Nadia is one of a million shows that I’ve had on my to be watched list for a very long time. (And it keeps growing.) The very idea that Nadia was the first full tv series Studio Gainax created and Hideaki Anno directed drew me toward it. I mean, this was created a few years before Neon Genesis Evangelion. That’s kind of huge. I like digging into the history of famous anime studios and directors. Nadia wasn’t on legal streaming services, so I had to buy the disc release. If I didn’t come across this series in a huge rightstuff dvd sale, I would have never watched it and/or discovered if this series has more history behind it then just Studio Gainax and Hideaki Anno being behind it. With a few faults Nadia is a great anime to watch, but this is the case where I find all the production elements behind the show even more interesting. Maybe that it all Nadia’s island and Africa arcs fault.
Tell me if you have heard this before. A young girl, named Nadia, with a blue diamond around her neck is being chased by three pirates. Those pirates being a boss female character who is followed by two male lackies. While Nadia was in the middle of being chased, a young, French inventor named Jean (John) who has dreams of chasing after his father and traveling the world with an airplane made his own devices, saves her. The two run away in Jean’s airplane being pursued by the three pirates. Then Nadia and Jean get caught up in an adult conspiracy plot centered around someone who wants Nadia’s crystal to subjugate humanity because he thinks that he and his race are apart of a superior race.
If you read the last paragraph and immediately thought Laputa: Castle in the Sky, you are right. I’ll get more into that later, but Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water is an expanded Castle in the Sky with some elements of my favorite book ever, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, attached to it. Jean is an expanded Pazu because he’s French and he lives with his aunt and uncle. We only know about hints of Sheeta’s backstory, but Nadia has hard life of almost being a slave, doesn’t like people, and has a pet Lion. Then there is the fact that the older kids with another kid they find somewhere and the pirates end up on a submarine named the Nautilus (the captain is Nemo) that is in direct conflict with that villain. I mentioned before A villain whose name is Gargoyle. Fun times all the way around *shakes head no*.
Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water has a huge cast of characters. One can dare say a submarine full? I won’t leave or take back this bad joke because it’s completely true. There are true stand out characters in the submarine like Captain Nemo (it’s the Nautilus after all) and his first mate Electra. Captain Nemo is such a mystery character, but I love him to death. Electra is what you would call that smart, know it all first mate that does nothing wrong, but she has a lot of darkness in her heart that is revealed later in the most heart wrenching way. I never remember any of the other submarine character’s names, but they at least have a good enough presence and development around them that you at least know who they are and what they are about. It’s incredibly well done.
(That’s them on the featured photo)
I know that I already talked a little bit about the main characters and the villain, but this series is more focused on Jean. I’m not saying that Nadia doesn’t have any growth in the show, but Nadia feels like she is as much of a plot device as the crystal she carries. She goes from a person that has a strong distrust towards adults and not even knowing where she is from in the beginning to someone who knows where she is from and cares about everyone with an open and accepting heart. It took a lot for her to get that far. Jean has the standard growing of age tale but it’s nowhere near as boring as it sounds. Through the many horrific events that happen over the course of Nadia, he leaves his naive view of the world behind for a world where he has seen all the darkness and kind people working in harsh conditions so nobody else has to. Jean becomes one of these people. His love for Nadia and knowledge grows as he goes in harder and harder times which is great. I like him a lot.
Then there are the three thieves that appeared in the beginning of the series. I was annoyed by them at first, but I ended up loving them. If I can make a comparison to a newer anime when writing about something from the 90’s, the three of them are like the Isaac and Maria of Nadia. They are that needed comedic relief in a world that is filled with a lot of darkness and hate in it. The female leader is Grandis and she is a character that has had an infinite amount of street knowledge and was apparently a noble some part in her life. She is such a loud mouth leader, but I understand her more. Also, seeing her try to woo Captain Nemo and failing is the stuff of legends in humor. Then there are the other two: Sanson, the tall muscle head who has the personality of a kid, and Hanson, the fat genius who could build anything. The three are just so much fun to have around. Glad they became good.
Lastly, the only characters that were lacking were the bad guys named Neo Atlantist. That wasn’t only because they were people that wore the same masks and didn’t have to be animated, but because the leader’s name was Gargoyle and all he is is a force of evil. I mean, seriously. The plot wouldn’t happen if Gargoyle didn’t exist. I would say that he is characterized more then these characters usually are because he has believable connection to some of the main cast, but it would help if he was at least given a face and we knew about him more. He is signal mindedly hunting down Nemo and wanting to enslave the human race with an iron first with a bunch of people wearing the same costume as him. Not the must exciting character material ever. What can you do? This is what we’ve got to run with.
I just want to make a soft mention here that the show’s English dub is pretty good. The acting and direction is pretty good and the actors know how to play their roles well. Some of the characters have accents from what country the characters are from and I find that incredibly endearing.
This is where I start digging into the dirtier side of Nadia. For the most part, Nadia is exactly what you would expect something Studio Gainax to be. It follows all of Evangelion’s animation flaws. Beautiful art designs with believable backgrounds and distinct character designs for the most part. The mechanical designs were the best part because the ship designs and other mechanical device designs looked amazing.
For animation, it’s very similar to Eva. Tons still frames and long lasting repeated animation bits to be traded in for good glamor shots and amazing bits of spectacle that make the still frames and such worth it. So good. I can get behind Studio Gainax’s production techniques here. Especially when you get awesome bits of submarine vs submarine combat and space combat at the end. It’s just all good stuff.
Then there is the part where we discuss the elephant in the room that also makes the show look like a looney tunes cartoon show from a visual perspective but tosses aside as much of the plot as possible.
The elephant in the room is that one third of Nadia’s episode run time is the filler garbage to exist since some shonen filler arcs. Not only is the plot thrown way to focus on our four characters in situations that they shouldn’t be in, but all four of these characters personalities were derailed completely too. These thirteen episodes were the things what made me hate Nadia in degrees that I wouldn’t thought possible. Why? Because the writers made the worst choices where she either wouldn’t learn anything or deciding hated technology because she could or she yelled at everyone for no reason at all. Then there was the part when our four characters and the pirate characters made it to Africa and Nadia fell in love with a random guy that she just ran into. it was so rushed and terrible that I couldn’t stand any of it anywhere.
When the plot came in, the anime episodes completely dismissed everything that happened in those arcs. The Nadia that I hated from those two arcs was the not the same Nadia here. All I could do to alleviate this in my head was split the two versions of Nadia in my mind and thus separate the filler from the actual story. Those being the one Nadia that was a terrible cartoon character and one Nadia that actually felt like a human being with a backstory she is trying to get over. I know that Hideako Anno wasn’t directing any of these segments so it’s not his fault, but all of this was still the worst material possible and I almost dropped the show so many times. If it wasn’t for the fact that I was told the last five episodes made everything worth it, I would have never made it all the way through. I’m tired of all of this bad, let’s talk about something fun.
Perfect balance of fanboying and character drama
There is something to be said about all the references Hideaki Anno threw into this show. The most obvious one is Captain Nemo. If you have ever watched SDF Macross, you would immediately realize that his character design looks a lot like Captain Global. They are virtual copies of each other. I am sure I missed out on a lot of other references, but there were a lot from Space Battleship Yamato. When the villains fired a super laser, they put on goggles just like the Yamato crew did when they fired the wave motion canon. Then there are things like how certain ships looked, what those ships sounded like, and how their reveal was just the Yamato. It’s all good stuff.
The best part is that if I didn’t tell you any of this, none of this would matter. These are all tiny elements that were thrown just to add an extra spice to people that know all of these references. Thus you have the perfect way to throw in references without any of it getting in the way of the story and the characters. Hehe.
In the end, I loved Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water, but I also hated it. It’s two thirds love and one third hate. All the goodwill centered around a well-developed plot and characters somehow paid off in the end despite the negative turns everything took. This show is worth watching for those who want to see how far children can go in a dark world while maintaining their innocence, people that want a good story, and people that are interested in the history of Hideaki Anno and Studio Gainax. Possibly also because you are a mecha fan because there are some mechs in this show. I do think that watching through the Island and Africa arcs are worth watching just to say that you did it. Like the Endless 8 Scenario. You watch it once and when you rewatch it, just watch episode 31 then skip to episode 35. I forgot to mention that it’s 39 episodes. Dang. Well, now you know.
History (Added Bonus)
Oh, you guys still here? Ummm, here we are with more knowledge for people that care. You all know that Hideaki Anno used to work for Studio Ghibli and Hayao Miyazaki, right? I mean, Anno’s finger prints are all over Naussica: Valley of the Wind. When I said something about how Laputa: Castle in the Sky and Nadia: Secret of Blue Water were related, they are. The original screen play came from the mid 1970’s when Miyazaki was hired to write a script that centered around ideas Around the World in 80 days and Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea in one script for a tv series. Part of that script when to create Castle in the Sky. Well, I think you know how adapted it into a tv series by now. (Not completely valid, but Wikipedia is the most valid source I could find all this for free).
Thanks for reading everything. I hope you weren’t bored.
(All Pictures are from Google Image Searches)