Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water – Episodes 13 to 20

June 6, 2004 on 7:59 pm | In Nadia | Comments Off on Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water – Episodes 13 to 20

One has to wonder if, when composing Nadia, Anno had any concept of thematic and emotional consistency. From episode to episode, the mood of the Nautilus crew members is totally different. When one episode is heavy on the dramatic punch and the next is just a standard “Jean does stuff with machines” episode, it’s somewhat disconcerting. Ironically, when episodes jump from the comedic to the dramatic in the space of an instant, it’s amazing.

The first of these episodes is one of those old anime standbys, the “big adventure” episode, in which a minor character (usually a mascot) goes off by themselves and does things without the main characters. In this case, it’s our good friends Marie and King who go off by themselves to have fun. The exploration part is fun, but the real adventure comes when Sanson and Marie go on the run from one of Gargoyle’s machines. This section had some really good animation and some great visual gags. Then came the conclusion, which was truly shocking.
For some reason, Marie and Nadia then contracted a fatal illness and Captain Nemo’s heart was melted enough to go to Reef 64 to harvest the antidote … but not before a run in with a prehistoric fish! The way that this episode was structured, however, doesn’t make Nemo appear as caring as they would perhaps have liked to make him. That which spurs him into action is too contrived, and would have been better received had Nadia not been struck with an affliction.

The two stand outs were episodes 15 and 16, which contrasted incredibly strongly to the previous episode. A new character is introduced as an inspiration for Jean, setting him up for inevitable tragedy. This is one time that Nemo could not change his plans to save a life. As the chief engineer said, “This ship may be built on super science, but it can’t perform miracles!” The direction was clearly notable here, and reminiscent of Evangelion‘s more introspective episodes – thus setting groundworks. Anno’s taste for brief flashes of images is an effective way of getting messages across.
But what was truly great about this episode was that the three engineers caught in the room with the fatal gas were never shown after their fate was sealed by Nemo. Jean could only talk to them by the intercom. Something truly shocking happens thereafter, that really has to be seen. Hidaka Noriko’s performance was at the height of strength here.
While the crew of the Nautilus may seem stoic, they really do care about lives lost. And stoicism can still betray someone in their final moments …
In episode 16, Anno uses that technique which deserves a lot of respect – knowing when not to use the eyecatch music. Believe me when I say that at the half way point of this episode something happens that will make your blood run cold. It’s a metaphorical death, made all the more powerful by the fantastic setting. Episode 16 was the series’ highest point so far … and so maybe it can fall from here.

I suppose that the Jean developments are the logical continuation of the events of episode 16, but it just doesn’t seem quite right … and one starts wishing that the “romance” between Nadia and Jean could be handled better. Better than Nadia coming up to Jean in the corridors and saying “I hate you!”, at any rate. And then the secret base of the Nautilus stuff was a bit weird. (A 20,000 year old whale?)
Nemo is poised to reveal some secrets; one has to hope that he’ll do it soon.
Finally, the Evil Trio are a really bad influence on Marie (whose purpose seems largely to create a reason for King not being with Nadia).

Still, Nadia is highly watchable. It’s just at its best in high octane drama mode.

Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water – Episodes 6 to 12

June 5, 2004 on 7:42 pm | In Nadia | Comments Off on Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water – Episodes 6 to 12

Don’t forget to try in mind!

And, as the first arc of the Neo Atlantis story line comes and goes, Nadia becomes blood pumping ultra fun anime! Hurrah for sea legs! Then all of our character related dreams come true.
First up: Nadia’s run in with the Neo Atlantians leads to the discovery of her “weakness”, if you can call pacifism that, and the forced revelation of information. (She’s the kind of character who doesn’t care if she’s tortured, but torture her adopted child and her pet lion …)
The secret base is great, both in appearance and animation. The conveyor belt that Nadia and Jean find themselves on is a marvel, but that’s largely because a personal favourite technique of mine is when the background and foreground are simultaneously animated. Nadia’s animation wasn’t the peak of technical perfection at the time, but there were very impressive scenes, and this is one of them.
Unfortunately, there can be no surprises at times (one can’t exactly be expected to cry “Oh my God! The TOWER OF BABEL was DESTROYED?!” – it’s traditional anime shorthand that anything named after Babel will ultimately fall into ruin. It’s been standard since the father of sci-fi, Metropolis), but that doesn’t destroy the impact completely.
Finally Captain Nemo reveals himself to everyone and they start a new life, and story, aboard the Nautilus. Now we have a sense of the plot ahead.

The best thing about these episodes was the evolution of the Evil Trio. As bad guys, they’re lousy. As vain good guys, however, they’re shinily brilliant. It was poorly suggested in episode five that they cared about Nadia’s well being (at the time, there was nothing really to justify it). Their initial motivation of stealing the Blue Water was never really explained, so in this new capacity as submarine workers they’re much better.
It should be noted that this is not really in any way a spoiler, as the OP has all along shown the two groups of three (and King) getting along.
The initial escape, with Sanson powering through, was handled in such a way that it was genuinely exciting. Excitement that removed any doubts about Nadia‘s being worthwhile. But then Grandis’ sudden change to that of a loving, passionate woman is also great and adds more depth. Her hardened attitude was caused, not surprisingly, by a man. It looks like the presence of another man might be healing her, even if nothing comes of it. Really, though, the trio are all heart.

The music is never inappropriate in this set of episodes, and there was some genuinely impressive animation aboard the submarine. Oddly enough, this great animation was used for domestic scenes, which is something of a rarity, as budgets are generally saved for “action”. Heck, there’s even Grandis fan service! And when you’re as beauteous as Grandis, you deserve all the service that can be doled out.
The way that the script gets around the technology is highly amusing at times. Aboard the Nautilus, Hanson marvels “I can’t believe a submarine like this has already been built!” and when Jean asks Nemo about the engine, he says “This engine is truly a wonder, that can not be duplicated in this century or the next.”
It’s best not to worry about any anachronisms in this sort of series, because that just takes the fun out of everything. If you’re going to alter one thing, it can’t hurt to change another …

Nadia: Secret of Blue Water is generating so much good will that I don’t see how it can possibly be hurt by the infamous “island” episodes. But I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it.

Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water – Episodes one to five

June 1, 2004 on 10:29 pm | In Nadia | Comments Off on Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water – Episodes one to five

Going into Nadia, I expected the most romantic anime ever made. Not thematically romantic, but physically so; anime born of the era when GAiNAX was a young king of industry, when every project was a labour of love.
It’s getting there.

In 1899, Jean Le Havre goes to a Parisian inventor’s fair to showcase the aircraft that he built with his Uncle in order to win 20,000 francs and the acclaim of someone or other. Of course, his plans get scuttled when he sees the beautiful girl Nadia rides by on a bicycle, and he runs to meet her atop the Eiffel Tower. His introduction to Nadia, and her pet lion King, is interrupted with the entrance of the fiery red head Grandis ad her henchmen, Sanson and Hanson. They want the Blue Water pendant around Nadia’s neck!
And so the chase begins. At one point, this “evil trio”, as they are known, grab Nadia in the extended hands of their craft – and thus a precedent was set that Team Rocket were bound to honour eight years thereafter.

The first episodes of Nadia are fairly unremarkable. Grandis drives Nadia and Jean out of France, and then their plane crashes into the ocean. At the end of the second episode, I was actually heard to say “What a crappy cliffhanger”. Things pick up somewhat when the American battleship saves them. The “sea monsters” offer a glimpse of what is yet to come. Something with lights that red can’t be organic, and unsurprisingly, it’s not. When Nadia and Jean board the Nautilus in the fourth episode, that’s when it starts to get interesting. Start. Captain Nemo (a deliberate eponym, so don’t complain) is scary, though, in that he looks exactly like Macross‘ Captain Global. It’s like they’re twins born 100 years apart!
Still, at this point Nadia and Jean are given direction, and when they arrive on the island after this, their party is complete. This episode, which would appear to be the start of a story arc, has some great scenes in it. Nadia and Jean’s adoption of Marie was touching, as I was worrying that they wouldn’t have the heart to tell the girl that her parents had been killed. It’s sad that she’s too young to understand the concept of death, and it was really hard for Nadia and Jean to explain that her parents, and her dog, were never going to come back.
The problem with these episodes is an over reliance on the Evil Trio, who are not Team Rocket. When they’re at a point where they’re part of the story but are not the story, it will be better, most definitely. When the cultists come in, it feels just that much more like it should be.

Nadia does have the production values, though. Yoshiyuki Sadamoto turned in some good work with the character designs; the Evil Trio look just like the comical villains that they are, Marie is a genki girl despite it all … Jean is a bit of a nerd, and Nadia is just that little bit more exotic. The only problem is that Nadia’s darker skin tone is frequently inconsistent with the light levels shown.
The crew of the Nautilus is great because they don’t belong to any country, which means you can get things like Indians in tartan and what have you. They’re only glimpsed at for now, but that truly is multiculture!
But King is just a bit weird, like he’s … there.
The scenery is detailed, and it feels very much like the late eighties series that it is. This would have been perfect for Australian television broadcast back in the day. It perfectly evokes the feel of both eras that it represents; also it is reminiscent of Ghibli productions and Sherlock Hound: half remembered patches of childhood. It is not, of course, strictly children’s fare, but it has just the right ability to capture the imagination.
The music is by Sagisu Shiro and, not surprisingly, it’s heavily reminiscent of his work on Evangelion. Of course, predating Evangelion by six years, they’re future echoes. The music is at times heavily inspirational, but it seems that the onscreen events have not yet earned the grand music that they wear; that Sagisu has congratulated Jean and Nadia rather too soon. Sagisu wrote quite a wide variety of music for Nadia, and it is my sincerest hope that the content will come to live up to the masterpiece he composed in Bye Bye Blue Water.

Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water is not bad at all; it, like one of Jean’s planes, has just got to get itself off the ground and fly. The first four episodes are proof enough that a 39 episode series can’t be judged on its first volume alone. The fifth is proof that the series is suggesting that it might go somewhere now.

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