Nadia: Secret of Blue Water
It's the year 1889. A young orphaned inventor, Jean Luc L'artigue, is competing in a glider-design contest in his hometown of Paris. While tinkering with his glider, he meets a fellow orphan, a circus acrobat named Nadia who has a pet lion cub named King.
One thing leads to another, and soon Nadia and Jean are on the run from a trio of jewel thieves who are trying to steal from Nadia her heirloom necklace; the necklace itself, a pendant called the Blue Water, seems to have some mysterious power that only Nadia can summon. Soon, the kids find themselves aboard an American ship that's looking for the sea monster that's been nailing boats around the world for quite some time.
Before their adventure is over, Jean and Nadia will discover the truth about these mysterious sinkings, board the world's biggest submarine, fight a tremendous multinational conspiracy with designs on ruling the world, get marooned on an isolated island, and (of course) fall in love.
Despite the relative flaccidity of the above description, Nadia (an early-Nineties creation of the fun-lovers at Studio Gainax) is a lively adventure, swinging easily from gut-busting hilarity to thought-provoking importance, often within the same episode. There are some moments of heart-stopping suspense thrown into the mix, but overall the tone of the series is one of fast-paced action and humor.
Probably the most notable feature of the series is its characters. Director Anno Hideaki (the same guy who was behind both Evangelion and KareKano) paces the series well, and gives EVERY character we meet time to develop. There are no cardboard cutouts in this series; every person, from Jean and Nadia to the mysterious villain Gargoyle, is three-dimensional, with a personality of their own. Most admirably, the jewel-thieving Grandis gang defy the stereotype of Smart But Looney Ringleader And Incompetent Henchmen; Grandis and her two helpers, the super-strong and arrogant Sanson and pudgy mechanical genius Hanson, manage not only to resonate as sympathetic characters, but each in their own way becomes a hero.
Also of interest is the overall design. The Grandis gang's steam-powered minitank and the secretive submarine Nautilus both come from an inspired imagination (the series itself was based - very loosely - on the writings of Jules Verne), and the characters themselves are memorable for their distinctive looks as well as their personalities.
Probably one of the best television series ever to come out of Japan, Nadia is thoughtful, breezy, and pleasantly un-cynical. Not director Anno's most personal work (if that's what you want, check out Evangelion), it remains most likely his best. It's among the most consistently entertaining shows I've seen, from Gainax or anyone else. — Jacob Churosh
Recommended Audience: This series was originally commissioned to run on NHK, which is the Japanese equivalent of the American PBS. As such, it's generally suitable for all ages, although there are a few moments of relatively harmless sexual innuendo. Near the end, there are some scenes of violence that may scare younger viewers.
Version(s) Viewed: digital source; R1 DVD
Review Status: Full (39/39)
Nadia: Secret of Blue Water © 1990 NHK / Sogovision /Toho
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