by Steve Jones,
How would you rate episode 12 of
Talentless Nana ?
I didn't think there'd come a day when I'd have to describe Talentless Nana—the thriller anime starring a tiny pink girl who wants to kill all of her classmates—as a tearjerker, but here we are. However, that's a good indication of the degree to which this series has handled and developed its sensationalist conceit into more nuanced questions about character and human nature. It's been especially obvious in this arc, where NANA hasn't even gotten the chance to commit a single murder. There's still plenty of room for her cat-and-mouse game with Kyoya to grow, but instead we've upended the core premise of the show and forced NANA (and the narrative) into unfamiliar territory: real human emotions. That's a bold move, and I like it.
I'm also very happy to report that MICHIRU is okay. I can't really blame the show for milking easy cliffhanger material like last week's, but that doesn't stop it from feeling cheap. Still, though, it makes for a more interesting episode than MICHIRU simply being dead, because instead NANA has to host a spiritual wrestling match between the part of her who wants to help her friend and the part of her who wants to complete her bloody mission. In practice, NANA comes across like a textbook tsundere, and it's adorable. She all but stutters, “I-it's not like I wanted to save your life or anything…dummy…,” while she holds her bedside vigil next to her feverish friend. It's incredibly obvious to the audience how much she's grown to love MICHIRU, despite her repeated and desperate Machiavellian justifications to herself. They all ring hollow when paired next to the genuine anger and joy she shows MICHIRU once she regains consciousness.
NANA is, to put it lightly, messed up as all heck, and I'm glad the anime is getting a chance to address it (and devoting pretty much this entire arc towards doing so). We've seen the dead parents part of her backstory already, and that explains some things, but there's still a huge gap between her being orphaned and her dropping onto Super Teen Murder Island. To that end, this episode introduces the shady figure of Tsuruoka, a committee member related to the school who also seems to be responsible for teaching NANA the art of assassinations. More importantly, the committee outright admits that they don't give a shit about NANA and probably see her as expendable at best and a liability at worst. Jin manages to suss all of this out on his own from the information on NANA's phone—or, rather, the lack thereof. It's a thread the show has been hinting at for a while now, and I presume it portends a great upheaval in the narrative at some point down the line. Sadly, I doubt the anime will be able to broach this in its single remaining episode, but I really hope that's where we're heading.
Even if NANA might not yet suspect her sponsors' intentions, she's still racked with conflict regarding her mission. And it's hard to blame her, considering the object of her simultaneous consternation and affection is the most wholesome girl in existence. MICHIRU has gone from a jokey clueless sidekick to a three-dimensional companion with her own weaknesses and motivations. NANA not incorrectly calls out the Talented students for defaulting to their powers for quick and easy solutions, but MICHIRU's story proves that even those foolhardy actions can have completely understandable (and very human) justifications. In some respects, her past with Hitomi feels crammed in here for function rather than for feeling. However, I also have to admit that the two of them got me choked up pretty good, and like I mentioned previously, I was not at all expecting to have that kind of reaction to Talentless Nana. The part that got me the most was the revelation that MICHIRU's line about junk food was actually just her repeating what Hitomi had told her. So, credit where it's due, this episode turns a potentially mawkish flashback into a compelling reason for our protagonist's entire worldview to collapse in on itself.
Meanwhile, Kyoya is off doing his detective work. In an ironic and darkly comic way, the narrative has shoved Ishii's gruesome murder completely into the background as the least important part of this arc. I like how NANA even half-heartedly gripes about not having time to execute a murder of her own. Talentless Nana has other, bigger concerns at the moment, but it's still nice to see Kyoya snooping around as usual. I also appreciate the black comedy of NANA's teacher sending her to Kyoya for medical assistance, because the remainder of the faculty has already abandoned ship offscreen like the useless adults they are. Whether they realize it yet or not, these kids are on their own, and I'll be interested to see if Talentless Nana draws more of a line between the Talented/Talentless and Child/Adult dichotomies. As a Talentless child and a Talented adult, NANA and Jin both occupy a liminal space between these conflicts, which is why they're both so important to this series' progression.
We're docked at a pivotal moment in NANA's character development, so next week's season finale has plenty of opportunities to whip up a dramatic tempest before we and the anime must part ways. NANA is on the cusp of realizing that she's been saddled with a stone, in Jin's words, but will the appearance of her foster father figure (and/or brainwasher) stunt her growth? Even in the best of circumstances, how much of a path forward is there for NANA with the body count she's already tallied? Would the others forgive her? Would she forgive herself? Amidst all of the questions, I have to commend Talentless Nana for the deft way it has let NANA evolve from an enjoyably spunky serial killer into a nail-biting character study. I care about her relationship with MICHIRU, and I care about her, period. I don't think there's an easy path ahead of her, and I don't think it involves anything a single additional episode can solve, but I want to see it all the same.
Talentless Nana is currently streaming on Funimation. Save on Anime Streaming Subscriptions with Funimation.
Steve is, most unfortunately, still in vtuber hell over on Twitter. We're all praying for his salvation.
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