Love triumphs the human soul in ways we can’t really fathom, and how we can contain it also remains unexplained. Whether it is love in a romantic or friendly fashion, it has always been one of the most sought out themes in stories in every medium imaginable. We are used to the idealistic form of love with numerous tropes and literary devices, but now we’ve grown to appreciate the “realistic” forms of romance. Romance that tries to portray the reality we live in rather than what we hope reality will be. Nana can speak for itself as one anime to be an achievement of perfecting that level of story.
Nana starts out as your typical best friend story with opposite personalities; the bubbly, kind of dumb, girly girl and the no nonsense rocker girl that meet each other by coincidence. What’s oddly alluring about how these two play off their relationship is the fact that it doesn’t seem forced at all. They don’t just start out as best friends. They’re mere acquaintances that learn about how each other live out their lives through their work and family. It becomes a hilarious tirade between both characters in typical Josei fashion that we grow to enjoy. Not just between the two Nana’s, but also with the other characters and their unique personalities. It’s that break that makes you wish that the show was longer, so we could have more moments like them, even with its 50 episode running time.
But with comedy comes heartbreak, and Nana comes into it with full throttle. There is the tragic relationship between Nana Osaki, the rocker, and Ren, that will admittedly cause some tears to form. The reason for this being how well it pulls in the sentimental aura through narration and expository dialogue, which pulls you into how they were once a happy couple. Then there’s Nana Komatsu, the childish one, and the problems of how she guides her life with being the girlfriend of Takumi and Nobu. While there are some aspects to the drama that were a bit rushed, it serves a positive purpose on how Nana matures from a ditzy woman into a responsible one to taking care of the people she loves, especially Nana Osaki. It develops Nana Komatsu quite nicely, and also Nana Osaki and how their relationship develops through whatever twist and turn it makes you go through.
For the supporting roles that pop up in Nana, it’s a mixed bag, so to speak. In that there are really great ones, but others are just not as strong. This all comes into perspective based on the fact that some are given more development than the ones that seem to not be bothered. Some are even given a bigger presence to previous episodes, but barely get any more screen-time for us to be fully invested in the entire cast. But what does make up for this is how every single one of the characters legitimately feel like real human beings. Not just from how relatable they are in terms of their problems and personalities, but also by the lack of cliches they could’ve easily used to lessen the impact of the cast.
If you’ve watched, or read for that matter, any shoujo anime, Nana’s art should be familiar territory for you. They do very well with the various comedic expressions on the characters’ faces that are always charming to watch. It does seem jarring at first to see characters as really tall and skinny human beings, but that does give every character a nice physical uniqueness to them. Even though there are instances of animation not being that fluid, especially with the dreadful concert scenes where it repeats animations over and over, the art style will still spark some charm to anyone with an open mind.
With a show centered around music, it’s all about music, right? Oh yeah, there was. In all seriousness, the music aspect of the show narrative-wise is not too shabby, both in how it sounds and how it fits seamlessly with the romantic story. The songs are your typical post-punk rock music with some nice guitar chords and drum fills that may sound more like your generic J-Rock song. Singing is where high praise is needed for the music and how Olivia Lufkin’s voice resonates perfectly to the somber, heartbreaking tone of the show.
Music can levitate us into a better state of mind when we have been through a difficult life. That’s the main theme that’s the focal point to Nana. Nana and her band members reasoning for wanting to form a band in the first place was to express themselves in a way that was outside of the cultural norm. Ai Yazawa definitely has a knack for showcasing the passion of the characters for what they do, and trying to meet the end goal of being a successful band. But what makes it brilliant is how there is no bullshit to how she writes the outcome. There’s no fantastic end to it all, it’s just a realistic scenario that we are most likely to meet when we try to reach our hopes and dreams. Not that there is some hopeless end to Nana, but it’s a nice middle ground between success and failure that feels hopeless, but hopeful at the same time.
What manifests out of it all is a wonderful amalgamation of romantic comedy, music, and slice of life that sums up Nana in a great nutshell. Funny, sad, inspiring, and empathetic to its core, Nana has more going for it than your generic shoujo anime. It’s one where there is so much to be had in it than just typical romance that you’d find elsewhere. Even if you can’t relate to people in love, being in a band, or experiencing break ups, Nana knows how people connect with one another individually through friendships. And that is something we can all relate to.