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Nana started out as a manga series by Ai Yazawa and became an overnight sensation in Japan. The first twelve volumes of this shojo (comics aimed at girls and young women) title have sold an astounding 22 million copies in Japan. An award winning comic, it has inspired women's fashions, dolls, makeup, and even desert cakes and there is a CD of songs inspired by the series too. It's only natural that a manga with such a large and devoted fan base would make the jump to movies, and in 2005 Nana came to the big screen as a live action movie. While many comic-to-movie transitions leave a bit to be desired, this one's adaptation not only stays faithful to the original material, but is also very entertaining if you've never read the manga.
Nana Komatsu (Aoi Miyazaki) is a 20-year-old woman from an upper middle class background. She's flighty, narcissistic, and doesn't really know what she wants to do with her life. As the movie begins, she's finally saved up the money to move to Tokyo to be with her boyfriend who's attending art school there. On a crowded train bound for the big city, Nana finds the last free seat and sits next to an intimidating punk rocker, another 20-year-old who happens to be named Nana Osaki (Mika Nakashima a popular singer in Japan).
Though the two women are the same age and have the same name, they couldn't be more different. Nana Osaki is driven and determined to make it as a singer on her own. Instead of following her boyfriend Ren, she purposefully didn't go to Tokyo when he got the offer to play with an up and coming band. Now Ren is lead guitar in Trapnest, one of the hottest groups in Japan, but Osaki is going to make it without calling in any favors from her ex.
After the train ride they go their own ways, but not for long. When these two disparate girls both start looking for apartments they bump into each other at a reasonably priced two bedroom loft. They both want it and start to argue until a friend suggests that they share the place. Living together turns out to be the best thing for both of them. The needy Nana Komatsu quickly picks up the nick-name "Hachi"1 because she's friendly, obedient, but needs a lot of attention, just like a puppy. The tough and independent Nana Osaki starts to rub off on Hachi though, and opens up a bit in the process too. Pretty soon these two people who really have very little in common are the best of friends.
This story of two girls maturing into women is surprisingly enjoyable. A straight drama rather than a romantic comedy, the movie manages to be heartfelt without becoming sappy. When Hachi tells Nana that Trapnest is her favorite band and rambles on about how sexy everyone in the group is, the musician just stands there looking at the group's poster in a music store not saying much. Her hurt is evident, but she doesn't wear it on her sleeve, and the scene ends on a light note when Hachi says that Ren is a little scary.
This film is a text-book example of how to bring a graphic novel to the big screen. They really did an excellent job of capturing the feel and tone of the manga, they did it without alienating the people who have never read it. You can walk into this movie knowing nothing about the comic and still have a lot of fun. If you are familiar with the original work, so much the better. The cast all resemble their pen and ink counterparts, and the actors do a great job of bringing the characters to life.
Though this movie follow the first part of the manga pretty closely, it does leave out a lot, and that's not a bad thing. It keeps the movie from being bogged down in a lot of dialog and confusing history. Though they fill in Nana Osaki's story pretty well, the other Nana Komatsu's background is just the briefest of sketches. Her art school buddies have only very minor roles, and they leave out the fact that she'd fall in lust at the drop of a hat and isn't exactly a pure maiden. They did manage to balance the role out by focusing on her a bit more in the present, while Nana O spends more time recalling her past with Ren.
One of those films that you start watching and just can't tear yourself away from, this is a solid film that is oddly engrossing.
This disc comes with a 5.1 and stereo soundtrack, both in Japanese. Both tracks sound good, though there isn't a lot of use of the rears except in the concert scenes. The audio is clean and free from distortion and noise. The optional English subtitles are very good too. They have a nice translation, though they always capitalize NANA which is a bit irritating since it occurs a lot throughout the film.
The anamorphic widescreen (1.78:1) image looks very good. Flesh tones were accurate and there was a lot of detail. The blacks were solid and the night scenes had plenty of definition. The colors were bright and strong too. On the digital side there wasn't anything to complain about either. Compression artifacts were missing making this transfer very easy on the eyes.
Unfortunately this is a bare bones disc. There are no extras.
This is a great adaptation of a Japanese comic series. They were very faithful to the original but not at the expense of alienating people who don't follow the manga. This story of two opposites who come to rely on each other is a lot of fun and a nice film for couples. The plot is simple yet engrossing and it manages to hit all the right notes. A good film that's strongly recommended.
1) Hachi is short for Hachiko, the name of a legendary dog in Japan. The original Hachiko was an Akita who was owned by a professor at Tokyo University. Every morning Hachiko would walk his master to the train he took to work, and meet him there when he returned in the evening. One day in 1925 however, the professor suffered a fatal heart attack while at work and never came home. The dog couldn't understand why his master never returned and every evening would return to the train station and wait. He did this for ten years until he died, expiring near the station where he waited for his master who would never return. The story of the faithful dog was carried across the nation and a life sized bronze statue of Hachiko now sits in Tokyo and is a popular meeting place.