Beware of filler arc that secretly steals you away from the overarching plot.
What They Say
Based partially on Jules Verne's 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water begins as Jean, a young French boy who builds airplanes, teams with his uncle to enter a flying competition at the 1899 World's Fair in Paris. It's there that the preteen Jean meets and immediately falls for the exotic Nadia, who leads an unhappy life as a circus performer.
Jean turns protector when Nadia is chased by a trio of bumbling villains who are after the mysterious "blue water" in Nadia's necklace. Their pursuit leads to the open sea, where Jean and Nadia board an American battleship searching for a vengeful sea monster, ultimately revealed as Captain Nemo's submarine, Nautilus.
We listened to the English sound track for this release. The audio quality was solid, but does not offer much sound directionality. There was little to no distortion or dropouts noticed. The English voice actors seem quite convincing, especially with their accents. This is best exhibited by the voice acting for Jean land Captain Nemo.
Produced in 1990, Nadia is presented in the original 4:3 full frame aspect ratio. It has survived the digital revolution without any issues. However, the faults that you will find lie within original print. Dust, print nicks, jittering, jagged lines, etc... appear throughout the episodes. They are minor and irrelevant on a small screen, but can be a bit of nuisance for videophiles who have large TV’s. Several large blotches of black appeared throughout the episodes and the movie in this collection. It was noted that the video quality was significantly worse than the previous collection. There are so many issues with the video quality that it was hard to keep track of them all. A digital cleanup of this timeless anime classic is very much needed!
The packaging for Nadia is comprised of a brick-pack that has two hinged DVD panels. The case holds a total of five discs. Four discs are devoted to the series while the last one is for the movie. The front cover appears to be the same as the cover used with single release volume #2. The back cover contains the typical episode synopsis along with the technical details about the episodes.
The menus for the collection appear rather dated, and if I am not mistaken, look and act very much like the previous Nadia collections. The menus do differ from disc to disc. However, the menu navigation and setup is basically the same. On the first four discs, the menu options offer: Play, Scene Selection, Language, Extras, and Previews. However, this is changed in the fifth and sixth discs. The fifth and sixth discs provide the viewer with the option to navigate to the individual four episodes directly from the main menu page. The Scene Selection, Languages, and Extras are also found in the menu. A brief audio clip plays throughout on all of the discs.
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. One would think that after the numerous releases and repackaging of Nadia, that the menus would have been redone at least once!
This collection has a bit more on the extras side as compared to the previous collection. There are character profiles on each disc along with text-based interviews with some of the cast that spread throughout discs 2-5.
As with the previous collection, you will find the old ADV previews for anime content that was being promoted from years back. Just like the menus, one would think that the extras would have been updated.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers).
Nadia is a classic anime rich in history as its influences come from the classic novel 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. It is also influenced by anime legends Hayao Miyazaki and Hideaki Anno. Nadia is not without controversy as this second collection reveals the many faults that occur in the later part of the story.
We last left the crew of the Nautilus against impossible odds as they faced the vile Gargoyle. The first disc carries this story out to a very satisfying battle in which the Nautilus is virtually destroyed. Fearing Nadia and Jean’s safety, Captain Nemo forces them to abandon ship. Nadia, Jean, and King soon find themselves on a deserted island where they must fend for themselves. This seems like a decent setup… However, this is where the series really begins to fall apart. The plot takes on a campy and ridiculous filler arc that just torpedoes the whole story. It’s almost like a whole different series. Exaggerated animation, repeated sequences, and a very boring story made this almost a frustrating viewing experience. To understand this fully, one has to take in account to what happened with this series when it was produced.
Nadia became such a popular series when it was first run, that a request for more episodes was made. The production fell behind with Hideaki Anno logging in 18 hour days when episode 11 came about. After episode 20, Nadia was put on hold due to budget issues. Nearly a month later, episode 21 was released and the production still crawled onward. Anno asked Gainax co-founder Shinji Higuchi to produce episodes 23 - 34, while he focused on the final five episodes. The episodes that were produced under Higuchi are referred as the island episodes.
The criticism received by the island arc is well justified with Anno even sharing the same feelings. Anno has even gone on to say that if he could have gone back and done it over he would have removed episodes 23 – 34 and replaced it with a shortened compilation called "The Nautilus Story". This story would have focused more on the struggle between Gargoyle and Nemo.
So, there you have it. This collection was a frustrating experience to watch as the island arc really throws the plot way off course. If you plan to watch this it might not be a bad idea to just watch episodes 21-22 on disc one and the skip to episodes 35-39 which are on discs 4 and 5. Then, go back and watch the island arc if you dare. The island arc really distracts the story as it focuses on the antics of the Nadia, Jean, and King. It then goes into a feverpitch of goofiness when Hanson, Sanson, and Grandis show up.
On a positive note, the show does end nicely with a great showdown between Gargoyle and Nemo. You can definitely tell that Anno worked on these as they fall in nicely with the theme that was abruptly left back at the end of episode 22.
As for the movie, which is on disc 6, it doesn’t do much in helping the story along in any fashion. Almost a third of the movie is devoted to quickly recapping the entire 39 episode series. Several of the recaps are not in sequential order. The events of the movie take place three years after the defeat of Gargoyle and Neo-Atlantis. Gainax had no involvement in this movie and it shows as the movie is not much better than the island arc. It focuses on the plotting of an evil mastermind known as Dr. Giegar. Nadia and Jean are reunited again to stop this misguided Neo-Atlantean. The story also looks at the relationship that Jean and Nadia have with a girl named Fuzzy, who plays a significant role in how the story plays out. To reveal much more would pretty much ruin the thin narrative.
If you are like me, you may have let Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water slip by you. If you did, then you might want to consider picking this piece of anime history up in the bargain bin one day. It’s not a very well polished series, but it is entertaining given that you try not to associate the island arc too heavily with the overarching plot. The popularity of the series from days past could warrant a remake of the series, which would be a great idea as its concept is very intriguing, mysterious, and action filled. Check it out, but be forewarned that there are some bad secrets in the blue water.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 2.0 Language, English Subtitles
Samsung UN40B6000V 40” LED HDTV, Sony PlayStation 3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Samsung HT-WS1R/XAA 2.1home theater Sound Bar Speaker System with Wireless Subwoofer