Judge Joel Pearce has discovered the secret of blue water: it's crap.
The secret of blue water is revealed!
Once the producers of Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water realized they had a huge hit on their hands, they decided it would be a great idea to extend the series by about a dozen episodes, to cash in on the popularity of the franchise. They added a number of filler episodes and outsourced the animation to a second-rate Korean studio. What had began as an innovative, but somewhat bloated and confused series has now become an unpleasant, misguided behemoth of adventure entertainment. The drop in quality that happens through the second half of the series manages not only to suck, but to undermine everything that had come before, and completely destroys any chance for a compelling conclusion to the series. This DVD collection includes the second half of the series, as well as a feature length movie sequel that was produced several years later.
Facts of the Case
We last left Nadia and Jean on the Nautilus, as it was once again being attacked by the Neo-Atlanteans. This collection begins with the destruction of the Nautilus; they then embark on the next section of their journey. Unfortunately, this is also the beginning of the aforementioned filler episodes. They land with Marie and King on an uninhabited island in the middle of the ocean, where they spend about ten episodes having the same problems and arguments over and over again. It's more reminiscent of Gilligan's Island than anything else, and brings the main plot arc to a grinding halt.
After the painfully long stay on the first island, they move to a new island: a mysterious moving island, where they once again run into Grandis, Hanson and Sanson. They then spend an interminable amount of time on the new island, running over many of the same things as they had on the first island. Finally, Nadia discovers more about her past, the Gratan is repaired, and they move on to the final battle with Gargoyle. Here, Nadia confronts her destiny as the heir of the Atlantean race.
There are so many problems with this second volume of Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water that I hardly know where to begin. By the end of the first volume, the series felt a bit too much like one of the Saturday morning cartoons from when I was a kid. Part of the way through this part of the collection, it started feeling more like a Sunday morning cartoon. The animation quality is dreadful, completely doing away with the detailed characters and richly-painted backdrops of the early episodes. The new animation studio resorts to a lot of character deformation and simplification in order to save time, which is made even more evident by the constant flashes back to the early episodes.
The storytelling takes a solid punch to the head as well. As soon as they arrive on the island, the main story arc is simply suspended as the show shifts to the day-to-day survival of the castaways. The serial adventure tone of the series changes to this bizarre blend of light, childish humor and blunt moralizing. It is no longer the same show; and by the time the adventure kicks in again, it has been over a dozen episodes since we have seen anything from the Neo-Atlanteans and the other survivors of the Nautilus. Wasn't this supposed to be a retelling of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea? Where is the Nautilus? Where is the ocean adventure? Where is the adventure??? Contests between Jean and Hanson over who can create the better robotic lion (don't ask me where they found the materials) seem so painfully trite after the international battles the characters had been in throughout the last collection. By the time I got to the dreadful musical episode (which worked in Buffy but doesn't even begin to work here), I really wanted to send this collection 20,000 leagues under the sea.
The problems that surfaced with the characters in the first half of the series have simply become worse as well. Rather than eventually coming around and becoming more consistent, Nadia gets increasingly rude and unstable. Sometimes she is in love with Jean; sometimes she runs away from the rest of the group for days. This is the girl who holds the fate of the world in her hands? She gradually becomes one of the worst heroines of all time. Jean remains in love with her, of course, but she never does anything to earn that love. Jean remains problematic as well. He is never able to understand what's going on with Nadia or their relationship, which prevents the series from working as a coming-of-age story. So, what started as a coming-of-age serial action adventure series has somehow morphed into this horrific preteen mix of Dawson's Creek, Gilligan's Island, and Survivor. These problems are serious enough that no conclusion could possibly have made up for the pain I suffered during this section of the show. There are, I have to admit, a few decent moments in the last few episodes, but they are ruined by a ridiculous amount of dialogue throughout the end battle. Gargoyle himself has more lines during this battle than all of the characters in Hamlet combined, which slows what should be an exciting climax into a laughable and bloated gab-fest.
In technical terms, the second half of the series is much weaker than the first half. The solid animation is gone, the voice acting is worse, the soundtrack is more repetitive and there aren't enough of the cool naval battles that redeemed the first half of the series. The transfer of the show is every bit the solid effort on the part of ADV, but they have a lot less to work with here. Many visible black marks appear around moving objects on the screen, and the animators have obviously used a number of short cuts throughout.
The only extra material is the package of two soundtrack CDs, one from the series itself and the other from the film sequel. I can't imagine anyone spinning them very often, but it's a nice thing to add—something that I wish more DVD producers would consider.
Nadia: The Motion Picture
The less said about this dreadful atrocity, the better. It begins with about 20 minutes of flashback sequences from the series, seemingly tossed together based on explosions and fan service. It doesn't make much sense, even for those of us that have watched the series. Then it gets down to business with a poorly written story about an evil conqueror named Geiger who attempts to recreate the glory of the Neo-Atlantean empire by replacing world leaders with robots that have a tendency to dissolve.
Nadia, who has separated from Jean and is living in London, tries to figure out what's going on, then involves Jean when she receives some information. The two of them, along with (of course) Grandis, Hanson and Sanson, go after Geiger and eventually find his island of evil robots.
Everything about the film is worse than the series. The animation is wretched, consistently as bad as the worse episodes of Nadia. The story wobbles back and forth between ill-conceived and nonsensical. The dialogue is execrable; it does a poor job of connecting in any way with the original film. The music is even worse. I can't even imagine how painful it would be for someone who didn't already know the characters. They, at least, wouldn't realize how tiny and pathetic the conflict is after the earth-shattering scope of the show.
It's really a shame that the first volume of Nadia didn't end more cleanly. It was not the best series I have ever seen, but when I finished the first half I understood why it is so well respected. After the second half and the sequel, I am not so sure anymore. A solid opening third really isn't enough to make a classic series. Due to the quick downhill slide of the plot, characters, animation and script, I can't even recommend this second volume to those who purchased and enjoyed the first. It was a real chore to make it through this volume, and that's not what watching television should be like. I was generous after the first half of the series, but now I need to be realistic about this. Nadia was produced by an innovative team that made some severe blunders, especially towards the end. The results of those blunders now make the series almost unwatchable.
Nadia and her friends have been found guilty and the court has decided to extradite her to whatever planet she came from, never to be seen on Earth again. The production team will be released, considering the years of quality entertainment they have released since this snafu.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: ADV Films
• Two Soundtrack CDs
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