Talentless Nana – Mid Season Anime Review
Synopsis: Earth is under attack by ferocious, extraterrestrial monsters known as the Enemies of Humanity. But fear not! A unique preparatory school situated in a secret island location is currently training a collective of superpowered teenagers called the Talented to fight back against the aliens. Among them is blissful Nana Hiiragi, a seemingly powerless, pink-haired girl equipped with ample intelligence. (Official Funimation Synopsis)
Mid Season (6 Episodes) Review (Warning: Full 1st Episode Spoilers to Follow):
Linny: Talentless Nana continues to be one heck of a wild ride, with each new episode packing in as many twists and turns as possible. After the first episode’s surprise reveal that our protagonist, Nana, is on the Island of the Talented in order to kill each and every one of her superpowered classmates, she finds herself constantly on the cusp of getting caught. It’s a game of cat and mouse as her true identity is always under threat of being exposed, all while struggling to outwit her would-be victims and fulfill her ultimate mission. This whole premise of a ‘powerless teenage girl’ having to outsmart and take down an entire class of super powered teenagers, all while keeping up the pretense of just being a fellow classmate provides ample opportunity for all kinds of increasingly absurd developments. And thanks to that, Talentless Nana remains a seemingly good fit for viewers who like to be kept on their toes.
Tom: Assuming you’re on board for the ever-building ludicrous mind games and subterfuge required for Nana to achieve her mission, then there’s no denying that Talentless Nana is an absolutely fun, crazy ride. The series’ need to one up itself makes it difficult to take seriously, but that kind of B-movie schlocky, preposterous compounding of developments is what makes the series so much fun. Unfortunately, for as much fun as the original manga is, I take great issue with the anime’s adaptation. Talentless Nana’s anime, at times, feels itself devoid of talent and creativity; offering up a truly mundane adaptation that does little to elevate the manga’s material and make great use of the anime medium. Sometimes it even goes so far as to feel like the anime’s interpretation is an outright detriment to the story, dragging down the excitement during moments I found far more tense and impactful in the manga.
Linny: Before we delve in too deep into the pros and cons of the anime itself, I would like to point out that by no means do I consider the manga itself to be a traditionally good series. As Tom noted above, the constant need to one up itself plot wise means the story gets more and more absurd, often to increasingly contrived lengths. The characters are also either acting irrationally dumb for the sake of allowing Nana to survive another day or bursting into over the top monologues or meltdowns for ‘dramatic effect’. But as Tom said, that B-movie schlock is what makes the series so enjoyable for those who like a ‘trashy’ read/watch now and again. If all you want is an unabashed attempt at throwing in as many twists as possible, with only the thinnest of logic and plenty of maniacal face offs, Talentless Nana is for you. But don’t pick the series up if you like more down to earth or ‘traditionally’ intelligent plot progression, because that’s not what is on offer here.
Tom: Exactly. I saw a lot of comparisons to Death Note across the web, but while there is that sort of mind games/cat and mouse aspect, Talentless Nana isn’t nearly so well-written and thought out. Nana’s entire focus is on surprising you at every turn, and that often means handing out developments that gradually undermine your suspension of disbelief. As Linny said, sometimes characters get stupid just so Nana can survive another day, or plot holes develop because the story’s goal isn’t to craft a psychological battle with two individuals at the top of their mental acuity, but rather to enthrall you with a narrative that never stops surprising. In all honesty Talentless Nana is more equivalent to something like King’s Game, where you’re here to see just how absurd it gets in the end, not a well written plot. Nana is basically that, but without the excessive blood, gore, or gratuitous titillation that might put more general viewers off.
Linny: Talentless Nana does indeed keep its visuals, and even its villains, rather ‘PG’ for such an otherwise ‘schlocky’ show. The violence is rarely ever graphic and it offers almost no gratuitous fan service through the exploitation of its female characters. ‘Trashy’ anime and manga are often known for containing aggressive acts against women or having them in very compromised and naked or near naked situations. But so far, there’s not even a drop of that type of content. Even when someone blackmails Nana into being his girlfriend, he doesn’t force her to perform anything sexual, not even a kiss. The entire premise is about Nana taking out her classmates and thus involves a lot of death and betrayal, so it’s quite impressive that the show has managed to keep things so ‘clean’ and free of cheap shock value imagery, making it surprisingly approachable and palatable for most viewers.
Tom: But this is where I jump off the hype train. For as much as I enjoy Talentless Nana in its Manga form, I’ve found myself increasing baffled by some of the anime’s choices in presentation. Talentless Nana isn’t traditionally good, we’ve established that. It’s B-movie schlock. Yet Nana’s production almost feels like its begging for the story to be taken seriously. A good example of this is the anime’s bizarre use of background music. There’s long stretches without any musical accompaniment. Sure, there’s some big sequences where the music kicks into high gear, but near every sequence where Nana is confronted by Kyouya, the one Talented who seems to be onto her, and has to talk her way out of his entrapping deductions, there’s silence. It’s an absolutely odd choice, as some of their conversations felt downright thrilling in the manga, with you wondering how Nana would be able to twist herself out of Kyouya’s checkmate-esque questioning. Yet the anime plays it so straight and so mundane, without anything to heighten the tension that the onus is on the manga’s dialogue to hold audiences’ attention. It’s not like the manga’s writing is bad, but when adapted into anime form you’d expect a production to amplify what made these verbal back and forths so captivating, not instead to let them wallow as merely talking head sequences. There’s another good example in Episode 6, when Nana finds herself at the mercy of a Talented Girl who is spouting nonsense about her past. In the manga it feels like she’s off her rocker, pointing to the idea that this girl is, truly, dangerous and we should fear for Nana’s safety, yet the anime again allows this moment to stand without any music to bolster the girl’s wild tangent, and thus instead of feeling like she’s crazy, it comes off as a random tangent that pads out the episode till credits.
Linny: It’s hard to ignore the lacklustre music and frequent lack of BGM in Talentless Nana. As Tom described, music can really aid storytelling and even convey emotions, mood and messages to the audience without any words. But instead of getting intense support music, Talentless Nana frequently defaults to absolute silence, making for an awkward scene now and again. Even as someone who can appreciate ‘plain’ adaptations, the lack of tone establishing BGM proved to be distracting. Given how over the top the story and the cast characterizations are, it seems like a major fumble to not back up that insanity with some solid BGM. It would have really helped to sell the more maniacal or even comedic moments in the story. But instead, you are forced to sit through a scene where the only sound is the characters themselves talking with no music to up the tension or action.
Tom: The music is only half the problem in my eyes. It’s perhaps the greatest sign of an adaptation that just doesn’t feel motivated to go the ‘extra mile.’ What’s presented is often a ‘1 to 1’ adaptation, where the director hasn’t managed to bolster the appeal of the story by offering visuals and focus that heighten what was already on the page. Again, this lack of dedication leads to an adaptation where what sparked on the page barely flickers on the screen, failing to allow the magic of Nana’s ever compounding absurdity to breath on the screen. As someone who was excited to see the series taken anime form, I feel like what’s presented doesn’t even manage to match the manga in terms of entertainment value.
Linny: Overall, the anime adaptation of Talentless Nana is still a passable option for those who prefer watching to reading. Yes, the lack of supporting BGM and bland production is disappointing, especially to someone well familiar with the original material and was looking forward to a more over the top presentation. If you were hoping to see the story being taken to new heights, you’re going to walk away disappointed. But if you simply wanted a refresher or are generally adverse to manga, and you are in the market for some schlocky cat and mouse game kinda story, Talentless Nana should scratch that itch for you.
Tom: I’ve been fairly harsh on Nana’s anime, and maybe that’s because I saw a lot of potential that this adaptation just didn’t manifest. Still, I find myself unable to recommended the anime as the best way to experience Nana’s struggle against her superpowered peers. I think the original manga remains the better experience and I would only recommend the anime then to someone who greatly prefers watching anime over reading manga. Beneath the production woes there’s still a wild and fun story here, and if that’s all you want, lack of flourishes aside, then Nana should still satisfy.
Talentless Nana is available for streaming via Funimation.com