OK, so I lied last time and am not doing the second half of my medical stuff post like planned, and will save that for later. I should be posting happy stuff on a supposed-to-be-happy day like today anyways ^_^;. Most of you out there who have heard of Gainax know of it due to Neon Genesis Evangelion (better known, and hereby referred to, as Eva), their “ground breaking” series released in ‘95-‘96. I’d have to say this was, and may still be, the most well known good anime series, meaning not including such tripe as Dragon Ball Z, Pokemon, Digimon, Sailor Moon (which isn’t THAT bad actually...), etc. It always gave me a bad tremble whenever I mentioned anime to general people and they replied with “oh, you mean (like) Sailor Moon?” But anyways... I should let you know beforehand, most of this post is a history of anime and some interesting info on the anime Nadia.
The TV series Gainax did immediately before Eva, Nadia: Secret of the Blue Water, released in ‘89-‘91, is one of, if not my favorite anime series. You can definitely see the influence it had on Eva too. Before I talk about Nadia though, a little history about Gainax first. If anyone is really interested, check out their OVA (Original Video Animation) “Otaku no Video” release in ’91, which is KIND OF an autobiographical parody. I just picked up a copy for myself with some of the Chanukah/Xmas I received this year ^_^. Basically, Gainax is made up of a bunch of otaku. So these anime otaku in the mid ‘80s were of the mindset of “man, we can do better than all the shit that’s coming out”, so they started their own “amateur” company of fervent obsessed fans, and revolutionized the industry with their brilliance. A good chunk of what they do is worth a watch, though I am not quite a fan of all their stuff, it all has its own fun nuances and radiance to it that can only be found by people that truly love what they are doing.
So, back to Nadia. I’d rather not really go into the story because I don’t want to ruin anything for anyone that may choose to watch it, but it is heavily based around Jules Verne’s works, most specifically around Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea and the exploits of Captain Nemo, though with the usual crazy Japanese anime twist. It takes place in 1889-1890 and has a very steam punk feel to it. Disney’s 2001 Atlantis: The Lost Empire is actually quite a blatant rip of Nadia too, and not even an iota as worth it, IMO. I have also heard The Lion King was a pretty blatant rip of Kimba the White Lion, an anime from the mid 1960s. I cannot personally confirm this however, and can’t complain much as The Lion King is one of my two favorite Disney movies, along with Aladdin. But um... back to the topic on hand... darn tangents!! Nadia weaves many different genres very excellently into its story including science fiction, adventure, mystery, comedy, and a hint of romance, but maintains its silly mood throughout, even when dealing with clichéd “difficult” topics like killing, death, and general genocide :-). The main characters are Nadia and Jean, an engineering genius Frenchman, who are excellent foils for each other. One example is how Nadia is one of those “dear god how can you possibly even think about eating a dead animal” vegetarians, which Jean just can’t comprehend “what are you talking about, it’s meat”. And then you bring in the well-mannered 4 year old Marie who is always complaining about how immature/ill mannered the adults are... it’s just a very fun series with a lot of memorable and lovable characters.
So after finishing the ~40 episodes over a week, I went and checked the Wikipedia article on it and found some very fascinating facts, namely tying in Miyazaki with the series, which was a shocker too me. Hayao Miyazaki is by far my most respected (anime?) director, I believe. Most people would know of his works under the anime studio Studio Ghibli, though he doesn’t only do stuff for them, and they have other directors too, but Ghibli and Miyazaki are generally pretty synonymous. I have multiple other topics written down on Miyazaki that I will talk about later, and will post a good list of Miyazaki/Ghibli titles I made a while ago as soon as I can find it. Anyways, some of the more interesting trivia notes I stole from Wikipedia are as follows:
- This show’s origins date back to the mid-1970s when Hayao Miyazaki was hired by Japanese movie giant Toho to develop ideas for television series. One of these concepts was "Around the World Under the Sea", (adapted from Jules Verne’s Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea), in which two orphan children pursued by villains team up with Captain Nemo and the Nautilus. It was never produced, but Toho retained the rights for the story outline. This explains why Anime fans often liken Nadia to a Miyazaki production; the animator reused elements from his original concept in later projects of his, notably the Sci-Fi series Future Boy Conan and his action-adventure film Castle in the Sky.
- Approximately ten years later, Gainax was appointed by Toho in 1989 to produce a TV series which would be broadcast on the Japanese educational network NHK. Miyazaki’s outline for "Around the World Under the Sea" was the one which captivated Gainax the most. Under the direction of Hideaki Anno, the animation studio took the central story and setup Miyazaki had developed and touched it up with their own creativity. (incidentally, Anno had previously worked for Miyazaki as an animator on Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind.)
- Nadia showed up on the Japanese Animage polls as favorite Anime heroine, dethroning the then top champion, Hayao Miyazaki’s Nausicaa.
- Nadia was originally intended to have an estimated 30 episodes. Since the show was so popular in Japan, however, NHK requested Gainax to produce more episodes, extending the episode count to 39. These episodes, dubbed as the "infamous island episodes" (which begin on Episode 23 and conclude on Episode 34), took hits for poor animation (since, as mentioned, other animation studios in Japan and Korea produced these episodes), ill-conceived plotting, and character stupidities; consequently, they drove many fans away. Only by Episodes 35-39 does the show return to its initial roots wherein lies its appeal. The setting of these episodes was suggested by Jules Verne’s other novel featuring Captain Nemo, Mysterious Island.
- According to the notes found in the DVD sleeve of the Italian edition, the true reason behind the difference between the "infamous island episodes" and the rest of the series, would be that production was late on schedule. Starting with episode 11, Anno was working up to 18 hours a day on the series, and yet he was unable to cope with the screenplay, which was then handed to the storyboard team. After episode 20 (aired September 21, 1990), NHK put Nadia on hold to make space for news coverage on the Gulf War: the series returned about a month later with episode 21 (aired on October 26th). Nonetheless production was still late, and Anno asked friend and Gainax co-founder Shinji Higuchi to take over the direction of the series, while he was going to focus on the ending. According to the same source, Anno would have stated that episodes 30 and 31 were the only he would have saved among the Island Chapter ones, while episode 34 was entirely scrapped and replaced by edited sequences of previous episodes.
- At the start of each episode, a Japanese inscription appears on screen (written in the Latin alphabet) and is read by a man’s voice challenging the viewer to follow him for an adventure. "Are you adventurers? Do you seek the truth behind the mythical being that lies beneath the blue waterfalls named The Perilous. If you are, then you must first find me." This derives from the perplexing challenge of Arne Saknussemm in Verne’s Journey to the Center of the Earth.
- The series contains numerous nods to other Japanese television series, as is to be expected in a series by Gainax, which is famously comprised of "otaku" (fervent anime fans). Ostensibly, the Grandis Gang are modeled after the villains from Tatsunoko’s Time Bokan series, and M78, the home system of the Atlanteans, is also the home of Tsuburaya’s Ultraman.
- In the Star Trek: The Next Generation Technical Manual, authors Michael Okuda and Rick Sternbach state that the superconducting crystals used in Starfleet phasers are called fushigi no umi. Sternbach is a noted fan of anime.
One of the most important notes here is the forth and fifth bullets talking about the “infamous island episodes”. While they are still in the general Nadia style, and are fun, they have their downsides. I would personally even recommend skipping at least one and a half of these episodes, due to them being so worthless. They are:
- A large chunk of #26 “King’s on his Own” - After Jean gets knocked out after a terribly silly Wile E. Coyote falling gag homage and he dreams of inventing 21st century technologies.
- Most, if not all, of #34 “Love to Nadia”, which is a “singing recap” episode. What I remember of the songs are especially atrocious.
On that note, the movie really isn’t worth watching at all either. Especially the first 1/3 (30 minutes) of the movie, as it is nothing but a recap of the series.
Oh, also, the original title was translated as “Nadia of the Mysterious Seas”.