Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water (Fushigi no Umi no Nadia) 1990
Post number three now – this is the longer ‘arc’ as it were, and things are about to get quite episodic, as we head into the longest stretch of episodes before the quality vanishes for a while.
The Nautilus Arc – Episodes 9-19
Okay, I could have split this section into two groupings as it covers quite a large range of episodes but in the end I just… didn’t 😀
Anyway, here we have the biggest arc (and I use that term loosely I guess) of the series and the section that is most episodic. Gargoyle is still a threat, still someone Nemo and his crew are hunting, but smaller problems are met and solved too, maintaining that adventure feel. It’s also an important time for character development, which I’ll mention further down. (There’s also a spoiler during the ‘highlights’ section).
In terms of pacing, things slow down once more so that the audience can now get to know Nemo and his crew. This is a problem in the sense that it impacts the momentum that had been built up, but since I love episodic storytelling I’m kinda easy to please, I suspect 🙂
At first, the interpersonal conflict is perhaps mostly ‘teenage’ as Jean and Nadia continue their awkward (and generally cute) courtship, but hints of more troubling things to come are foreshadowed – chiefly the possible connection between Nemo and Nadia, but also what this might mean for Electra, who is more troubled than she seems at this point.
Aside from new inventions, sea mines, chases, sea creatures, nuclear leaks, underwater graveyards, a god-like whale and a fairly large dose of romantic comedy and rivalry, it’s this arc where more character development is introduced – not that it’s absent previously.
In this section there are a lot of plot threads happening at once but perhaps most important (other than the specifics around Gargoyle’s madness) is both Jean and Nadia’s relationship to each other, and to Captain Nemo. Nadia is always pushing Nemo away – usually through her fear or stubbornness, whereas Jean is drawn to the stern father-figure. And while Jean is helped by both Hanson and Sanson just as much, in terms of the coming-of-age stuff, it is Nemo who seems to have the bigger impact on the young genius.
Now, rather than put you through a breakdown of the sections within this section, I’ll try and mention just a few of my highlights from the arc:
A Stand Out Episode: #12 Grandis and Her First Love
I almost picked this one for Sanson’s outburst alone, poor guy.
But elsewhere it’s a nice change of pace from the (great) underwater tension of the sub, with that comical rivalry between Electra and Grandis taking the main stage. It also allows Jean and Nadia to bond, though of course Gainix couldn’t resist chucking in the old ‘accidental pervert’ trope.
At the end of Grandis and Her First Love however, Nadia’s vegetarianism makes an important return to the plot. Once again, her trust of adults (and Jean) is tested, setting things up for an even more dramatic – probably a melodramatic actually – ending to the following episode.
A Gripping Moment: Ensign Fait’s Death
Every time this scene gets to me – probably due to Noriko Hidaka’s performance, and I feel for the crew of the Nautilus, and especially Jean whose blind, even naive faith in technology and science is badly, badly shaken.
A Touching Moment: Nemo’s Tear
Captain Nemo takes the kids to the surface of Antarctica where they witness the aurora and Nemo is quite moved. Despite the tendency for his eyes/one eye to often remain hidden by the brim of his hat, Nadia catches a glimpse of a tear at this point. It shocks her and we get a softening in her attitude toward him – something which becomes perhaps more poignant only a few episodes later.
It’s an important moment for a character who can be kinda cruel at times – and so the audience needs to see those extra facets to her personality.
Now, you’ve probably noticed that I’ve spent a whole heap of time so far in these posts on the storytelling rather than the visuals – and yeah, maybe that’s a bit of an imbalance for an animated series but I do have a few notes here and there in captions at least 😉
And I will get there in more detail soon but I want to note now that the character designs of Yoshiyuki Sadamoto and Shunji Suzuki really stand out for me, heaps of variety and they’re great at comical faces without (usually) going overboard. (I think most folks know that Nadia and Shinji from Neon Genesis are quite similar too.)
But obviously don’t go in to Nadia expecting modern animation blends with CGI etc – and that’s not to say it’s bad, but you will see a fair few pans across stills and other cost-saving techniques at play throughout. On the other hand, the colours are bright when they need to be and the action sequences always feel cut together nicely, compared to having tonnes of really dynamic camera movements for instance.
Okay, that’s probably enough for now – next time, Episodes 20-22 Beneath the Mask as I’m going to call that mini-arc.