2009 TV Series (episodes 12-22). Director: Morio Asaka. 270 minutes. DVD, bilingual, $59.90. Distributor: Viz Media.
Based on the widely popular shojo manga by Ai Yazawa, Nana spirals from the sudden relationship sparked between two young women on a Tokyo bound train. One is a J-punk rocker, whose torn jeans and short skirts are seductively edgy. For her, the train is pulling into that glorified station of Tokyo’s music scene. The other is far more suburb; her well-ironed seams betray soccer mom dreams. For her, Tokyo is a seemingly perfect boyfriend and that eventual and all-important house. Despite their differences, both share the same name: Nana.
If you couldn’t tell, we’ve got an odd couple here worthy of a network sitcom, complete with laugh track. But what I like about this anime adaptation is not simply its loyalty to the manga (no filler), but Yazawa’s ability to create a captivatingly feminine coming-of-age, one unburdened by rampant cliché.
Drama? Chick-flick? Soap opera-ish? Maybe. But if high and pop culture have taught us anything, it’s that love stories will be re-told for as long as humans exist. Thankfully Nana dresses perennial experiences in new clothes. This story constantly shifts our attention from predictable relationships to the sheer rush of being a young adult. Through music, a commonly shared experience of youth, we recall the somewhat alien freedom of our early twenties, when you often drunkenly stumbled into life.
Though different women, this story hinges upon a connection to the J-Rock scene and the band Trapnest. Nana Komatsu, marriage illuminating her pupils, is a hardcore fan, and the world of this band represents the enticing potential of the city. But for Nana Osaki Trapnest is just the guitarist Ren: her former lover. As Ren, Trapnest, and the two Nana’s collide, the innate chaos of dreams, desires, and boyfriends initiates a big bang. And in Box Set 2 new worlds are emerging fast. Komatsu’s boyfriend is quickly shedding his perfection, and that dream house is drowning in the suave air of Trapnest’s leader Takumi. Better still, Osaki can have Ren, if she wants.
Tethered together, these two girls are moving somewhere. Believe me, you will get caught up in their living momentum.
Much like the live-action adaptation, the anime is well done. And if you are a fan of the manga, the artwork accurately recreates the aesthetic of all those black and white pages.
Nana reminds us that anime is more than mecha, epic combat, and fan service.