own shallowness literally blows himself away.
In the beginning, we are treated to some interesting character development and there is an definite arc. The middle is not so interesting. Not a lot happens and things are very slow paced. I found my interest flagging a little bit, especially from the mid 20s to the mid 30s. It just wasn’t binge-worthy in the middle. That is the “flaw” in this masterpiece. Other people will see it differently.
I can see how the middle set up the conditions for the end to develop but damn! They lost much of what was exciting about the beginning. That’s a very bad thing to do because not everyone will watch thru the slow stuff in the hope the third act will pick up. The final dozen or so episodes started to pick up the pace and the arcs were resumed in a fine fashion. I had fallen in love with Nana and her crew in the beginning and now that love was renewed and expanded to include Reira and Ren of Trapnest.
The final episode, 47, proceeded at a rapid pace. More action here than the entire middle of the series. That is why I suspect the author saw what was coming and tried to put a sort of a satisfying ending to it. She succeeded well enough that I am happy and will not be investigating the manga to see what happened next. I wouldn’t want anything to make me dislike the show.
Let us not forget what I think is the best rock sound track in all of anime!