Sunday, February 19, 2012

review: Nana

by Ai Yazawa
Rating: 4/5
manga: 21 (ongoing);
anime: 47;
j-drama: 2 movies
Mature content: not really (though in the manga you can sometimes see half-naked women)
Genre: Josei

On the train to Tokyo Nana meets Nana.
One Nana (later going by the nickname Hachi to avoid confusion) is following her boyfriend from a small town to the big city to live there. The other Nana, a punk girl, is going to Tokyo to become a professional singer. Shortly after they meet again and decide to rent a flat together. And so their friendship begins...
The story is mostly told by Hachi and focuses on her love life, the strong friendship between the two of them and their circle of friends. But also money problems, finding a job, unexpected pregnancy and, of course, the music business are issues covered.

Hachi got her nickname because she reminded Nana of a dog (Hachiko was a Japanese dog famous for it's loyalty). She's more or less your average shoujo/josei girl: careless, clueless, cute and caring. She's fickle, weak-willed, slightly possessive (esp. concerning Nana), a drama-queen, she flirts around and falls in love with every second guy she meets - no matter whether she has a boyfriend at the moment or not. When she starts out in Tokyo she really is a bit clueless and heavily depends on others to help her, but this gets a little better. Maybe clueless isn't quite the right expression; she is, in some ways, clueless, in other ways she's fake, manipulating and not as innocent as she looks. She doesn't seem to have acquired any skills and expertise and her only goal in live seems to be getting married. Even though this really sounds bad, for some reason she's not quite as annoying as the usual annoying anime girl.
Nana is proud, ambitious and honest. She is independent in a way, but also greatly relies on her friends in times of need and can be possessive, too, at times. She can be a little self-conscious regarding her quality as a singer. It is quite often mentioned that she acts like a guy, but I think that's only compared to the average girl in Japanese culture. She considers Hachi as some kind of pet for her and her band mates. Their relationship becomes very close, though, and several times it's hinted that they might be in love with each other.
The other characters are also well described. I kind of like Shion, though at first I found her suspicious. I like Miu, too.

I really loved the story until about half way into the anime (which I watched first). After that it just became very whiny and too much of a drama. It started out so promising - and then ended in another episode after episode of crying girls. But even so I kept on watching. The narration seems to come from the future looking back on things, and there's some comments here and there that made me wonder what happened. The last episode of the first season was a bit of a bitter-sweet one, with a glimpse into the future - but still leaving quite a few questions to be answered.
I wonder if there was a second season planned. The anime stops at chapter 42 (Volume 12) of the manga.

Because I was curious I went on with the manga.
There's more "flashes" into the future in the manga. The crying is a lot less annoying - probably because you can just flip over it (and don't have to hear it).
The manga finally reveals a very tragic event that is the big turn-around that apparently leads to the future events that are hinted at throughout the anime and manga. Naturally there's even more crying, but this time there's a valid reason. But I don't want to spoil...
So far there are 84 chapters released.

I dislike that this manga/anime really doesn't promote a healthy livestyle. Half the people are serious chain smokers, there's frequent drinking sessions, cheating on partners, self-harming, drug abuse, reckless driving and a 15-year-old boy working as a prostitute.
Besides, Yazawa's drawing style makes people look extremely thin. I don't really like that, but I got used to it. I do like the attention she gives to clothes and fashion.
I'll definitely will follow that one. The way the story is told - changing in between two different time settings - really makes you wonder what happened, you want to get to that point where the two different time setting finally meet.

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