March 09, 2008
Hope you guys don't mind lots of pictures of the Nana Rangers in the top rotation. Turns out that Seven of Seven is a good source of frame grabs. I was afraid the video quality would be too poor, but I think it's fine, especially once it's reduced to 440*330.
I've come up with about 60 potential pictures just from the first two DVDs.
There's also an American girl who shows up in one episode, which gives them the ability to do gaijin jokes. A couple of pictures of her below the fold. (SFW, just too much to put on the front page.)
Their opinion notwithstanding, it doesn't look bad at all once reduced to 440*330.more...
September 30, 2007
This has been fun, but it hasn't really gripped me. It wasn't the kind of "I've got to keep watching" experience I had with Shingu or with Misaki Chronicles. I watch a couple of episodes of Seven of Seven, and I enjoy them, but then I stop and go do something else for a while.
It's light. It almost approaches frothy. And, at least as of this evening, I'm beginning to lose interest in it a bit. The problem is that I don't think this series concept really had 26 episodes of story potential. Instead, what I'm getting is a "year in the life" story. The series arc is one calendar year, between Valentine's Day of Nana's 8th grade year, when the accident happened and she split into7 copies, and presumably Valentine's Day of her 9th grade year, when she either successfully reunites or else vanishes forever, at least according to her grandfather.
So they spent 4 episodes setting up the basic series scenario. In Ep 1 Nana split into seven parts. In ep 2 the seven of them settle who is going to attend school, since taking turns doesn't work. The different personalities begin to come out in that episode. In ep 3 the Nana Ranger costumes are introduced. Ep 4 is the first time the Nana Rangers as a group go into action to right wrongs and defeat evil doers and so on and so forth.
Then we get 6 concentration episodes, one per copy, to let us get a feel for what they're really like. That takes us up to ep 10, which was about Nanakko.
Now they're doing standard scenarios, things which always appear in middle-school romantic comedy series. Ep 11 is a festival episode. Ep 12 is a study retreat at the beach, which includes a summer ghost walk. I've only watched a couple of minutes of Ep 13, and I do have to give them points for this screen shot:
Of course, conditions are somewhat different in this series than in most such, and part of what they're trying to do is to subvert the cliches in various ways, or at least alter them.
But there are some standard stories, things they've done a couple of times so far, which are rapidly approaching "rut" status. One is the deal with the three girl rivals. They're comic relief, mostly, but they're also plot hooks. The Nanacchi concentration ep was a contest between those three girls and Nanacchi (who was attending school because Nana had mumps). The Ghost Walk episode was also about them. The basic 3-evil-girl story is that they come up with some sort of plan to try to do bad things to Nana, and the Nanas win because there are seven of them and they have super powers. It's fun to see the three bad girls get their comeuppance, but it's also starting to get a bit tiresome.
I think the real reason it's starting to fade on me is that in nearly every episode, Nana studies hard because of imminent make-or-break exams, and in nearly every episode Nana is tied in knots about Yuichi. That's starting to get a bit tiresome. I guess that constant studying for exams is a fact of life for 9th graders in Japan, but that doesn't necessarily mean it's interesting to watch. And Nana's romantic life (or lack thereof) is becoming a bit more angsty than I really like.
The series is also badly failing the refrigerator test. Of course, in a frothy romantic comedy I'm not expecting a super-tight plot. And it's fantasy anyway. But with the Nana Rangers in the town, having been observed flying and doing other extraordinary things by literally thousands of eye witnesses, and with Nanarin having saved a lot of lives using her superpower -- and having been photographed doing it, and the photo ending up in the newspaper...
...Well, you'd think a lot more people would be curious about the Nana Rangers, wouldn't you? Kids gossiping about them at school? The town crawling with reporters and government agents trying to find out what's going on? Someone up on that hill trying to figure out why the cherry tree has been blooming continuously for five months and shows no sign of stopping?
If there's anything like that going on, I haven't seen it. And a good thing, too, because eventually someone is going to notice that the Nana Rangers have been coming and going from Nana's house. They haven't been very careful about their exits and entrances, really.
Never mind that. What I actually thought I'd start seeing was supervillains. But there haven't been any, and I'm glad. That would have been too strange -- though, of course, maybe something like that could happen later, especially in the final plot arc. (I think I read something about a "Dark Nana". Whether that's Nanapon gone around the bend, or an 8th Nana, I have no idea. It could even be Nanappe. Or maybe it was a bogus report.)
This series is entertaining me. What it isn't doing is to enchant me. It isn't seizing my imagination. It isn't tantalizing me. Something decidedly weird happened to Nana, yet the result is rather prosaic. Having been split into 7 and given super powers, which will kill her in a year if she doesn't do something about it, Nana's main concern is passing her exams so she can go to the same high school as the boy she's got a crush on.
Seven super-powered girls, and all they seem to use their powers for is to pass exams and to flirt with a cute boy. Imminent death on the next Valentine's Day is a long way off; we'll worry about that when it gets nearer.
Maybe I had my expectations up too high. I've been hoping I could discover another Shingu, another neglected gem. Seven of Seven wasn't it -- but it may not be fair to judge it by the standards of Shingu. On its own merits it isn't bad, but it does seem as if it could have been somewhat better.
Or at least that's my impression after 12 episodes out of 26.
Yaay! Summer festival episode! Yukatas!
If the graphics on the DVD are to be believed, this DVD will also give us a beach/swimsuit episode. But somehow I doubt there is going to be an onsen/bathhouse ep. Just isn't in character for this series.
Oh, well. Two out of three ain't bad.
UPDATE: I'm wrong! Ep 12 gives us swimsuits and onsen pix. Below the fold, but SFW... (more or less)
UPDATE: And those were the only pictures of either in that episode, which was really about something else. I think it's my favorite episode so far.more...
This guy gets introduced in episode 6. He's a DJ. He hosts a late night radio show targeting young students who are studying like mad to pass entrance exams to high school (and, presumably, college). He is named Mutsumi.
"Mutsumi" seems to be a pun. His signature, shown in the series, is "623". He was a factor in ep 6, but after that (all the ones I've watched so far), each episode ends with a voiceover by him, some sort of commentary on what just happened. Most of those end with some sort of epigram, like this one:
The subtitles translate this one as "We can't live without them, but we shouldn't have too much of them, either: body fat and hope."
What's peculiar is that in the credits, the character "623" is voiced by "623". Oh, really? There is no one using that "name" listed in the omnibus cast/crew listing on ANN. Which makes me wonder if it's the director or someone like that, who wants to remain anonymous.
(ominous music in the background) or is there something sinister about the character? And we'll find out the real seiyuu in the last episode?
Can that stupid music, already! Sheesh. That doesn't seem likely. And even if it was true about the character, why the mystery about the seiyuu?
UPDATE: Ep 11, and while we're on the subject of mysteries...
UPDATE: OK, I just realized what's going on. They've been using some seiyuu for multiple parts. This series has a huge cast of incidental characters, and I think they didn't want to hire a huge number of voice actors.
I think that Mutsumi is being done by the seiyuu who does Yuichi, Nana's heart throb, and they're obfuscating that because both characters appear in every episode that Mutsumi appears in. (And yes, it is indeed the same seiyuu who did Xellos.)
September 29, 2007
With episode 8, we get to do gaijin jokes. Nana gets an unexpected houseguest. Mild spoilers below the fold.
UPDATE: I wondered if this would happen. The series is settling into a series of "Nana of the week" episodes. Episode 6 was Nanasama (the brainy one). Episode 7 was Nanacchi (smiley). Ep 8, with the house guest, was also Nanappe (the irritable one). Episode 5 was Nanapon (the strange spiritual one). And at least one Nana ranger, using special powers, has appeared in every episode since the costumes were introduced in episode 2.
Girl-of-the-week is a standard thing in series like this, but I hope it doesn't cause it to stagnate. It permits you to explore the characters, but it can also be a cop-out for uninspired writers. But so far it's being handled well.
And it's showing us is that the different Nanas are not, in fact, quite monochromatic. Nanacchi (the cheerful one) loses heart and gets depressed. Nanappe (the cranky, aggressive one) gets intimidated by someone. Nanasama (brainy), who is usually calm and collected, gives in to a bit of temptation.
I wondered if they'd diverge more and more as the series went on, but that's not happening. It continues to be the case that they have much more in common than not.
UPDATE: And ep 9 is Nanarin (crybaby). (Nanarin has the same seiyuu as Cocoloo in Petite Princess Yucie. I thought it sounded familiar.)
UPDATE: Nanapon scares me. (A little, anyway.)
She keeps talking about putting curses on Nana's enemies. One of these days she's actually going to try it.
And it's going to work! I really believe that!
UPDATE: And with ep 9 (the Nanarin concentration episode) they've successfully tugged on the old heart-strings.
Presumably the next episode will be Nanakko, described in the credits as "Easy going Nana". All the others have had an episode. Frankly, she hasn't made a splash in the series yet, and I don't really understand how she is different from the others.
UPDATE: Yeah, it was a Nanakko ep. Nanakko is the one who carries around the stuffed fish, whose name is "Billy". She's sort of the diametric opposite of Nanappe, the hot tempered one. Nanakko's catch word is "Daijoubu daio, ne?"more...
September 28, 2007
The seven different versions of Nana have different seiyuu, and I have to say they were cast pretty well. Their voices are similar enough to be believable, but different enough to give them personality. But sometimes some or all of the Nanas speak in unison, and I simply don't believe that they could get all of them to speak so closely the same. It sounds like they took just one voice and electronically distorted it to make it sound like a group.
I wonder whose voice they're using? Probably it's Mizuki Nana, since she's the star of the show, but that's by no means certain.
Nanapon continues to be very strange. At the beginning of ep 6, she's running around in a miko costume offering to put a curse on a teacher who was mean to Nana that day at school.
And I wouldn't want to bet she couldn't do it, especially with the help of the purple power prism (her color).
Having a nutcase in the story always helps in comedic series, and Nanapon is it for this one.
UPDATE: I'm watching the 7th episode now, and it's breaking out of a couple of ruts I was afraid they were going to get into. First, is that for a change there's conflict within the group but it isn't 6 against Nana. This time it's Nanachi who's the victim.
A different thing I was afraid of is that there are three nasty girls who are always together and who also often speak in unison. I was afraid they'd get on my nerves, or make Nana miserable.
They're bad guys, I guess, but mostly they're used for comic relief. So far, at least, they haven't bothered me too much. They're losers, for one thing. And they aren't very formidable. Nor very good looking. Nor very smart. Nor very resourceful. And they have flat chests. Which, I guess, is why they are unformidable losers. (No, not the flat chests. Well, maybe.) Moving right along...
Sometimes when the Nanas have to choose one of them for something, they do janken. Which brings up an interesting question.
In Adventures of Minigoddess, one of the things Urd does is to create copies of her chibi self. In one of the episodes, in fact, she ends up creating hundreds of them, and a bunch of them rebel. One group of Urds ends up fighting a war with the other group of Urds, and they eventually fight to a draw. The two leader Urds decide to settle it with janken, and the game goes on forever because both of them think exactly the same way. Aiko desho! Aiko desho! Aiko desho! Aiko desho! Aiko desho! Aiko...
Since the seven Nanas are all slightly different, I guess that's not a problem here. But another example from a different anime show, to explain the other problem:
One of the weirder episodes of Martian Successor Nadesico involves all (or most) of the women on the Nadesico participating in a beauty contest to select a new captain for the ship. The managers back home are tired of having Yurika in charge. Anyway, cutting to the chase, the contest itself is inconclusive (for reasons I won't explain) and so it gets settled with a janken tournament. Given that Yurika is a genius at strategy and tactics, she cleans up and thus continues on as Captain.
So, if all the Nanas are different, why doesn't Nanasama (the brainy one) win all the time? Two possibilities: either the Nanas aren't actually all that different (which I think is true; their characteristics only are apparent by contrast to each other), or Nanasama doesn't actually want to win all the time. Which could also be true.
Of course, the third possibility is that I'm overthinking this.
So far I'm very happy with this series. I just wonder if there's really enough juice in this story to satisfactorily fill 26 episodes.
UPDATE: Another thing that's interesting is that they're using a lot of Scott Joplin in the soundtrack. I think it works, too. It's refreshing, and it does tend to support a light feel to the show. Joplin isn't ponderous and certainly isn't slow or depressing.
September 27, 2007
Well, the reason that the descriptions of Nanapon are confusing is that she's a wild card, a loose cannon. It's not completely obvious just what part of Nana she represents, but she's got some rather odd abilities the others do not. She's fun, even when she falls under the control of her own power.
Nanapon learns about hypnotism, having practiced with a mirror.
UPDATE: Well, the original advertisement I saw (on one of the Grenadier DVDs) for the second DVD of this series turns out to have been based entirely on the first DVD. So I don't have any clue what's coming next. But I haven't been disappointed so far. This isn't heavy, but it's fun, and Nana is an interesting character. And the Nana Rangers have appeared in every episode since the girls got the costumes. That's a plus.
By gum, the introduction of the costumes was handled nicely, in episode 3. And I just heard a touch of Shinobu in Nana's voice (it being the same seiyuu, though the characters are a lot different).
Ep 2, and now ep 3, are both 6-against-1 stories. I hope that doesn't keep going for the whole series; it'll get rather tiresome. But for the moment it's justified in story terms, so I'll suspend judgment on it.
Did you ever get the feeling that you was being watched? (It's an image from ep 2, but I wanted to post it while it was still fresh.)
You know what? I think this actually does qualify as mild fan service.
UPDATE: Everybody strike a heroic pose!
UPDATE: OK, ep 4, and we finally deal with the problem of names. And it's Nana's best friend, Hitomi, who comes up with them all. It's all falling into place.
On the other hand, they're seeding some mysteries. What's the deal with the cherry tree, for instance? A great old cherry tree came into full bloom in an instant in February when Nana's accident happened, and two months later it's still blooming. In fact, it's become famous and tourists are starting to flock to the town to see it. I'm sure there's going to be more to this. (No spoilers, please.)
So as of the end of the second episode we have laid out the series foundation. Mild spoilers below the fold.more...
If one person turns into seven, does it make sense to say that one is the original and the others are copies? I guess it depends on how it happens. In this case, when it happens to Suzuki Nana, at least for the first few minutes they all react identically, but eventually separate personalities emerge.
Each one is associated with a magic, or high tech, or whatever, heart of a different color, what the Japanese think of as the seven colors of the rainbow: purple, blue, dark green, light green, yellow, orange, and red.
In order to keep things straight, eventually they all get different names.
Blue is "Nana", apparently the original, and acknowledged as such by everyone, including the other Nanas. She's also the first one who figures out how to fly, though as soon as the others see her do it they all do, too. (She grabs something they want, and they're chasing her.)
Yellow is "Nanatchi", who is always smiling and cheerful.
Dark Green is "Nanasama", the smart one. (She wears pince nez glasses.)
Light Green is "Nanarin", a crybaby.
Red is "Nanappe", who is a bit devious and malicious. Nana's mean streak.
Purple is "Nanappon", an inspiration girl. (Whatever that means.)
Orange is "Nanakko", who is happy and easy going.
The personalities emerge mostly by contrast. They're much more similar than they are different.
Nana's best friend is Hitomi, who was there when the unfortunate accident happened and knows all about it. Hitomi tossed me for a loop for a moment, because she has the same voice as Kotoko, the loli android from Divergence Eve.
And then there's a guy. In middle school romantic comedies there always has to be a dreamy but somewhat clueless guy that the comic lead is infatuated with, who doesn't know her and doesn't even notice her. In Kamichu his name was Ninomiya Kenji, and he had a hard time remembering Yurie even though she flew up into a tornado to save him in the first episode. You'd think that would make an impression, but it didn't.
In this one his name is Yuichi. Kenji was consumed with calligraphy. Yuichi is a shutterbug, who spends all his free time taking pictures of the scenery, especially classic old buildings, in the town where all this happens.
I suspect Yuichi is also going to be completely blase. Seven exactly identical copies of the same girl, speaking in unison, walk up to him and hand him a box of Valentine chocolates. He doesn't recognize the face(s), but there's a card. Presumably he'll see her again, since they go to the same school. Will he remember that there were seven identical girls? The Magic Seven Ball says "No way!"
I don't get the impression that this is the kind of series which will have any significant amount of fan service, but after one episode I'm enjoying myself. Arguably this series lands squarely in the mahou shoujo genre. Nana, all seven of her, aren't quite up to Yurie's power, but they are super strong and can fly. And the first thing they did, without even consciously trying, was to make spring happen in the town about two months early. Not trivial. I have no doubt other powers will emerge later, and I'm really looking forward to the first appearance of the Nana Rangers.
UPDATE: The credits for the first episode list them as:
Nanappe (Hot-tempered Nana)
Nanacchi (Smiling Nana)
Nanarin (Crybaby Nana)
Nanakko (Easygoing Nana)
Nanasama (Brainy Nana)
Nanapon (Ghostly Nana)
It's anybody's guess what "Ghostly Nana" refers to. Probably that will come out later. I recognize a couple of those suffixes. -rin is a diminuative. (The fairies in Bottle Fairy use it to each other.) -sama is an indication of respect. As to the others, no clue.
By the way, "Hot-tempered Nana" is okorinbou.
UPDATE: Frame grabs below the foldmore...
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