Why the anime ‘NANA’ is a must watch for women in their 20s

“Hey, Nana… people’s feelings change SO easily. What you see is a house of cards — nothing’s for sure, and nothing lasts forever.”
nana and hachi talking in flat
Nana Osaki (left) and Nana Komatsu (right) talking in flat 707, courtesy Madhouse studios

Nana is a 47-episode long manga turn anime by mangaka, Ai Yazawa.

As someone who’s been made fun of pretty relentlessly in the past for liking anime (you know who you are, grade 7 boys…), I realize that it’s not everyone’s cup of tea. Nevertheless, if you’ve watched enough anime, you’ve probably come across ones that transcend cultural barriers and ones that you can only recommend to people who are at least 100-anime deep. Both sides of the spectrum are definitely real.

Nana sits comfortably in the safe-to-recommend-to-anyone-zone.

Well, kind of. Quite simply, not everyone is into anime, and that’s fine. But if you’re not into anime and you decide to check this one out, you’ll need to come equipped with an open mind to enjoy it properly.

I’m directing this post to women — not because I don’t think men can enjoy this anime, but because I think that someone who may be in the position of one of these two Nana’s will be able to take a little bit more away from the viewing (but hey, I could be wrong!).

The story follows two women who meet on a train bound for Tokyo who soon find out that they share the same name. Other than their name and age, at first glance, they could not be any more opposite; Nana Komatsu is bubbly, light and blindly optimistic. Nana Osaki, in contrast, is enigmatic and punky. Nana Komatsu — later dubbed Hachi (there’s a Japanese joke in here, find it!) — moves to Tokyo to be with her boyfriend, Shouji, whereas Osaki, who’s travelling with nothing other than her guitar, plans to make it big in the big city. Despite all of these differences, they get along extremely well.

Eventually the two decide to share a flat in Tokyo, and that’s where our story begins.

I don’t really want to get into the story, as I think it’s a nice surprise to see unfold. It’s a nice blend of the traditional elements of an anime, and completely going in the opposite direction of what we’ve come so used to.

I’ll talk about this anime whenever I’m given the chance, although I’m very rarely given the chance. So basically I just shoehorn my adoration in places where it’s not wanted.

I’m definitely a blubbering idiot when I try to express why I love this show in real life, but since this isn’t real life, I’m going to pretend that I have very clear and obvious reasons as to why I think you should watch this show:

For it’s characters

Ai Yazawa has this amazing ability to write characters so that you truly care about them. I think there comes a point in this anime where it becomes harrowing to watch because you’re so invested in their well being. There’s a very clear difference between anime that is made to be sad (AnoHana, Clannad: After Story, etc.) and anime that is made to depict life in it’s truest form, which definitely comes equipped with its pitfalls. But the only thing that makes these life events so moving is that you either feel like you know the characters, or you feel like you are the characters. There are no cartoonish good/ bad guy characters, just humans. That being said, there are definitely going to be characters who you don’t like and characters who you love, but no one fits into a single box. Nobody is all good or all bad.

Trapnest A little Pain
Trapnest, courtesy Madhouse studios

For the plot

As I mentioned, this anime hits you hard and fast in the feels. What we have here is a very believable depiction of what it’s like to be 20 and confused and newly independent and in love. Speaking of love, this anime explores its many faces. The relationships range from deeply lustful to deeply romantic and everything in between. But while this anime is often classed in the romance genre, I think putting such stringent labels on it does it a disservice. The relationships are definitely the thing that drives this anime forward, but not all of them are romantic.

For the music

Did I mention that this is also a music anime? Because I really should have. In the world of Nana we meet two bands: Trapnest and BLAST (shortened from Black Stones). Both bands have a female lead but produce radically different sounding music. But let me tell you — even out of context these songs are strong. My personal favourite is probably A Little Pain, a song belonging to Trapnest and performed by Olivia Lufkin. It serves as the first ending theme to the anime. Other stand outs are the opening themes Rose and Lucy by BLAST and the rarely used Winter Sleep by Trapnest.

Nana ocean
Nana Osaki, courtesy Madhouse studios

As you can see, I think very highly of this anime. But before I can blindly lead you into the enchanted forest, I have to be honest about one very crippling downfall: It doesn’t have a complete ending. And I’m not going to lie to you, it hurts man.

The show was supposed to get a second season, but the mangaka fell ill with an undisclosed illness for years, and as a result the manga was put on hiatus. There’s more manga than there is anime, but even still I wouldn’t recommend reading it unless you want to come across a paralyzing cliffhanger. Don’t do it. Or, you know, do it. And cry.

As a 20-something, this anime feels especially personal. It’s like putting your life underneath a magnifying glass and examining every painful experience you’ve gone through or seen someone go through. It puts certain elements of your life into perspective and can sometimes make you feel fortunate about making the decisions that you did.

If there’s any criticism I can apply to NANA is that it does teeter on melodrama quite a bit, especially in the last half of the show. That, and one of the character’s decisions will likely drive you insane. That said, I feel like everyone knows someone like this person. He/ she makes bad choices, but they remain realistic.

Before I finish this post I think it’s important to urge that you watch it in the original Japanese. The seiyuus (voice-actors!) do an exceptional job and a lot of the nuances get lost in the English translation.

If you still don’t want to watch it despite the fact that you obviously should, at least watch it for the quotes because they’re FIRE.

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