Welcome back to Anime Pocket Reviews!
I hope you enjoyed our 52 Anime Review, but now it’s down to business once again. We have a packed APR this episode, featuring one of last season’s biggest anime, along with the conclusion to one of anime’s most successful comedies! However, the first show reviewed this side of 52AR is one worthy of an episode all to itself!
You’ll notice a new feature on these reviews, the ‘ANIME RANKING’. If you saw 52AR you’ll know of the anime chart available from now on at The Culture Cove (at the top of the page for desktops, under Main Menu for mobiles). New shows will be added to the chart as we watch them, and you can see where these shows ranked against the previous 52 anime series reviewed at the end of each review!
Nana (2006-07, S1, 47x24mins)
Drama, Romance, Music
“If Cinderella’s glass slipper fits so perfectly, I wonder why it fell off along the way? I can’t help but think that it was done on purpose to attract the prince’s affections.”
The story follows two girls of the same age, both called Nana. First is Nana Komatsu (below in the picture above), an innocent, but naïve girl with a tendency to fall for guys far too easily. She and her friends, and her current boyfriend, all grew up in a small, nothing town. Suddenly, Nana’s two best friends and boyfriend all decide to move to Tokyo to study art, leaving her stuck in their hometown until, a year later, she is able to join them. She is on the train to Tokyo when she meets the other Nana: Nana Osaki (above in picture), the apparent opposite to Komatsu. Nana is/was a punk rock singer for the band BLAST, a group that included then-boyfriend Ren. Despite having been together and performing for years, when Ren is given the chance to join rock group Trapnest, he takes it. Nana, refusing to become no more than a rockstar’s girlfriend, sticks with BLAST, leaving Ren to move to Tokyo. The move results in huge success for Ren, as Trapnest become one of Japan’s biggest bands. A year or so later, Nana is also headed to Tokyo, leaving the other members of BLAST behind with the aim of kick-starting her own music career. The two Nana’s meet on the train and become acquainted, then, a few days later, end up both looking at the same apartment in the city, and decide to share it, beginning a journey through each other’s lives together.
Basically Plot: Two girls, who share the same name and age, but little else, become roommates, and the best thing that’s happened to either one of them.
While the concept for the story may feel slightly simple, the actual story is anything but, reaching a perfect level of depth that makes you truly understand and connect with the characters. While I’ve seen shows with more characters, and deeper characters than this, few have had such natural relationships. People drift in and out of the two Nana’s lives, just as people drift in and out of our own, making it a really engrossing show. One of the many highlights of this is that Hachi – the affectionate, dog-like nickname given to Komatsu by Osaki – who is portrayed as the classic ‘cute girl’ is openly and admittedly a terrible person, who is saved by the classic ‘bad influence’ more often than not. This is the general tone for what I think is a fantastic story.
However, there are parts that will put off certain people, the first of which is the tone. Nana is a story that makes a happy-go-lucky start, with the characters moving to Tokyo and finding each other. However, from the middle point onwards, Nana almost becomes a case of ‘death by a-thousand cuts’, where these characters that you’ve fallen for all start to slowly drift apart, and almost disassemble themselves mentally. I personally think that this is what makes Nana so engrossing, so real and likeable, but it takes it so far that it puts itself in a no-win situation. As it was happening, it got to the point where I wasn’t looking forward to watching the next episodes (as much), because I knew it would just be them falling apart again. However, when they then tried to raise the tone near the end, it felt quite forced and out of keeping with what was a very natural show.
The ending is also quite disappointing. It is understandable, since the manga that the series is adapted from has never been concluded – it stopped after the author fell ill, and never restarted – but even considering that, the anime has the air of a show that was suddenly cancelled. Further major – and I mean major – plots are developed, even in the last episodes, but the story never gets to them, ending with a half-hearted ‘many years later’ reunion that, if you didn’t know it was going to be the last episode, or that the author fell ill, would leave you somewhat shocked and appalled.
However, the ending is probably the only major blemish on what was a really natural, tasteful series. The style of the characters is iconic, married with strong animation and a fantastic soundtrack. This show also is one of the most well-directed pieces I’ve ever seen – at the beginning, it felt like every other episode had a scene that you won’t forget in it! Nana has been one of the longest series I’ve ever seen, and also probably the fastest I’ve ever watched a show. It’s the type of series that you will want to buy on box-set, to preserve those memories. For fans of romance, and general slice-of-life friendships, this series is unmissable.
ANIME RANKING: #4 – Yep, Nana has broken the Elite 5! Honestly, Nana was quite close to breaking the top 3, too!
If you liked this you’ll love: Orange – This was a really hard series to find a recommendation for! Nana is so long, that I’m still struggling to find a series that is as good at developing bonds with its characters. That being said, Orange does deliver that same brand of teen, slightly rebellious friendship led by a predominantly female cast. Orange is also a show with gorgeous animation, and a lead that you can root for, so this should go some way to filling that Nana-sized hole!
Working!!! (S3, 2015, 14x25mins)
Comedy, Slice of Life, Romance
Basically Plot: The third and final season of Wagnaria (or the English title, Working), following the lives of the part-time workers at the small family restaurant.
Overall this was a pretty good series, but doesn’t reach the levels of its predecessors. Wagnaria is certainly one of the best comedy series I’ve seen so far, and season three hits many of the same notes, sticking to that trademark comedy style led by its irreverent characters.
However – and I think I made a prediction like this at the end of my review of season two – this series does struggle to keep the jokes and general happenings of the show exciting. It feels like we’ve seen it all before at this point, and even though the story’s romantic elements all reach a half-decent conclusion, and the Wagnaria story as a whole is really nicely concluded, from a critical point of view this is the least funny of the three series.
ANIME RANKING: #24 – No change for Wagnaria, as it holds onto its position in the top-half.
If you liked this you’ll love: Konosuba (Taken from S2 review) – Both of these series are seriously funny, following a small pack of co-workers as they struggle through their stories. Masters in childish comedy and using stereotypical characters to produce great entertainment, if you want some funny anime, you won’t find many shows better than these two!
ACCA: 13-Territory Inspection Department (2017, S1, 12x24mins)
“Rumors about people you don’t like are easy to come by.”
This story is set in the fictional kingdom of Dowa, a land that has been at peace since a change in governmental policy following unrest 100 years ago, involving giving each unique member state its own autonomy under the ACCA umbrella organisation, ruled over by five Chief Officers and the long-standing monarchy. The story follows Jean Otus (Center), second-in-command at the ACCA Inspection department, a small group charged with overseeing regular district audits. However, after such a long time of peace, Jean is warned that the Five Chief Officers of ACCA are planning to disband the department, while rumours of a coup d’état against the kingdom begin to circulate, and seem intent on pulling Jean into the middle of it.
Basically Plot: Politically-led drama following Jean – a calm, well-mannered government official who becomes the centre of a national conspiracy.
What an utterly gorgeous series this is. It is impossible to start talking about ACCA in any other way except to mention the art. You can see how much this series is inspired by French and Belgian comic styles, trading out sharp ink drawings for a more natural, rough paint style. I’ve seen series that try to come across as more natural, but this series takes that on in a totally different way, and achieves amazing results. It’s probably not the best animation I’ve ever seen, but the backgrounds and characters themselves are so well depicted.
The story itself also buys into the general ‘western class’ feel of the show. The plot is thick, with games and an undercurrent of deceit the general course of the series. My main criticism of this series is at times this can become almost too dense, and you’re told so little that it is very easy to become lost at times where you feel the show expects you to know everything that’s happening. Generally, though, the series keeps control of this, and although there is a touch of ‘make it up as we go’, it does feel like a cleverly created piece. There are a lot of good characters here – most in appearance as much as anything else – but Jean is a fantastic lead character: like many in the series, he’s a suave individual with enough street smarts to not have to raise his voice at, or for, anyone.
Overall, I highly recommend this series. The sophisticated story is good, but it’s the incredible art that will win hearts. A show that is as gorgeous to look at as it is to listen to, ACCA 13 is certainly my favourite series of 2017 so far.
ANIME RANKING: #27 – A really solid rating, placing it just behind Wagnaria, and ahead of hits like Terror in Resonance and Assassination Classroom!
If you liked this you’ll love: Cowboy Bebop – This recommendation ended up actually being a toss-up between two shows. ACCA is an almost unique brand of effortless entertainment, something that the fantasy slice-of-life series Durarara does expertly. However, if you we watching this, like me, in awe of the beautiful animations and worlds, then Cowboy Bebop is the show for you. With classic 90’s animation married with a cool story and led by a charismatic lead character, Cowboy Bebop is sure to please ACCA fans!
If you read our mid-season report on ACCA, you’ll know how impressed I was from the very start, and I’m very pleased to say that ACCA is in a select number of series that I was as pleased with at the end as I was at the beginning! So many shows die midway, but ACCA just about managed to hang on to its excellent reputation.
Make sure you follow The Culture Cove to see the best anime reviews before anybody else! Look out for episode 28 of Anime Pocket Reviews, featuring the highly-rated horror series Another!