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Nana: Uncut Box Set, Vol. 1

VIZ // Unrated // September 8, 2009
List Price: $59.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by John Sinnott | posted October 28, 2009 | E-mail the Author
The Series:
I first encountered Nana as a manga series (by Ai Yazawa) and fell in love with the story.  Apparently I wasn't the only one to be intrigued by this story of two totally differentgirls with the same first name who are determined to make it in the big city.  The manga became an overnight sensation in Japan with the first twelve volumes selling an astounding 22 million copies.  An award winning comic, it has inspired women's fashions, dolls, makeup, and even desert cakes.  There is a CD of songs inspired by the series and two live action films, and this animated series which is being released in region one by VIZ.  This first set collects the first 12 episodes on this fun and charming series.
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 show 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 realtor 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.  That's because the characters come across as real people with strengths, flaws, and feelings.  At first the two Nanas seem to be typical anime characters, but they soon evolve to be more than that.  Actually, all of the main characters are fleshed out three dimensional people, often with complex background stories, and this history often helps to explain why the make the decisions they do. 
This is one of those shows that you start watching and just can't tear yourself away from.
The DVD:

This disc comes with the original Japanese audio and an English dub, both in stereo.  I mainly viewed the show with the Japanese track but I screened a couple of episodes with the dub track and that was fine.  The Englsih voice actors do a good job and don't overact of put on phony accents.  Both tracks sounded clean and clear and there were no defects worth mentioning.  I was a little disappointed that there wasn't at least an English 5.1 track, but I can live without it.   
The anamorphic widescreen (1.78:1) image looks very good.  The lines were tight and there was a lot of detail.  The blacks were solid and the colors were bright and strong too.  On the digital side there wasn't much to complain about either, the only flaw being a bit of aliasing.  This is a show that is very easy on the eyes.
The series is a little light on the extras.  The main one is an 8-minute interview with the director who talks about his previous work as well as this series.  There's also a clean opening and closing and a series of VIZ previews.
Final Thoughts:
This is a great adaptation of a very enjoyable manga 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 really rings true.  The plot is simple yet engrossing and it manages to hit all the right notes.  A very strong recommendation.
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.
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