On the train to Tokyo, two young women both named Nana meet by incident. One is on her way to meet her boyfriend, the other to start her career as a professional musician. Shortly after their arrival, their paths cross again while looking for a place to stay, and they decide to share an apartment with enough space for the both of them. Even though both of them are trying to reach their own goals, destiny ties their individual lives together closer and closer…
summary by Taleweaver
Highs: Believable drama plot; characters feel real; great music
Lows: Forced-funny recap episodes, unfinished
Romantic drama is a genre that can easily degrade into its cheaper, uglier sister: soap opera. Fortunately, Nana is one of the few quality productions that never even once come close to soap opera standards. From beginning to end, this series (based on Yazawa Ai’s hit manga) uses every bit of potential it has, with almost the best possible results.
Unlike many other series, Nana avoids the “romantic comedy” trap and instead goes for a believable slice-of-life drama plot. And that’s about it. No mystical, magical conspiracies. No twisted plans for world domination to cross along the way. Not even stock evil people trying to break the pure-hearted lovers apart. If the series suffers of one thing, it’s an abundance of bishounen, but as literally all the girls are just as beautiful, that feels just fair.
And as for the characters, they feel just as real and down-to-Earth as the plot itself. Literally everybody has a personality that goes beyond the usual cliché, and even if some people feel one-dimensional at first glance, they often grow during the course of the series, or other sides to their characters are revealed in time. Nana makes great use of its length here.
In a show that has one of the protagonists follow a career as a musician, one must definitely have a closer look at how the musical performances are presented. To put it bluntly: great. None of the songs in the series are stinkers, many are actually potential hits (and became chart breakers in Japan, too), and the only thing one could wish for is more of them. On a side note, the choice of seiyuu for Nana is also close to perfect – not a single voice that doesn’t perform above average.
Only a few minor letdowns nibble at Nana’s rank. The first is the poor choice of using two side-characters as narrators for the show’s recap episodes. I understand the need for recap episodes in a show of this length and complexity, but having two characters inside the show joke around about the tragic events in the lives of their friends feels inappropriate. Nana would also be much better if it felt at least a little finished. The show literally ends in the middle of nowhere, with the two both major plot lines unresolved. C’mon, Madhouse, there are better ways to make sure your viewers are back for the second season!
Nana has definitely set the new benchmark for romantic dramas, and if you’re not opposed to the genre as a whole, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t watch it. The series will keep you coming back for more, and when it seems to become all too serious, there’s even a bit of light comedy inside to brighten your mood again. This is quality entertainment as I define it.
Nana can be downloaded legally in the United States HERE.