Nana [1999]

Nana.

Nana is a story of two women who share the same pronunciation of their names. Their kanji is different, mind you.

We have Osaki Nana ナナ 大崎 who used to be a vocal of a band from a remote place. And there is Komatsu Nana 奈々小松 who is just a regular girl who gets walked over by pretty much anyone.

Both girls meet each other on a train that is bound to Tokyo. Both of them are 20 years old and they are heading into unknown.

Osaki Nana is, on surface, a strong and independent woman.
Komatsu Nana is pretty much the exact opposite. She is mentally weak and must depend on friends to make decisions for her.

They arrive in Tokyo to basically rekindle their lives. This is their story.
Osaki wants to start a band and turn pro while Komatsu doesn’t really have a goal. She is going to Tokyo to be with her boyfriend.

Nana is what I’d call a masterpiece. Its plot may be typical. Even its subject may be typical. However, its story and narration are so good that it doesn’t matter. It is a brilliant story that will glue you to your seat until you exhaust everything about the series.

Okay, I may be exaggerating a bit here. But I meant it when I said it is a masterpiece.

The series has been abandoned at 21st volume due to its author’s illness. Volume 21 was released in 2009. It is now 2021. It’s safe to assume that it is abandoned although officially it’s on hiatus.

However, volume 21 can be considered as the last volume because it provides a pretty good closure. I cried a lot when I read the volume 21 for the first time. Nine hells, the volume was an emotional rollercoaster.

I have the Korean version of Nana, plus a Japanese version of volume 21. I just had to have that volume in its original language and form. I would have gotten full Japanese books if I wasn’t running out of space. (I ran out of space completely as of 2021.)

There is also anime which I can recommend. It’s virtually the same as manga except it does not go as far as manga does. Either way, once you get into this series, you will want both versions.
Anime for the songs. Manga for the plot.

Yes, songs. You see, Osaki Nana is a singer, and the anime utilizes this fact very well. There is another singer in the series, Serizawa Layla who can be seen as a rival to her. She sings songs as well. Their songs are used as opening and ending songs for the series.

This series has really a lot of awesome songs. I will share two of my favorites here.

“Without You” from ANNA TSUCHIYA inspi’ NANA (BLACK STONES). Released: 2005.
“Winter sleep” from OLIVIA inspi’ REIRA (TRAPNEST) by OLIVIA. Released: 2005.

The first song is sung by Tsuchiya Anna as Osaki Nana.
The second song is sung by Lufkin Olivia ( as Serizawa Layla ).

This series has released a lot of albums. There are even a lot of fan-sung albums as well. Nana’s songs are mainly about pain and moving on. It’s usually dark as reflected by her past as well as present.

Layla’s songs have a pretty much opposite feeling compared to Nana’s which is actually brilliant overall.

As far as I recall, Nana was a huge success which is reflected by two movies (Nana 1, Nana 2).

I realize I haven’t really told you the plot. That is because I can make it either really simple or really long. There is no middle point. I do not want to go with the long version, so I am hardly going to tell you anything plot wise.

Basically, as stated in the beginning, two girls meet each other on a train to Tokyo. They are both 20 and are both looking to restart their lives. That is where everything begins.

In a sense, the plot is fairly realistic. There is no over-the-top scenario. There is also no expletively bad guys. Pretty much everyone acts according to their circumstances. Alcohol is also heavily involved, and there is sex, a lot of it. After all, the two Nana are in their prime age.

Well, I will spill some beans a bit on the Nana.

This is a better way to explain than trying to simplify the plot.

Komatsu Nana

She rarely makes decisions on her own. Somebody usually has to push her into making a decision. Now, this isn’t exactly as bad as it sounds because she isn’t exactly wise. Whenever she does make her own decision, it is usually catastrophic, so she might as well let others make decisions for her. This trait of hers is both a blessing and a curse. Personally, I say this is a blessing for her because of who she ends up with.

Because she was raised in a middle class household with a functional family, she tends to make others feel home when around which becomes really important for Osaki later. Additionally, she can be quite selfish and greedy and tends to overreact but does not break down. But those bad qualities add to her general charm, making her cute rather than being a hassle.

Osaki Nana

She is, again on surface, a strong and independent woman. However, she has mental issues. Her mental issues originate from her chaotic childhood. She basically had to live on her own from a very early age and has had no stability in her life.
Komatsu Nana happens to be the first person who has made her feel home, and she does not want to let go of that. This becomes a major point of conflict later on as Komatsu moves on with her life due to her impending marriage.

Interestingly, it is Komatsu who adapts to changes well. While Oosaki Nana dreads changes in her life as Komatsu is progressively distanced away from her, Komatsu simply carries on, adapting in her rapidly altering environment.

In the end, Osaki breaks down more than once mentally in the series while Komatsu never breaks down. Well, I lied. There is one time Komatsu does break down, and that is in volume 21.
To be fair though, everyone breaks down in volume 21. Even I broke down.

This is a story of the two women looking to find where they belong. One finds it. The other does not.

The bottom line is – Do not miss out on this series. The only regret is that this anime should have a HD version.

It is not one of a kind series. In fact, there are plenty of manga as well as anime that deal realistic romance. But it is very good because it does not try to hide the dark side of life.

What we have here in Nana is a series that displays lives of the two women in fairly realistic ways. It’s not always sunny and shiny. There are dark moments as well. After all everyone has their own circumstances.

But, to be fair, there are plenty of series that deal with dark elements. What really differentiates Nana from other romance series is that it does not make big deals about such. It does not dedicate episodes to such moments. It does not make big reveals on such. Flaws of characters are revealed as its story progresses, and that is it.

It simply tells a story. That’s all. That’s actually pretty rare nowadays. A lot of eye candies nowadays.

Finally, while I wanted to take some pictures of the volume 21, I could not in the end.

I am being honest here. I broke down hard while reading volume 21 the first time in 2009. After that, I’ve read it only once more. My hands even shake whenever I touch the volume.

In short, I don’t want to even open it now. Even touching it to take the picture brought me so much memories. So, I am sorry but I won’t take any picture from volume 21…

In conclusion, there is hardly anything like this series in 2021 if at all.

Personally, no manga had made me cry like that. Memories of volume 21 lingers in my brain vividly even in 2021. I always talk about something ending on high. This is exactly what it is like to end a story on high. It ends on so high that, even after 12 years, I still clearly recall it.

In fact, this series may have left me a trauma because I absolutely do not want to open up volume 21 ever again. Even after 10+ years, I am still haunted by it.

That’s how good this series is overall. It has left an eternal dagger in my heart. It hurts whenever I think about it.

So good.

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