Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water (Fushigi no Umi no Nadia) 1990
Seventh part – it’s a little longer than the last one, but hopefully not unbearably so, the way it might have been had I placed eps 1-39 in a single post 🙂
The Tartessos Arc – Episodes 35-39
A sigh of relief!
Finally, Anno is back at the helm and he really delivers with the conclusion. Here, Nadia’s heritage is realised at last and the steampunk aspects fall away to let the show head in to full ‘science-fiction’ mode, meeting the expectations that were established via little hints here and there in previous episodes.
It’s a really satisfying end to a series and a great palette-cleanser for what came before too.
Because what preceded this really felt like a betrayal on multiple levels – aimless, regressive and at times racist, I’d like to think none of that was part of Anno’s original vision.
But I’ll focus on the good stuff now.
In this final arc there are still a few twists and surprises during both the escalating ship-based battle between Nemo and Gargolye, and later when everyone is back on foot. Even the villain’s delusions reveal some interesting mythology and Christian themes that have also been hinted at from way back in the early episodes. (A fair few of these aspects will re-appear in similar or more refined ways during Neon Genesis too, years later.)
It’s hard for me to go into too many specifics here without spoiling all kinds of things in this post, but there’s a real tear-jerker moment (well, it was for me) in the ending too, so watch out if you decide give this series a shot and find yourself emotionally invested in the characters!
Visually, the animation quality is restored and monochrome/selective colour technique also returns for most of episode 35 – and it’s perfect to evoke a sense of both wonder and unease, and of course, the return of colour comes at the most dramatic moment in the episode. Elsewhere I really enjoyed the vague Egyptian look to some of the designs for certain characters, and the final, personal confrontation between the heroes and Gargoyle was pretty memorable too.
I know that I’ve saved most of my criticism for certain arcs, rather than aiming it at the overall story itself so far, but for me there wasn’t a whole lot that truly bothered me about Nadia.
Some folks don’t dig the pacing because there’s comedy, slice of life and a fair bit of time spent on characters especially during the episodic run, but again, I’m happy for those aspects to stick around. Maybe some viewers will find this anime (at least for a while) too ‘young’ though again, I can’t decide if Nadia is truly pitched at children.
Nadia herself can be hard work for some audiences because she is quite unreasonable at times, and takes a long time to open up. She has principals which I like but on the other hand, she can be awfully hard-line. And while Nadia is one of the first anime heroines of African heritage, which is pretty cool, at times it feels like the show spends too much time on her costuming and the requisite camera pans.*
[There’s a little spoiler in the next paragraph.]
More specifically to stay with these final episodes I’m not sure Nadia’s breakdown and suicide attempt is foreshadowed quite enough, and the ‘capital cities’ ultimatum-scene from Gargoyle and Nero seem a bit odd geographically.
Maybe some of the soundtrack isn’t always killer but the key pieces are memorable – especially Nadia’s theme and Nautilus-gou Oounabara Wo Yuku which are in the playlist below:
Without delving into any hints of that tired ‘sub vs dub’ debate I preferred the sub – though I believe my release included the ADV not Streamline dub. Both of these are interesting in that they use a range of accents to best evoke the multi-national Nautilus crew.
Here’s a quick comparison I found:
To focus on just one part of comparison, you’ll see that the Streamline dub has voices that feel more professional, reflected in Jean and Nadia, on the other, ADV instead chose to employ young (new?) actors for the leads. That definitely sounds more ‘right’ to my ear… however, the French accents are a little uneven across the series.
Thinking back a moment on some of this post I wonder if I’ve got too many criticisms aimed at Nadia’s character, but in some ways she’s a little passive. She doesn’t get to ‘fight back’ very often – but I will say that when backed into a corner, her defiance and desire to protect Jean is great. Related to this, Jean is more active in most ways and so sometimes it feels like it’s as much his story as hers.
Other than those aspects (and a few other bits I didn’t get to here), Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water is one of my favourite shows and I’m gonna call it a ‘classic’ even though I know that’s a very personal rating considering the real problems with those filler arcs.
Without them it’s something better.
If you’re a fan of Anno or Gainax then I think you’d like this series to some extent, perhaps if only to seek out all the Neon Genesis connections, otherwise if you dig old-school adventure with a share of darkness (though not unending by any means) then you’ll probably enjoy Nadia well enough, just please – remember to skip the majority of the Island Arc and the entire Africa Arc!
Two more posts to follow, if you can believe it!
One will be a bit of a write up on the Nadia/Atalantis issues and the other will be a visual analysis thing because I like doing them, basically. Not sure which will come first yet – but one of them lands tomorrow 😀
*As some of you know I probably come across as reasonably unforgiving on some aspects of fan-service in my reviews, and while I don’t think Nadia is ever exploitative, the show certainly never strips the guys down to bathing suits or less.