By Betsy Bradford
In my opinion, the single greatest crime on Anime News Network is that Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water is rated higher than Fist of the North Star. The unrelenting awesomeness of Fist of the North Star merits its own post, but suffice it to say, a man punches out a tank! In a filler episode! Hells yeah! Nadia, on the other hand, is a series in which a self-righteous vegetarian bitches at people until they hit her. Okay, maybe I'm oversimplifying things, but seriously, Nadia has nothing to recommend it, and I fail to understand people's love for this series.
Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water sounds like it should work on paper. It was directed by Evangelion's Hideaki Anno, and based on a concept by Studio Ghibli's Hayao Miyazaki. Child inventor Jean, exotically sexy Nadia, and her pet lion go on zany adventures. First, they match wits and wily inventions with a lady named Grandis and her henchmen, Hanson and Sanson. They flee through the French countryside and eventually land on the Nautilus with Captain Nemo.
The first four episodes are delightful, but then things take a left turn. Episode five introduces the villain, Gargoyle. To this point, the only villains we've had were Hanson, Sanson, and Grandis, who are more funny than scary. Gargoyle, on the other hand, would shoot a child in the face.
Personally, I can handle a sudden, dark shift in tone. What's harder to swallow is the simultaneous shift in Nadia's character. In the early episodes, she's fine. Perhaps a little stuck up, but no one's perfect. After episode five, though, she turns into a shrill harpy that generally makes life aboard the Nautilus worse for everyone. Somehow, she becomes bitchier in every single episode! The only relief we get is when people start slapping her, generally shocking her into silence for a moment. I don't think I'm alone in wishing that they'd just tossed her overboard.
And then there are the infamous island/Africa episodes. Basically, Anno fucked off for a while to focus on just the last five episodes, leaving the series in completely different hands. I'd been warned that these episodes were bad, but nothing had prepared me for the sheer level of horrible I was about to experience. I tried to watch them for completeness sake, but eventually I had to give up, because they are unwatchable. How bad can it be? Spoiler alert: there's a musical episode, and all the songs are sung by the voice actors. Voice actors who had not been taught how to sing.
When Anno returns for the last five episodes, we see what he's been up to: he's been storyboarding Evangelion! Really, it's the only explanation. Take Electra, the navigator on the Nautilus. Up this point, she'd only been seen in nineteenth century attire. Suddenly, she has a Ritsuko-like haircut and is wearing something that looks remarkably like a plug suit. And then we get a look in Gargoyle's lair and see a large, humanoid creature. My guess was that it was Lilith. I was wrong. Turns out, it was Adam. So close!
To be fair, Nadia isn't completely terrible. Hanson, Sanson, and Grandis, make a welcome addition to the cast. They provide much needed comic relief, and generally go around being completely awesome. And the little girl Marie is completely adorable. Still, for me, this doesn't carry a series. Nadia is perhaps the worst anime I've watched. Seriously, if you're tempted to check it out, watch Eva instead. You'll see the same ideas with better execution.