So it was with little surprise that a sequel was eventually made, unfortunately "Nana 2" fails to live up to the previous film's success and instead seems like a rushed, ill-conceived and confused sequel featuring "best of" moments from the comic and anime but with little of the emotional impact.
"Nana 2" basically covers the second story arc of the manga and directly follows the events of the first film. Komatsu "Hachi" Nana (Ichikawa Yui) and Osaki Nana (Nakashima Mika) are both enjoying their new found life together as roommates in apartment 707 but soon "Dai Ma Oh" (or if you prefer bad omens) throw them some unexpected curves.
Hachi is still hurting from her breakup with former boyfriend Shouji but valiantly pushes on with her single life. When she is suddenly fired from her Publishing Office job, she receives some unexpected comfort from Trapnest (Tora-Nesu) bassist Takumi (Tamayama Tetsuji). Having always had a crush on the seductively handsome but somewhat arrogant star, she easily falls under his spell and the two spend a passionate night together.
Hachi and Takumi continue to see each other secretly much to Nana O's concerned disapproval. She encourages band mate Terashima Nobuo (Nariyama Hiroki), who secretly loves Hachi, to confess his love to her. Tiring of Terashima's playboy ways Hachi is touched by Nobuo's heartfelt confessions and they soon fall in love. Their romance however is short-lived as Hachi soon find herself pregnant with Takumi's child and this soon causes a deep rift between her and Nana O.
Nano O's relationship with Tora-Nesu's enigmatic guitarist, Honjo Ren (Kyo Nobuo) also threatens to derail a pending recording contract with major record label Gaia Records but a bold move of guerrilla concerts helps to turn scandal into a successful marketing campaign for Blast (Black Stones).
Hachi and Nana O's strained friendship soon rekindles upon Blast's success and they reconcile once again at their old apartment.
While writer/director Otani Kentaro and Asano Taeko do their best to stay true to Yazawa Ai's poignant original manga story, their efforts to streamline the complex story end in confusion as important details get sacrificed to fit the film's run time. What we end up with is a mixed-up film that fails to satisfy fans of the manga/anime as well as confusing newer viewers coming to the film for the first time.
Fans of the manga and anime adaptations will immediately notice not-so-subtle changes to the original story. Minor characters like the "Shirley Temple-like" Misato, Ex-boyfriend Endo Shouji and Lolita-like Sachiko (who appeared in the fist movie) are completely missing, while best friends Junko and Kyousuke are only given brief cameos. Sub-plots including the taboo relationship between Blast Bassist and underage gigolo Okazaki Shinichi and Trapnest's Japanese-American front-woman Serizawa Layla/Reira are largely ignored as is the bond between Nana O. and Blast's stoic leader Yasu.
J-Pop singer/model Nakashima Mika again does admirable work as the enigmatic and alluring Nana O. She is the best thing about the movie and her scenes are always enjoyable to watch. While Ichikawa Yui (Kurosagi, School Daze, Ju-on: The Grudge 2) does her best to replace Miyazaki Aoi as Nana K./Hachi, she unfortunately does not have the same charm or likability of Miyazaki. Nakashima and Ichikawa do have some chemistry and their scenes together are touching but don't carry enough of the emotional punch of the first film.
Tamayama Tetsuji (Casshern, Freesia) brings a sinister coolness to his role but unfortunately is not given enough on-screen time to properly touch upon the complexity of his character. Kyo Nobuo (Trick, Aoi Haru) who replaces Matsuda Ryuhei as Ren is also surprisingly given little to do in the film and he seems relegated to a mere supporting role in stark contrast to the first film and manga.
I'm glad that Narimiya Hiroki (Unfair, Azumi) was able to showcase his acting talents more this time around and his performance definitely brought life to the character of happy-go-lucky Nobuo.
As with the first film Maruyama Tomoki gets short-changed in his limited role as Yasu, which is very much unfair considering that not only is he spot-on perfect in appearance as the soft-spoken Blast leader but also in the fact that the Yasu character played such an integral and vital role in the manga and anime. Kanata Hongo (Tennis No Oji-sama, Returner, Hinokio) who replaces Matsuyama Kenichi from the first film also visually looks the part of young Blast bassist Shin but is not given much to do with his character aside from looking cute in his androgynous attire. J-Pop idol Ito Yuna is also surprisingly underutilized in the film which is quite disappointing considering her Reira character's love affair with Shin, while controversial, was so touching in the anime and manga.
Even the music falls a bit short despite both Nakashima Mika and Ito Yuna both contributing songs to the soundtrack ("Hitoiro" and "Truth" respectfully). While good, they don't quite carry the same resonance as their songs in the first movie.
While a good effort was made by all involved, "Nana 2" doesn't quite match the success of the first film and falls under the weight of high expectation from fans, an overly simplified story and unfortunate casting changes.