The two Nanas meet by accident on the train and then fall into becoming roommates. One Nana is a tough rock chick, coming to the big city to form a band and succeed at music; the other is following a guy, because she doesn’t know what to do with herself other than pretend to be in love.
What the Series Does Well
In reviewing the story of a musician and her friends, it’s important to know: is the music any good? Yes. It’s very in keeping with what we know about Nana, her attitude and mood. The other Nana, aka Hachi (voiced in English by Kelly Sheridan), is just as silly and naive as she needs to be. Her voice is chirpy, almost annoying, while Rock Nana (Rebecca Shoichet) is sly, lower, and knowing. Hachi’s crush on Nana is obvious from the first, and the background music they use for her is wonderfully silly. Even KC, who didn’t know the story and doesn’t watch anime, was laughing at some of the scenes and exaggerated responses. The voice acting (dubbed) is, based on my limited knowledge, very good. It’s done by Ocean Studios in Canada.
The art is lovely, in keeping with Ai Yazawa’s designs and characters. I found myself often admiring the backgrounds and settings. There’s a lot of snow in this series, and it works beautifully on screen. The animation is limited, with sometimes only mouths moving, or sound playing over static scenes, but well-done. Hachi’s narration frames the sequences, providing the nostalgic look back characteristic of the series’ storytelling. Even when she’s talking in cliches, the context gives them new meaning. And given Hachi’s love of movies, it’s no surprise that she thinks of love in those types of romantic terms. She envisions herself in film scenes without much attention paid to realism or effects on others.
Although we aren’t given much to go on, I’ve always kind of admired Hachi’s boyfriend Shoji. She should have known, when his rule was “you can come join me in Tokyo if you get a job and take care of yourself”, that they had different views of what their relationship meant. But I liked his unwillingness to take advantage of her, even when she was ready to move in and be his maid and cook.
Episode 1 introduces the characters.
Episode 2 is Hachi’s flashback of her checkered romantic history (including sleeping with an older married man, which might be why the set is rated 18 and up, or maybe it’s because of Nana and Ren’s habit of taking baths together, or their debate about birth control, or even just the smoking).
Episode 3, Hachi and Shoji get to know each other better and start dating, in spite of her idiocy and lack of forethought. She’s so young, regardless of her age, and although her friends care, they’re just looking for someone else to take care of her so they can get on with their lives. She has no dreams of her own and doesn’t seem to feel the lack.
Episode 4 shows the aftermath of her friends’ decisions to move to Tokyo without her and her understanding with Shoji. Then we begin Nana’s flashbacks, starting with her band.
Disc 2, Episode 5 first mentions Trapnest, the band Ren joins in Tokyo, and shows how Nana’s band, Blast, formed. Nana also explains why she didn’t go with Ren and says goodbye to him.
Episode 6 returns to present by repeating episode 1 all over again, interspersed with a few new bits elaborating on what happened.
Episode 7 repeats how the two came to share an apartment before going into more about how Hachi broke the news to Shoji. Yasu has the best entrance ever. He and Nana are such great characters because they speak truth without a lot of worry about other’s feelings. While Hachi does the same thing out of cluelessness, it’s a lot more attractive from the more striking pair.
Episode 8 has the two starting to furnish their apartment and learning a lot more about each other and the boys they’re with.
They’re all really very damaged people. That’s what makes them so interesting to watch. Nana seems like the most together, but when you model yourself after Sid and Nancy, the viewer should realize that she’s broken, too.
Disc 3, Episode 9 has Hachi working at her first job, while Nana’s old bandmate Nobu comes to Tokyo. This sequence begins a set about the transformative power of making music, as well as starting off another plot that will cause big changes in Hachi’s life.
Episode 10, Hachi decides that Nana needs a band, so she starts trying to find another member for them.
Episode 11 brings Hachi to stark awareness of how expensive living in a city can be. I found it interesting that, by the end of this set, we haven’t met Trapnest yet, and Hachi is still with Shoji. There’s still a lot more to come.
The Box Set Features
I like the length of the episodes. 22 minutes is enough to get you a chunk of the story but short enough that my attention doesn’t wander. The three-disc set contains 11 episodes, plus a recap episode called 11.5, featuring the fourth-wall-breaking Junko’s Place familiar to comic readers. (Which means if you watch the whole set, you see some of these events three times within four hours.) You can view the episodes subtitled or dubbed, although dub is the default.
Extras include a subtitled interview with the director, versions of the opening and closing credits with no credits (“clean” versions), line art of the character designs, and previews for other Viz products, including the Nana movie, which was a lot more emotional than this version. The set also comes with a logo-decorated guitar pick. For more information, visit the official website. You can also buy the first season on iTunes or watch free on Hulu. The next 11-episode set is due out near the end of November.
(A complimentary copy for this review was provided by the publisher.)