Nana (DVD)

I like Nana the manga series so much I was a little uncertain about watching the live-action movie on DVD, because I feared it wouldn’t be as good. I was wrong. It’s a different way of telling the story, but it’s well worth watching.

I was amazed they found actors who looked so much like the characters. Nana is rail thin, just this side of sickly, with a great voice and the magnetic, forceful personality needed. She wears the miniskirts and garter belts of the drawn character, but I didn’t notice that unless I looked for it, because my attention was drawn to her angry face. (The anger comes from not yet being where she wants to be with her band and her life, in that order.)

Hachi (the second Nana) is, yes, puppy-like, always in pink and white, very cute and wanting nothing more than to be liked (a quality that is surprisingly demanding). Yasu, the bald law student/drummer who’s always in shades, is coolness personified. He’s my favorite character because of his surprising hidden depths. Nobu, the guitarist, is goofy but reliable.

Hachi comes to Tokyo for Shoji, her boyfriend, as in the manga, but the film brought out another side of this relationship for me. She wants to immediately move in and cook and clean for him, but he demands she get a job and her own place. Good for him! Shoji wanted Nana to be independent, so she was. But does that count if she was only doing it for him?

The movie moves very fast. The time for quiet pondering isn’t there, although some of the monologue comes over from the books. The manga is about Hachi’s journey, but this film focuses on Nana, I suspect because her story makes for a better movie-length dramatic arc. I liked that the different media gave different experiences. It would be boring seeing exactly the same thing twice. And I love that the manga is written by a 40-year-old, with life experience, someone who can teach these lessons.

Unlike the manga, here we don’t get to see Hachi’s previous life. She just appears on the train, going to be with Shoji. Hachi’s a more traditional Japanese woman, seeking to find a man and keep house, while Nana is a more realistic, modern woman. She’s independent, trying to find her own way in the world, following her own dream.

The movie calls this “pride” and says she sacrifices love to it, but I think being her own person isn’t prideful, it’s healthy. In the West, pride has negative connotations (due to Christian ideas about sin); here it may be more “pride in your work”, not elevated self-importance but healthy self-esteem. Hachi’s got this whole “that’s what girls do to get a man” thing, but Nana shows her a different way to be in love. The movie backs that up with plenty of flashbacks to Ren and Nana together.

Snow features prominently, trapping the train where the two Nanas meet and letting them get to know each other. It also creates a silent world for the star-crossed Ren and Nana. I found this odd, because I don’t associate Japan with snow. I also had a hard time believing they’re both supposed to be 20. Nana seems jaded and ageless, while Hachi acts about 16, especially in her concert-going gear, which with the pearls and pink reminded me of Pretty in Pink.

The soundtrack is, as you would hope, great. And they go to Tower Records, which made me sad. Extras on the DVD include short cast bios (also available on the website) and four Japanese trailers, including a nifty one that matches the actors up to their drawn equivalents. (A complimentary DVD for this review was provided.)


  1. I love this movie, maybe because I’m a big Nana fan, so I can get it more.

    Actually, some parts of Japan IS snowy. And you learn that Nana came from one of those parts, so it’s always snowing. It also, I think, symbolizes both Nana and Ren’s loneliness, and the companionship they found in each other.

    What else? I think Nana’s pride was good and bad. She was too proud to let Ren take care of her, and she wanted to make her dream come true herself. And I like that. She SHOULD’VE done that. But I think that part of the negative side of this pride is that they didn’t seem to communicate about how much they loved and needed each other. And Nana always feels like she has to do things alone…Ren and Nana let it go, and only stubbornly reunited at the end. Separate from the manga, where I think the point is slightly different, the movie, being shorter, seemed to have shown that it’s not too good to be too independent. Being yourself and making your dreams come true with your own hands even WITH a man is a great way of being independent too, and it’s not a sin to take opportunities and to need people.

    I think this movie was great. One learned to be more open and love people. One learned to be more independent. Both learned how much friendship can empower and support you.

    You thought Hachi was too young? I thought that was the point. I thought it was the same point for Nana too. By the way, props to both actresses. Hachi was needy, but she was cute and it seemed like she really wants to do her best, and her energy made people happier. Nana was cold and moody, but loving at the same time, and she was a stone for Hachi to hold onto.

    Ren’s and Nana’s parting scene was lovely. The music added so much impact to the scene, and the strain in the air of all those unspoken words were conveyed. Both even ran away so that the other couldn’t see their tears. It’s one of the most memorable scenes I’ve seen in movies.

    And fashion came to life in this movie. Nana’s art had gorgeous fashion, but I always wondered if it would fly in real life. It being Japan, and the two girls being gorgeous, yes it did, and beautifully too.

  2. Oh, yeah, the snow was definitely symbolic and mood-setting. Great observations you have. Thanks for sharing!

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  4. […] trying to find out if it also includes the Viz Pictures (live action) releases (which I have enjoyed). Effective April 1, 2009, WHV will be the exclusive home entertainment distributor for new and […]

  5. […] young women named Nana moving to Tokyo as their adult lives begin, previously a manga series and a feature film, here is retold as a series of anime episodes. […]

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