The date: today.
Miura Kyoji is a typical student who idolizes his pacifist kendo instructor, Tate Masanari (no, it doesn't rhyme with "bait") - until he suddenly reveals himself to be the reincarnation of the Inca warrior Yawaru. Kyoji turns out to be the reincarnation of Yawaru's mortal enemy, Sergeant Bilko - oops, I mean Bilka (Vilca?), and a whole bunch of other random Japanese people turn out to be really born-again Incans.
(Wow, I thought only Christians could do that.)
After destroying nearby scenery and small towns, the whole cast makes a pilgrimage to Peru to resume a centuries-old war, as Kyoji tries to prevent Tate from repeating the fall of the Inca Empire, while trying to save his soul as well. But can he stop Tate from harnessing the power of Iriyatesse and possibly destroying the world?
"Hi, my name's Takemitsu, but I'm actually the reincarnation of this Inca named Chuyylllzxzizpa."
From the start, Nazca has one of the most unbelievable and inadvertently hilarious premises of all anime. Though some anachronisms are eventually explained away (like the Bach soundtrack being an allusion to Tate's taste for classical), others (such as the Spanish cathedral appearing in shots of pre-colonial Peru) just seem sloppy. For the story's alleged obsession with the Inca culture, the creators really didn't do their homework. And those outfits - if we anime fans could theme a Las Vegas casino around these things, we could make a fortune from visiting Japanese tourists!
Err, sorry about that.
That having been said, Nazca is one of the most unique anime experiences one could possibly imagine, and it's not as bad as you'd think at first glance. The voice acting (in both Japanese and English, I might add) is top-notch, though in the English dub, it should be noted that one of the characters (the guy with glasses) looks and sounds exactly like THEM's own Raphael See, but just a tad more evil. (It's Raph's EVIL TWIN!!!)
The visuals are gorgeous, if not exactly accurate, and the animation would be splendid if the CG effects had meshed in better with the cel style animation. Still, there are a lot of pretty pictures to be had here, and the plot's actually good enough to hold it together. The actual story is less about the retelling of the Inca empire (which, despite the usage of real figures like Atahualpa, is obviously fiction) but the personal struggle between Kyoji, who fights his past, and Tate, who embraces his. Add to the fray Tate's fiancée, Kiritake Yuka, who is ALSO a born-again Inca, and all their other friends and colleagues who just happen to be born-again Inca, and you see where this could get messy, and fast.
Thankfully, it doesn't, and again, I must give credit to the voice actors and writers for not succumbing to the urge to make Nazca cheesy, like the character designers and concept directors had. The characters are likable and well-acted (again, in both Japanese and English), and I especially liked the fact that the Japanese voice director didn't pigeonhole Hayashibara Megumi into yet another cute, but dumb girl role, but cast her as the mature, yet vulnerable Yuka. And kudos to New Generation Pictures for a good English dub as well. Nazca, incidentally, was the first anime DVD I had seen, and the strengths of both versions only strengthens the argument for DVD as a format for Japanese animation, despite a few glaring artifacts here and there.
I made a comment on the music earlier, as it is certainly of note. The opening sequence is done to quite possibly the weirdest version of Bach's "Well-Tempered Clavier" ever sung (by a modern classical fusion group called Eccentric Opera), and oddly enough, it's quite appropriate. It's a weird cross between Moby's techno and my old university choir director's experimental classical, and though definitely strange to most people's ears, it's unique, especially for anime. It only enhances the deep sense of atmosphere that the creators have imbued Nazca with, which is actually more substantial than the visuals would suggest.
Nazca isn't bound to attract a fanatic following here in North America, or anywhere else (considering how poorly it did in Japan), but it certainly doesn't deserve to be ignored. In spite of an incredibly hokey premise, it succeeds in telling a solid modern-day fantasy story that doesn't have to get all the facts right to be a lot of fun. After all, I'm certain there are weirder inspirations for anime than the mystery of the Nazca lines, and there have been plenty that are worse than this. I wish I could take this show more seriously, though.
For the best Peruvian-Japanese combination since Mysterious Cities of Gold and Alberto Fujimori (oh, wait, Fujimori got canned for corruption!), give Nazca a try.
Just don't laugh when they stop by Lake Titicaca, okay?
About as fantastic as fiction can get (in the *fantasy* sense), but richly animated, deliciously angsty, and surprisingly entertaining. The setting, however, is about as authentic to Inca culture as Taco Bell is to Mexican food. — Carlos Ross
Recommended Audience: Nazca can get a bit violent, as there are a few action sequences that beat up a lot of the characters, whether with swordplay, magic, or otherwise. An entire town also gets destroyed later in the series. A bit of rough language here and there, and some brief nudity that I really didn't pay attention to, but is warned about on the box. (You tend not to notice these things after a while.) Mature teens and above should be fine, and it should be stated that the age markings Pioneer suggests are _suggestions_. I wouldn't see a problem with older children viewing this, provided, of course, that their parents screen it first.
Version(s) Viewed: VHS, English dub; R1 DVD
Review Status: Partial (3/12)
Nazca © 1998 Genco-Radix / Pioneer LDC / Kadokawa Shoten / TV Tokyo
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