NANA is the first of two movies based on the manga by Ai Yazawa, released in the US by Viz; the second movie ought to follow eventually. It is about the lives of two twenty-ish girls named Nana who move to Tokyo at the same time; they meet on the train and then again apartment-hunting and decide to share an apartment. This one covers the first five volumes of the manga, beginning with the train ride to Tokyo and ending with Takumi’s first appearance. I had the same sort of reaction to this that I had to the manga: a bit of “been there, done that, don’t need to see it” but eventually was sucked into it and enjoyed it. It’s been a while since I read the manga, but it seems to be a fairly faithful adaptation; parts are left out in the interest of time, but overall it follows the manga.
Nana Komatsu (Aoi Miyazaki), nicknamed “Hachi” and called Nana in the subtitles, is a bit of a ditz. Her boyfriend Shoji and two of her other best friends are in art school in Tokyo; she either didn’t get in or didn’t apply and has been working to save up money for the move. Shoji let Hachi stay only until she found a place of her own; he did not want to live with her at this time. After her arrival, he meets Sachiko, another student, and starts spending some time with her. Hachi is also a big fan of the band Trapnest, especially their bassist Takumi. Her past is not mentioned at all in this beyond the previous existence of some sort of relationship with Shoji.
Nana Osaki (singer Mika Nakashima), called NANA in the subtitles, was the singer for the locally-popular band Black Stones; they broke up after the drummer (Yasu) wanted to concentrate on his studies and (according to the movie) the bassist (Ren) got an offer to join the up-and-coming band Trapnest (vocalist Reira is played by singer Yuna Ito) as a guitarist (which doesn’t make sense to me but may be part of the reason I had a hard time keeping the band members straight in the manga). Ren was also Nana’s boyfriend; in the manga, she had not heard from him since then. Her past is shown in flashbacks. Yasu is already in Tokyo; he accompanies Nana apartment-hunting. One day, he sends Nobu (Black Stone’s guitarist) to the apartment with a tape of a new song; the three of them decide to reform Black Stones and get Shin (a teenage runaway?) as their bassist. Shin was apparently previously aware of Black Stones; he named Ren as his favorite bassist without naming his previous band, which means that Hachi is the only one unaware of the connection. They eventually get a gig when another band cancels and gain fans. Hachi eventually finds out about Nana and Ren, and convinces Nana to see Trapnest with her after winning front-row tickets in her hometown.
The focus of the movie is the relationships: the various friendships between various characters, Nana K. and Shoji a little (she spent a lot of time thinking of Shoji, but I think Shoji and Sachiko had more screen time), Nana O. and Ren a lot, but mostly Nana K. and Nana O. Nana K. is not as well-developed in this as she was in the manga; her backstory is never mentioned, her relationship with Shoji doesn’t get much screen time, and her life in general isn’t really mentioned beyond a couple of scenes at her jobs (though now that I think about it, I’m not sure of her job in the later parts of the manga I read). I liked her friends from home and wish they had more screen time. It does make sense that they would focus more on Nana O. and her history and relationship with Ren since that relationship continues throughout the manga; Nana K.’s past was mostly useful for character development and Shoji doesn’t appear after the breakup.
They did a good job of adapting the visual style of the manga to a live-action movie; some of the clothes seemed impractical, but still looked good. I was impressed by Hachi’s friends; I didn’t think those looks would work on real people, but they managed to adapt them fairly successfully (though with obviously fake hair). I had no complaints about the acting, though I’m not sure how likely I would be to notice any problems with it due to the language differences. The music business as presented is a fantasy version, but that’s also true of the manga.
Hachi annoyed me at first; she was a bit too cheerful and bouncy and ditzy (appropriate, but less annoying in manga form). Either she settled down a bit or I got used to her. If Sachiko had had a larger part, I would have stopped watching due to her voice; it’s fairly high-pitched and little-girly almost to the point of sounding like she’s on helium; I cannot stand it.
The extras were four original Japanese trailers, director and cast profiles, and Viz trailers for Kamikaze Girls, Linda Linda Linda, Hula Girls, and Honey and Clover. I adore Kamikaze Girls, but would not have been interested based on that trailer.
I stopped reading the manga when Shojo Beat stopped running it; I liked it well enough, but had read reviews of the next few volumes and didn’t really care about where it was going (even more soap-opera-ish). If it was shorter or if the narration did not give premonitions of doom or if I could think that the Nanas ended up together at the end (at least as friends, but it was clear that they were each other’s most important people), I might have continued (though the summary for volume 10 made me curious).
The Japanese volume 19 of the manga and the US volume 10 will be released in May. Viz is releasing the manga and this movie; they were serializing the manga in their magazine Shojo Beat, but stopped at the end of volume 7. In addition, there is a second movie; several characters were recast, including Nana Komatsu, Ren, and Shin; there was a brief “coming soon” bit for it at the end. There is also an anime series, with Anna Tsuchiya providing the singing voice for Nana Osaki and OLIVIA for Reira; Viz apparently announced the license for it last summer, but I don’t think there’s been any news about a release yet. (information from various pages at Anime News Network).