Sunday, January 24, 2010

More Nana Blogging: Nakashima Mika's Drastic Change

Yazawa Ai's comic series Nana spawned two film adaptations. The first was one of 2005's major hits; the sequel, from the following year, not so much. Singer Nakashima Mika proved an inspired choice to play Osaki Nana, but she had to make a physical change from her familiar romantic image to play the hard-edged rocker. Apparently, one of her trademarks is her long, lush hair, most of which had to go. This caused a row in the press. What would her fans think? Would they react negatively and abandon the balladeer?

Here's the result:

Move over Watchmen: Nakashima looks as close to the comic version as you're likely to find in a human being. Her acting is adequate in the part, but the film's conception of Nana isn't as edgy as the comic's. Nakashima plays Nana in a low-key, understated style that conveys her cool in the dialogue-heavy dramatic scenes, but not her underlying emotional instability and anger. But what she lacks in fire, she more than makes up for with her natural performing charisma, and her Nana explodes with energy during the musical sequences, as Nakashima skillfully displays her as someone who almost literally lives to sing on stage, in front of adoring fans. Of course, she hasn't acted since Nana 2's less than stellar box office, and that was four years ago.

I recently bought Nana volumes 18, 19 and 20, so I've immersed myself in Nana and Hachi's tragically romantic Tokyo milieu once again. Inspired, I decided to catch up with Nakashima Mika's current look. Behold:

Wow! It's hard to believe that's the same woman. For the most faithful adaptation of the Nana comic and one that's truer to Yazawa's angular, fashion-inspired drawing style, I recommend the anime series. But to see Nakashima Mika embody the character in live action while adorned in actual Vivienne Westwood clothing, you should check out the first movie. It's actually quite enjoyable and features a vivacious performance by Miyazaki Aoi as Komatsu "Hachi" Nana (her nickname is a dual joke-- it's a dog's name and also the Japanese word for the number 8, as opposed to nana, which means 7) and a surprisingly sympathetic turn by Hiroaka Yuta in the thankless role of Hachi's failed boyfriend Shoji.

Both Nana movies are available from Viz Media, the company releasing the wonderful English-language version of the manga. Plus the anime. The Japanese DVD release is difficult to find in my hometown here and, when available, seems to lack English subtitles. So I was happy to get this. On a semi-related note (if you enjoy Japanese cinema), Viz also released the wonderful Linda Linda Linda, but only in a full screen version. I really wish they'd put out a letterboxed edition of this movie.

While I thank you for making these movies available in North America, Linda Linda Linda deserves a more artful releases, Viz. It's actually the more artistic of the two films and the one I watch more often. Other than that small caveat, it's now clear to me Viz Media is one of my favorite comic publishers, right up there with Dark Horse and Fantagraphics.

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