Martian Successor Nadesico
Mars has been overrun by an unknown alien force from Jupiter, known only as the Jovian Lizards. Abandoned by Earth, Mars is left to the mercy of the invaders. One private defense manufacturer, Nergal, refuses to abandon the people of Mars, and commissions its own space battleship and crew to survey what remains of humanity on Mars. They do get the best of the best - with all mental instability included. The captain, Misumaru Yurika, an admiral's daughter, is a tactical wizard and excellent captain in the heat of battle, but her silver-spoon upbringing has left her with less-than-desirable social skills. The helmsman, Hoshino Ruri, is a eleven-year-old supragenius with an acid wit and holier-than-thou attitude. And the cook/backup pilot is a Martian refugee named Tenkawa Akito, who is not only a childhood friend of Yurika, but a protege of the ship's star pilot, Daigouji Gai, who himself is an incorrigible anime otaku. (We mean *otaku*.)
Will this ship of misfits be able to survive the onslaught of the unknown? And what exactly will they find once they get to outer space? (If they even get there...)
Don't be fooled by ADV hyping this thing as the next Gundam clone. If there's anything we could compare Nadesico to, it would be far closer to Irresponsible Captain Tylor. "Captain" Yurika is a *complete* airhead off-duty (and sometimes on, when's she's not in battle). If anything, her main goal on the Nadesico is to win the heart of her beloved Akito. (Never mind that she hasn't seen him since childhood, and he doesn't really care for her one bit to begin with.) Akito is, at times, reminiscent of a certain bad Steven Seagal character. "I'm just the cook." (Never mind that he can cause mass destruction by copying silly anime mecha moves in his mobile armor.)
And speaking of silly anime, Nadesico pays homage to the old Tatsunoko '70s robot shows with its anime-within-an-anime, Gekiganger 3, which is at once hilarious and, surprisingly, relevant and poignant, as the crew eventually draws inspiration from reruns of the show! Yes folks, the Nadesico is crewed by anime fans. And apparently, they're not the only ones out there, either ...
There is, however, one thing that is ultimately exceptional about this show. Her name is Hoshino Ruri. Japanese fans in the late 90s (as well as a lot of American fans) fell for her in a way not seen since Lum and Nausicaa. She is everything Ayanami Rei *should* have been: smart -and- smart-mouthed, clever without being cloying, and generally has the attitude that, "Yes, I'm surrounded by idiots, but it's so cool to make fun of them!" She is the single sanest character in Nadesico, and she really makes the show work. (Not to mention she's really a cute eleven-year-old kid at heart, too.) Her personality really shines, and we heartily commend Omi Minami for her understated, stellar portrayal of the character.
Sadly, Nadesico's creator, Asamiya Kia, considers it his greatest failure as an artist. If you read the manga, you'll see why - it seems he really didn't know what to do with a story as admittedly light-hearted as Nadesico, as he is used to works like Silent Mobius, Gunhed, and lately, Steam Detective, which he started at the same time as Nadesico and preferred working on. What he *did* do was transfer the creative impetus of Nadesico to the people who worked on the anime, and they really seem to have run with it, in a good way. The character designer, Gotoh Keiji, reworks the characters into very attractive and unique personalities, and the art and direction of the anime are far superior to many more supposedly serious anime that have come out lately. The music is catchy and appropriate. The Gekiganger theme songs alone are a riot, and you will easily recognize the captain's theme music as eminently appropriate. The plot, unfortunately, does get weaker towards the end, as the anime had to have an all-new ending, though I hear the movie, Prince of Darkness, does apparently tie up a lot of the loose ends. As it is, though, Martian Successor Nadesico is a very charming and thought-provoking anime series that we really didn't expect coming.
For those people expecting the next Gundam or Evangelion, or for any fans of Asamiya's more serious works, Nadesico will be a disappointment. However, if the viewer is looking for a solidly entertaining, fitfully silly, yet surprisingly cerebral storyline and appealing characters, Nadesico is a real treat. If only more anime creators had "mistakes" quite like this.
Could've been a five if the ending were stronger, but still an excellent series that we heartily recommend. For many viewers, this has superseded Otaku no Video as the ultimate fanboy anime. — Carlos Ross
Recommended Audience: Teens and up. Practically no sexual content to speak of, not even casual nudity (a shock for an ADV release!), though there is some fan service. Some fans will be jarred by the loss of a major character three episodes into the series (we're not telling who!), but the death is fairly clean, and serves as motivation for the rest of the crew. Most violence is of the exploding mecha/starship form and silly slapstick, though they do devote an entire episode to the funeral of the entire population of a destroyed space colony, which is treated both tastefully and hilariously, rating in my book second only to the Mary Tyler Moore Chuckles the Clown episode in comic poignance.
Version(s) Viewed: digital source; R1 DVD
Review Status: Full (26/26)
Martian Successor Nadesico © 1996 Studio Tron / Kia Asamiya / Xebec / Star Child
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