This is a show I’ve put off watching for years with no reason. I was always deeply interested in it, it was just something I never got around to, and the few times I’d think of doing so I’d get sidetracked. Finally, after accidentally avoiding it all these years I watched the hell out of it. It starts off happily enough – and yet, right away, you can feel this is going to be something special. Something far beyond what you’re expecting. And mixed with that is the feeling of something ominous, something that you’ll notice episode after episode and never understand until much further in – one small line that always makes you get a really bad feeling the moment it shows up and makes it near impossible to stop watching and is both the very first line in the show and the very last, “Ne, Nana…”.
Nana in concert and singing the best BLAST song? Yeah, best OP.
NANA defines what truly should be considered “mature” anime. I see a lot of people asking for mature shows or saying how mature a series full of nothing but titties and gore is – because of said titties and gore, and I’ve never gotten how they could think that’s mature. It’s actually the opposite, it’s childish. It’s brainless violence and sexuality being thrown in your face for entertainment value, which is fine, but it’s not something that’s anywhere near mature.
However, NANA deals with pretty undeniably real people going through real things and having very real emotions. It’s by far the most “human” thing I’ve seen out of anime, literature, or much of anything else. I said Space Bros is the most “real” series I’ve seen – but NANA actually steals that spot…sadly in a very depressingly fucked up real way all in itself, dealing with all the things in this world we’d rather forget; things from cheating, betrayal, a much more true-to-life view of love and relationships to deep trauma, PTSD, impulse decisions and consequences of youth, and so on. It’s an amazing feat of storytelling and character development that resonates so damn perfectly with the viewer that it can genuinely change things in the audience purely because of how well it makes you feel as if you’re watching yourself and the mistakes you’ve made and thoughts you’ve had. This show is full of twists you won’t see coming yet are never ‘out of nowhere’ bullshit either so you’re always on your toes, watching for hints and signs of what will come next.
The character development is also handled so realistically that there are no “bad” characters. Everyone that seems like a shithead can easily develop into someone much better…while the opposite is true too, everyone that seems like a great person may easily change drastically into one of the most horrible people in the show very quickly. Real life doesn’t work so simply as a person being good or bad – people change, things happen, and a person can go from being the most normal cute person to being a disgusting piece of shit. On the other side, a person can appear at first glance as a shitty punk deviant problem causing slut and actually be one of the most pure kind-hearted people you’ll ever come to know. The bad may be forgiven, and the good may be hated, it all depends on their actions and people don’t always pick the bad or good. This is something rarely portrayed in anime on such a level and something, even in real life, most people tend to forget.
It’s all done so exceedingly well that no matter who you are or what you’ve gone through, you’ll feel a deep connection with the cast and empathize with them through all the shit the show puts them through. As for me, a lot – and I mean almost all – of the stuff in the show was just so damn familiar, and much of the stuff either Nana said or felt were things I’ve specifically even said or reacted to in the same exact ways – it was almost jarringly familiar. It was like watching a series based on me with characters portraying different sides of myself, especially the two Nana’s. It made me see a new perspective on who I am in some aspects, changed the entire way I interact with one of my only friends, helped me realize quite a bit about who I am and why I’m that way, and even gave me a really deep motivation for my pretty recently found passion for writing.
I’ve read a lot, especially when I was younger, and I’ve seen a lot of anime, tv shows, movies, whatever. I’ve loved much of it, and a lot got to me real deeply. However, NANA steps into an area I didn’t know literature or whatever else could really get into, an area that’s almost uncomfortably personal. It resonates so damn perfectly with me in ways that just aren’t really easy to put into words. At times it was even too much for me to watch – it was just too damn close to home or brought back a rush of shitty memories I finally wiped from my mind. And at other times, it was almost creepily way too “me” – often in the monologues saying things that were almost verbatim with what I’ve said to a close friend over a month or so due to almost pushing them out of my life constantly and trying to explain myself and things I’ve dealt with and had on my mind for years. Having such deep and some of it fucked up emotions show up almost copy pasted out of my own words and thoughts was funny at first, but then it got further along and it was almost painful at times.
It felt like a show made just for me, based on me, based on my deepest and some of my darkest feelings and thoughts, to let me see myself from multiple points of view. Almost the entire cast was too familiar as myself, with the only real exceptions being Shoji and Sachi (who are both just complete shit). The two Nana’s however were the ones I really saw myself in the most. At first, Nana Komatsu – and then about halfway through the show, Nana Osaki – whom at first was more like how I’d rather be, but because of events in the story ended up a lot like myself.
Of course – that’s all my personal experience with the show, but this is a masterpiece even without including that. The series is extremely well put together; the music is fucking outstanding, the cast is so perfectly crafted and developed from start to finish that it’s almost unbelievably well done, and the story is so real there’s no way anyone would get by without ending up connected to the rather large and diverse ever-changing cast or empathizing and sympathizing with them for one reason or another. I suppose this ended up being less of a review and more of a personal experience with the show, but whatever.
If I had any complaint – it’s that very early on (like episode 4 or 5, maybe sooner) had way too much recap in them. It was done on purpose to show the different point of view from each Nana but it just felt like they went far overboard in 2 of the episodes, so please don’t let it make you misjudge the show – if it bothers you too much just skip through for any new scenes (which they all have) and go past all the stuff you’ve seen already. It never happens again, so no worries. There’s literally nothing else in this show that’s not top notch.
Seriously, don’t worry about it’s demographic, genre, or how it looks. Just watch the damn thing. Really, you’ll regret missing this or putting it off – this is one of the most human and mature stories you’ll find in anything. As for me, even before completing it – it managed to put itself in my top 5 anime I’ve ever seen and actually takes the number one spot.
Edit – years later I got around to rewatching it and I have to say it’s still as amazing as it always was and still holds strong without peer as my top favorite series of all time.
NANA is a great series. It was something I accidentally avoided for a long time, too. When I casually stumbled on my folder containing the episodes, I just scanned some of them. I watched one of the recap episodes, and I ended up scanning every episode without properly watching. I spoiled the events myself. But even so, watching it for real it still felt fresh and real. I grew attached to the whole cast (even if Shoji and Sachi pissed me off so much). But they were too human and I’m reminded of my humanity that I didn’t feel like hating anyone of them. I just watched it recently but I’m looking forward to my rewatch.
You really did yourself a disservice by skipping through! It’s good you were able to get the full experience out of watching it even after spoiling it all for yourself though, it’s really something everyone should find a chance to experience – even if it means accidentally spoiling so much of it before realizing “wait, this might be amazing” and going back to actually watch.
Nana is one of those shows where it’s so intricate about all of it and so ‘real’ and just pure raw emotion that even rewatching it (so going in knowing absolutely EVERYTHING and having experienced already) it’s still just like the first time, so knowing ‘the events’ and then finally watching it isn’t even close to ruining it just ill advised. You may have known the “big things” but Nana is built on so much more than juts a few big turning points and events, unlike most anime where if you know those parts you know everything the show is really about.
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Yeah, I think that’s why my emotions still got played around when I actually watched the series! It’s really something else. And as you said, many anime are built around the twists/revelations so much to the point that its other aspects are outshone and don’t really seem as appealing anymore. I don’t regret watching NANA this late in the game.
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You know what? I’m gonna watch this…
As much as you won’t listen – I’d really suggest making that ‘sometime’ soon. This is an experience with no equal, not in literature, anime, manga, film, nothing.
You and I agree on a lot when it comes to anime, and while we do have some differences, I think this is one you will love very much and it’d be a shame if you put it off for ages.
I’ll start after I’ve finished some of the anime I’m currently watching.
good review, really looking forward to this now, check out paradise kiss next, also by ai yazawa, done after nana; new fan to anime, i’ll actually have to see both that and nana
paradise kiss theme http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bQuWI9_-u2M
That one’s definitely on my mental “gotta watch soon” list. Just like Nana, I planned on watching it for a long time and never did – but after seeing how amazing Nana was I really want to see this sooner rather than later. I hear it’s not AS good but still great, so I’m looking forward to it.
I’d definitely recommend watching these soon! And for a new anime fan you’ll be lucky to see such a great show so early on.