Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water (Fushigi no Umi no Nadia) 1990
There’s valid debate as to whether Nadia of the Mysterious Seas should actually be considered a classic or not and I understand the trepidation. There are some serious flaws resulting from a troubled production that I think would prevent the majority of folks from giving this anime that honorific.
However, I do think of the series as a classic, but then I’m a fan. (Having said that, I’m pretty aware of the problems too.)
This time around I’ve decided to split my review/discussion into seven posts (of varying lengths) that represent some of the show’s ‘arcs’ as I see them. I’ve named each arc but in a non-consistent way, partly to tie in with how fans tend to discuss certain parts of the series, but also to signal some tonal shifts, production changes or storytelling movements – and finally, ever my dream, I’m breaking it all up to make my posts shorter 😀
Here’s the lay of the land for the Nadia-themed posts:
There will be spoilers in these posts – though not many big ones like ‘specific details on exactly how the series wraps up’. I’ll try to put a little warning in at times, but there will be spots where I have to discuss certain events (again, not the ending).
Not sure when I’ll start posting – have just got to deal with the tiny detail of going through 39 episodes for images 😀
The Sacred Blacksmith (Seiken no Burakkusumisu) 2009
Lots of tropes here!
But did that ruin the series for me?
No, yet on a related note, if any of the following items bug you, then perhaps don’t rush to The Sacred Blacksmith: classic good vs evil plot, moe character designs, a jerk-ish male lead, a fairly absent villain and finally, pretty clumsy fan-service re: its delivery in general but also our leading lady, who is meant to be a klutz.
Having outlined those issues as I see them, there’s a great story that pushes through. I also found myself engaged by the leads; there’s character conflict both internal and external, and the show is happy to spend a bit of screen time there, which is welcome in my books 🙂
Most of the action sequences seemed good too but again, I think I kept watching mostly for the characters, both to learn their secrets and see them finally fess up to each other about the emotional things they were dealing with. The world presented is typical of dark fantasy traditions and had some fun aspects re: the demon swords, but overall it isn’t so grim that there wasn’t room for comedic moments or episodes.
Okay, to try and control my tendency to ramble, I wanna now switch to some dot points:
I needed to spend more time with the villain as he remained nebulous a little too long for me, only really beginning to evoke visceral responses at times in the final two episodes.
The series pacing was kinda shot for me when the story introduced Charlotte, (the Lisa-clone, small and blonde, moe etc). Worse, since she first appears as a brat antagonist the series then has to spend far too much time rehabilitating her. Part of me thinks she was only added in so they could undress her retainers for the obligatory hot springs/bathing scene.
The main storyline didn’t get a chance to expand, which was a shame because the bigger picture was really starting to build pressure on the characters and I would have watched another season, especially considering there are plenty of light novels. Doubtless the debt-ridden and bankrupt Manglobe means there’s no chance of any further seasons.
Okay, so due to the things I’ve brought up it maybe sounds like I didn’t enjoy The Sacred Blacksmith at all, but that’s not true – I mean, I finished it and I wanted the story to continue.
And again, it was the character development that kept me on board as much as anything – for instance, our secondary hero Luke has as much or more growth than heroine Cecily and at times, the humour was great (I’m mostly thinking head maid Fio here) so The Sacred Blacksmith is by no means something I loathed.
But there is better fantasy anime out there – which is maybe a bit of an empty statement perhaps, I mean, for every genre only a few things are at the top 😀
*Oh, and if I can borrow a drinking game approach from Irina, then if you want to get trashed, take a drink every time the characters discuss Cecily’s breasts. For alcohol poisoning, add in Each Time the Shot is Framed to Keep them in View.
Space Opera is one of my favourite genres so I was already pre-disposed toward enjoying Outlaw Star before I saw it, I must admit.
And it’s definitely what I was looking for: a fast-paced space adventure that mixes the episodic with over-arching plot but spends a nice amount of time on comedy too – and occasionally, the melodrama that comes from the ‘opera’ part of the genre.
Like so many anime, Outlaw Star is based on an existing manga, but unlike a fair few of them, Sunrise had a full story to work from when they started (I’m pretty sure), so if you come across Outlaw Star you’ll get a series that has a beginning, middle and end. Sweet deal, huh?
And like every adaptation out there, it’s easy to argue that certain elements needed more or less screen time, but I had no problem with the overall mix of comedy/action/adventure.
In terms of structure, what I did wish for was a little more of the main concern threaded into the background of those first episodic installments, the ones appearing right after the Hilda arc. The next few chapters have great internal structure and an equal share of comedy and action as you meet and then get to know the people Gene and Jim end up adopting as part of the Outlaw Star’s crew, so it doesn’t feel like wasted time of course.
That central plot (featuring the mysterious Melfina and her origins) being sidelined at times is actually worked into the story and Gene’s character – he’s the cocky but good-natured bounty-hunter type that will, for some folks, bring Spike Spiegel to mind, I guess.
And comparisons to Cowboy Bebop sometimes pop up with Outlaw Star and it’s fair in some ways – they share a production company and both shows feature futuristic settings, space battles, bounty-hunting (ish) but being broke and a cocky male lead supported by a mismatched crew… yet tonally they’re very different. Outlaw Star focuses more on comedy and adventure, while Bebop is ultimately a sombre series*.
But they’re similar also in the fact that most folks seem to care for the characters by the end of the respective shows and while Gene and Aisha are probably common favs, I think the square(?) within me identified most with Jim. Poor Jim, who along with the ship’s computer, was the level-headed one cursed with putting up with Gene’s pig-headedness 😀
At times the character models seemed inconsistent but the designs (of ships and stations also) are distinctive so I got over that issue, and it wasn’t ‘off’ very often either. Cool opening song too but I’ll add that another way that Outlaw Star differs from Cowboy Bebop is their approach to fan-service.
Bebop is occasionally more subtle about it but wow, the ‘hot springs planet episode’ in Outlaw Star is way over the top. So much so that it’s doubtless a self-aware parody of the whole idea of a fan-service episode. And while there’s no plot-based reason for Melfina to be naked while helping pilot the ship, the show does undress Gene a fair bit too.
So, finally to some sort of recommendation, right?
Well, keeping in mind that I’ve mentioned my biases… this is worth seeing if you’re a fan of any of the genres I’ve mentioned above or interested in Sunrise during the 1990s, and while it’s not flawless it is fun, I reckon.
* I wanted to note that on the off chance you come across (misguided) folks looking down on Outlaw Star as knock-off of Cowboy Bebop, you can remind them that OS started screening a couple of months prior and wasn’t cancelled during its original run 😀
So, if you haven’t seen Expelled from Paradise I’d say this film strikes a balance between overpowered robots, cyber investigation, fan-service and good old fashioned post-apocalyptic stuff – yet it’s not precisely outside the mecha-sub genre either.
It also spends a bit of time exploring personhood, which is always welcome in my books.
There are some pretty fun battles throughout – I’d watch it again for those sequences and the sleek designs of the ships and robots too, but I reckon typical studio pressure shoe-horned a bit of the fan-service into the film.
Now, I don’t have a handle on the production context or reception it got at the time of release, but it’s easy to imagine main character Angela’s g-string costume (and the action) is meant to sell the audience on the film so the writers could later sneak in some philosophical aspects as the movie progressed? I mean, she’s not a one-dimension character but she is clearly typical in that she’s been costumed to be eye-candy for the male gaze.
In other aspects, Expelled from Paradise treats her as an actual character.
She realistically struggles with having to use a body once again (after essentially living as a virtual presence for part of the story) and she does become less conceited, so there’s some character development. And look, it’s not all bad and I think the film is probably worth watching for the animation alone.
Actually, maybe for the mysterious (and cute) Frontier Setter too, along with the other lead character who remains my fav, Dingo. He’s probably my favourite because he has the whole bounty-hunter thing going on, though Dingo is more open – and interestingly enough, in the English dub he’s actually voiced by Steve Blum (and Wendee Lee voices Angela :D).
This movie had a big budget and some big names behind it – Seiji Mizushima (FMA) Gen Urobuchi (Pyscho Pass) as director and writer, but Expelled from Paradise didn’t end up being brilliant or un-missable for me and I don’t see it listed as a classic on many lists… but once more, having said that, it was still pretty great in spite of the things I felt were shortcomings.
I felt like there was also a little nod to Ergo Proxy here when we meet Angela’s masters, though of course, not everything is a reference to something else – but I like to seek out the possibilities anyway 😀
Portal fantasy is a classic genre and can be perfect for a writer to deliver exposition – naturally, the visiting character needs most things explained and at the same time, the viewer gets the info.
That’s why I like such shows in a way, because they’re up front about what I need to know and the pacing of a story tends to be fast(er) as a result of that, but despite all the good, tension-building angst at the beginning, I didn’t finish episode one here.
I think I’m just not precisely in the mood for this one, so I can see myself coming back to it.
2. Inuyasha (2000)
Sensing a theme? 😀
I got a few episodes in and was enjoying Inuyasha, which is definitely a classic, but despite me liking the characters and the world-building, I felt kinda crushed by the weight of the rest of the series.
It’s not the longest out there of course, but with nearly 300 episodes I just knew I’d never make it. Maybe one day I’ll go up to a certain arc’s resolution but for now, I’m glad I’ve actually seen at least a few episodes of this one.
3. Kabaneri of the Iron Rortress: Battle of Unato (2019)
This one is probably my mistake rather than any particular deficiency that I noticed – slick animation, vivid colours, some compelling tension and an interesting world that I’m curious about – but I’m half-way through the film and well aware that I’ve missed enough from the series that the character interactions should be carrying more weight.
So yeah, that’s my mistake – I started the film on a whim, knowing I shouldn’t watch it before the series, but I was drawn in enough even without the wider context of the show.
I saw the ‘that one guy who can’t get along with everyone else’ trope combined
with the “stranded on an island” setting I grew immediately tired and set the
series aside. Maybe it was just bad memories of Lost?
Now, could I ever take a look again? Certainly, but I’m not in a rush just yet.
2. Nanana’s Buried Treasure (2014)
Via the blurb I came across for this series I was thinking kids on a treasure hunt, helped out by a ghost? Cool!
…but once I started watching this one I was quickly buried alive by fan-service. I don’t automatically dismiss a show due to fan-service but it was just lurking around every corner, lol, and it seemed to be the focus more so than the mystery, which is what I was after – so maybe this one’s on me, for not actually researching the show properly first.