Judge Joel Pearce once ate a giant squid with tartar sauce. Mmm...calimari.
Dive into the adventure of a lifetime!
One thing that can definitely be said about Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water: Collection 1 is that you get lots of the show for your money. This set contains five DVDs with four episodes on each disc, as well as two soundtrack CDs. This is the first of two such collections, with approximately half of the series.
For those unfamiliar with Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water, it is an anime show that was created by Gainax before they produced Neon Genesis Evangelion. It was first aired in Japan in 1989, making it one of the earliest anime series I have seen. It draws obvious inspiration from the early Studio Ghibli films, especially Castle in the Sky. Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water was also inspired by Jules Verne's 20 000 Leagues Under the Sea, but it is never trapped by this inspiration. It has gone on to inspire a number of more recent projects, such as Disney's Atlantis. In fact, it's so similar to Atlantis that Disney should have gotten in trouble for making something this close without acknowledging its source.
Like Castle in the Sky, Nadia takes place around the turn of the century, and it focuses on the adventure of two youngsters brought into a conflict involving the fight for the technology of an ancient civilization. It also has villains who turn out to be okay when the real bad guys show up, exciting naval battles, and a glowing necklace that seems to be the key of the lost civilization. But now I am getting ahead of myself. I will try to do a plot summary without ruining too much:
Facts of the Case
• Disc One: The Adventure Begins
• Disc Two: The Dark Kingdom
• Disc Three: Aboard the Nautilus
• Disc Four: Battleground
• Disc Five: Nemo's Fortress
As I have already implied, there are a lot of both good and bad things about Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water. While the show is focused on adventure, it is continually engaging and entertaining. It also tries to grapple with major issues, especially that of technology and the human responsibility. Captain Nemo is afraid that the technology that he uses will get into the hands of the rest of the world, and that it will cause terrible wars that will destroy humankind. There is an implication that the Atlanteans got a little too carried away with their technology, and that is what destroyed them in the end. The mission of the Nautilus to fight Gargoyle in secret is necessary in order to prevent the world from gaining too much technology too quickly. This theme is even more important considering that it takes place just a few years before World War I. The placement of this story in history is often alluded to, but it is never heavy-handed. The Tower of Babel that Gargoyle creates acts in much the same way as a nuclear weapon, a fact that cannot be ignored considering that the show was produced in Japan. When the characters come across the remains of Atlantis, they find glass that has been formed from the intense heat of the tower there, much like what happens to sand when a nuclear bomb goes off.
The show also tries to handle some other issues with less success. Nadia is a militant vegetarian, and goes on a huge rampage when her friends go hunting on an island. Considering that they are hunting for food, this whole issue gets a bit tired after an episode or two when she is still moaning about the sanctity of life, and how she would rather starve to death than kill an animal for food. She also kicks up a fuss when Nemo kills one of the Neo-Atlanteans in order to save her. In other words, she's a heroine that's self-righteous and whiny, who treats the characters around her quite poorly considering the number of times that she needs to be saved or rescued.
I already complained a bit about the relationship between Jean and Nadia. At some points, they seem to be so young that they don't even have a notion of love, and yet at other times they are obviously infatuated with each other. This isn't helped by the fact that everyone on board the ship is pushing them on. It's hard to nail down what age they are supposed to be. They act as if they are around twelve or thirteen, but then there are some (out of place) fan service scenes that would suggest Nadia is much older than that. I wish they would have delayed the love story between the two for longer, so that this rocky beginning stage of the relationship didn't have to go on for so long. With patience, though, Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water is an entertaining series that will impress fans of light adventure animation.
Although some elements of the story haven't aged that well, the technical quality of the animation still looks quite good. It's not as detailed as a recent show, but it is still more than watchable, and the battle scenes are still great. The show is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.33:1, and the video transfer does a good enough job of capturing this 15-year-old animation.
The sound is also fairly solid. The Japanese track is quite good, for a stereo track, mixing the dialogue and music well. The subtitles are too florid at times, but it makes sense and is grammatically sound. The English track sounds just as good, although I have some complaints with the dub. It is not as literal as many translations are, and it features several terrible voice actors. Jean, I assume, is supposed to be French, but his accent sounds more like German sometimes. Some of the other voices are pretty dull to listen to, but I found I got more used to them over time.
The discs don't have any special features, but ADV has included two soundtrack CDs of the score. Considering when the show was produced, the soundtrack is quite good. It has a few too many '80s guitar riffs and drumbeats, but on the whole it fits well with the show. I can't really imagine wanting to listen to these albums separately, though, but fans of the series that love the score will find the CDs to be a welcome addition to the set.
Fans of the series that don't own it on DVD yet will be very pleased with this purchase. It's at a pretty low price point considering how much viewing you get out of it, so it may be worth a purchase for fans of animation in the mood for some good old fashioned adventure. Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water is a piece of animation history, but it doesn't belong in a museum.
Although Nadia is warned to be a little more respectful if she doesn't want to swim to shore, the crew of the Nautilus is free to continue their mission to protect the world from the Neo-Atlanteans. ADV is commended for their treatment of this classic show.
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