NANA Movie 1 (Live Action) (of 1) (Mania.com)

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Wednesday, November 12, 2008
Release Date: Tuesday, April 08, 2008

When two women of the same name meet on a train bound for Tokyo, their lives change in dramatic ways.

What They Say
Based on the popular manga by Ai Yazawa, NANA follows the adventures of two girls both named Nana. While they share the same name, they couldn't be more different. Nana "Hachi" Komatsu follows her boyfriend to Tokyo in hopes to make a new start, while Nana Osaki, who arrives in the city at the same time, is a punk rock beauty who has an ambition to make it big in the world of rock and roll. Although these two young women come from different backgrounds, they quickly become best friends while chasing their happiness and dreams.

The Review!
Audio:
Viz Pictures has a curious pair of audio tracks for this release that do make you question which you really want. The two Japanese language tracks each offer different things and it’ll partially depend on how you feel about audio. The Japanese stereo mix is done in an uncompressed PCM mixed at 1.5mbps while they also include a Japanese 5.1 Dolby Digital mix at 448kbps. The uncompressed mix comes across as louder and cleaner but the 5.1 mix offers a bit more placement and rear channel directionality. My preferences since getting into high definition/lossless audio on Blu-ray is to go for that and the bulk of this was listened in that way. The stereo track is really quite solid, especially in the music sequences, and the forward soundstage is given plenty of directional moments here and there as the characters move about. It’s a good mix and one I’d love to hear in a 5.1 lossless format.

Video:
Originally in theaters in late 2005, the transfer for this film is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. One of the better produced films in recent years, NANA has a very appealing look as the colors have some good pop to them while the black levels are also wonderfully maintained. There’s a slight level of film grain present that’s never distracting and it avoids any serious edge enhancement that’s visible during regular playback. While nothing in the film is truly a standout piece, it’s a solid piece of work that’s definitely pleasing on the eye and appears faithful to the source material.

Packaging:
The cover artwork for NANA is bright and vibrant with its hot pinks to try and draw the eye. A series of stills of some of the leads makes up the bulk of the cover with both Nana’s getting shown as well as Ren and a concert piece of Nana singing. The logo is well adapted from the original and it has a clean look to it, though the pink really does sort of grate after awhile. The back cover has more of the pink along the right side where it covers the basic premise of the film and its origins while the left side has a collage of stills from the feature. The bottom portion is given over to the standard production credits and a simple breakdown of what technical features there are, though not terribly detailed. No show related inserts are included nor is there a reversible cover.

Menu:
The menu design for NANA is a good bit more appealing than the cover artwork as it runs with a bright and airy piece that has the pair together in front of some clouds on a beautiful day. They both have varying levels of happy expressions on their faces and are looking off into the distance with no idea what’s out there. The navigation strip along the bottom is kept to its basics and is easy to navigate with quick submenu loads. Access times are nice and fast and the discs defaults are kind of silly since there is really only one language track here.

Extras:
The extras are pretty meager with just a few of the original Japanese trailers and a brief series of stills with bios of the main actors and director.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
While I’ve enjoyed a smattering of manga releases in the US since the mid 1980’s, it wasn’t until TOKYOPOP started their manga revolution a few years back that I really got into manga. One of their launch books that really took me by storm was Paradise Kiss. That series introduced me to the magical wonder that is Ai Yazawa. So when that book finished out and she began her work on NANA, I was completely hooked on those early installments until my manga burnout phase hit me hard and I stopped reading everything out there.

With the manga series ongoing and quite popular and an anime series created as well, a live action adaptation certainly wasn’t unexpected. With its solid look at fashion across multiple characters, strong music and appealing characters, it’s an easy crossover hit if done properly. Going by this first movie, it’s been done very well as it appears to be generally faithful to the source material and making the necessary changes to adapt into a film. The actors all feel like they’re embodiments of the original characters and have given them a new life. The two Nana’s are of course the most important, but when you have the actor for Yasu look as spot on as he does and pulls off the character as well as he does, it all comes together wonderfully. The performances feel authentic, which is exactly how the manga felt as well.

The story of NANA is one of two women of the same name who meet at the right time. Both meet up on a train to Tokyo after getting on at different stops and for different reasons. Each have lived very different lives but both find themselves at this place in time and that has to mean something. Nana Komatsu, who becomes nicknamed Hachi because of her puppy like ways, has left her small town to come to Tokyo to be with her boyfriend Shoji who came here a year or two earlier for his art school studies. She’s a bright and cheery young woman of twenty who does come across as a slightly light headed person but she’s a bastion of positive energy and only wants for herself and her friends to be happy.

Nana Osaki on the other hand has had a rougher life. With her parents gone when she was young, she has lived a hard life. When she discovers a guitarist at a local club, she falls madly in love with him and becomes tight with him over the next year before they finally consummate their relationship. Ren’s life has been even harder but he’s worked just as hard to become the guitarist that he is. With Nana, they’ve become part of a solid band called the Black Stones and have gained some real energy and buzz. But he’s intent on really making it big so he can eventually retire some day and live out a quiet life where he spent much of his childhood. This is all unknown to Nana until Ren suddenly talks about his leaving to go to Tokyo. She doesn’t want to follow to be a part of his career but rather to make it herself, so she won’t go until she’s firmly ready for it.

So when the two meet together and events end up putting them in the same apartment, number 707 no less, it really does seem like fate that they were meant to come together. Nana’s time spent dealing with Shoji, who doesn’t seem too keen on her being there and has a potential relationship elsewhere starting up, takes up a good bit of time and helps Nana to really grow up a bit more and stand on her own. For NANA, she’s come to make it on her own and restart the Black Stones in the face of seeing Ren in his new megapopular group Trapnest out there. She’s intent on becoming a solid rock star and has the ability to pull it off. So when former members from back home start showing up as well as gaining a new member, everything starts falling into place until she has to confront Ren once again over her feelings and what she – and he – really want.

With a film like this, the performances and the music are key. The actors all really hit their marks very well and felt like they were what I was familiar with. There isn’t anyone I would single out as the best, though I do wonder how Nana Osaki can stand with those incredibly thin legs of hers, but rather I found that as an across the board ensemble they did a fantastic job. The music is particularly strong throughout but I knew this beforehand as I had imported the soundtracks when they first came out. Between the Black Stones music and the Trapnest pieces, it’s all quite engaging and fits the characters and what they’re trying to bring to the stage perfectly. It’s unfortunate that the soundtracks never made it over here though. But getting to hear them in lossless form on this release certainly made me happy.

In Summary:
While I still very much want to see the anime and I need to get back into the manga, this theatrical live action film has reminded me exactly why I love Ai Yazawa’s stuff so much. It feels like an expression of youth, of being alive and engaging in the moment. With great characters, spot on actors who pull off the characters with ease and a wonderfully engaging soundtrack, NANA had me from the start and kept me all the way through. The settings, the smaller interactions and everything else seemingly came together in a way that felt very faithful to the original both in style, form and spirit. Very recommended.

Features
Japanese 2.0 PCM Language, Japanese 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Director and Cast Bios, Original Trailers

Review Equipment
Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70" LCoS 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.



Mania Grade: B+
Audio Rating: A-
Video Rating: B+
Packaging Rating: B
Menus Rating: B
Extras Rating: C+
Age Rating: 13 and Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: Viz Media
MSRP: 24.98
Running time: 114
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Disc Resolution: 480i/p
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: NANA