Talentless Nana
Episode 13

by Steve Jones,

How would you rate episode 13 of
Talentless Nana ?

All good things must come to an end. This includes holiday vacations, Christmas cookie reserves, and remote island teen murder sprees. While Talentless Nana continues as an ongoing manga, its anime adaptation concludes here (for now, aspirationally), and it does so in possibly the most upsetting way possible. I've been mulling over my feelings on it for about a full day now, and I'm still kind of emotionally stunned. It's a bold, yet fitting choice for a series that evolved unpredictably into one of this season's must-watch shows for me. Whether or not you felt the anime earned that distinction, I don't think anyone can deny that Talentless Nana consistently brought nothing but confidence to the table, even as its absurdities and emotions piled up higher and higher.

Considering the way Talentless Nana began, it's very ironic that the weakest and least important component of this arc is the murder mystery itself. I'm glad I didn't spend too much brainpower trying to deduce the culprit, because his identity matters much less than his role in escalating the danger on the island. I won't vamp on this point yet again, but it's worth reiterating that Talentless Nana's previous murders were most interesting insofar as they related to NANA and her own machinations. NANA's concerns and actions are much different in this arc. However, I do appreciate that we're expected to solve the mystery based almost entirely on a single poop joke about a guy astral projecting himself onto a toilet. That's so fittingly bizarre for the series, and I love that both NANA and Kyoya arrive to the same conclusion based on that alone. They're such good partners.

I can't talk about partners without talking about NANA and Michiru, of course. Their relationship remains the focal point of this arc, which finally reaches its chest-swelling and heart-rending conclusion. NANA receives the lion's share of character development, considering she's the protagonist and all, but I also really like how Michiru's character has been enriched over the past few episodes. She's a lot more than the ditzy and gullible underling NANA initially perceived her as. She's actually quite a lot like NANA: stubborn, and despite her fears and uncertainty, refuses to back down when it comes to helping heal NANA's emotional trauma. She's also much smarter and more perceptive than anyone (myself included) gave her credit for, finding and exploring the logical inconsistencies in NANA's backstory. Additionally, Michiru, like NANA, needs to value her own health and well-being a lot more. While it manifests very differently for the two of them, they both have hero complexes that tragically clash in this season's final moments.

Obviously, the ending is highly upsetting for a lot of very good reasons, but the one that really gets me is the feeling that Talentless Nana is only just now evolving into the kind of story it always wanted to be. The cat-and-mouse murder games were a fun hook with some good bite, but NANA's arc beyond this point is, in my opinion, the biggest and most tantalizing mystery so far. It's now clear that the people in charge deliberately lied to NANA and manipulated her ensuing guilt in order to train her for this mission. Michiru helps NANA realize that her foundation was a lie, but more importantly, she also extends a new friendship-based foundation on which NANA can rebuild herself. And it's touching to see NANA finally open her heart to the possibility of sharing it with somebody else. Even if she can only do so in the most delectably cringe-worthy ways at the moment, it just makes it that much more adorable. Gravely, however, she's forced into a crossroads in this episode, and she chooses Michiru over her mission and her masters. NANA can only go forward from here, for better or worse.

The question of NANA's redemption arc must be precluded by other questions: can she seek redemption in the first place, what does that redemption look like, and does she even deserve to seek redemption? These aren't easy conflicts to resolve, and that's why I'm gutted that the adaptation ends just as we're about to dig into them. I think these are fascinating spaces to explore, and I want to see NANA confront them head-on. And in my opinion, I think she does deserve a second chance. This episode makes it painfully clear how thoroughly she had been manipulated and conditioned by the adults in her life after the death of her parents. Just a phone call from Tsuruoka is enough to make her stiffen up immediately and adjust her tone of voice. Deprogramming herself from these thoughts and reflexes won't be easy, but that doesn't mean it's not possible. This internal journey also might be a way for her to sympathize with her Talented peers, who have also in their own way been corralled and manipulated by the same people. I can imagine a situation where she comes clean to Kyoya and finds a way for the two of them to work together. That would probably be healthier for her than only being able to confide in Jin, who, while not entirely awful, is still a creepy scumbag with his own agenda.

This is all but wishful thinking on my part, naturally. I don't know where the manga goes from here. All I know is Michiru sacrifices herself to save NANA's life in a deafening mic drop of a finale. It hurts like hell, but I respect the commitment to ending on the most audacious note possible. And if this is a gambit to drum up enough fervor for a second season to be greenlit, I hope it pays off. In the meantime, I'm going to stew in the miserable thought that this might have been the happiest ending possible for NANA and Michiru. We've already seen how badly NANA's guilt can chew through her soul, and I don't believe she could have kept her killings a secret from Michiru for long without doing serious damage to either her conscience or to their relationship. More important than that, would Michiru have been able to forgive NANA? I think she would have, and beyond that, I think she also would have helped NANA absolve herself of her guilt and crimes. That's the kind of person Michiru is. That's why NANA tries to shoo her away like a pet owner in the tearjerking climax of a treacly dog movie. Michiru is too good a soul to die for NANA's sake, but she does so anyway, with a smile on her face. She'll never know the full truth about NANA. In a way, however, she knew NANA better than anybody else.

Well, after taking the time to write all that, I'm still pretty devastated by that conclusion. However, I'm devastated in a way that confirms how much I enjoyed watching Talentless Nana develop over the course of the season. From its fakeout premiere, to its elaborate murder schemes, to the cat-and-mouse mind games, to NANA's consistently priceless reactions to every setback, to the last lingering warmth in Michiru's hands, this experience has been more fun and more emotionally taxing than I ever would have guessed. NANA is the finest, fluffiest, pinkest pigtailed miniature murderess there ever was. I don't know where her story goes from here, but based on the journey so far and this strong, sentimental intermission, I have a lot of faith that it will be worthwhile.


Talentless Nana is currently streaming on Funimation.

Steve is, most unfortunately, still in vtuber hell over on Twitter. We're all praying for his salvation.

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