NANA 2 (VIZ Pictures, NR)

NANA 2 focuses more on how a single event can affect everything around you, abandoning the youthful optimism from the original for the cold, harsh realities of growing up and supposedly getting everything you thought you always wanted.

 

 

The sequel to a hugely popular film from Japan (which itself was based on an already hugely popular manga and anime), NANA 2 continues to follow the lives of two vastly different young women with the same name who live as roommates in Tokyo. The first is the headstrong musician Nana Osaki, (played to a T by Japanese pop superstar Mika Nakashima) who’s had to grow up hard and tough, having had to take care of herself most of her life. The second is the starry-eyed innocent Nana "Hachi" Komatsu (played by newcomer Yui Ichikawa, replacing Aoi Miyazaki from the original) who’s been sheltered from many of the world’s harsh realities for as long as she can remember.

Like most sequels, many may feel that they’ve missed out on nearly half the story if they had not seen the original; NANA 2 is no exception. Picking up exactly where the first film left off, the focus this time around centers on "Hachi’s" love life. Caught in a love triangle involving her longtime idol, the womanizing and cold TRAPNEST bassist Takumi, and the sweet and sincere (if not a bit immature) Nobu, guitarist for Nana’s band, Black Stones. Shortly after "Hachi" decides between the two, her life takes a considerable turn for the worse, which is when the real drama begins. The rest of the film deals with the fallout from her decision, just as the Black Stones’ star appears to be on the rise.

For fans of the first film, there are glaring differences in this sequel. The most obvious is several cast changes, including Nobuo Kyo replacing Ryuhei Matsuda as Nana Osaki’s on-again, off-again boyfriend Ren (who also just happens to be TRAPNEST’s lead guitarist), Kanata Hongo taking the role of Shin (the Black Stones’ affable bass player) from Kenichi Matsuyama, and the aforementioned Ichikawa filling in for Miyazaki as "Hachi." Unfortunately, the only replacement who really seems to outshine his predecessor is Hongo, who gives his character the desperate shot of personality he severely lacked in the original. Kyo, on the other hand, while having the required chemistry to play off of the film’s leading lady, lacks that intangible spark Matsuda had with Nakashima that made their characters’ romance so palpable. And finally, there’s Ichikawa, who’s nearly every bit as adorable as Miyazaki in her role, but unfortunately, isn’t half the firecracker.

However, this could have something to do with the more somber tone of this film. The original seemed to focus on the youthful excitement/anxieties one has when first going out on your own and that feeling that (literally) anything is possible. NANA 2, on the other hand, focuses more on how a single event can affect everything around you, abandoning the youthful optimism from the original for the cold, harsh realities of growing up and supposedly getting everything you thought you always wanted, which hardly leaves the viewer with the same feel-good glow that made the 2005 film so appealing.

Overall, while there are a few great performances in this sequel along with several defining character moments, NANA 2 is a disappointing follow-up to a genuinely entertaining and heartfelt film. Extras include profiles of the director and cast, and the original Japanese trailers for this film, its predecessor, and Death Note. | Dean Ramos

Official site: http://www.nanathemovies.com/

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