Life moves on and relationships change as various loves enter the picture in the world of NANA.
What They Say
Based on the popular manga by Ai Yazawa, NANA Vol. 2 is the sequel to the movie NANA Vol. 1, which follows the adventures of two girls both named Nana. Taking place shortly after the end of the first movie, NANA Vol. 2 focuses on the duo's love lives. Nana "Hachi" Komatsu is trapped in a love triangle between TRAPNEST's bassist Takumi and the Black Stones' guitarist Nobu. Meanwhile, the other Nana (Osaki) struggles to find success for her band Black Stone, continuing a secret relationship with TRAPNEST's guitarist Ren.
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.
Originally in theaters at the end of 2006, 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 2 has a very appealing look as the colors have some good pop to them while the black levels are also wonderfully maintained. The first film had some grain to it but this one feels like there’s more to it, which is caused partially because of the greater number of exterior shots, particularly at night. The transfer does avoid any serious edge enhancement that would be visible during regular playback at least. 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.
The first movie had more pink than I cared for and this one goes with hardly any color in a way as it’s very heavy on the whites and blacks. The white background is stark, but when you have all the pasty actors and lots of white outfits on it, they all start to blend. Toss in the logo on a yellow strip through part of it and it’s kind of garish instead of being all that appealing. The back cover has more of the yellow for the background where it covers the basic premise of the film and its origins while there are various stills from the feature in a few places. 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.
The main menu utilizes the concept and artwork used from the front cover for its layout here, but it doesn’t feel quite as bad as the cover artwork itself for some reason. It’s certainly bright but everyone looks a bit more fleshed out and it doesn’t seem as garish because of the logo strip. 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.
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)
After the strong showing of the first movie, the continued popularity of the manga and the anime series, it’s little surprise that a second movie was commissioned. What is surprising is how awkwardly they managed to pull it off and to do the things that would in a lot of ways alienate the fans of the feature. Filming in about a month and a half and getting the whole thing into theaters within three months of the start of filming, there’s something rather hasty and rushed about the entire film.
NANA 2 moves things right along with its plot as everyone is getting better at what they’re doing and living their lives. But like any life, there’s ups and downs and trouble is almost always around the corner. And nothing causes trouble more than relationships getting in the way of things. For Trapnest, they’re continuing their worldwide domination and becoming ever more popular. Their fans are hungry for them, their ratings are high and they’re in the midst of recording a big new music video over in Europe with fancy castles and lots of bleak locations. As Trapnest continues to grow, the Black Stones are inching ever closer to their goals as well. The band has been working hard and they’re starting to get a nibble or two from the various demos and tapes they’ve been sending out, so it’s keeping them encouraged and working hard.
All of this serves as backdrop to the life issues that several of the characters face along the way. Though the series is about both Nana’s, it’s the Hachi-Nana that tends to be the catalyst. Her life is one that lends itself to drama and this film is no different as she’s now out of a job again – incompetence of course – and she’s doing basic level stuff at a local market. Nana feels bad for her and manages to setup a call and meeting with her idol Takumi from Trapnest, but it all goes far further than anyone thought. With Hachi being so down and out, and Takumi being a playboy, things spiral out of control quickly and the rush of emotions she feels around him turns things into a situation that’s rather expected. Others don’t care for it much since it can cause problems, but Takumi was just looking for a good time.
When things sour, as it must since Takumi is interested in only one thing, there is someone there that will step in to help Hachi out. Though it wasn’t exactly clear in the first film, everyone sort of nudges Nobu into getting closer to her since it’s now painfully obvious he’s madly in love with her in a chivalrous way. Though he may be all gentlemanly like and all, he does bed her just about as quickly as Takumi does and that leads to a big pregnancy scare that causes quite the rift among everyone. While it affects Hachi rather dramatically since it’s now something that’s forcing her to grow up – and realize who the father is – it also strikes hard at Nana. Her reasons aren’t convoluted but they are personal as she feels that Trapnest is taking away another person that was close to her. She wants to reach out to Ren at this time, but he’s stuck with his work and the paparazzi are trying to expose the two of them as lovers, which will only complicate the Black Stones debut.
NANA 2 really does feel rushed and incomplete, as the focus of the story doesn’t come across as strong at all. The first really hit hard with the freshness of the story and the way the characters were all so nicely developed with as little time as some of them actually had. Here, the focus is kept smaller, several of the characters you really like are shunted to secondary status at best, and it’s all tied around the pregnancy storyline that really doesn’t feel like it should be here at this time. Especially when you consider the path the feature does take as it progresses. Having not read the manga past the first few volumes, I can’t say whether it’s accurate or not, but it doesn’t feel like the NANA storylines I had started to become familiar with nor one that would put it on an interesting long run path.
Another area that impacted the film and its performances was the change of cast members before it started up. Aoi Miyazaki, who was Hachi in the first film, opted to skip this one and the role was taken over by Yui Ichikawa. She certainly did a good enough job in it, but with the first movie still fresh in my mind, it didn’t feel like she was able to give the same kind of bouncy positive outlook that Miyazaki did. In addition to that change, Ryuhei Matsuda opted out as well which meant that the role of Ren went to Nobuo Kyou. Not content with just two changes, Ken'ichi Matsuyama ducked out of playing Shinichi for NANA 2 and it instead went to Hongo Kanata. Neither of these two are bad changes overall, mostly because the characters are so little used and one-dimensional that a cardboard cutout could play it just as well.
I really liked the first NANA movie. I really liked it a lot, both for the visuals, the performances and casting and for the music. NANA 2 feels like a shadow version of that with much of the heart cut out. Perhaps it’s the script or the direction or the casting changes. Or perhaps Hachi can’t carry the film as the main lead of the two Nana’s. NANA herself tends to be quieter here outside of the music and her moments don’t have as much emotional connection since she has Ren, sort of, at this point. Much of this feature simply felt unnecessary and rushed, leaving you not all that interested in where these characters will go. Ai Yazawa has written some challenging things with her manga so seeing these characters faced with adversity is no surprise. But when the challenges don’t feel like they’re met, but rather submitted to, it lacks any kind of impact and you almost feel sorry for watching them go through this. As much as I liked Hachi in the first film, here she simply comes across as someone you don’t really want to know. And that’s not a good position for the lead character of the film.
Japanese 5.1 Language, Japanese 2.0 PCM Language, English Subtitles, Cast and Crew Bios
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.