“Nana” – Chris Luedtke

In my quest for cinematic fulfillment, I often scan through a laundry list spanning various Criterion discs and book adaptations. The realist inside pulls me to and fro, bouncing me back and forth between reality and fantasy. Bridging the gap becomes increasingly difficult the longer we march through life’s much, and Nana is plenty aware of this. It represents the sort of wishful fiction we’d like to experience, though like its snow-coated grounds, viewers are left begging for even a lukewarm feeling.

There is but one seat left on a busy train, and it’s currently housing a guitar. Nana Komatsu (Aoi Miyazaki) and Nana Osaki (Mika Nakashima) encounter one another here by chance — or perhaps by fate. While the girls are polar opposites (Komatsu is eccentric, Osaki reserved), they forge a friendship as their train remains stuck in a heavy snowfall. A few months pass before they move in together, with Osaki hoping to get her band off the ground and Komatsu just hoping to get through everyday life.

The concept of feminine bonding calls forth movies like The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, but no worries with Nana. This flick has a much more mature feel to it, turning heads with its dual approach to feminism. The story juggles values and dreams, touching upon concepts of reluctance (with Komatsu) and aggression (with Osaki). While we can become interested or even involved with these ideas, Nana’s dominating theme is boys, a great force ultimately holding these girls back. Part of this assessment is unfair, because you could go on forever over what Nana is “about.” In the end, though, the girls’ quest is making ends meet with their dreams, and boys are just there to mess things up.

The characters will definitely come across as either adorable or deplorable. Komatsu is just another stereotypical, over-the-top screech factory; she squeals, gets excited about trivial things, and is brought down by the fall of a tack. Osaki is easily the more original character, not to mention the most focused. Her past is interesting, and we can relate to her determination. She has big dreams we want to see her accomplish; Osaki feels real, unlike the superficial act Komatsu is constantly putting on. Despite the latter’s pathetic nature, the girls’ friendship is a believable one, a little distant but not without the feeling that they have one another’s back.

One last thing to note before I wrap this burrito is the use of music. Due to Osaki, Nana is a music-heavy flick. If you’re a fan of J-pop (it’s not punk music; don’t let the outfits fool you), you’ll achieve a higher level of entertainment here. About fifteen minutes or so are dedicated to live performances, which I personally couldn’t get into. Nonsensical J-rock lyrics aren’t my bag, but hey, if you like your tunes as such, more power to you.

For those wondering how closely Nana follows its manga source, I couldn’t tell you. But I have read that it adheres to the first three or four volumes pretty closely. Those that haven’t read up on the manga will find their love for the film based on A) how much of a chick flick mood you’re in; B) how much you enjoy J-pop; or C) how much of Komatsu’s screen time you’re prepared to stomach (she may have some depth, but that doesn’t mean she’s interesting). Nana is decent girl power fare, certainly better than anything involving mobile pants. Perhaps I need to make a date with that girl inside of me that could enjoy this stuff better. I don’t quite recommend it, but it wouldn’t hurt for the curious to give it a go.

Rating: ★★½☆

-Chris Luedtke

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