ANIME MINOR JEWELS SERIES
Full list of the review series can be found on this page, 3rd post from bottom:
There is no doubt in Jules Verne being the father of modern science fiction. His books became the cornerstones of all further storytellers and have been used and remade a billion times ever since. So just imagine an anime being made on his work … ok, Nadia is not the first. Willie Fog, a semi-adaptation of Around the World in 80 Days was made in the 80’s. And I think there were a few more I missed. Nadia is in fact the last directly related to his works anime. And it also has some of the (not yet made) Neon Genesis staff in its production team; with GAINAX being the animation studio and Hideaki Anno being the director. Characters and uniforms look familiar; so it kinda feels like a combo of two very famous works. Actually three, the anti-villains in the story are basically the Time Bokan bad guys. And captain Nemo is made to look like the captain in SDF Macross. Heck, this anime is in fact a tribute of many famous works and that alone gives it some praise. But even without all that, it has a hundred different ideas that could generate a smash hit. And in a way they did… if only they hadn’t made the deserted island arc…
So the story is kinda familiar but presented in a way it always feels unexpected and energetic. The setting is the industrial revolution of the early 20th century, when the sudden spread of technology is changing the world rapidly. That alone offers the series an elegiac tone, as you are to see things change, not necessarily towards a better form. The lead boy is Jean, a meek glass-wearing nerd inventor who dreams of making a flying machine. But all that change when he meets a beautiful circus girl named Nadia, who is chased by a comical trio for her necklace, which happens to unlock the secrets of the lost city of Atlantis, where a group of fascists (not Nazis but close) plan to use Doomsday weapons to take over the world. And then here comes the Nautilus submarine in the form of rebels. And then here comes a Robinson Crusoe type of story. And what’s with the sexual tension between those two? And that lion cub is so annoying!
Yeah, the story is a huge pile of ideas, most of which quite intriguing. If used properly, they would have made an amazing piece of fiction. And they semi-did but not enough to consider the story amazing. The reason? Pacing once again. Many episodes are used up just for random comedy kicks and that eventually tires most viewers who are promised an epic scale story of action and mystery and they need to tolerate a dozen Gilligan’s Island retarded episodes. But I do admit most are done with enough energy and love to actually appreciate even those dead times. It’s just that the story keeps jumping from dead serious to zany randomness too suddenly and you end up losing focus and interest. So the actual scenario is very elaborating, making references to many works and offers a complete story, yet at the same time it wastes a lot of time in silly moments and loosens too much in a bad way. This may of course aid in the character coloring, so those non-story-driven episodes help in a way too.
Talking about the characters, they are a very likable bunch. Although Jean and Nadia get most of the focus, most others are also colorful enough to deserve praise. If you manage to tolerate the dead times, you will really get to love them, even if they are not original. Nadia’s struggle to protect her heritage, Jean’s goals to be an inventor and the awkward feelings towards her, the trio of the anti-villain’s, Nemo’s burden, even the stereotypical Neo-Atlantis leader gets some pity from the viewer. And each one has his own set of skills and way of taking part in the action. Nadia for example is great at acrobatics and does a good job at evading enemies, while Jean makes several contraptions that aid in various ways, while the Nautilus crew is versed in advanced weaponry. And they do get catharsis to a great extend. So yeah, the cast is wonderful and even the dead-story episodes provide insight to them.
Animation and soundtrack are also extremely well done, especially considering the year it was all done. The take on industrialization, mysticism, desert island and zany comedy are mixing nicely. The characters move nicely around and have vivid facial expressions. And most action scenes are very exiting and not plain old stuff. Some jerky movement exists but nothing major bad. Plus those erotic humor moments, they are great in their own simplicity; I can almost see how they transferred the same feeling over at Neon Genesis. The various homages to other anime and Vern books also look eye-catchy and give the series a sense of nostalgia. There is also a great work done in blueprints and general machinery used in the series. Everything is shown in schematics and even semi-scientific explanations are given to everything. Almost as if I was watching Gunbuster in a lighter tone. Dialogues and voice acting are elaborating for the same reason, albeit don’t forget to get funny and ease the mood. And the opening song, my God it is pure magic.
This anime is pretty much overlooked today by most; mostly because those desert island episodes hurt the overall mood of the series. Also, there was no internet at that time to help build a fan base and its mood was neither just for kids or teens all the time, so the audience felt confused. Not to mention it was still too early for a heavyweight story to hit the market without proper advertisement and with other works like Akira or Ghost in the Shell paving the way for what is to follow. But overall it is a great show that simply lacks focus half the time. It is hard to mix mysticism, technology, comedy, drama, and tributes and Nadia did it rather good.
Around the World with Willie Fog
And now for some excused scorings.
ART SECTION: 8/10
General Artwork 2/2 (looks nice)
Character Figures 2/2 (generic but well defined and memorable)
Backgrounds 2/2 (detailed fitting with the feeling of the series)
Animation 1/2 (basic)
Visual Effects 1/2 (basic)
SOUND SECTION: 7/10
Voice Acting 2/3 (a bit corny but fitting with the feeling of the series)
Music Themes 3/4 (good and fitting with the feeling of the series)
Sound Effects 2/3 (ok I guess)
STORY SECTION: 7/10
Premise 2/2 (interesting)
Pacing 1/2 (erratic)
Complexity 2/2 (several themes and tributes)
Plausibility 0/2 (none)
Conclusion 2/2 (cheesy but solid)
CHARACTER SECTION: 8/10
Presence 2/2 (strong)
Personality 2/2 (rather cheesy but well founded)
Backdrop 1/2 (generic but at least most have some)
Development 1/2 (overblown but it’s there)
Catharsis 2/2 (solid)
VALUE SECTION: 5/10
Historical Value 1/3 (still remembered by some as an interesting retro title)
Rewatchability 1/3 (low because of the loose plot)
Memorability 3/4 (well made enough to bother remembering it)
ENJOYMENT SECTION: 7/10
Some parts will feel dull and aimless but in overall it was an enjoyable ride.
Note: This review contains some spoilers.
Story - 7/10
I had initially considered giving Nadia's story lower marks, as a few others have here and elsewhere. But upon finishing the series and looking back at both the meaty, plot filled episodes and some of the breadcrumbs dropped in the filler, the overall story was fulfilling. I finished the series having a decent understanding of the background that led to the events in Nadia, and the narrative for the series proper was clear.
The reason I didn't go any higher is that, though in the end I found the story fulfilling, there were definite interludes of unnecessary filler that felt dragged out far beyond necessary for the character exposition that such episodes are usually used for. This could have comfortably been a 26 episode series or shorter.
Animation - 6/10
Unnessecary filler again kept this series from a higher score. Gainax employed the time tested method of saving the animation budget for "when it counts." Some of the action sequences during the giant ship battles, and the dream/surreal pieces when Nadia is being shown the "secrets" of the Blue Water and her histort are great looking. This means that the filler episodes employ a great deal of re-used animation as well has hasty animation simply to get through the 25 minutes of the episode. In some cases this is used to comic effect, but there are limits to how funny repetition can be. There are some cases in which repeat sequences are used during the higher quality seqences as well, but I wasn't bothered by those as much, probably because I was relatively absorbed by the story at that point.
The biggest complaint regarding the periods of lower quality in the animation is that this is also during lulls in the story as well, so there are a few longer than necessary stretches where the series has gone from a high quality anime to a saturday morning churned out kids show.
Overall, the series does have a look and feel that, in my viewing experience, was probably ahead of its time, yet still very outdated by our current standards. This looked more like work from the early to mid '90s than 1989. If you dislike the look and feel of older series, you will find Nadia jarring in that respect.
Sound - 7/10
I watched this series dubbed, for no other reason than that I tend to watch all older series dubbed. I felt the voice acting was done well for an anime dub, and ADV (who's dub I watched) gets high marks for using children for the children's roles. Music, both opening and ending, didn't strike me as particularly great or terrible, it fit the mood of the series and the time in which the series aired.
Like the openeing and ending, the music throughout the series was nothing exceptional, good or bad.
I am excluding here the particularly awful "musical" episode in which several character break into song for various reasons. The songs were bad, and the VAs (at least in English), while adequate for the dub, were terrible singers. You've been warned.
Characters - 6/10
I don't think it's possible to talk about characterization in Nadia without mentioning the increasing difficulty one has, over the course of the series, in finding the female lead at all likeable. Only the primary villain in the series is easier to hate. Nadia begins as a self righteous teenage girl. Lecturing all the people around her about how they fail to meet up to her naive expectations of moral absolutism topics like vegetarianism, war, and scientific progress. Going so far to scream at a man who just saved her life by shooting another. I didn't mark this lower because, annoying as she may be, she is not presented in any way as a character to emulate. Her idealism is presented as a fault.
Idealism v. Pragmatism is a very common trope across all forms of media. Nadia begins serving as a very good example of that, but (especially during the filler episodes) crosses the line from her idealism serving as a foil to the surrounding cast's pragamatism to being an unlikeable, horrible person to watch. The line is shattered when she becomes infatuated with another male character at first site, which would be bad enough in itself. But this leads her to be outright cruel and dismissive towards the Jean, who has spent the entirety of the series until this point risking his life to save hers. The only thing that redeems her character is that, near the end when secrets of the show start getting revealed, she actually realizes this about herself.
Other chacters are overshadowed by the sheer unlikeableness of Nadia herself, though I found their characterizations to be more well rounded over all. Jean is optimistic, and has an idealistic view that science can fix everything. Marie and King are likable side characters, if not a bit much at times during filler. Grandis, Hanson and Sanson are believable as reformed villains, though they still tend to have some comicly selfish ways and hot tempers. Nemo, Electra, and the crew of the Nautilus are likeable, with faults more believable and easier to accept than Nadia's. They have a single minded vision of destroying Gargoyle and it takes the outside voice of the children and Grandis gang to occasionally stop them from destroying themselves in order to complete "the mission."
Gargoyle and the Neo -Atlantians don't enjoy as much characterization. The henchment are a nameless, faceless group of mooks and yes-men to Gargoyle. Gargoyle himself is established early on as a cold, calculating villain. He is not a sympathetic antagonist, nor does the series attempt to try and paint him as such. He's a man who seaks power and control for their own sake, and views all people around him as expentable tools to reach that goal.
Overall - 6.5/10
As a person who enjoys the medium of animation, and anime in particular, I enjoyed the series despite it's flaws. Like any sci-fi/fantasy series, I'm sure I could analyze the plot in depth and find holes in the science and the history used to develpe the plot. However, this didn't distract over all from my understanding of the history and narrative of the show. I didn't come away scratching my head as to what happened (which is remarkable considering the studio).
I would not recommend this to a new anime fan simply for it's length and the tedium of the filler. I would recommend this to anyone who is intested in older anime, the history of Gainax or Hideaki Anno, and anyone looking to expand their knowledge of the medium overall.
When watching the series I expected my rating for story to be lower. It seemed it was mostly filler episodes, with hardly any episodes dedicated to the main plot. It wasn't till later did I realize that the show had a lot less filler than I thought. Those random episodes now seem less random, when you connect the dots. The problem is that all of the important information in one of these episodes can be summed up in a few minutes. They just stretched the story a lot longer than it should have been. That could be bad for some people, but I still enjoyed it. There were still a lot of episodes that were completely filler, and the show didn't need it. They could have cut the show down by fifteen episodes, and would have been the length of a standard series.
Looking past those filler and pseudo-filler, how is the story? Damn good. It seemed really original. It provided a really interesting twist on well known stories (i.e. 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, and Atlantis). Unfortunately the ending was hurt a little by them stretching the show out. They must have realized all of the sudden they were running out of episodes. The ending was rushed, and some characters underdeveloped. Once, it was over I realized... I was sad. The show as over. I took my time on this show. It took up a good few months. Now that I am done with it, it felt like a part of my life has ended.
The animation was fine. That's all that I can really say. There was nothing amazing about it, but it wasn't really bad either. Character designs weren't very unique. It was almost like I have seen some of these characters before.
Music was also the same as the animation. The series had decent enough music, but I could not remember a single tune. If you were to play a song from the series, I might recognize it. That is a big maybe. The OP is an exception. I did find it to be pretty good. Or maybe I just have a thing for anime themes from the 80s.
Possibly the worst part of the show was the characters. The odd thing is, most of the characters were fine. I did consider cosplaying as Nemo to the next anime convention. The problem is Nadia. I can not believe how much of a jerk she was. Things seemed like they were going to be okay at first. When we meet her, she is unfriendly to Jean. That's because she did not know him, and she did not trust people. Once, started to trust him, she warmed up again. I did not realize her feelings would be all over the place. She would just get mad at every little thing. At one point, Jean saved her life, and she somehow still was able to get angry at him. He did not even do anything wrong. It was her self righteous personality, that made me want to strangle her. Mostly it dealt vegetarianism. She would constantly bring up how evil everyone was because they eat meat. I do not even think the writers understood vegetarians. Nadia was never able able to come up with a good argument in her defense, but everyone else was still evil. Jean brings up the fact that other animals kill, and eat meat. She just brushes him off. Nadia also believes that self defense is wrong, and apparently you should just let someone kill you. Okay...
Maybe that last part was really more of a rant. Honestly though, it was the only real problem I had with the show. The other problems, I could deal with. So, I basically did enjoy this show, and I would recommend it. It's just that every now and then a certain character would just start grinding my gears. I mentioned that I was sad that the show was over. It might seem odd with a score of 7.5. To me that would be an average score. The fact is, I don't know what to rate it. I disliked it, yet I liked it. It was annoying, yet awesome. Give it a try. If you don't like it by ten episodes, then it might be safe to say, you possibly won't like the rest.
I have tried to avoid spoilers. This certainly won't ruin the series for you.
STORY - 7
The plot itself begins as seemingly trivial and escalates gradually to reveal plans of world domination on the antagonists' parts. The series does well to incorporate elements of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea with another overlying plot; that is, there's little originality to be found, yet I felt the plot was assembled well (though I enjoy sci-fi), with some intricacy and surprises to be had up to the end.
The one thing that struck me the wrong way was the uneven pacing. Some stretches of episodes are action-packed and progress the plot, pulling me onward through the series. Other episodes are pure filler that tend to drag on (and which I wanted to skip over). But overall, the story left me satisfied.
ANIMATION - 7
For when it was made ('89-'91), I thought the animation was great, for the most part. In plot-filler episodes, it's clear that standards were raised. There's plenty of detail to notice, from animated gauges and flowing hair to Gundam-esque explosions and frayed/melted metal. Action scenes were fluid to my eye (for twenty years ago), and character designs were varied and unique with a bit of an emphasis on realism instead of being overly stylistic.
Still, standards went out the window with the filler episodes. Concern for detail and perspective is somewhat lost, leaving characters looking flat and the anime coming off as childish.
SOUND - 6
Again, it's hit or miss. Sound effects were approriate and nothing seemed out of place, but nothing was particularly impressive. At times the background music was excellent and at other times terrible. Opening and ending themes were fine and seemed to fit the spirit of the series. Voice actors (Japanese) did well, I think. I sampled the English VAs and didn't care for them.
CHARACTERS - 6.5
The characters will make or break the series for you, I think. Initially, they seem to be caught up in their own shallow problems and fantasies, but their actions make more sense as the plot fleshes out. They each have their roles to play (well...most of them), and each makes some sort of developmental progress by the end of the series.
One problem is that a majority of the characters come from some sort of a ruined past, so you end up with a group of independent people with little other excitement in their lives to draw them away from the main problem in the story, which I find unrealistic and is my main complaint. My second issue is that, as the series struggles with poor humor, it is also plagued by sappy dialogue and a fickleness in the mindset of the characters that adds nothing to either the plot or the relationships between characters.
Don't be put off by Nadia's first few episodes. My inital impressions gave way to thoughts that the series as a whole would be shallow and childish. It is clear that the series catered to a younger audience and is plagued by laughless humor, but Nadia doesn't shy away from being more mature at points with some adult-friendly humor and onscreen blood and death among the many action sequences. Nadia won the Animage Grand Prix in 1990, putting it with the likes of Yu Yu Hakusho, Sailor Moon, and Gundam. At times you have to bear with it, but at others you'll be fully engaged.