Two girls, two dreams, two lives and the same name set the stage for an engaging show about young women in Tokyo.
What They Say
Two girls with the same name leave their old lives behind and come to Tokyo to start fresh. What adventures await these two hopeful young women under the bright lights of the big city? Nana Osaki wants nothing more than to make it big as the singer of a rock 'n' roll band, while Nana Komatsu wants to put her life in motion and get her new relationship off to a good start. When the two Nanas fall in love with the same apartment, they become roommates and then best friends, and the party has just begun!
Contains episodes 1-11.5.
NANA gets a pretty basic stereo mix for both its language tracks, both of which are encoded at 192kbps. The show makes good use of music but it doesn’t exactly overpower or overwhelm you, though the mix itself is decent and the encoding conveys it well. It’s a good forward soundstage presentation that has some solid placement when multiple characters are on screen and sometimes a bit of depth as well, but it’s mostly a dialogue piece that’s well done. Unfortunately, the second ending song, which I believe kicks in around episode nineteen, isn’t present here, largely presumably because of licensing issues. It’s also worth noting that there isn’t a separate sign/song subtitle track for English language fans. The language tracks are in good shape though with no dropouts or distortions during regular playback.
Originally airing in late 2006 and into 2007, the transfer for this series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. The release has its twelve episodes (one through eleven and a half) spread across three discs, four episodes to a disc. Each disc has plenty of space to work with and the transfer looks really good overall, with only some noticeable film like grain at times that is probably intentional for that particular scene to give it more atmosphere. There are some visible areas of noise in some of the backgrounds at times, but overall Madhouse has created a really good looking show and the transfer captures that very well across the board. Colors look very good, pop when needed to, and dark areas hold up equally as well. With no cross coloration and only a mild hint or two of line noise during a panning sequence, NANA should make more fans happy. It is worth noting that the ending sequences, like most Viz Media releases, have the same credit scroll for all the episodes, even if certain actors aren’t in that episode.
Not surprisingly, NANA is a pink package. The set is a slipcover with digipak design that may challenge some people who dislike holding anything pink, but it is a decently put together package overall. The front of the slipcover has a great image where it has Nana in the background with just her face while the foreground has Hachi in her rain gear in full color. The contrast of the two works really nicely and is appealing. They provide a number of logos and info on the front, including episode numbers, but also mentioning that it’s uncut, which can be argued that it is untrue because of the music alteration alone. The back of the slipcover features more pink with some shots of the city and of the apartment while also slipping in a couple of full color pictures from the show as well. The summary is very brief but hints at what’s to come while a lot of this is given voer to production and technical information, which is pretty minimal in the grid. Interestingly, this release is being rated 18+/Mature, which to most people would classify it in the hentai category instead of a proper 17+ range rating. Inside the slipcover we get a very basic digipak whose front and back cover is mostly black with some soft purple/pink mixed into it that opens up to a two panel piece to hold the discs. Behind the discs is the image of snow falling, through a pink filter, which brightens the set up. It’s not the best looking digipak by any stretch and it’s surprising to see so little artwork used on the interior packaging like this.
The menus for NANA are very simple but they’ve been given the right kind of style to make them work effectively. Each menu is different, a rarity these days for a collection of any stripe, with a different piece of character artwork and background. The opening one for example has Nana done up almost black and white with snow falling and scratches through the video to give it an old time feel. Hachi by contrast with the second volume is all about color with bright blue skies and a perky look to her face. The navigation is kept minimal as the extras are all on the third disc, so it’s just setting up the disc or checking out the scenes beyond hitting the play button itself. Submenus do load quickly and everything moves relatively quickly, though there are unskippable segments on the disc, and the language submenu doesn’t read our players’ language presets which didn’t surprise us as Viz often doesn’t seem to take viewer habits into consideration.
The extras are all on the third disc and are fairly decent considering what other Viz anime releases get. The directors interview runs about eight minutes and is certainly welcome as he talks about his approach to the show and what kind of consultation they did with Yazawa. A clean version of the opening and closing sequence is included and there’s an oddly done line art gallery that runs forty some odd minutes for about ten pieces of artwork.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Based on the ongoing manga by Ai Yazawa, NANA is a forty-seven episode series that focuses on young lives finding their way in the big city, the heart and with friends. After the success of her Paradise Kiss manga on top of her other works, Ai Yazawa shifted into her most prominent project yet. I made it through a few volumes of the manga before I fell out of manga and I've seen the two live action movies. So it was with great anticipation that I went into the NANA anime series to see where it goes and how well Madhouse would handle another of her works.
NANA tells the story of two young women at the age of twenty who have come to Tokyo to pursue their dreams. Their stories intersect in a strong manner to take their lives in very different directions than they would have otherwise. The focus of the show does shift between both women, showcasing their backgrounds and where they are going together. Much of the show revolves around music as well, though it's not quite as dominant in these early episodes as it will be in later parts of the story.
The initial focus is on Nana Komatsu, who eventually takes on the nickname Hachi to differentiate herself from the other Nana. It's an appropriate nickname for her as she does have a bit of a puppy dog element to her, easily excited, follows after all sorts of people and tends to live in the moment. After some very unsuccessful relationships – or attempts at relationships – in her teenage years, she found the man she was looking for when she arrived in an art college along with her friend Junko. Meeting Shoji, she tried a different approach by trying to be his friend instead of looking for a relationship, but the two are meant for each other and eventually end up there along with a little help from her friend Junko and his friend Kyosuke, who amusingly end up in a relationship themselves.
Into every relationship a little challenge must fall as Shoji is heading to Tokyo to go to school. He can't bring her with him since he wouldn't be able to support her and he feels that's the right thing to do. He promises that she can come to him when he gets into the university he wants though a year from now. In rather telling moment, the instant he learns of his acceptance into the school and texts her about it, she's quitting her job and packing her bag to catch the next train out of the small city she lives in. And it's this moment that really changes everything for her as she ends up sitting next to a woman also traveling to Tokyo with the same name as her. And the same age as well.
Nana Osaki has had a more difficult life than Hachi, though she does click really well with her when they do meet. Their train ride, which turns into a five hour ride because of snow, becomes a period where Nana learns all about Hachi since she's such an outgoing person, even if Nana doesn't want to know about it. When the fates conspire and put the two of them in the same apartment that's for rent, it seems like they're being told to be roommates and to move forward with their life in Tokyo this way. They find a good place and splitting the rent and utilities certainly makes it all the more affordable, though they both have a lot to learn about each other and what they really want out of life because of it.
Nana's life is one where she lost her parents young and grew up with a very strict grandmother until she died during Nana's teenage years. She lived minimally until she met a bassist named Ren who himself was abandoned when he was born and made a life for himself in the warehouse where he was found all those years ago. The two have an intense connection borne out of their circumstances but also something more. Because of Ren and his musical talent, Nana develops much the same though she becomes more of a vocalist than anything else. With her friends Yasu and Nobu, they form a band called Blast with Ren helping out from time to time. But when Ren gets an offer from the next big thing in Tokyo that will catapult him to fame, he heads off and leaves her to find her own way rather than be in his shadow.
With both girls finding their lives meeting on that train and again at the apartment, it does seem like fate is putting them together. With Nana finding her calling as a vocalist and putting together a new band and Hachi looks to support herself, find a job and make her way with a real relationship with Shoji. There's all sorts of little conflicts that arrive for both of them, from Hachi's trying to find a job to the potential new rival that is trying to catch Shoji's eyes. There's also the challenges of living together and discovering what makes each other tick, especially since Nana is far less outgoing about her life than Hachi is. A lot of it is basic life challenges for people of this age and this situation, but there's also the deeper issues of love, desire and what you really want out of life. So much of it feels honest, though flashier and more stylish than real life, that it's very easy to connect with.
After Madhouse was brought on to handle Paradise Kiss, I found them to be spot on for adapting Yazawa's style, bringing the detail and love of fashion to the screen as well as the quirky character designs that are whisper thin. The fashion is very important in being captured since everyone changes outfits regularly, but the other important part is that the setting is captured as perfectly as it can be. The locations mirror much of what we saw in the manga and it feels like you're there, as much as you can with animation. This city feels lived in and real, based on real locations and inhabited by characters that act fairly realistically for the most part. Madhouse continues to be the go-to company to adapt Yazawa's work and they've taken what they did in Paradise Kiss and raised it several notches.
The first installment of this series hits up just about everything right, outside of there essentially being two episodes worth of recap mixed into it. The characters are more defined in just a few episodes than many characters are over much lengthier series. The animation is top notch, the music fits perfectly and the pacing takes us through so many situations and events in their lives that it deals with a lot but never feels rushed and rarely out of place. Coincidences abound at times to be sure, but it's all done in a way that fits with the internal logic of the series. There are few shows that operate in this kind of style and NANA is very engaging. There's a lot of material left to cover, but the setup here makes you want more of it as quickly as you can. These characters already feel very familiar and you feel invested in them quickly. Highly recommended.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 2.0 Language, English Subtitles
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.