I was actually going to sit down and watch some more Spice and Wolf, but for one reason or another, my mouse went and clicked on this instead. So what the hell, here’s the sequel to NANA and what will probably be my last dose of shoujo slice-of-life for a while.
As predicted, NANA 2 focuses more on Nana Komatsu, though it does also explore Nana Osaki’s feelings and relationship with her roommate. (Honestly, this would make a great shoujo-ai series; the relationship between the girls is so much richer than any of their relationships with their various boyfriends.) At first, it was surprisingly easy to identify with Komatsu — all of her friends seemed to have goals and aspirations, seemed to be going somewhere in life. With no real aspirations of her own, she felt unwanted and unneeded in the grand scheme of things and incredibly lonely. Naturally, this leads to bad things. Unfortunately, things get stereotypically dramatic after that. Maybe it’s just my lack of tolerance for these soap opera storylines, but all my sympathy seemed to evaporate the minute we find out she’s pregnant. Seriously, can we think of other, more interesting problems than getting knocked up at age twenty? Even if I were to accept that sadly, teen/early/unwanted pregnancies are just a fact of life, the involvement with a member of a popular band made it all the more contrived and cheap. We get these kind of storylines too often, and I really don’t care anymore.
Additionally, the bits of Nana Osaki’s life we do see fall steadily into the same trap. I still feel as if the “conclusion” to the first movie was rushed, and any kind of real development or resolution is still missing from this second movie. I wasn’t impressed by the mysterious and conveniently timed scandal. I wasn’t impressed by her band’s quiet rise to power. Everything just seemed like a cheapened version of the first movie, and I just wasn’t interested anymore.
And I disliked this ending more than I disliked the ending to the first movie, and that’s enhanced even more by the fact that I know there’s no sequel this time. Komatsu’s acceptance of her life can be taken in multiple ways. Perhaps she should be heralded as being responsible in accepting the consequences of her actions and mistakes. Perhaps she should be berated for making those mistakes in the first place and not taking others’ advice while she still could. Perhaps the most annoying thing of all is the lack of clarity in what this movie is trying to say. What is the message here? Teen/unwanted pregnancy is a contentious issue. You can’t really present it and not have a message to go with it, and given that much of NANA‘s audience is of the same age, I would image that there’s almost a moral obligation to present some kind of “good” message, or at least give people something to think about, something to debate about.
I suppose to some extent, lack of a real message or point is also a fallacy of slice-of-life, but I felt as if the first NANA had a point, so why did this have to fail so hard?
CHARACTER & ACTING – We had a few role shifts in this sequel, most notably Yui Ichikawa replacing Aoi Miyazaki as Nana Komatsu, and I have a hard time deciding whether it was the script’s fault or the actress’s fault that Komatsu’s character wasn’t nearly as convincing as she was in the first film. Komatsu’s perky, cheerful, bubbly side was very subdued in this movie, appearing much less frequently. When she does appear, it seems to be an obvious front. This might actually be a good thing, considering Komatsu’s inner loneliness and lack of confidence throughout the entire movie, but Ichikawa’s portrayal of her sad side isn’t very convincing either. It is a stereotypical portrayal, and there didn’t seem to be as much genuine feeling or passion behind it. Komatsu’s scene with Nobu on the docks stands out in particular for me because I wasn’t moved at all, and I felt that I was supposed to be.
Mika Nakashima did reprise her role as Nana Osaki, but I found the encore rather disappointing. I think it was partially because she was no longer the focus of the story, but her character seemed to lose a lot of depth, even as she explored her relationship with Nana Komatsu. It was touching to see her struggle to cope with her friend’s downward spiral, but I didn’t necessarily find her coping methods believable based on what I had previously gathered about her character. Osaki is very indepedent, so I found it strange that she would call people to meet her in the middle of the night so she would have someone to talk and vent to. Maybe I was supposed to take it as a development to her once-stony and isolated character, but it seemed too big a jump. Nevertheless, Osaki’s conflict with Komatsu is probably the most interesting part of this entire movie.
MUSIC – Nakashima’s new single for the movie, “Hitoiro” is quite excellent, though I’m still more partial to “glamorous sky.” Yuna Ito’s “Truth” was about up to par with her previous “Endless Story,” though the video inserted into the movie felt more obligitory than meaningful or necessary. Nakashima’s performance of “Hitoiro” was still a powerful and meaningful one, and the lyrics were once again written by Yazawa Ai (composed by Takuro of GLAY this time though). It was probably the only perk to an otherwise disappointing ending.
There seemed to be peculiar absence of any background music throughout the entire rest of the movie though. There were a ridiculous number of awkward silences, particularly over the phone. I would be pissed as hell if I consistently had phone calls in which the other person was apparently mute. Some of it was understandable, but often it was just overdramatic in an unnecessary way. Sometimes it felt like there was more monologue than dialogue, and that’s not really a good thing. Monologue in slice-of-life, when used too much, comes off as a cheap way to highlight what the story’s themes are. Except NANA 2‘s themes were confusing anyway, so the monologue didn’t even benefit that.
OVERALL – I don’t think I was really expecting much from NANA 2, but I don’t think I was expecting it to be that disappointing either. I actually almost stopped watching it halfway through. As I still haven’t read the manga (don’t think I ever will, really), I can’t say whether this failure of a storyline was entirely the movie’s fault or if some of it was rooted in the source material, but the bottom line is still that this was a pretty blah movie. Other than Nana Osaki and Nana Komatsu’s rocky relationship throughout this movie (complete with in-your-face, corny symbolism), there really isn’t much to see here. Just go find the music and you’ll have gotten all there is to get from NANA 2.