Ai Yazawa + Madhouse = a beautifully-rendered tale of ambition, love, friendship, angst and music. NANA, based on the long-running manga of the same name, is arguably Yazawa’s most famous work. It presents the story of two girls named Nana, who could not be more different. They meet by chance on a train to Tokyo, where sweet, naïve Nana Komatsu is moving to be with her boyfriend. She meets hardened musician Nana Oosaki, who hopes to live her dream as a singer with her band, Blast. When fate finds them looking at the same apartment, they decide to become roommates. The series follows them as they pursue their dreams, deal with romantic entanglements and become friends.
It’s Madhouse; how could the animation be anything but stunning? They have successfully translated Yazawa’s illustrations to animation, retaining her distinctive look while giving it that Madhouse lushness that sets them apart from other studios. The animation is smooth and, really, flawless.
Okay, I’ll readily admit that this one can lean a little heavily on the “soap opera” side when it comes to story. This ain’t a manly shoot-em-up, kids; this is a story about young adults and their assorted romances, breakups, affairs, fights and the occasional unplanned pregnancy. I’ll admit the soapiness was off-putting at times, especially where that aforementioned unplanned pregnancy is concerned. But it’s also heavy on the nuts and bolts of the bands in the show, and I found those stories much more satisfying. Plus, it has an abundance of humorous moments to help keep it from getting too mired in angst.
Oh, Nana K. You are largely why this rating is so low. Honey, you just don’t learn. You go from an emotionally distant, philandering boyfriend straight into the arms of an abusive, manipulative womanizer. And you have to stay with him because–oops. Sorry, I got a little carried away.
Anyway, Nana K’s issues notwithstanding, NANA has a roster of quirky and, for the most part, well-realized characters. Nana K is the sweet, open, and frankly too trusting, where Nana O is more detached and worldly. But their various idiosyncrasies complement each other. My favorite, however, is Nana O’s guitarist, Shin. He’s exuberant, loyal and his belief in his bandmates is unwavering. Basically, he’s the boyfriend every girl wants. Hint, hint, Nana K…
Despite my griping, I enjoyed NANA. As my little derailment up there proved, I was emotionally invested in the characters and the story, and isn’t that what every story aims for? It’s an engrossing, visually decadent anime that will keep you on your toes. Besides, aren’t you a little curious about why Nana K has to stay with her boyfriend?