I believe it’s safe to say that I’m a fan of Ai Yazawa, the mangaka responsible for Nana. Above all else, her chosen subject matter is what appeals to me most, mainly because I can relate to her characters and their interests, whether it be art and design (Neighborhood Story and Paradise Kiss) or, in this case with Nana, being part of a band (my feeble attempt occurred whilst at art school). Aside from this, her contemporary and realistic take on these subjects is another reason why I’ve come to like her works. As such, it was something of an expectancy when Nana, arguably her most successful manga (spawning a feature length live-action movie six months prior), received an anime adaptation by studio Madhouse, of whom were responsible for adapting her previous manga series, Paradise Kiss, to promising effect. However, unlike with Paradise Kiss, where its length at 13 episodes became an issue, the anime adaptation for Nana has been given enough time to cover every nuance of its manga counterpart, totaling at 47 episodes. For this impression, though, I will be covering my thoughts on the first episode only. So, without further ado, here we go…
The opening dialogue with the accompanying shot of the apartment was an effective introduction for what’s to come, especially when Anna Tsuchiya’s ‘Rose’ started playing, transitioning to the opening sequence. The song itself was gritty, catchy and appropriate, providing a glimpse of how the anime series will transpire and its overall style. For those who have the read the manga will notice that the first episode covers the second volume, going back to the first during the next. While I was initially surprised by this, director Morio Asaka’s decision to jump straight to when Nana O and Nana K meet for the first time worked well as an introduction.
In line with what I liked about the manga and Yazawa’s works in general, Asaka and Madhouse successfully managed to depict the level of realism and contemporariness that I like. The mannerisms are more nuanced and mature, verging on what you’d expect in real life than in most other anime, while the attention to detail, particularly in regard to the character’s fashion and style, is acknowledged positively. I suppose such aspects are all the more apparent because most other mangaka ignore such things; or at the very least, deem it secondary.
The character design is typically shoujo, seemingly contrary to the story’s realism and portrayal, all of which are classically good looking, in their own way. The character designer remained faithful to Yazawa’s signature style, although I agree, having read the previous impressions above, that the skin is a tad on the shiny side. The background artwork is more than adequate, remaining detailed and proportionate throughout. The soundtrack is clean and produced well, although nothing of note. As mentioned above, the opening by Anna Tsuchiya of Black Stones captures the spirit of the series well, while the ending by Olivia Lufkin is a nice rock-pop ballad. I like how it begins playing before the ending sequence begins. On the seiyuu front, Midori Kawana did a reasonable job dipicting Nana K (the innocent, if slightly irritating one), while veteran Romi Park did a stellar job of Nana O, portraying her casual confidence and maturity well.
Having seen the rest of the anime series, there’s a lot more that I could cover here, but since this is meant to be an impression of the first episode only, I’ll leave that out. However, what I will say is that Madhouse did an excellent job adapting Yazawa’s series faithfully. With this in mind, and my own fandom for the mangaka, Nana receives a well deserved 4.5/5.