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Original Title:

Japan 2005

Drama, Comedy

Kentaro Otani

Mika Nakashima
Aoi Miyazaki
Hiroki Narimiya
Ryuhei Matsuda
Yuuta Hiraoka
Tomoki Maruyama
Ken'ichi Matsuyama

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Story: Cheerful Nana Komatsu (Aoi Miyazaki) sits next to a girl on her train ride to Tokyo, which she instantly starts to bombard with her life story. Nana wants to go to Tokyo and move in with her boyfriend Shoji (Yuuta Hiraoka). However, Shoji wants her to look for a job and a perspective in life first. It happens to be that the quiet girl with the punk-like look, who patiently listens to Nana's story, is also called Nana (Mika Nakashima), her last name being Osaki. When they finally arrive in Tokyo the two go seperate paths again.
Nana's boyfriend wants her to rent an apartment on her own. When inspecting a flat Nana runs into the punkgirl Nana Osaki again, who is interested in the same apartment. On the spot they decide to share the flat. The odd couple soon becomes inseparable, yet Osaki is pretty uncommunicative and almost never tells anything about her past.
Actually, Osaki is the lead singer of the hobbyband "Blast" and the bassist of the band Ren (Ryuhei Matsuda) was her boyfriend, until he decided to join the professional band "Trapnest" of which Komatsu happens to be a big fan. Nana still bears great sorrow and doesn't seem to be able to open up to her new friend concerning this matter. Anyway, Komatsu herself has also some problems with her boyfriend Shoji, who meanwhile seems to have fallen in love with another girl. Luckily, Nana and Nana can mutually encourage themselves and manage to overcome even the biggest crisis.

Review: "Nana" inevitably reminded me of "Kamikaze Girls". The strange girl duo shows some parallels in their contrasting attributes, yet here the relationship between the two young girls is dealt with in a more serious and naturalistic way. Director Kentaro Otani's ("Travail") movie based on a manga of Ai Yazawa is a very well executed drama, which is composed with lots of finesse and which even doesn't lack a good amount of humour, despite its credibility. "Nana" is one of those inconspicuous movies that can move you deeply, because its story seems to be taken from real life. That the movie feels so natural on screen isn't only the director's effort, but also the two actresses', who can absolutely charm the viewer in an instant.

Nana Komatsu with her extroverted, cute and girlish behaviour really seems to be right out of a manga. Her naivety and her smile, which can make every man fall for her for sure, let her character seem a little bit shallow. But with time we get to know that she too has some flaws which make her very human. She is nearly obsessed with her boyfriend Shoji, whereas their relationship never seems to be the one of a real love couple and it also isn't supposed to. It's more like that Nana projects all her desires and dreams on a shared future with Shoji, while she never pays heed to her boyfriends dreams and thinking.
Shoji's little love story with Sachiko shows us, that here we can actually see what Nana's story was missing - which is true love. When Nana finds out about Sachiko this brings out quite some emotions, of course, and the bonds of friendship with her flat-mate, who sees her through these hard times become even more tightened. At the same time it doesn't only open Nana's eyes about her future, but also reminds Osaki of her painful parting with her boyfriend Ren.

Although the movie is full of monologues of Nana Komatsu, which introduce us to what's going on in her head, her life is absolutely not the focus of the movie, but instead it's Nana Osaki's. Nana is a melancholic person and the rare moments when she is actually smiling are almost the highlights of the film. Nonetheless, under her grouchy surface there is an incredible amiability, which can make us sympathize and suffer with her. With her dark Make-Up, her punk clothes and various adornments she looks somewhat unyielding and tough, but with time we find out that she has a big heart, yet is very seclusive. Her new flat-mate Komatsu is the incarnation of all the opposite characteristics of her, naturally, which is also the reason why they get along so well. With her help Nana is able to face her past and slowly starts to let some of her emotions shine through in a more apparent way.

The story about Osaki is told in several inserted flashbacks, which keeps the viewer interested. Sadly, the love story isn't always fully convincing, which is mostly because of actor Ryuhei Matsuda, who plays Ren just too shallow and restrained.
Additionally, it's also unfortunate that somewhere along the way we get the feeling that Komatsu is somewhat laid aside. She is demoted to being the helper in hard times, who stands by her friend's side. Yet, it is made up for this in a very nice scene, which shows us that Komatsu didn't only help Osaki, but indirectly also helped herself. The film in general is full of emotions, which always hit the right notes and therefore can create very intense moments.
The two female main protagonists give a great performance and moreover singer Mika Nakashima can also show off with her singing talent.
The music is another thing that positively surprised me, because fortunately Japanese punkrock is a little bit different than the stuff that we call punk and so I could get more out of the music than I expected. Nevertheless, no need to worry, even though music plays an important role in the movie, "Nana" is in no way a music film and so even music grouches can risk watching this drama.

"Nana" (which is Japanese for "seven") offers a credible story, even if every now and then fate also has its hand in the doings. A lot of small details like the two girls' room number "707" (meaning Nana and Nana!) make this movie very special. The extraordinary friendship of the two girls and the story they have to tell is interesting and so the viewer doesn't even lose his patience in the more quite moments.
Two impressive actresses and a cheerful, yet serious atmosphere make this drama a welcome change to your standard tearjerker.

(Author: Manfred Selzer)
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