Summary

  • NANA’s recent resurgence in popularity stems from its powerful emotional drama and pending conclusion.
  • The series features complex, relatable characters who experience self-discovery and relationship issues.
  • NANA delves into themes of vulnerability, relationships, and features a strong focus on music and fashion.



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Even though it was released almost 20 years ago, NANA has seen a recent revival in popularity, in part due to its addition to the Netflix catalog in some territories. The story is famous for being a powerful emotional drama that is, sadly, still pending a proper conclusion. Its author, Ai Yazawa, fell ill in 2009, and has been unable to continue working on the manga since then. Despite the lack of a formal ending, both the anime and the manga are still worth the experience in the present.


NANA is a josei anime, meaning its intended audience are young adult women. The plot stays true to this label; as the story goes on, many heavy topics are examined in a very frank, raw, and direct manner.

Most Complicated Anime Heroes both Nanas

Thanks to the human nature of the situations that the characters go through, the story in NANA remains timeless. The journey of self-discovery and relationship problems are tales as old as time.

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NANA Is The Story Of Two Diametrically Different, But Very Genuine Young Women

Ai Yazawa Writes Incredible Tri-Dimensional Leads

Nana Osaki and Nana Komatsu when they first meet on the train to Tokyo

The protagonists of this series are two young women named Nana who meet on a train to Tokyo. Nana Komatsu fits the “girl next door” stereotype. She’s full of hope, loves romance and cute things, and is moving to Tokyo to try and deepen her relationship with her boyfriend. Nana Osaki, on the other hand, looks menacing, has a rough past, and seeks Tokyo as a declaration of independence from her own relationship. Despite being polar opposites, they quickly become very close friends. Nana O. even gives Nana K. the nickname “Hachi”, because of how much of a lapdog she acts towards her.


With that description, the story could easily be just another slice-of-life anime, but it isn’t the case at all. The development both Nana and Hachi go through is engaging, devastating, and even awkward at times. It becomes very easy to see oneself reflected in either of them, or any other of the characters in the story. All the characters feel incredibly human, because the story is unforgiving when presenting their flaws. Some of the decisions the characters make at points in the story are enraging, but that’s exactly why NANA is an incredible drama.

Being Vulnerable: The Uncomfortable Truth Of Forging Meaningful Relationships

Whether Romantic Or Platonic, NANA Defines What Can Make Or Break A Relationship

Nana Osaki and boyfriend Ren Hojo embraced

NANA is a character-driven story. Of course, the main relationship is the one between Nana and Hachi, but it mostly serves as a foundation for all the other turmoil that goes on. Hachi experiences what many other women in their early 20s do: idealizing men and emotionally depending on them, only to be emotionally drained in the end. Nana is terrified of settling down, because she’s never had any stability in her life before, so she rejects the idea of marrying and being a mother.


The men in the series also play an important role. They’re complex characters who cannot be labeled as “good” or “bad”, and whether they’re manipulated or manipulators, the psychology behind their actions is laid out in the story. Men can be cruel, sincere, naïve, narrow-minded, or incredibly loving. They’re all represented in the story. Romance is not the only type of relationship portrayed in NANA, there are also deep friendships, too, familial love, professional relationships and general togetherness. Any viewer or reader will find something for themselves.

The anime adaptation covers up until chapter #41 of the manga, which reached 80 chapters until it went on permanent hiatus in 2009.


Some of the themes examined in this series were a bit ahead of its time. Maternity is something any young woman has to sit and think about sooner or later, and both Nana and Hachi have to face this topic. Nana is in a somewhat stable relationship with her boyfriend Ren, who wants to start a family. She doesn’t. She’s too focused on her own career, and also carries childhood trauma she needs to resolve. Hachi discovers she’s pregnant by the worst man she’s ever been with, and choosing how to proceed is aggravating for her.

Music And Aesthetics: Two Pillars Of The NANA Series

One of the Series’ Greatest Strengths Is Its Dedication To Its Biggest Theme

Music provides the greatest context in the series. There are two main fictional bands in the story: the Black Stones and Trapnest. Nana is the lead singer in the first, while Reira is the frontwoman of the second. Nana’s boyfriend, Ren, also plays in Trapnest. Real-life singers were cast to portray the women’s singing voices, which differ from their regular voice actresses. Anna Tsuchiya and Olivia Lufkin were cast to play Nana’s and Reira’s singing voices, respectively. The band’s songs double as opening and ending themes, the Black Stones are more punk rock oriented, and Trapnest is a bit more soft rock.


Another notable element in NANA is its art style and fashion. Ai Yazawa went all out when designing the outfits both women wear, and in Nana’s case, the influence of the Vivienne Westwood brand is very noticeable. Nana has a clear yet still feminine punk aesthetic. Hachi is more traditionally feminine, wearing light colors and dresses. And Reira, another character that joins almost midway in the series, is more on the classic and elegant side. The “NANA aesthetic” has become a popular online trend thanks to the anime’s recent gain in popularity.


The manga has been on hiatus since 2009, and so far, there hasn’t been any news on whether Ai Yazawa will continue her most popular story. Still, NANA is an anime and manga that breaks the mold, and its very genuine portrayal of real-life struggles of being a young adult might serve as a nice shift from all the fantasy and battle-shonen anime that usually dominate the industry. Unfinished or not, NANA will go down in history as one of the best dramas out there.

Nana (2006)

Nana (2006)

Cast
Rebecca Shoichet , Kelly Sheridan , Matthew Erickson , David A. Kaye , Brian Drummond

Release Date
April 5, 2006

Streaming Service(s)
Hulu

Creator(s)
Ai Yazawa

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