NADIA: THE SECRET OF BLUE WATER - Collection 1
There are a lot of reasons to initially dismiss Nadia. Heck, if the whole 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea thing doesn't grip you in concept, you may have decided that this wasn't your bag a long time ago. But Jules Verne adaptation antics aside, Nadia goes above and beyond the duty of flexing the "Gainax magic" that made it a true classic, and the first four episodes of the series aren't even a decent indication of what's to come.
Previously basing my thoughts on this show on these initial episodes, I had always considered it an average to very good show, but nothing that screamed "incredible." At the beginning, Gainax sets up what seems to be a chase/caper show, complete with the bumbling, Team Rocket-like Grandis Gang chasing the young African girl Nadia all over the place in hopes of snatching the Blue Water pendant from her neck. When Nadia meets up with hopeful inventor Jean, he gets sucked into her ordeal and they end up on the run in one of his flying machines, eventually hitting the seas and running into a battleship that's hot on the trail of some vessel-crushing "sea monsters."
While all of this is good fun, it's not until we meet the evil Neo Atlantis group and the enigmatic Captain Nemo that the show really kicks into full gear and favorably 180s the story. The setting of these episodes combined with the introduction of the little tyke Marie and the masked mystery of Gargoyle and his Neo Atlanteans (costumes that are very reminiscent of the KKK-like wedding get-ups at the end of Castle of Cagliostro) makes for a very Hayao Miyazaki feeling that eventually settles into Gainax's unique style. Of course, the Miyazaki connection comes as much from the presence of an extremely young and cute girl as it does from Jean's flying machines and the wide open skies of Neo Atlantis' base island. Interestingly enough, it was a 1970s pitch by Miyazaki himself to Toho that lead to Nadia landing on the lap of Hideaki Anno and co. His concept for a show mixing various elements of Jules Verne's concepts was held onto, and many years later passed on to Gainax after making a big splash with Wings of Honneamise.
The characters are fantastic, and their development throughout the show is handled nicely. The only real exception, oddly enough, is Nadia herself. While the role she plays in the series is naturally integral to the whole, her stubborn, self-righteous attitude occasionally pushes her out of the realm of the likable. Fortunately, she's balanced by one hell of a crew aboard the Nautilus. Everything else is top-notch as well, from the mechanical designs to the wonderfully animated action sequences. No detail is spared under the sea when hundreds of floating mines are being sucked into engines and explosive plumes of bubbles and smoke wrap themselves around the screen effortlessly.
ADV has made owning the entire 39-episode run of this gem as affordable as possible, with two DVD collections that you can typically find for as cheap as 33 dollars. The collection in question includes the first 5 discs (episodes 1-20) as well as the first two OSTs (and the music is absolutely worth listening to outside of the show's context). Spin the first disc or two and you'll be hooked. Nadia is a series that should be taking up space on every nerd's shelf.
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