Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water (Fushigi no Umi no Nadia) 1990
Onward to the fourth post now, with what is perhaps the second most important (if short) arc in the series.
Beneath the Mask Arc – Episodes 20-22
Here the characters begin to face their secrets and yet more of the shadows that have been brooding across the series rush to the fore – though Nadia does get darker still, later on. Now, I’m not trying to claim that this is a ‘disturbing’ anime, as it’s not so confronting as Neon Genesis Evangelion can be, but basically by now Nadia has pretty much abandoned the tone it established during the NHK episodes.
This mini arc also has perhaps one of the better cliff-hanger moments in an anime series – though to some extent I do partially spoil it four paras below.
Now, I am aware that just above I tried to convince you that Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water isn’t so troubled as Neon Genesis (and that’s still true) but we certainly see a different side to Electra in these episodes. Here, her simmering jealousy and feelings of abandonment spill over into an explosive confrontation with Nemo – and if you think through some of the implications to her breakdown you’ll know that she’s quite lost and maybe confused in some ways.
And it’s probably understandable, considering what we learn during her flashback – and here some of the more distinctive visual elements come into play. First, you’ll notice the that monochrome and selective colouring is really striking. So too, the ‘sketched’ look to the scenes, but perhaps most of all I really enjoyed the direction* as the narrative weaves in and out of past and present, yet retaining Electra and that muted palette as the anchor in both spaces.
As part of the context around the confrontation between Electra and Nemo, Gargoyle really has the Nautilus on the ropes in these episodes – thanks to poor Jean’s ‘mistake’ – which eventually leads to some great heroics from all the characters – especially the Grandis Gang, but eventually Captain Nemo has to take drastic measures to save his crew.
And here’s when that moment from Antarctica really comes back with a gut-punch, as Nemo seemingly sacrifices himself to save Jean and Nadia. And it’s her reactions here that twist the knife, as she seems about to acknowledge her feelings but still cannot… and suddenly the kids are adrift in the ocean without means to navigate or fight, and the episode ends and we have no idea what’s going to happen to everyone!
And it’s a perfect cliff-hanger and release of all the tension that had been building on and off for 20-odd episodes.
And then something happens behind the scenes to forever and deeply mar this fantastic series.
*I know I talk a lot about Anno at various times in these posts but I’d like to note that there were as many as twelve others who worked on storyboards for various episodes, and nineteen folks who directed episodes across Nadia’s run and so the visual style of the series cannot necessarily fall only upon one person’s shoulders here, though I’m not really able to differentiate, of course.
Tomorrow, the first of some hard yakka* with the Island Arc – Episodes 23-31.
(*Thought I’d add in some Australian slang – means “hard work”)