Talentless Nana – Episode 1

By: Alex Henderson October 4, 20200 Comments
A cheery, pink-haired girl saying "I'd better be weird, to come to an island like this!"

What’s it about? Nakajima Nanao studies at an elite school for young people with superpowers—people known as the Talented who are training to fight mysterious monsters known only as the Enemies of Humanity. There’s just one problem: Nanao doesn’t seem to have much in the way of superpowers. This earns him the ridicule of his classmates, but when a telepathic transfer student named Hiiragi Nana arrives, she takes a special interest in him.

I have a tricky situation on my hands here, gang: as a reviewer, I want to give you as much information as possible to pique your interest and get you to check this show out if you think it sounds fun. However, the really intriguing factors are all woven into a twist that only rears its head in the final moments of the episode. I have to conduct this article as a delicate tightrope-dance, trying to let you know that I think this show was cool but without being able to 100% tell you why. I feel I’ve already said too much even with that, so let’s just continue from here.

So. Our protagonist, Nanao, is an underdog in a class of superheroes-in-training. The opening scene is very fun, showing a delightfully chaotic scene of, well, exactly the kind of goofy stuff teenagers with the abilities to float or teleport might do when the teacher is out of the room. In a grand and cartoony tradition, Nanao’s schoolmates have powers that conveniently reflect their personalities and aesthetics: he’s picked on by a brash and hot-headed bully who, you guessed it, can summon fists full of fire. This is in contrast to the ice-cool class pretty-boy who, you guessed it, has ice powers. They don’t get along. Can you believe it?

A boy surrounded by flames, pointing to a flashy persona. Subtitle text reads: "Didn't I tell you to call me Prince of Flames?"

There are many other colorful characters dotted around the classroom, most of which remain mysterious. But the important thing is, Nanao sticks out like a sore thumb for his ordinariness—Mister Flameo Hotman even teases him by calling him a “normie,” which is a hilarious translation decision that I fully support.

An ordinary, tropey day is proceeding: the teacher tells the class information they should already know about the world-state, how they have to train hard to defeat the Enemies of Humanity, and how this island facility was built specifically to nurture their unique talents. The status quo is interrupted, however, by the arrival of two transfer students: a broody white-haired boy who refuses to disclose his superpower, and a bubbly girl named Nana, who, by her own admission “Can read minds, but kinda sucks at reading the room!”

The extroverted and telepathic cherry-blossom of a girl latches onto Nanao, defending him from his bullies, insisting that he’s the perfect candidate for class president, and following him cheerily around the island. She uses her telepathy to deduce that he’s A Good Man, and that he’s Special and Different from his boorish classmates. She also uses it to psychoanalyze the heck out of him, probing into his strained relationship with his father and making him uncomfortable before she gets the hint and apologizes.

Close up of a girl surrounded by sparkles. Subtitle text reads: "Th-that's an amazing talent!"

Nana seems like prime Manic Pixie material: she bursts into the dreary life of a lonely, tormented intellectual, and can appreciate his Profound Sadness like no other because she can literally see into his mind. With her encouragement and her kindness, she pulls Nanao out of his shell and helps him believe in himself, to the point where he gains some confidence in his seemingly mediocre abilities and can save the day. Yay!

The series seems constructed entirely of tropes, neatly color-coded for recognition by even a viewer who’s only half paying attention. Yet it’s worth paying attention all the way through, because there may be more to Nana than her bubblegum-pink optimism and her unwavering faith in the boys in her life. Though this episode is primarily from Nanao’s perspective, there may yet be time for Nana to earn her place in the title of the series.

Superheroes, or genre stories that otherwise centre Individuals with Exceptional Powers, are an almost unavoidable staple in our current media climate—in Hollywood, anime, and many other avenues. I’m sure I’m not the only one who suffers from Marvel Cinematic Burnout. But I still hold, deep in my heart, a soft spot for superpowered shenanigans. There is potential aplenty for fun adventure narratives and rewarding character arcs, and room aplenty for dissection of the very concept of heroism. What makes a hero, anyway? How are the concepts of Good Guys and Bad Guys, which drive so much of the subgenre, constructed—and should we take those constructions as law, if we see the inner mechanisms?

Throwing these questions around without delicacy can lead to edgy “deconstructions” that are more tiresome than entertaining, but it remains to be seen what camp exactly Talentless Nana will fall into. As of this stage, I’m along for the ride, curious to see where Nana takes us.

About the Author : Alex Henderson

Alex Henderson is a writer and managing editor at Anime Feminist. They completed a doctoral thesis on queer representation in young adult genre fiction in 2023. Their short fiction has been published in anthologies and zines, their scholarly work in journals, and their too-deep thoughts about anime, manga, fantasy novels, and queer geeky stuff on their blog.

Read more articles from Alex Henderson

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