Nanaka 6/17 Vol. 1: The Not-So Magical Mishap
© Ken Yagami · Akita Shoten/Nanaka 6/17 Committee
Patrick Drazen · June 25, 2006 | Sometimes you can look at the first episode of an anime series and know you're in for an interesting ride. Even if the expected plot resolution in the final episode rises bigger than the Statue of Liberty from the first minute, you want to see how the show gets from point A to point Z. Midori Days (about a high school tough guy whose right hand turns into a diminutive girlfriend one night!) is one such anime; another is the recent offering from ADV Films, Nanaka 6/17.

The summary of the plot (high school girl gets a bump on the head and regresses back to kindergarten) was once a staple animation gimmick. A clonk on the head turns Fred Flintstone from a blue-collar construction guy to a suave sophisticate; been there, done that. But can that gag sustain an entire series? By all indications, it will in Nanaka 6/17, because there's much more going on below the surface.

Nanaka 6/17 Vol. 1: The Not-So Magical Mishap
Directed by Hiroaki Sakurai
Produced by Genco
Animation Production by J.C. Staff
Distributed by ADV Films, 2006
Originally broadcast in Japan in 2003
100 minutes

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Nanaka Kirisato got a major jolt at age six when her mother suddenly died. She found support from her father, her friend Nenji, and her favorite magical girl anime, Magical Domical. Fast-forward to the present: high-school Nanaka is an introverted bookworm, keeping her distance from everyone and everything that doesn't help her pre-planned life; Nenji has become a "bad boy" brawler, although Nanaka, who constantly scolds him for his misbehaviour, does so out of a deep but unspoken affection for him. Then comes the clonk, and the series is off and running.

Despite tackling some weighty issues (like critiquing Nanaka's drive to succeed to the extent that it interferes with her ability to socialize with her peers—two Japanese traits that seem to contradict each other), this is a comedy, so the spectacle of a teenager acting like a six-year-old is inherently funny. However, knowing it isn't funny enough to carry an entire series, the creators balance the laughs with seriousness and even pathos. Nanaka accepts that she's a six-year-old in a teen body, reasoning that it's because of a magic spell caused by her favourite anime. Shortly after she regresses, she leaves the hospital and goes back to her old kindergarten, but finds that all of her classmates and her old teacher are gone. Her breakdown in the classroom, however, lets you know this won't be all fun and games.

Yes, there are predictable aspects to this anime: Nanaka eventually will get her memory back, and stop being her old type A personality in the process, while Nenji will learn to solve problems without using his fists. And other characters will benefit from Nanaka's rediscovered naïve innocence and joy in life. But plot details in an anime like this are almost secondary. The fun is in the journey, and Nanaka 6/17, with its crisp character designs, its balanced color palette (not too flashy, not too subdued), and its inventive use of a familiar story idea, promises to be one very entertaining trip.
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