Nana – Episode 2

God damnit Nana.

That’s pretty much the plot of Nana’s second episode. We’re in flashback territory now, as we learn about the end of Nana’s high school life and the beginning of her time at art school. She falls in love, is rejected, falls in love, is ignored, falls in love, is forgotten, and finally falls in love with someone who’s actually interested in her. Unfortunately, her eventual “boyfriend’s” interest is of a pretty limited and predatory type – the man she falls for is married, and he is only willing to meet with her for sex a few times a month. Nana is being used, but as a naive and love-struck high school student, she doesn’t have much recourse.


The relationship hanging in the background of this episode is a heavy event, but in moment-to-moment terms, this episode is actually very light and endearing. It turns out the bright-eyed enthusiasm that Nana previously applied to city living was always a part of her personality, but without a man in her life, her energy turns to boy-craze. Nana is ridiculously hungry for love, prone to falling for basically anyone at first sight, and more than a little ignorant of what actually constitutes a relationship.

The show isn’t ignorant alongside her; this is a show about young adults, after all. Instead of actually validating Nana’s romantic fantasies, the framing here constantly cuts her down to size. We’ve all met someone like Nana; claiming they’re the ultimate romantic, they come across more like someone who just doesn’t know what to do with themselves when they’re single. The pain of Nana’s manipulative relationship is real, but the show never implies that her feelings are romantically profound outside of the legitimate hurt they’ve caused her.


We’re more observers of Nana’s troubles, resting much closer to the perspective of her friend Junko. Junko is a very necessary presence here; she’s the straight man cutting down Nana’s fantasies, the one who both centers the viewer perspective back in reality and helps punchlines land. She knows what kind of person Nana is, and she’s just doing her best to help a friend while maybe getting a couple quips in edgewise.

Nana’s excellent dialogue and humor continues to elevate basically every scene. Characters are treated with an unvarnished perspective that helps them come across as far more textured and human than you often get in anime. In the early scene depicting Nana’s breakup, her first thoughts aren’t “but our love was so pure,” they’re “alright, can I actually manage the logistics of a long-distance relationship.” Near the end, Nana’s conversation with male friend Shoji works on a variety of levels. She’s trying to get over her heartbreak, but isn’t interested in dating Shoji (she sees him as a “valuable male friend”) – but he’s definitely interested in her. And so her declaration that she must find a new love to get over heartbreak is greeted with enthusiasm by Shoji for less than chivalrous reasons, while also reinforcing Nana’s own immaturity.


But it’s Junko and Nana who get most of the best material here. Their conversations have a blunt realism and rapid pacing that making for consistently funny repartee. Take one of their first conversations after Nana’s breakup, which essentially proceeds like: “I’m going!” “Wait, to Tokyo?” “No, to the beauty salon. I don’t want to look like a dumb high schooler anymore!” “But we’re graduating today anyway.” “Oh no, we’re late for the graduation!” Nothing truly groundbreaking there, but the beats move quickly and build off each other with a strong comic rhythm. Nana’s visual storytelling is never more than serviceable, but its script reads like a snappy play.

The comedy regularly helps make Nana come across as more endearing than aggravating (“in any case, keep away from love at first sight” followed by Nana immediately crossing eyes with a new beau). But it doesn’t really have to work that hard – there’s a clear, relatable humanity to these characters already. Junko’s advice to Nana is sound and necessary – “you see men as targets, so you don’t have any male friends. You should try seeing them as human beings.” Nana’s responses to insecurity are questionable but understandable – “I should try to avoid saying something stupid. Wait, how about I just get drunk so I don’t feel nervous at all.” And in the end, Junko’s final decision on how to help her friend feels like the only reasonable conclusion: “this girl clearly isn’t ready for a relationship, but she’s also the kind of person who can’t be happy outside of one, so I might as well try to set her up with someone who won’t take advantage of her.”


In short, Nana continues to find great humor in extremely human behavior. The dialogue is sharp and characters relatably drawn. The chemistry evolves naturally out of the differences between the cast, and the situations are funny without ever veering into the absurd. So far, Nana is a reliably excellent character drama, its writing placing it high above typical anime fare.

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2 thoughts on “Nana – Episode 2

  1. This is one of my favorite shows/manga of all time, so I’m super excited to see you watch more of this. I read the manga first and only recently watched the entire anime on Netflix, but it’s a very faithful and very well done adaptation of the manga. It actually has a lot more emotional impact in anime form, in no small part thanks to the exceptional performance by the dub cast, which I wholly recommend you watch the show with at some point. Hachi/Nana K’s VA in particular nails it, which especially impressed me because that character requires some serious acting range.

    I think you’ll really like it too as you get further along – you’ve always struck me as someone whose favorite works focus on character development and drama, and NANA is phenomenal at both. Even just two episodes in, you seem to be picking up on how great the series is at making its characters well-rounded and human, and its drama complex and compelling. At times it often reminds me more of an HBO drama than typical anime, with adult characters talking frankly about careers, sex, etc. I’ve seen very few other anime/manga series quite like it.

    This quote really stood out to me:

    “The relationship hanging in the background of this episode is a heavy event, but in moment-to-moment terms, this episode is actually very light and endearing.”

    It really captures the tone of the whole series. There are a great many heavy moments to come – I was practically in tears after every episode after a certain point – but it never loses its sense of humor and optimism. Anime comedy can be extremely hit-and-miss, but NANA surprised me with how consistently funny it is, even when it’s ripping your heart to shreds.

    If I had the money I would donate enough to fund write-ups for the entire rest of the show, but sadly I’m broke. Still, I’m looking forward to seeing your thoughts on future episodes.

  2. Anime comedy can be extremely hit-and-miss, but NANA surprised me with how consistently funny it is, even when it’s ripping your heart to shreds.

    Yea, that’s the one thing that struck me the most, how its sense of humor serves not to undercut the dramatic tension and seriousness of a given situation, but actually complement them in a way that adds authenticity to the whole proceeding and prevent the show from ever veering into cheap melodrama territory.

    Nana’s great stuff, a prime ‘good people make bad, yet understandable and undeniably humane, mistakes’ type of show. The amount of Real Talk and er, general realness, is quite sobering, too.

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