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Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water: Gainaxing At Its Finest

Yay for Captain Global Nemo, the manliest man under the ocean!

So on a somewhat random whim this week, spurred by a friend picking it up, I picked up Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water, not really expecting much from it at all. Yes, going into it, I knew that it was Anno Hideaki and the rest of the Neon Genesis Evangelion staff working on it, and yes, I knew that it’d get crazy, because what is Gainax for if not being utterly crazy? However, the nature of the crazy is what’s caught me off guard, especially given the light, fluffy nature of the early episodes. I also knew I’d be in for a ride the instant I saw “Based on Jules Verne’s 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea” pop up during the opening credits, as that was one thing I didn’t know beforehand. And I love Jules Verne to death, although I last read 20,000 Leagues sometime in elementary school (and I’m pretty sure it wasn’t one of those stupid Great Illustrated Classics versions which “dumb” and abridge the text down and shove a poorly drawn picture every other page, although my copy of Journey to the Center of the Earth was one of these editions and I must have read it about 20 times). I’ve since picked up a copy to read through sometime soon in light of Nadia, so fun times will be had by all.

The first time Nadia caught me off guard was when they started developing Grandis’s two henchmen, Sanson and Hanson. I had written them off as “comic villains”, given the way they were portrayed in the early episodes, but then they threw Gargoyle into the mix and characters who once felt like they were existent only for the purpose of giving Grandis (herself relatively undeveloped as well) someone to shout at and boss around. After the destruction of the Tower of Babel and the protagonists jumping aboard the Nautilus for Fun and Adventure with Captain Nemo, they suddenly switch to “good guys” and are afforded time to become their own characters. I don’t know if this should have really surprised me, but given the way the series had been progressing up to that point, the first scene with Sanson and Hanson in their cabin on the Nautilus behaving less like Henchmen #1 and #2 and more like actual characters told me that there was Something Else to Nadia.

That Something Else turned out to be what I can only assume at this point are the major themes in Nadia: technology’s dual nature, for both human good and human evil; and, of course, the importance of not becoming that which you hate. In the three episodes I watched tonight (13-15) these two issues have been the central focus, as the harshness of the Nautilus’s reality comes into sharp focus when Nemo is first forced to kill a Neo-Atlantean to defend Nadia (despite her protesting that he is hurt and that he needs to be cared for), followed almost immediately by the difficult decision to let crewmembers die rather than jeopardize the Nautilus. The sheer amount of delicious (melo?)drama in these three episodes is the second time Nadia has surprised me. Before these episodes, Nadia was a comedy/drama leaning more towards the comedy side. Indeed, 13 is a wild ride of Marie cuteness (“Oh my God!”) and geneal hijinks, all of which serve to further accentuate the conclusion of the episode, which is Nadia accusing Nemo and the crew of the Nautilus of being murderers. It’s extremely rare for emotions to suddenly change course like that (I last saw it in Eureka Seven, in the rather abrupt disjoint between 26 and 27/28, which knocked me for a loop that took 7 more episodes to cure, although I’m not sure why this was the case) and it was extremely “pleasant” (disturbing) to go from having a rollicking good time to feeling absolutely horrified at the inhumanity of Nemo. It’s probably the turning point of the series, as we’ve had much more drama and tension since then, and much less goofy comedy.

Overall, I’m quite impressed with Nadia thus far, as my opinion of it has steadily grown from “this is okay but silly” to “this is awesome”, which just means that I shouldn’t underestimate either Gainax or Anno. You’d think I’d have learned my lesson after Tengen Toppa Gurren-Lagann. But no, I never learn my lesson, unless it’s beaten over my head enough times.

(And, yes, I have heard all the horror stories about the so-called “Island Episodes”, and I know that 23-34 will most likely be painful for me to watch, but I can stand it. I am a brave man, and an anime fan on top of that. I can do this!)

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NOTICE SHAMELESSLY STOLEN FROM G.K. CHESTERTON

I cannot understand those that take anime seriously, but I can love them, and I do. Out of my love I warn them to keep clear of this blog.

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