From Manga to Music: The Journey of NANA

file - 15.01.2011 00:01

After eleven years in circulation, JaME reviews the history of the celebrated music-based manga NANA.

Much like the “Harry Potter” craze started by J.K. Rowling, it is doubtful that when Ai Yazawa debuted her manga “NANA” to audiences in Japan, that she had any idea of the worldwide attention her art would soon capture.

With the first book hitting nationwide shelves in 2000, “NANA” quickly became a household name not only in Japan but with audiences familiar with manga across the world. With the series up to 21 volumes now available in five languages and still ongoing, it’s time to celebrate the success of “NANA” as it enters its eleventh year.

NANA: The Manga


The storyline of “NANA” revolves around the lives of two girls, both named Nana, who meet coincidentally on a train to Tokyo. The two girls represent both the dark and light sides of life, coming from completely different backgrounds.

Nana Osaki came from a broken home, brought up by her grandmother. She had been dating a boy named Ren Honjo in high school and was deeply rooted in the music scene in her home town. The couple was in the rock band BLACK STONES, also known as BLAST, with Nana on lead vocals and Ren on bass. Despite the band’s hometown popularity, Ren left the band and headed to Tokyo, joining the upcoming group, TRAPNEST. Staying behind, Nana continued on her own until she was 20, when she decided to go to Tokyo to further her musical career, restarting the band BLACK STONES with the help of some old friends.

Nana Komatsu is the friendly small town girl. Growing up, she was surrounded by friends and a warm family, but still constantly depended on other people. She easily fell in love and went through a series of boyfriends at a young age. In her late teens, her friends and current boyfriend went to college in Tokyo, leaving Nana alone with her family back home. Determined to start her own life, Nana began working and saved money, deciding she would rather be in Tokyo with her boyfriend. At the age of 20, she left one snowy night to begin her journey.

Sitting beside each other on the train to Tokyo, the two girls are surprised to not only discover they share the same age, but the same first name. Going their own separate ways once the train reaches its destination, the two next run into each other in apartment 707 ("nana" means 7 in Japanese), where they agreed to become roommates.

Throughout the rest of the tale, the girls experience the ups and downs of friendship. From relationship happiness to heart break, musical fame and crushed dreams; the two seemed destined by fate to grow together in this modern day storyline that can be related to from all walks of life.

The manga of “NANA” was written and illustrated by author Ai Yazawa. It first started in the shoujo manga magazine, Cookie, published by Shueisha, where it was run by chapter from 2000 until June 2009. The first volume of the series was released by Shueisha on May 15, 2000, with the remaining 20 volumes released in two or three volume increments yearly.

“NANA” first made its overseas debut in 2005 when the manga was licensed by North American company Viz Media. It followed the Japanese pattern of distribution, first being released in the company’s magazine, Shojo Beat. They soon after began releasing the volumes, with the first published in English on December 6th of the same year. It later found its way to Europe, starting with Germany under Egmont Manga & Anime.
In 2008, after obtaining permission to release Viz Media manga titles, Australian company Madman Entertainment began to release “NANA”, followed by Editions Delcourt in France and in Italy under Panini Comics.

Over the years, the popularity of the series has spoken for itself. In 2002, “NANA” won the Shogakukan Publishing award for shojo (girl) manga. By 2005, the series sold over 2,300,000 copies per volume. With volume 15 reaching 34,500,000 copies worldwide, "NANA" became the fourth best selling shoujo manga in the world. In 2007, the Young Adult Library Services Association listed the first two volumes of “NANA” on their yearly list of great graphic novels for teens. Even today, it can be purchased in bookstores daily around the globe.

NANA: From Paper to the Big Screen


With five years of popularity under its belt, “NANA” was next formatted for the big screen and debuted in theatres across Japan on September 3rd, 2005. Directed by Kentaro Otani, the movie kept true to the manga’s musical roots, having a rich soundtrack and “concert” footage. Some of the main cast even included musicians, such as Mika Nakashima who was Nana Osaki, and Yuna Ito who played the role of Reira Serizawa.

The movie did incredibly well in Japanese theaters, selling over 300 million seats and raking in over four billion yen and stayed in the top-ten film ranking for weeks. It also subsequently won several awards.

Over the next two months, the film was seen in Hong Kong at the Hong Kong Asian Film Festival and in Taiwan. By early 2006, it was shown in Norway at Oslo International Film Festival, in France at Lyon Asiexpo Film Festival and in theatres in South Korea.

By March of 2006, the movie was released on DVD and that summer it was announced that the sequel, “NANA 2”, would be in theatres by winter. However, despite its thorough advertisement, the sequel unfortunately did not receive the same response as the first movie and only reached #4 on movie charts. A year later, the movie was released in theatres both in Hong Kong and Thailand.

Ironically, the sequel to “NANA” aired before the original film in the United States, with “NANA 2” being shown at IFC Cinema in New York City on December 8th, 2006. Both leading actresses presented the debut to a limited audience. The original film would not hit select United States theatres until April 2008.

Between the two films, the storyline covers up to volume 5 of the manga and episode 19 of the anime.

The next movement of NANA was transition into an anime series, which was directed by Morio Asaka and animated by Madhouse Studios. The first season aired in Japan on April 5, 2006 and wrapped up March 28, 2007. The series covered material through the first twelve volumes of the manga, for a total of 47 thirty minute episodes. Later that year, the anime was licensed by Viz Media within North America and aired on the Funimation channel. Since that time, the series has also been aired on television in Italy, Portugal and Spain.

When it was time for the anime to be released on DVD, Japan held a special 77 day sale for the first release on July 7, 2006; during that period the DVD sold the tax-inclusive price of 707 yen. Japan released the 47 episodes on a total of 17 DVDs with the final in November 2007. With subtitled versions released on Hulu and dubbed versions on Itunes, it was at last released in North America in two DVD box sets in fall 2009.

While there has been discussions to continue with a second season, it has been put on hold since its hiatus five years ago.

Along with the other avenues “NANA” explored, the manga series also found its way into the video gaming world. With the first self-titled game released on the Playstation 2 in 2005, the series spanned three systems in all, including “NANA Daimaou guide us all!” on Playstation Portable a year later, and on Nintendo DS, “NANA Live Staff big recruiting!” in 2007.

The Music of NANA


Much like the series itself, music designed for the live-action and anime versions of “NANA” created even more attention to the series, with soundtracks, a tribute album, and promotional session units.

While many people only experience the music scene through the eyes of a fan, “NANA” allowed readers to join the lives of rock stars and experience what the bands did: concerts from the stage perspective, backstage activities, recording, receiving fan gifts and gratitude, working with management. When the experience became live-action and animated, it was even more profound. What’s more, fans were able to see the music come to life through several BLACK STONES and TRAPNEST concerts.

After the debut of the first movie, both Mika Nakashima and Yuna Ito saw changes in their careers; Ito broke into the Japanese entertainment scene and Nakashima found herself at the height of her career.

During the movie, Nakashima performed the theme song Glamorous Sky during a BLACK STONES event. The lyrics for the song had been written by Yazawa and music composed by J-rock band L’arc~En~Ciel’s Hyde. The song was later released as a single under the name NANA starring MIKA NAKASHIMA. In two years, the single sold over 860,000 copies, and became her only release to reach #1 on the Oricon ranking charts. Along with its appearance in “NANA”, the song also was released on three music related video games.

For the “NANA” sequel, Nakashima again sang the movie's theme song Hitoiro, with the composition by GLAY’s Takuro and lyrics again written by Yazawa. In 2006 after the release of the second movie, Nakashima released the studio album The End under the name NANA starring MIKA NAKASHIMA. The album featured all of the songs written for “NANA” and on cover, Nakashima dressed as Nana Osaki.

Yuna Ito also made special “NANA” releases, under the name Reira starring Yuna Ito. Her first single, Endless Story, was the TRAPNEST song used within the first film and made it to #2 on the Oricon ranking charts. During the reprise of her role in “NANA 2”, Ito released the single Truth, which was the film’s ending theme.

With the release of the anime came even more music for “NANA”. For Nana Osaki and BLACK STONES , their music was composed and performed in the anime by Anna Tsuchiya. Her song rose, along with Lucy, were the series’ first and third theme songs respectively. Tsuchiya also released three ending themes for the series, including a reprise of rose, Kuroi namida, and Stand by Me. During episode 4 of the series, BLACK STONES also sang Tsuchiya’s Zero.

Performing under the name ANNA TSUCHIYA inspi’ NANA ~Black Stones~, Tsuchiya subsequently released three singles: rose, Black Tears and Lucy.

OLIVIA, who was the singing voice for Reira Serizawa in the series also helped with much of the anime’s music, including the second theme song, Wish and the three ending themes, A Little Pain, Starless Night and Winter Sleep. During the series, TRAPNEST performed in episode 18 and episode 32, with the songs Recorded Butterflies and Shadow of Love. Like Tsuchiya, OLIVIA recorded two singles under the name OLIVIA inspi’ REIRA (TRAPNEST): A Little Pain and Wish/Starless Night.

On February 28, 2007, both OLIVIA and Tsuchiya released self-titled ten-track albums under their “NANA” session names. The albums featured all of the music they wrote for the anime as well as several new tracks inspired by “NANA”. In March, the duo released the CD/DVD album NANA BEST, which included their hits from “NANA” as well as a twelve clip DVD featuring the opening and ending sequences, and concert footage from the anime and movie.

“NANA” fans in Tokyo were also treated to a concert entitled NANA SPECIAL STREET LIVE, performed at Shinjuku Station Square on June 25th, 2006. For fans that were unable to attend, the footage was recorded and released on DVD by OLIVIA.On March 30th, 2007, OLIVIA and Tsuchiya held the NANA PREMIUM LIVE at Shibuya-AX, with fans chosen by lottery to attend. That summer, OLIVIA also held a solo concert in France, performing many of the "NANA" songs.

Along with the music released from the movie, the anime also released two official soundtracks with all of the background music. The first, NANA 707 was released July 7, 2006 and along with its 44 tracks, contained 7 postcards and a 49 page photobook. Five months later the second soundtrack NANA 7 to 8 debuted, also coming with the same bonus materials.

The Inspiration of NANA


As “NANA” grew ever popular, the enjoyment the series did not rest on the shoulders of music fans alone. Before long, the love for “NANA” broke into the music scene itself, causing a flurry of inspiration for many artists across the globe. Soon after, a tribute album, Love For NANA ~Only 1~ was produced in 2005.

With the author's creation of BLACK STONES and its members heavily influenced by English band SEX PISTOLS, it seemed only fitting that Glen Matlock,bassist for the band, and Hollie Cook, the daughter of SEX PISTOLS’ drummer Paul Cook, recorded the song Sleepwalking for BLACK STONES.

Canadian singer Skye Sweetnam also participated on the album, singing Sugar Guitar for TRAPNEST.

Many Japanese artists also joined the "NANA" tribute. For BLACK STONES, Tommy heavenly 6 wrote GIMME ALL OF YOUR LOVE!! in English, while Twinkle was written by Kimura Kaela. Rock band Abingdon Boys School joined in with Stay away while pop act Do As Infinity delivered the song I miss you? The BLACK STONES tribute was wrapped up with songs Reimei jidai and BLACK CROW by Japaharinet and SEX MACHINEGUNS respectively.

TRAPNEST was not forgotten on the tribute album, with pop idol Otsuka Ai singing her English song, Cherish, and Hotei Tomoyasu wrote Bambino. Rock acts TETSU69 and ZONE added the songs Reverse and Two Hearts to the album.

Additionally, Takamizawa Toshihiko from The Alfee wrote a song about the relationships in “NANA”, entitled BEAT 7 – The Theme of LOVE for NANA.

The Future of NANA


Although the storyline of “NANA” has not run its course, it was put on hold in 2009 when writer Yazawa fell ill, having to cancel her appearance at Japan Expo and put all future “NANA” installments on hold. After Cookie’s announcement of the hiatus, the magazine did not release the next scheduled installment, and have stated it will not be in later issues until further notice.

It was reported that Yazawa would need several months of steady bed rest, and checked into a hospital in Japan during the year. This was not the series' first hiatus; Yazawa had previously put the series on hold when she underwent an operation in June of 2007 and was recovering until November of that year. Despite returning home in April 2010, Yazawa told Josei jishin magazine that she had “not gripped a pen once since returning home” and she was unsure when, or even if, she would return to “NANA”.

Regardless of the future of the series, “NANA” remains loved in the hearts of fans worldwide, and it surely will remain a timeless, inspirational series for musical fans and artists alike for years to come.
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