Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water (Fushigi no Umi no Nadia) – The NHK Arc, Episodes 1-4

Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water (Fushigi no Umi no Nadia) 1990

Following on from this introduction post I thought I’d start things today – and let’s see if I can post more about this classic adventure show over the next seven or eight days straight!

(The brushwork on the title card is ace)

The NHK Arc Episodes 1-4

Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water starts out very firmly in ‘children’s cartoon’ territory in some ways. NHK* was reportedly still sending scripts to Anno Hideaki during this time and so there’s definitely a family friendly vibe, with slapstick and a bit of fast and loose stuff when it comes to physics (though nothing like the infamous ‘Island Arc’).

More importantly, many of the characters are established in these episodes, and the MacGuffin too – or so it seems. Of course, the Blue Water itself is actually far more than a MacGuffin, but for now no-one in the story really knows why, not Nadia herself nor those pursuing her.

Firstly, we meet the super-curious Jean, a young scientist who wants to fly and more, to find his missing father. When he arrives at the 1889 Paris World Exposition he encounters a mysterious girl who works as an acrobat in a circus… and is quickly pulled in to her flight from the city, when a trio of comical villains try to steal her glowing blue pendant.

It’s Team Rocket! (Well, the Grandis Gang probably owes something to older shows itself :D).

What follows for the first few episodes is a cycle of close calls as the Grandis Gang close in on Jean and Nadia during their escape, an escape which is usually aided by Jean’s wonderful (if at times unreliable) machinery. (It’s generally these aspects that, for now, carry the steampunk feel.)

Now, if you’re getting some vague Laputa: Castle in the Sky-era Miyazaki vibes from my description then you’ll be gratified to know that ‘Nadia’ was pitched to Toho by Miyazaki as “Around the World in 80 Days in Captain Nemo’s Submarine” during the mid-1970s. Apologies of course if this is old news, as I suspect it will be to Nadia fans who stumble across these posts.

Of course, Miyazaki didn’t end up in the director’s chair but eventually, a fair few years later, Anno Hideaki did and while I’m not sure how much exactly he inserted into these early episodes (compared to what NHK expected him to shoot), it wasn’t all the thrill of setting out on an adventure, though that is still definitely the main focus of the first few episodes.

Also appearing in this arc, usually only briefly, are perhaps a few things more uncommon to the idea of a fun, kids adventure story: namely vegetarianism, racism and maybe even some push-back against the idea of American Imperialism. I haven’t been able to research all of that well but I do think Nadia is at least one of the first anime characters to be firmly vegetarian, which is interesting in and of itself, but also remains an important character trait during the show.

Elsewhere we see the racism of Jean’s aunt, who refuses to take in Nadia based on her skin colour. While racial harmony (or the lack of) is not a theme that the show refers to often, it is present and Jean of course, being not only infatuated with Nadia, but also a young chap of principles, chooses to protect her without help from his family.

During these episodes Jean and Nadia get the chance to share their fears and dreams and find common ground. Nadia’s extreme (but understandable) distrust of adults clearly helps her come to trust Jean quickly, even with her tsundere personality making his life a little harder – but Jean takes it all good-naturedly, bringing a real optimism to the episodes and the whole series.

This expression will pop up every now and then, when Jean is especially excited about technology 😀

Eventually, the kids are chased into the very ocean where they end up being saved by and taken aboard the magnificent Nautilus, courtesy of the taciturn Captain Nemo and Electra, his mysterious First Officer.

Impenetrable disguise there, Electra
Meet Nemo Kanchō – but just his right eye for now.

Here, Jean freaks out with excitement about all the wonderful new technology and though they are attacked by a ‘sea monster’ while aboard, the kids are soon sent on their way once more – toward what is commonly known as Marie’s Island where the tone of Nadia takes a fairly sharp turn away from ‘kids show’.

*I believe that NHK, as Japan’s public broadcaster, was generally considered ‘all ages’ for at least some of its programming?

Getting some foreshadowing in nice and early!

* Another note – re: the Laputa/Nadia aspects, there’s one episode of Nadia here that will clearly evoke the earlier film, both in palette and sometimes composition, but tonally they’re different takes on a similar moment and I only pulled a few shots here.

And I’d say it’s clearly a direct homage too.

The Gainax team were obviously well-aware that Miyazaki pitched the idea and their love of fan-service is kinda legendary, so if Captain Nemo can bring both Superdimension Fortress Macross/Space Battleship Yamato to mind, then why not a nod to Laputa Castle in the Sky with the morning after Jean rescues Nadia/Pazu rescues Sheeta?

A shot of both boys sleeping, having given up their beds.
Here a POV shot as Jean checks on Nadia (who is far less predictable than Sheeta) and the over the shoulder shot from ‘Laputa’.
Both boys head outside to meet a sunny day, though again, tonally the scenes are pretty different. Later, both series and film head back inside and we see more of their inventions.

Okay! Thanks for reading and check back tomorrow for the Growing Darkness Arc – where I’ll do my best to tackle episodes 5-8!

Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water (Fushigi no Umi no Nadia)

Pretty sure this is from an Art Book/Special Edition

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 😀

Twitter Meme “Anime I…”

So, this was just a fleeting but fun meme doing the rounds on Twitter the other day but I didn’t end up posting there because I was too slow but also because the platform is rather ‘cramped’ when it comes to sharing reasons behind your choices 😀

And so, here’s that meme – the bare list first and then a few thoughts to go with it:

Anime I hate: I have no pithy answer here – so I’ll start with a nice ‘N/A

Anime I think is overrated: Anything that has 200+ episodes

Anime I think is underrated: Mushi-Shi

Anime I love: Nadia Secret of Blue Water

Anime I secretly love: Steins;Gate

Favourite anime of all time: Cowboy Bebop

Firstly, I don’t have much to report on the ‘anime I hate’ section because anything I haven’t enjoyed enough to continue watching… I didn’t continue watching, and so don’t have that much to say. I did do a short ‘Abandoned’ post a while back but I didn’t care enough to hate any of those shows, that’s for sure.

For the second item on the list I imagine you can guess the kinds of shows that I don’t have time for (literally and figuratively). If I’m feeling a bit grumpy I might even adjust that number to 100+ and yeah, I’m sure if I looked I’d find some exceptions quite easily… but for me, the risk to reward ratio is way off. More, the way a story ends is so, so important and obviously I hope, a show that eventually becomes more of a cash-cow* than an endeavour to tell a story, tends to dip sharply in quality all too soon and worse, fails to actually have an ending at all.

Now, in some ways calling Mushi-Shi ‘underrated’ might be a bit inaccurate as it’s highly regarded really, but certainly it tops few All-Time lists out there. I love Ginko, Yuto Nakano’s performance too and all the folktales woven throughout the episodic narrative. There’s a sombreness to the show too, which can even bring me down a little at times. Still, it’s my clear pick for the third item on the list.

For the ‘anime I love’ slot there are dozens of shows I could have included but today I went with Gainax’s lesser-known precursor to Neon Genesis – namely: Nadia and the Secret of Blue Water. No doubt I’ve mentioned this before, but I’m a sucker for both the Adventure genre and Coming of Age stories too. I’m also sure at least a few anime fans are aware that Nadia has more than a few very obvious and painful filler episodes – but I’m able to both overlook and skip them. Eventually, I’ll do an episode/arc-based review on the series but for now, I’ll say that the slow reveal of the true darkness of some characters and the drip-feed of truth when it comes to their world really balances nicely against the optimism and determination of the young heroes.

‘Secretly’ isn’t quite right here but I chose Steins;Gate simply because I haven’t reviewed it yet (though I will sooner or later) so that’s as close as I could manage to a ‘secret’ show I love, I guess – though if I can come up with something that fits the implied criteria of embarrassing I’ll update this list 😀 In any event, Steins;Gate can really put you through the wringer – it’s got time-travel, drama, comedy and romance, all pluses!

And finally! I have to go with what some may well consider a boring choice here and go with Cowboy Bebop… mostly due to all the reasons in this post (and more reasons I haven’t got around to sharing yet!).

Update: Forgot to do this yesterday:

*Cash-cows serve that secondary purpose (financial security being the main) even if they become dull shows, because the money they earn a studio can then be used to produce works that are still great but might not appeal as widely, and also might not have ever been made without that income.