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.
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