“Remember when we first met?”

Nana-01NANA (ナナ) is a 2005 Japanese film directed by Kentaro Otani. The film is a live-action adaptation of the shoujo manga of the same name by Ai Yazawa. Shoujo manga, by the way, is manga marketed to females, but, the movie will appeal to anyone. NANA concerns rebellious rocker Nana Osaki (Mika Nakashima) who is moving to Tokyo to become a rock star.Nana-03 She meets, by chance, traditionally obedient Nana Komatsu (Aoi Miyazaki) who is moving to Tokyo to be with her boyfriend. They bond because they are the same age, and share the same name. They even end up, by chance, renting an apartment together. Rocker Nana wants to make it big with her new band Black Stones to prove herself to her ex-boyfriend, Ren (Ryuhei Matsuda), who left her to join a successful rock band, Trapnest. Meanwhile, obedient Nana, whom rocker Nana dubs Hachi, struggles to make it on her own after finding that her boyfriend is cheating on her with a co-worker. This movie is about friendship, love, and rock ‘n’ roll. NANA is my favorite Japanese drama, and, one of the best live-action manga adaptations ever, second only to Shusuke Kaneko‘s brilliant films, Death Note (2006) and Death Note: The Last Name (2008). NANA, however, is still a near perfect film. But, its sequel, NANA 2 (2006), not so much.

Nana-04NANA focuses on two fictional bands, Black Stones and Trapnest. Black Stones is the band that rocker Nana forms in Tokyo. Mika Nakashima, who plays rocker Nana, is a real-life Japanese pop star. But, in NANA, she plays a rock star, and, as such, recorded a handful of rock songs for the soundtrack, plus a handful more for the sequel. The main theme from the first film, “Glamorous Sky”, composed by L’Arc-en-Ciel singer Hyde (with lyrics by manga writer Ai Yazawa), was released as a single and became Mika Nakashima‘s first number one hit on the Oricon charts. If you watch NANA, you won’t, soon, forget “Glamorous Sky”. So, watch this short video clip (not from the movie) of Mika Nakashima performing the song here:

Nana-08BNakashima, in NANA, is very thin. Like, unhealthy thin. But, as such, she looks a lot like the actual manga version of her character. And, her gaunt appearance fits rocker Nana’s bitter outlook. She’s broken, but, wants to be put back together. Now, Aoi Miyazaki, on the other hand, is average size (for a Japanese girl), and perfectly cute and adorable as Hachi. The juxtaposition of these two seemingly opposites who become best friends is the core of what makes this movie so special.

Nana-07Trapnest is the mega-successful band that rocker Nana’s ex-boyfriend, Ren, plays guitar for. Trapnest is fronted by Reira who is played by Yuna Ito, another real-life Japanese pop star. But, Yuna Ito is actually American, born in Los Angeles and raised in Hawaii. She sings mostly in Japanese, but, in NANA, her only dialogue is delivered in English, with Japanese subtitles, and everyone around her understands her even though no one else speaks English! Now, although Trapnest is supposed to be a rock band, they’re really more of a pop band. However, “Endless Story”, one of the songs performed by the band in NANA, is still a pretty amazing, heartfelt ballad especially when heard in the context of the film. Plus, it helped launch Yuna Ito‘s career in Japan, so, watch her perform a nearly perfect rendition of “Endless Story” live here:

Nana-09Ryuhei Matsuda is cool as rocker Nana’s ex-boyfriend Ren Honjo, in a Japanese Sid Vicious kind of way, and, the seemingly undying love between Ren and rocker Nana is heartfelt and realistic, given the characters they are. And, Kenichi Matsuyama, who played L in the Death Note movies is awesome in his small role as Shin, the bass player who replaces Ren in rocker Nana’s band. Sadly, Ryuhei Matsuda, Kenichi Matsuyama and Aoi Miyazaki did not reprise their roles in NANA 2, which is but one of many reasons why that movie didn’t move me as much as NANA did.

NANA, as I’ve said, is a nearly perfect film, from the engaging story to the heartfelt performances to the amazing music to, even, the film’s, sometimes, heartbreaking score courtesy of Ueda Tadashi. The “Nana Themes (1-3)” and “Let It End?” portray rocker Nana’s heartbroken sadness so amazingly well that the music just kills me every time I listen. Anyway, in the end, I wanted to know what happened next for these very likable characters, and, I found out in NANA 2, but, sadly, I didn’t really care. It’s not really a bad movie, but, I’m better off imagining on my own what happened next.

Nana-10In NANA 2, Mika Nakashima‘s main Black Stones theme, “Hitoiro”, was written this time by GLAY‘s Takuro (with lyrics, again, courtesy of manga writer Ai Yazawa). It’s a good song, but, not as instantly memorable as “Glamorous Sky” was. A better “ALTAnative” version is included on Mika Nakashima‘s NANA 1 & 2 tie-in album The End (2006). She also includes her pretty cool version of Sid Vicious‘ version of Frank Sinatra‘s “My Way” on that album. But, Yuna Ito‘s main Trapnest theme, “Truth”, another pop song, is, almost, as good as “Endless Story”.

But, back to NANA


I have to share my favorite part of this movie – the end! OK, Hachi’s favorite band is Trapnest, much to rocker Nana’s dismay, and Hachi has a BIG crush on Takumi (Tetsuji Tamayama), Trapnest‘s bass player, but, she doesn’t know that rocker Nana used to date Ren, Trapnest‘s guitarist and Black Stones‘ former bass player. In the end, rocker Nana tells Hachi the truth after reluctantly agreeing to see Trapnest in concert with her. Eventually, rocker Nana reconciles, at last, with Ren after the show, and, for that, she owes Hachi. But, all Hachi wants in return is Takumi’s autograph, which rocker Nana says will be easy. A few weeks(?) later, Hachi returns home after work, walking up the stairs to the apartment she shares with rocker Nana, who is hanging out, inside, with her band and Ren. She hears Hachi outside. “You’re on,” Ren says to someone off camera. In the hallway, Hachi fumbles for her keys as the door opens, revealing Takumi standing there. “Welcome home, Nana,” he smiles. Nana stares back at him, stunned, and the look in her eyes is priceless. Then, a tear falls down her cheek, and she drops her purse, placing her hand over her mouth, staring at Takumi in awe. “I made her cry,” Takumi tells rocker Nana, who chuckles. Takumi picks up Hachi’s purse and lets her in, and Hachi and rocker Nana embrace because Hachi knows Nana did it for her. It’s an amazingly sweet ending!

Watch the NANA trailer without audio(!) here:

Or, if you want to watch it with audio, go here.

4 responses to ““Remember when we first met?”

  1. Pingback: NANA Starring Mika Nakashima | My Heart Explodes·

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  3. Pingback: NANA Starring Mika Nakashima « My Heart Explodes·

  4. Pingback: NANA « Girls, Guns & Zombies!·

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