MARTIAN SUCCESSOR NADESICO (1996)

 

Format: 26 22-minute episodes on 6 DVDs (box collection available)

 

Rating:  PG-13 (AC, AL)

 

American Production:  ADV Films

 

Japanese Production:  Pony Canyon

 

Grading

 

Premise:

C+

Story:

B-

Writing:

B-

Character Design:

C

Mecha Design:

C

Animation:

C+

Artistic Merits:

C+

English Dub:

B-

Musical Score:

C+

Songs:

B

Opener:

B-

Closer:

C+

 

 

Humor Content:

B

Action Content:

C+

Drama Content:

C+

 

 

DVD Presentation:

C

DVD Extras:

C

 

 

OVERALL:

C+

 

Synopsis

      It’s the end of the 22nd century, and the Martian colonies have been suddenly and viciously attacked by robotic forces originating from the area of Jupiter – hence the attackers are referred to as the Jovians. Using technology beyond that of Earth’s military, they are unstoppable in their rampage across Mars. A year later their attacks start shifting to the Moon and Earth. Nergal, one of Earth’s largest corporations, has built a new and powerful space battleship called the Nadesico, whose weaponry and defenses are based on the same principles that the Jovians are using. Distrustful of the seemingly-inept military, Nergal recruits top personnel regardless of personality quirks and thus assembles their own crew, which it then sets out on its own missions. Despite the idiosyncrasies of its crew, the Nadesico proves quite adept at fighting the Jovians – at least until its crew learns the deeper truths underlying the war, at which time all hell breaks loose.

      Meanwhile, a good chunk of the female cast actively pursues the affections of Akito, a cook and Martian-by-birth who becomes a reluctant Aestivalis (mecha) pilot and avid fan of a century-old mecha anime series called Gekiganger III. A host of other characters keep the viewer amused as they live out their own little quirks.

            As for GekigangerIII itself, it is a generic heroic mecha team series riddled with stunningly bold levels of melodrama.

 

Quotes

            “They’re idiots.” (Ruri)

 

The Long View     

      At the height of its popularity in the late 1990s Nadesico was voted Best Anime Series Ever by Japanese fans in a magazine poll. While most serious reviewers would probably regard such a proclamation as a major stretch, it gives insight into how rabid the enthusiasm for Nadesico was both in the fan community and in the general populace. Even after a few years its popularity has not been forgotten; some of its characters (most notably Ruri) regularly rank high on lists of favorite anime characters. So why was it such a big hit?

      The single biggest selling point for Nadesico is its collection of oddball characters. Akito is arguably the central character, but the story focuses just as much on Yuriko, the young Captain of the Nadesico, who spent her childhood on Mars with Akito, came to regard him as her Knight in Shining Armor, and fell madly in love with him. Her feelings haven’t changed when they are accidentally reunited on the Nadesico. Although utterly brilliant as a tactician, Yuriko is just as clueless and inept when it comes to her social life, especially getting a relationship going with Akito. Her chief (but not only!) rival for Akito’s attention is Megumi, an anime voice actress-turned-communications specialist. Megumi is pretty in a girl-next-door way (she even has freckles) and more gentle in manner than Yuriko, but she is no less determined to win Akito’s heart. Also on the bridge crew is Haruka, a sexy secretary who, for inexplicable reasons, is the chief helmswoman of the Nadesico. Although the most pragmatic of the bridge crew in personality, her uniform emphasizes her sex appeal. Rounding out the female complement of the bridge crew is Ruri, a 12-year-old girl with a computer-like mind who serves as the ship’s computer specialist and the bridge’s calm, dispassionate center. She will instantly endear herself to the viewer with her regular side commentary on the idiotic behavior going on around her. Then there’s Jun, the military officer who becomes the Nadesico’s second-in-command. A faithful and devoted friend of Yuriko who wants their relationship to be more but is routinely ignored in that sense, Jun comes across as rather pathetic except in one episode where he must confront his conflicting loyalties between the military and the Nadesico.

      Then there’s the Aestivalis pilots, who form an odd bunch in their own right. At first there’s just Akito and Jiro Yamada, aka Guy Daigouji, a man so utterly enamored with the century-old mecha series Gekiganger III that he emulates the personality and behavior of one of the characters in the series and operates his mecha as if he were a Gekiganger pilot. He also is the one that gets  Akito hooked on the series. Though he is not around physically past the fourth episode, his presence lingers throughout the series. Replacing him are a trio of young women: the brash, green-haired tomboy Ryoko, who becomes the head pilot and also falls for Akito despite her reluctance to admit it; the short, cute, bespectacled (they still need glasses in the 22nd century?) redhead Hikaru, who is a generally clueless otaku and spends her spare time self-publishing her own manga; and the very odd brunette Izumi, who cracks puns at every opportunity despite the fact that she’s usually the only one who finds them funny. Joining them later is the dashing Akatsuke, a man on an apparent mission who seems more interested with the inner machinations of the Nadesico than your typical pilot. He also detests anime as being too escapist – which of course marks him as a potential villain in the show.

      Amongst other significant crew members are Seiya, the obsessive middle-aged chief engineer and inventor, who spends most of his free time building models and unsuccessfully chasing skirts (the latter despite having a wife and kid at home), and Howmei, the practical-to-a-fault chief cook who prides herself on having every kind of spice imaginable in her racks. Prospector, the personnel officer, judges nearly everything from a cost-efficiency viewpoint. The hulking, impassive, and improbably-named Goat Hoary serves as the Nadesico’s Security Chief and as a direct representative of the NERV hierarchy is technically in overall command, though he rarely exercises any authority. There’s also Inez, the chief scientist with a mysterious past whom the Nadesico picks up on their foray to Mars. Her main function in the series – and, indeed, seemingly her chief goal in life – is to explain things to other people as if she were conducting a PBS special, regardless of whether it’s an appropriate time for such an explanation or not. Other characters come and go, including a couple of guilt-ridden Admirals, a cold calculating Nergal ex-secretary/helmswoman name Erina, who has an interest in Akito for her own reasons, and Yuriko’s Admiral father, who reveals his own oddities by being unhealthily proud of how much his daughter has grown up.

      The collective quirkiness of the crew is enough to distinguish the characters of several different series. Brought together, the character interactions push the series along at a frenetic pace even when there isn’t much action or plot development going on. This and the pervasive in-jokes and self-referential humor make it clear that Nadesico is a series intended specifically for anime fans. (Megumi, for instance, is a sly reference to a popular seiyuu.) Despite initial appearances to the contrary, though, Gekiganger is not just another one of the recurring jokes. It actually becomes a significant part of the plot in the later stages of the series, and in ways that a viewer is not likely to expect. (Or perhaps the fact that it becomes an integral part of the plot is a joke in itself?)

      The balance of the series is towards humor and action, but not all of Nadesico is silly and ridiculous. There is some actual character development, the plot isn’t as shallow as it appears to be at first, and some of the plot twists afoot are real doozies. It does even occasionally get serious and dramatic. The best example of this is episode 17, where an Admiral struggles to overcome guilt and deal with a reality that is collapsing around him while at the same time Seiya is trying to forge a genuine relationship with Hikaru. (This is, IMO, the best episode in the series.) One can also read a distinct underlying anti-war message into the series. Nadesico never takes itself too seriously, though, as evidenced by the way characters occasionally “violate the fourth wall” (i.e. talk to the camera directly). One odd mid-season episode shows the Gekiganger characters watching a Nadesico anime series, and another episode is all about a talent contest to choose the next Captain of the Nadesico. The deliberately overblown “Next Episode” clips only further the impression that this is intended to be a more light-hearted series.

      The technical merits of Nadesico are not especially noteworthy, although there is a bit of CGI effect in its intro. Neither the character nor the mecha designs distinguish themselves; the Aestivalis could be adapted from dozens of other mecha series, and the rendition of most of the characters is fairly typical. The English dub job portrays many of the characters as overly excitable, but this is more a reflection of the way the characters were written and performed originally than any interpretation on the part of the English producers. The translated script does have some interesting discrepancies with the subtitled version even beyond Izumi’s puns, although I never felt that the discrepancies made a significant difference in interpretation of the story and events. The writing as a whole shines through in some places but is shaky in others; there are several places where events feel rushed (especially late in the series). On the plus side, the writing does effectively balance the humor, action, and dramatic components, which is not easy to do. The opener sets the pace well and provides a respectable song, while the closer, which almost exclusively features pictures of Yuriko, is more ordinary. The song rating is mostly for the performances in the “Captain contest” episode (two of which are just remakes of the opening and closing themes but with different words) and for the catchy Gekiganger theme song which pops up from time to time.

      Finally, many people who come to like Nadesico may not be entirely pleased with the way it ends. It strongly implies that the story will be continued in another season, although all that was ever made is one follow-up movie called Prince of Darkness that advances the story a few years and a spin-off Gekiganger OVA series. Neither of  these is currently available in the U.S. as far as I know, although I have heard that the movie may be released on American DVD before the end of 2003.

      I would not rate it among the best series I have seen, but Nadesico is an entertaining view. I highly recommend the DVD Complete Chronicles collection, which includes all 6 DVDs for half or less of the price of buying them individually and comes in compact packaging.

 

DVD Extras

·       Company previews

·       Clean opener/closer

·       Character Profiles (first three DVDs only)

·       Translation Notes (first two DVDs only)

 

Principle English Voice Actors

Role

Voice Actor

Akito

Spike Spencer

Captain Yuriko Misumaru

Jennifer K. Earhart

Ruri

Kira Solar

Megumi

Jenni Strader

Haruka

Kelli Manison

Jiro Yamada/Guy Daigouji and Tsukumo Shiratori

Brett Weaver

Ryoko

Tiffany Grant

Hikaru

Cynthia Martinez

Izumi

Tamara Lo

Akatsuke

Jae Hickman

Prospector

Paul Sidello

Goat Hoary

Rob Mungle

Seiya

John Swasey

Howmei

Marcy Rae

Erina

Emily Carter

Jun

Mark Laskowski

Inez

Heather Oryson

Genichiro and Ken

Jason Douglas

Yukina Shiratori

Hillary Haag

Admiral Munetaki and Genhachiro

John Gremillion

Admiral Misumaru

Ted Pfister

            . . . and a host of others in minor roles that are too numerous to mention.

 

 

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