Tuesday, September 30, 2014

:anime: Free/Low Cost Anime Pick of the Month:: NANA


Official Sites: Japanese, English
Additional Links: NANA Franchise Official Site, ANN Entry, MAL Entry
Video [Free {Streaming}]: Neon Alley, Hulu
Video [Pay {Download-to-Own}]: iTunes, Amazon Instant Video, Xbox Video

A funny thing happened on the way to coming up with September's (belatedly-posted) Free/Low-Cost Anime Pick. First, the original intended pick, Char's Counterattack--I discovered--was set to expire by the end of the month, not leaving a whole lot of time for anyone to really watch it. Then I turned to a few alternative picks I had in mind, only to find that I would rather save those particular ones for later time. With personal matters to attend to on top of that, I was in something of an extended bind.

In the midst of this, however, something dawned on me: "Have I ever showcased NANA?" Sure enough, nearly five years after doing these, I never, ever have. Well, that changes here, as one of the finest anime ever made is September's (retroactive) selection!!

The 47-episode series is based on the celebrated manga series by Ai Yazawa, centering around two very different (and, in some ways, not-too-different) girls who happen to share the same first name of "Nana". Nana Komatsu is a sweet, though immature and airy, romantic that happens to befriend the cool, no-nonsense, and commanding punk rocker Nana Osaki on a train to Tokyo. Both happen to be moving there for their own respective reasons, but through a few circumstances, decide to go halves on the rent and shack up in an apartment both were eying. From there, their lives, loves, and heartaches intertwine against the backdrop of their deepening friendship.

What makes NANA so great is that is brutally honest and realistic its characters, their actions, their situations, and their relationship decisions (painfully so, at times). Neither of the leads or the supporting characters, likable as they are, are perfect or exactly what their projected persona suggests, nor do they always make the best choices. Though it does not pull its punches dramatically or thematically, it still manages to balance it with well-placed comedic bits and expressions, and is further bolstered by the in-show music, to say nothing of the great overall score itself.

The expert handling and realization of this adaptation may perhaps come as little surprise from the director of such noteworthy titles as Cardcaptor Sakura, Chihayafuru, and Gunslinger Girl, Morio Asaka, and the studio that handled all of those titles and Yazawa's Paradise Kiss (which aired the year prior), Madhouse. The 2005 series does show its age and two-cour budget restraints to an extant, but the production quality fares well otherwise (and the series is too good to let it be a hindrance).

The series is available for free at Neon Alley and Hulu, in both Japanese with English subtitles and English dubbed, and available via DTO at iTunes, Amazon Instant Video, and Xbox Video. Though the Japanese language side, having watched the first eight or so episodes of, is pretty good (no surprise with its cast), the dub for series is superb and quite genuine in its performances, not to mention very well-cast in its own right. Finally, as the series deals with, sometimes frankly, many mature subject matters and themes, and features some nudity, NANA is firmly one for the young adults and above crowd.

[NOTE: Originally posted Oct. 5, 2014. Dated for Sept. 30, 2014.)]

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