Genres: Comedy, Drama, Music,Romance, Shoujo, Slice of life
“Don’t just give up, Hachiko.
Life is about getting knocked down over and over, but still getting up each time.
If you keep getting up, you win.”
I don’t think I’ve ever quite seen an anime which is quite as realistic and striking at the same time as Nana. Normally, when you come across a romance mixed with slice of life show, you might already have some kind of idea in your mind of what to expect. Boy meets girl, there are some problems, then things are resolved, things may be hard, things may be tough, there might be a third and fourth person involved but in the end there is usually a positive outcome which you more or less saw coming. So when you see a 47 episode long romance show like Nana, you might be thinking, is it just more of the same over a longer period of time? It might even put you off watching the show, although that’s most certainly the last thing that you should look to do.
Nana is a show that doesn’t really do wishy washy, it’s a serious, mature and down to earth romance which I feel offers something different from other shows in the same bracket. Plus, it’s not even just romance that this show does really well, it deals with the whole slice of life side just as well. Even if you aren’t looking for a romance this show will appeal to you through other channels since the story that is told from the first episode will most certainly grab your attention.
The title of the show actually comes from the two main protagonists in the show, both of whom are coincidentally called Nana. The show starts off with a series of coincidences as well, which is required to set up the show (in case any of you are questioning just how realistic the show is). Our first Nana, whom we will call by her pet name Hachiko to avoid confusion with the other Nana, is a naïve 20 year old who wants to move to Tokyo so that she can live near her boyfriend. She has no other real reason for moving there, the rest of her friends have gone there to pursue career interests, leaving her alone in her hometown. After a year, having decided to leave her liberal parents and two sisters behind, Nana decides to move to Tokyo, still without a certain plan in mind. The show starts off with her on the train with nowhere to sit, all the seats are taken except for one…
This other seats happens to be next to our other 20 year old Nana, Nana Osaki. This Nana is a straight up punk rock singer, with her dark lipstick, piercings and guitar in a bag- she pretty much does the stereotype pretty well. However, Nana is very welcoming to Hachiko and invites her to sit with her. Nana has a dream of moving to Tokyo to pursue her dream of being a lead singer in a leading punk rock band. Together they talk about life and eventually find out their similarities, both are 20, both Nana, both moving away from home to Tokyo for the first time…and so, their friendship gets off to a great start. At the Tokyo station Hachiko is picked up by her boyfriend, whom she rushes to as soon as she gets off the train, however the other Nana slips away, going in the other direction.
Hachiko is saddened that she won’t see her newly made friend however when she is looking for a new place to stay in Tokyo, she bumps into a certain person in the exact same house that she has arranged a viewing for. This is no other than Nana of course. From here on they stay together sharing the apartment, meets each other’s friends, make new friends and go on one hell of a roller coaster ride where life just throws everything at them- the good, bad and ugly.
So far in my little synopsis, all I have really described is a bunch of coincidences, which is a far cry from the realistic nature of the show that I had claimed from the start. However, after these two meet that the real show gets going.
The first thing about this show that will strike you is just how much character development you will see and it’s not only concerning our two Nanas. There are a lot of supporting characters, whom eventually you’ll come to see as pseudo-main characters anyways, who also get so much development. The show takes time to focus on the past experiences of each Nana one at a time and then focuses on showing us how they grow as people over the course of the show. By the end of it, you will feel such an attachment to some characters as well as perhaps you will loathe a few others. The best part however is when you actually don’t know how to feel about a character, sometimes they might do something which makes you think, that’s just not right. However later, as the story moves on you ask yourself, could he have done anything else, isn’t that really just how life is? The show explorers many different kinds of people, some are the expected personalities but then the show will also pick up on a few other traits and types of people when they make their little cameos. All the little parts together do really help to build up a strong palette of characters. The characters are the ones who really champion the show further and the whole idea of is conveyed pretty well through them. None of them are perfect and each and every one of them will have their own secrets and will make their own mistakes. All of them.
Now, no show is complete without a good plot. You might have the art-style, you might have the characters but if there is no plot, then things aren’t really going to work out. Given the rather impressive roster of developed characters in the show, there is actually a very intricate plotline to back it all up. The show will often seem to be taking you in one direction, then ending with something rather different instead. The subplots involve relationships, friendships, family, staying away from each other and most importantly the harsh realities of life. What I feel is a strong point for Nana is how the plots aren’t all that clichéd and even for the rare occasions where you might get that feeling, the plots are all treated with a massive dose of reality. This is what sets it apart, you won’t be expecting all the niceties and happy endings- you can never predict what is going to happen.
The show is also a slice of life and as ever some people might find that the story progresses a little bit slowly for their taste and to be honest, the pacing of the show is more or less as it is from the outset. The show will carry on at its own pace and often mix in sudden twists or very gradual but obvious ideas, however it never really feels as if things are going very fast. Now, for a personal slice of life enthusiast, for me the way the story pans out is more or less right where I want it to be. Granted there may be a few slow moments, none of it really detracted from the show. The only negative in the story telling that took me a little getting used to, and this is a personal thing, was when the story would cut back to a previous point in time and tell the story from a different characters point of view. At the beginning it happens a fair amount and when I say it retells parts, I don’t mean small flashbacks, but a literal scene by scene repetition. When it is so unexpected it can catch you off guard and you might almost feel it is “filler” territory but as the show will move on they become much, much less frequent and actually by the end you will come to appreciate what the flashbacks added. So by the end of the show, it wasn’t really a problem for me.
There is a spotlight on the idea of friendships and lasting relationships. Sometimes there isn’t a bad person, sometimes things just happen or life just decides to put you in a difficult situation. Things will not always go the way you plan and this show really does stick to that idea. There are many complex friendship webs but none of it is as simple as it seems. There are the usual spats, the caring and all but over the whole show you will be shown the whole spectrum of things that friendship groups are made to go through.
The focus on how chasing your career can often mean you have to make sacrifices is something that comes up a lot over the course of the show too. After all, you cannot have everything handed to you on a plate, something you are forced to choose one option over another and it’s never going to be easy. Whether the characters are choosing friendships over careers or trying to juggle it all at the same time, how each one deals with it is very interesting to watch. Sometimes you will put yourselves in their shoes and will think what you could have done, the show really does get you thinking. You might not like the choices some characters make but you will be able to understand why they made the choice. It’s a never a clear cut choice.
You should understand that the show is a very mature and realistic romance, so it involves a lot of talk about sex, prostitution, mature relationships and the lot. So the show isn’t something I would recommend for a younger audience without a perspective on these sorts of things in life. Sex is a recurring theme and while there is nothing ever shown for those of you who worry (you only ever see their faces or backs while in bed or talking to each other, nothing obscene is ever shown at all I must stress), the theme is present almost from start to end- but it’s not portrayed at all in a glorifying way, it is used to convey the message which the show is trying to pass on.
From an art-style point of view, given how old the anime is, the art and designs certainly won’t be jumping out at you and some of the character faces may not be to everyone’s tastes. However, it is still very watchable and to be honest there was nothing wrong with it, I personally liked Nanas design with her punk theme and here massive round eyes. In a way, it all works quite nicely with the theme of the show. The music in the show, especially the OPs and EDs were all quite nice. I never really skipped the OPs and would class them on the higher end of average, like an 8 out of 10.
Overall, the show is a mature one which while being one of the more realistic shows that you will come across is also one of the most interesting shows you will come across- with strong characters and plotline to boot. If you fancy going through something more serious, while also being a little different to what you expect, then I thoroughly recommend this master piece of a show- it really does portray the journey of young adulthood quite well, from a certain perspective- not the only perspective of course. This is Nanas perspective.
Final Rating: 10