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.)