One of the saddest things about NANA is that its creator Ai Yazawa (who has been fighting against an unspecified illness since 2009) hasn’t been able to finish it. NANA is a story of dreams and ambition, and the characters have struggled too hard and for too long to be left hanging. I hope Yazawa rediscovers her desire to finish it.
It’s been a while since I’ve watched so much anime. This spring season is quite remarkable in that not only is there an unprecedented number of new series, but also because a lot of them are actually quite good. And I’m not a fan of harem, loli or whatever other genre is “hip” right now.
My top 8 spring anime
Undeniably this is a terrible series. Why I’m watching it, let alone blogging it is a mystery fit for Columbo. So yeah, big guns, big monsters, big breasts and dismembered corpses. That’s Tokko; it’s so damn badly animated too. I guess those are the reasons why I’m watching it. Approach with caution!
Utterly fan pandering shounen adventure escapades, yet I’m bitterly enjoying it because despite the lead character Zed being the worst “hero” ever- the rest of the cast and the generally bright, expansive setting envelope me in a finely built universe, ripe for escapism. Given the sheer number of good shows airing this season, I’m not sure how long I’ll stick with Kiba but the fact I’m still around by episode 5 suggests there must be something I like enough to keep watching.
6. Good Witch of the West
Yet more frilly medieval melodrama featuring only pretty characters with mad hair styles; the Good Witch of the West has an interesting fantastical take on the days when teaching and explaining science was banned, but I’m not a fan of the way every character is so damn cute and as soft as a pillow. Certainly, the fairy tale premise suggests potential, though I may wait for a few more weeks and watch this in batches.
The first GONZO series since Basilisk that isn’t utterly mediocre tripe, Witchblade; starring an impossibly large cheated female avenger akin to Devilman\lady is a surprisingly heart-rending tale of a woman fighting (with strange supernatural powers) to be reunited with her lost daughter. The action and animation have so far been disappointly below average, but the story retains some strength thanks to a mysterious plot and the fractured relationship between mother and child.
By rights NANA should be higher on this list but I can’t hide the fact that the characters simply don’t interest me enough. Being as it is a series by and for young ladies, it’s not terribly surprising I’m not totally into it. That said, the particularly slender and stylish character designs are wonderful and the drama is very well… dramatic; lots of passionate kisses, tearful eyes and sad goodbyes.
So like everyone already knows, Utawarerumono (worst series title ever) is based on a porn game, but rather than having tons of fan-service (so far, there has been none, thank god), the story seems to be heavily spiritual and environmentalist- a Studio Ghibli style rural fantasy in which violent forest spirits and other mysterious apparitions exist.
The fantasy and action in Jyu-Oh-Sei is deep enough to suggest an interesting story is on it’s way, though the strong homoerotic undertones are slightly detracting from what I hoped would be a completely dead pan science fiction show.
1. Black Lagoon
I watched the first episode today and I feel ashamed to have ignored Black Lagoon for so long. The action is stylish and fluid without falling into boring poses, while the characters themselves are interesting and mysterious enough to forecast some compelling drama ahead. Black Lagoon is vaguely reminiscent of Gungrave in that it stars compelling adult characters capable of pulling off some cool kick-ass moves. Very impressed.
Stuck in backlog hell
The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya
The most hyped series since Mai-Otome, I plan on watching Haruhi sooner or later. I admit the extremely loud fan-base has put me off it for now and at the best of times I try to avoid anime based around Japanese school girls. Until the unabated praise slows itself down, I’ll be content to ignore Haruhi.
Apparently Higurashi is disturbing horror, but again, it looks so typically cute and “otaku” that I’m having trouble motivating myself to sit down and watch the damn thing. I had the same problem with Jigoku Shoujo; for so called horror, Enma Ai looked like such a calculated pin-up for fan culture that I eventually just lost interest.
Nana K is living an easy life as a student until her three closest friends decide that they are going to go to study art in Tokyo. It would be harsh to say Nana is untalented, but she isn’t good enough for university yet; and so she faces a future without her friends, on her own again.
This was a really great episode, perhaps too dramatic in places, but ultimately that’s what we expect from NANA.
It begins with Nana K back to her old self; completely reliant on other people, acting like a spoilt kid. It ends with her having made some important realizations about herself, notably her feelings for Shoji but also that she has so far gone through life almost exclusively depending on others. When her friends turn around and talk about leaving for Tokyo, it’s obvious she has no ambition of her own and despite desperately trying to follow them, Nana is forced to confront this fact.
It seems this was the conclusion to the Nana K backstory and it ended well, at an imporant turning point for her life.
An episode I enjoyed much more than the first, NANA episode 2 is a much needed dramatic and character-driven piece. I remarked after the first episode that Nana K is a ditz, implying that basically she is a superficial person with her head in clouds, in love with the idea of being in love.
With episode two, we begin to get under her skin; we see that her typically naive and innocent personality is slowly wearing her down, making her more and more self conscious, afraid of both being alone and getting hurt. Through a string of relationships, everyone of which she makes the earth-shattering claim of love, she evidently puts in so much effort and still- they still end with not an explosion of passion, rather a wet whimper. To say she is emotionally fragile is an understatement, in one particularly painful scene, a fun night out drinking with some new friends transforms into an emotional break down.
This was an important episode for Nana K and I’m pleased to say it is as dramatic as I had hoped NANA would be. Of course, the series is still as fun and quirky as you would expect of any slice of life show- but now we have the character drama to match too.
Setting the scene
Nana has plans to move to Tokyo and live near her boyfriend. On the train journey there, she bumps into another woman called Nana; who also happens to be 20 and is planning to live in Tokyo too. Their fashions and personalities strike such a strong contrast, like night and day; Nana 1 is a sugary sweet and innocent girl, while Nana 2 is a brooding and well, gothic woman. These pronounced differences are no doubt why the two immediately bond and form a natural friendship.
Life’s not going to be easy for Nana 1 in Tokyo though; her boyfriend shows her little sympathy- so it’s either get a job and find your own apartment or go back home. And so life in the big city begins.
Before viewing this episode, NANA was my most anticipated show of the spring season. The pre-production art struck me as an admirable attempt at originality and basically, the show looked sophisticated enough to set itself aside from the teen-angst brigade.
I tentatively enjoyed episode 1; clearly, this is a series aimed at young women and while I can appreciate the art and enjoy the super-deformed humour, there is only so much interest I can glean from what is basically a “sisters are doing it for themselves” kind of story. And that’s basically what NANA is right now, it’s about two young woman learning to rely on themselves. The atmosphere is fun, and kooky, and the melodrama is thick with earth shattering narration, though I really need to see more before I can grasp any true direction.
The artwork and animation is very reminiscent of Paradise Kiss, but it’s not as over the top and “camp”. Like-wise, the character designs are attractive and pretty; particularly the females, who all look very glamorous and caked with makeup.
NANA has started out in promising fashion, and has set the scene well for future adventures. It’s pure slice of life and gooey melodrama, and as long as it doesn’t descend into the realms of manicures and hair cuts, I’ll be watching!