Nadia, Secret of Blue Water Collection 1 (w/CD) (of 2) (Mania.com)
Review Date: Friday, December 02, 2005
Release Date: Tuesday, May 18, 2004
What They Say
Obsessed with returning the Atlantean empire to its former glory, the evil Gargoyle will stop at nothing to get his hands on the Blue Water - the mysterious gem the young circus acrobat Nadia wears around her neck. Nadia may be a target for Gargoyle's forces, but she's not alone - not only has the young inventor Jean Ratlique come to Nadia's rescue, but so has the extraordinary Captain Nemo!
Climb aboard Nemo's legendary submarine, the Nautilus, as our intrepid heroes journey from one exotic locale to the next in their mission to keep the Blue Water away from Gargoyle's devious clutches!
A fun adventure series with a great deal below the surface, I was very pleasantly surprised by Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water
Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water Collection 1 offers English 2.0 and Japanese 2.0 with subtitles. Both audio tracks are fairly standard and are fairly clear without a great deal of distortion (though I did notice one distinct instance of popping on the English track). While definitely solid, the audio doesn't really offer much in the way of directionality, with the front speakers doing most of the work. All things considered, while the audio tracks sound nearly the same in terms of quality, I feel the wealth and general believability of the accents employed on the English dub give it a slight edge.
Nadia: Secret of Blue Water Collection 1 is presented in the original 4:3 full frame aspect ratio. Originally airing throughout 1990 and 1991, Nadia manages to still look fairly clean, retaining a decent amount in the way of bright colors, but also with a fairly regular and noticeable amount of scratches and dust that are prone to come with the film's age. The blacks are true for the most part and the colors, while occasionally appearing muted, are consistent and solid throughout. Throughout the five volumes included in this collection, I noted some jagged line edges and blurriness, instances of cross coloration and some jitteriness, but I don't believe this would be enough to truly detract from enjoying the series.
The Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water Collection I set ships in a very thick keep case roughly the thickness of two double keep cases. The front cover design (a reused cover from Vol. 3 of the original series release) is primarily deep blue and features Nadia, Captain Nemo, a very nicely painted image of the Nautilus, the earth and Atlantean technology as the main image montage with the title directly below that. Interestingly, Nadia's skin tone appears much lighter here than in the series.
The extra thick spine features Nadia (properly toned) and Jean as well as the logo and collection information. The reverse cover of the set features more the same murky blue tones as well as some seemingly random images of a pondering Nemo, and Jean and Nadia. Six images from the episodes accompany the series break down and a brief paragraph citing inspiration for the series, including director and animation studio information. A great quote from Anime on DVD is featured prominently near the top of the cover. Volume information and set extras are clearly labeled and easily identified toward the bottom of the cover. DVD running time and aspect ratio information are found in the lower right corner.
This set also includes a bi-fold insert featuring a nice image of Nadia and Jean on the cover. The inside spread features more character art and breaks down the episodes by title and disc, accompanied by images from each volume. The reverse is a break-down of both soundtracks included (in separate disc sleeves) with the set.
For the most part, the menus are simple but effective. While there are some differences in design from disc to disc (particularly with volume one, which feels flatter and less visually engaging than the other releases as it uses a completely different background), the menu navigation and setup is basically the same. Each of the five menus in the collection features a digitized background image of waves crashing on a beach as the clouds rapidly pass overhead. Grids designed to appear similar to some of the Atlantean designs from the series are placed just over the faded text, "NADIA." Interestingly, I noted the only place the entire title ("Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water") appears in the menu is by the copyright information. A character image from the volume is set in the foreground with the menu placed in such a way as to balance the composition. On the first four volumes, the menu options offer: Play, Scene Selection, Language, Extras, and Previews. However, this is changed in the fifth and sixth volumes, as on these discs the viewer has the option to navigate to the individual four episodes directly from the main menu page, with Scene Selection, Languages, and Extras also found in the menu. A brief audio clip plays throughout. While I found the menus to be easy to read and navigate, I would have liked to have seen more consistency in design between the discs in this set. I also noted that on some players, the menu text appears slightly jittery and blurred.
For the most part, disc extras in the collection are fairly standard, featuring the textless opening and closing and two Nadia trailers (oddly, though, the viewer is not given the ability to view these individually, as they are both included under the "Nadia Trailers" option) on the first through fourth discs, ADV previews and sneak peeks of future volumes in the series, with character profiles on the fifth and sixth discs.
However, the most prominent extra in the collection would be the two soundtrack discs bound with the set. Featuring a total of thirty-eight tracks and offering a very nice overview of the music from the series, these discs are a delightful bonus for fans of the series in specific and solid anime soundtracks in general.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water is a thirty-nine episode series originally airing throughout 1990 and 1991 in Japan, the first twenty episodes of which are reviewed here. Based very loosely on the exploits of Captain Nemo and the crew of the Nautilus from the works of Jules Verne, the series is set in 1889 and follows the adventures of the eponymous lead, Nadia, her pet lion cub King, her friends Jean and Marie, as well as the somewhat rehabilitated jewel thieves Grandis, Hanson and Sanson, and the crew of the Nautilus, not the least of which is the shadowy and somewhat aloof Captain Nemo. In this particular telling of Nemo's tale, he and his crew are waging a one-submarine war against the forces of the villainous Gargoyle and his Neo-Atlanteans, a shadowy international organization aimed at resurrecting the long lost power of Atlantis. Already a technological power far surpassing any of the nations found on the earth, Gargoyle seeks to utilize the shocking technological might of the Atlanteans to rule the world. However, the Nautilus and its crew stand in his way. Serving no nation, but instead the entire world, and staffed by men and women from all countries swearing vengeance on Gargoyle for his heinous crimes, the Nautilus is armed with Atlantean technologies far beyond those of even twentieth century science. It alone is capable of foiling Gargoyle's plans and bringing an end to the Neo-Atlanteans. Add to this ongoing battle the mysterious girl Nadia and her strange pendant, which has connections to the lost continent of Atlantis and is sought by Gargoyle himself, and the series becomes rife with action and twists.
As a tremendous fan of Jules Verne's work, I grew up reading of Captain Nemo and the Nautilus, so I was very excited to learn this series gave that material a new and different perspective. Overall, I was not disappointed. The series offers a great deal of adventure and enough plot twists to keep the viewers guessing. The series also does a very nice job of exploring characters and the relationships between them. In fact, I would argue one of the series' strengths can be found in the way in which characters dynamically progress and develop, while at once remaining true to who they are. In fact, a large subtext to this piece rests on the premise of that transitional period between childhood and adulthood. The two leads, both fourteen, find themselves caught in a war far bigger than they and soon discover their roles to be much larger than expected. The series does a nice job of exploring this pull between the larger cast of adults on the Nautilus and Nadia and Jean's orphaned friend Marie. It's very interesting to watch as they seek to balance their connection with the much younger Marie, their own developing feelings for one another and their circumstances, and what is asked of them by Captain Nemo.
Interestingly, and this could likely be a draw for many of Miyazaki's fans, I noted a number of parallels between Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water and Laputa: Castle in the Sky. From the young female/male orphaned leads, to the fact they're both caught in a struggle beyond their reckoning seeking to find an understanding of their past and a place in a rapidly changing world, to the powerful pendant from a once great and now long-lost society. One could also draw a large number of plot parallels between the two, namely in the befriending of the thieves initially out to steal the pendant, the struggle against a powerful and technologically advanced organization, and even the predominance of amazing ships (in Castle in the Sky the ships flew above the clouds, in Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water, the ships duel under the waves.) I would assert this could be a great selling-point for this particular series, as Miyazaki has devoted fans the world over, and Nadia is certainly strong enough to stand on its own.
As stated above, the characters in Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water offer a tremendous amount of depth to the story. I seriously doubt the series would work as well as it does if the characters were not true to themselves. To this end, while certain characters may come across as annoying or difficult to completely agree with, they remain consistently within character.
The lead character, Nadia, is a mysterious and exotic girl of fourteen. An orphan and formerly an acrobat with a traveling circus in Paris, she recalls little of her past and owns only a unique blue pendant which she wears around her neck. Thought she is unaware of it, she plays a far great role in the history of Atlantis and the future of the world. Her best friend is King, a lion cub with a great deal of personality. She is fiercely independent and against violence of any sort. Her love of and uncanny ability to sympathize and perhaps communicate with animals leads her to champion the cause of their protection. At many points in the twenty episodes in this collection, she speaks out as a vegetarian, condemning violence to both animals and man, even at the potential cost of her own life. And though she is kind and considerate, she is also hot-headed and quick to anger, which is often directed at her friend and potential love interest, Jean.
Jean Rocque Raltique is a young French boy, also of fourteen. He is quite intelligent and adept at invention, though his magnificent creations are often limited by his own somewhat na�ve perspective of the world (an interesting point in the subtext of his transition from boy to man.) He meets Nadia at the Paris World's Fair and quickly rises to her aid against the three jewel thieves (Grandis, Hanson and Sanson) after her Blue Water pendant.
Marie is also an orphan, rescued by Nadia and Jean on the island on which the Nautilus left them from their initial encounter. Her family was murdered by the Neo-Atlanteans and now Nadia and Jean look after her as a younger sister. While she serves as means of juxtaposing the life and perspectives of childhood Nadia and Jean are leaving behind, in her childishness she is often far more capable of seeing what Nadia and Jean cannot, particularly in regard to their own feelings for one another.
Grandis and her henchmen Hanson and Sanson are reformed jewel thieves who had been lured in to hunting Nadia and her Blue Water pendant by the manipulative Gargoyle. These characters, while initially serving as the primary antagonists in the series typically offer most in the way of humor. Later, as they reform and begin to work their way in to the regular cast, they have a great deal more depth than expected and play vital roles in the plot and, more specifically, Nadia and Jean's character development.
Nemo, much like the secrets of the Nautilus, remains closed to the viewer through these episodes. Dark and brooding, he seems to make difficult decisions easily and without hesitation. It is suggested that he carries a great deal of weight, personally bearing the burden of responsibility for all those who have been lost under his command and the lives taken by Gargoyle through the years. The hatred he has for Gargoyle and the Neo-Atlanteans is actually a very nice aspect to his character, particularly in lieu of how those priorities shift when Nadia is in danger.
While the character designs for the series often feel a little flat, more than likely confined by the period in which the series is placed, they are certainly solid and in some cases, Nadia for instance, do a great deal to express character. Jean and Marie, on the other hand, feel more like period props in their design and while their character designs don't stand out as strongly, they do work in how the differences in Nadia are enhanced by contrast. For the most part, with some notable exceptions, are similarly dressed in uniform. Captain Nemo and Elektra stand out the most in dress, which works nicely, as their characters are more prominent in the plot.
One of my favorite artistic aspects of the series would have to be the wide array of technology explored. From the US battleships, which are more period authentic, to the Gratan (or Catherine, depending on who you're asking), which has a very nice steampunk feel to it, to the Nautilus itself which is far more futuristically designed, the series creators have put a great deal of effort in to making the tech believable in its role. When these aspects of the traditional, the steampunk and the fantastic are combined, it really adds a sense of wonder to the series.
While there were moments in which the series' animation showed its age, on the whole, Nadia: Secret of the Blue Water holds up fairly nicely. I was pleased with the general look of the series and the animation is smooth and consistent with a nice use of color. I noted instances of recycled animation, but these were certainly not to excess. In short, bearing the age of the series in mind, I feel Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water looks fairly strong.
As stated above, I found the English audio track to be very strong and one of its greatest strengths can be found in the very solid voice acting. As the Nautilus is a mixing bowl of sorts for survivors across the world vowing revenge on Gargoyle and his Neo-Atlanteans, one would expect there to be numerous accents from around the world and the English dub delivers these in full. From EV Lunning Jr's spot-on work as Captain Nemo, to Jennifer Stuart as Elektra, and Nathan Parsons' work as Jean himself (though I did detect several instances of fluctuation in Jean's accent, it was still fairly consistent.) While speaking with an American English accent, Meg Bauman did a great job of conveying the independence and willfulness so prominent in Nadia's character. Further, I found Karen Kuykendall's excellent opening narration to create the genuine sense of a children's adventure story, which worked incredibly well at the onset of each episode. Throughout this series there is a noticeable depth in the voice acting that truly enhanced the story beyond, I'd suggest, even the original language track.
Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water finds a very appealing way of combining adventure, humor, tragedy, maturation and a number of other broad concepts in to a very appealing whole. As the characters proceed through their many adventures, always staying just one step (sometimes less) ahead of certain tragedy, they begin to grow and shine, particularly once the series truly picks up in the third volume. But while the characters add so much to the richness of Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water, the series does not rely solely on them. And though the plot offers a number of twists and progresses in such a fashion as to keep the viewer interested, that is also not the only strength. One of the series' greatest strengths lies in the use of subplots that enhance the characters and their perspectives on the world around them. From the ongoing subplot thread of abandonment and alienation from the safety of childhood that ties nearly all the characters together, to the more subtle issue of maturation and growing to adulthood that primarily focuses on Nadia and Jean, there's a richness and depth to the story that is very interesting. The viewer can get a very real sense of these characters and their all-too-real emotions and dilemmas.
Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water does suffer from a few plot issues in this first collection, namely the slow pace at which the story progresses over the course of the first volume, and the fact that Nemo, one of the series' primary characters doesn't begin to take a larger role in the series until the third volume. It's not until this volume that the primary cast members are assembled and it feels a bit awkward, almost as if these earlier episodes were a bit too decompressed. While they certainly offer a great deal of action and near constant change of scenery (one of the series' strengths), it sometimes feels as if genuine character development is delayed until volume three. I felt a little more could have been done to develop Nadia, Jean, and Marie, particularly after the death of Marie's family which, as it stands, feels more like a simple plot device, than the tragedy it actually was, particularly considering none of the three appear affected by it soon thereafter. However, if the viewer can overlook some of the early plodding and development as characters are moved in to place (and there's certainly enough action to offset this), it's a safe bet he or she will find this story very enjoyable.
What is likely the largest complaint I have about this series rests entirely in how it's collected, though I can't really see a better alternative. As the series is divided in half, I was hoping for better delineation in terms of the general plot. In other words, a large number of questions are raised in the first volume that go completely unaddressed by its closing. While this works to encourage customers to return, it's not a very satisfactorily self-contained collection and this may actually discourage some potential viewers.
I thoroughly enjoyed Nadia: Secret of the Blue Water Collection 1 and would recommend it for those looking for a fun and light adventure series. Though the animation shows its age at times, I feel it doesn't detract from the general entertainment value of the series. Additionally, while I felt the character development moves a little slowly in the first two volumes, there's enough action and adventure to balance this until the third volume in which we begin to get a better idea of the primary cast and their roles in the series. There are a number of interesting twists and a large amount of questions raised in this collection, but very few are answered, which suggests those making this a blind purchase, will likely have to secure the next collection as well to sate their curiosity.
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles
34" Sony FD Trinitron Wega HDTV KD-34XBR910 and Sony Dav-FR9 progressive scan Home Theatre System with 114 watts per channel to each speaker and 115 watts to each of the subwoofer's two woofers.
Mania Grade: A-
Audio Rating: B
Video Rating: B+
Packaging Rating: B
Menus Rating: B
Extras Rating: A-
Age Rating: 13 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: ADV Films
Running time: 500
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Nadia, Secret of Blue Water