Author’s Note: This review contains spoilers for the anime series Talentless Nana. If it already looks like something you’d enjoy, we highly suggest watching the first episode before reading this review in its entirety.
Talentless Nana is a series that isn’t straightforward with what it’s about. The series immediately opens with a classroom full of students with superpowers. However this isn’t My Hero Academia, and Talentless Nana isn’t a shonen series about big flashy fights with deus ex machina powerups. Rather it’s a series about mystery, deception, and murder.
Publisher: Nippon Columbia
Director: Shinji Ishihara
Release Date: October 4, 2020
Talentless Nana is one of the latest series from animation studio Bridge who are also behind the upcoming Shaman King reboot. Sometime in the near future, creatures known only as “The Enemies of Humanity” have descended upon the Earth. Few people have even seen them, and even fewer are equipped to fight them.
Those who are born with “Talents” are sent off to an island school to hone their abilities, and face the Enemies of Humanity when they’re ready. It’s here that one girl, Nana Hiiragi joins the class and introduces herself as a mind reader and hopes to be friends with everyone.
However not everything is as it seems at this island school. Rather than the happy-go-lucky girl that she seems to be, Nana is actually not a mind reader, and has no intention of being anyone’s friend. The island school is actually a slaughterhouse, prepared by the government, and not the training facility they promised.
The true “enemies of humanity” are the Talented individuals, and after a bloody conflict between the Talented and the Talentless this plan was enacted. The Talented are sent to a school under the impression it’s to train their powers, however it’s only to keep them isolated while an assassin dispatches them in order to ensure world peace.
Discretion is mandatory, if Nana is found out the possibility of the Talented grouping together and rebelling is too great. Bearing the responsibility of world peace on her shoulders, Nana coldly and brilliantly kills her fellow classmates, exploiting their own powers and engineering their deaths.
Visually, Talentless Nana makes brilliant use of the character’s facial expressions. In scenes where Nana is close to getting exposed or is planning the kill, the way the deadness of her eyes contrasts with the smile of her acting is unsettling, and makes it easy to forget she’s (probably) the good guy of this story.
The plot twist of Talentless Nana feels similar to Puella Magi Madoka Magica, and ends up being a series where the heavy subject matter of assassinations for global peace chillingly contrasts with the cute pastels of the character design. Nana’s own pink hair and uniform makes it difficult to imagine her as a cunning killer rather than an air-headed slice of life heroine.
The voice work is fantastic, and Rumi Okubo does a great job of managing to swing between cute and sadistic in the role of Nana Hiiragi. Her other noteworthy roles include Yuzuko Nonohara from Yuyushiki, and Silvie from How Not to Summon a Demon Lord.
Yuichi Nakamura also distinguishes himself as the foil to Nana: Kyouya Onodera. Yuichi’s other noteworthy roles include Mumen Rider from One Punch Man and Hawks in My Hero Academia.
A cool-headed and aloof sort, Kyouya joined the class the same day as Nana, as if it was fated that the two would butt heads. Kyouya is among the first to suspect foul play when Nana begins killing.
It’s safe to say that the first episode will be a slog if you’re familiar with the twist beforehand. The entire episode is framed as a prelude to a slice of life series with a hint of danger in the faceless “Enemies of Humanity,” and the pacing suffers in order to preserve the twist for the end. But once the pretense is discarded, the series takes off in terms of pacing.
Episode two opens with the fallout of Nana’s first murder, and makes clear the stakes of her mission. It is kill or be killed, and if she’s discovered the whole world is in peril.
Each of Nana’s kills is accompanied by intelligence from the government, which shows each student’s estimated kill count for “when” (not “if”) they go rogue. But are these reminders a solid threat of a future averted? Or a message meant to control Nana through fear?
The role Nana plays is clear, but not the role of the school, the staff of the school, or even the government. There’s a tangible sense of unease at Nana’s actions. It leaves the viewer wondering if things are really as they appear, and that Nana’s kills aren’t portrayed as good or evil, simply justified.
The stakes and drama get more intense as the bodies pile up, and Kyouya establishes himself as the antithesis to Nana. Not only is he clever, but his Talent is invincibility. When Nana’s goal is murder, how can she succeed against him?
Overall, Talentless Nana does a good job of setting the tone for a dangerous game of intrigue while putting a fresh spin on the “academy of gifted youths” cliché.
Those looking for a shonen series with scaling powerups and intense fights should look elsewhere, as well as those looking for a comfy slice-of-life with superpowers. But if mystery and deception are what you enjoy, Talentless Nana establishes itself by the end of a third episode as a suspenseful title that will leave you looking forward to each week’s episode.
Talentless Nana was reviewed via the reviewer’s anime streaming service account. You can find additional information about Niche Gamer’s review/ethics policy here.
Images: Talentless Nana Official website