An amazing series hampered by one character.
What They Say:
The World’s Fair, Paris, 1889: a young inventor crosses paths with an enigmatic girl and her pet lion. Suddenly they find themselves pursued by villainous trio intent upon stealing the magical Blue Water. Thus begins an epic adventure inspired by Jules Verne’s masterpiece 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. Join Nadia and Jean as they travel the high seas in search of Nadia’s homeland and her past, their only clue the mysterious jewel Nadia wears. Can they unravel the Secret of the Blue Water before it is too late? Discover Nadia, Secret of Blue Water, the animated series beloved by millions, and find out for yourself!
There are two audio tracks for this release: English 2.0 and Japanese 2.0. English subtitles are also provided. For this viewing I listened to the English track and the sound quality was fine. From what I can tell, the vocal, sound effect, and music tracks were all on the central channel. The sound came through clear with no dropouts or fading or other types of distortion.
Each episode is presented in full screen in 4:3 aspect ratio and while it shows its age in terms of the character designs and overall animation style, in terms of picture quality, it’s quite good. The colors are sharp, everything is clearly visible, and there were no distortions of any kind.
The series comes packaged in what looks to be a VERSApak DVD case with six of the eight discs housed in center inserts. The first and last discs are set in the front and back covers. The front cover features a great picture of the two protagonists, Jean and Nadia. Jean is sitting in a classic diver’s suit and Nadia perches above his shoulder, holding a model airplane. King the Lion sits at their feet, looking back at us. The spine features the show’s title and a picture of Nadia. The back features the show’s synopsis at the top, with pictures from the show underneath that, and the show’s credits and DVD specifications at the bottom. It’s a nice package, even though it does take up quite a bit of a room on the shelf, and I love the picture of Jean and Nadia on the cover.
Each menu follows the same basic format: the left side of the screen is dominated by an image featuring several of the main characters. The right half of the screen serves as a backdrop for the menu selections. Each episode is contained in a black rectangle with rounded corners, as are the langue and special features options. An orange diamond in the shape of the Blue Water hovers beside the option currently being selected. The show’s main theme plays on a ten second loop, which does make this a bit tedious to just leave playing. Overall, it’s a solid enough design that serves its purpose: nothing special or exciting, but I’d rather it be functional than pretty.
Nadia comes with the standard deck of features: Japanese Promos and TV spots, Clean Op/Ed, and trailers of other Sentai titles. While I did enjoy seeing the Japanese promos and whatnot, I really wish that there had been more on this series. Nadia is a classic and it would have been nice had there been some extra that talked about its development and its place among other beloved anime titles. There is also a feature film that picks up the story where the show leaves off and even though it’s not as good as the show, it would have been nice to have had included here.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
When I was a kid one of the many jobs I dreamt I would have when I got older was marine biologist. Even though I’d lived most of my life in landlocked states, the sea and its wonders always fascinated me. One of my fondest daydreams was living under the ocean in my own submarine like Captain Nemo (only without the bad habit of sinking ships). I’m sure that the Disney movie starring James Mason and Kirk Douglas had something to do with that, but even when I read the book when I was an adult, I still felt that lure of adventure, mystery, and solitude.
It was this love of that famous story as well as my love of ‘90s anime that made me so excited about seeing this show, and I have to say that, aside from one important aspect, this was exactly what I was hoping it would be.
The two main characters are Nadia and Jean. Both are orphans and both are caught up in a secret war that will determine the fate of humanity—although they are unaware of that at the beginning. Nadia is an acrobat and lion tamer in a circus, while Jean is an inventor who specializes in flying machines. It’s because of his machines that the two meet. Jean goes to Paris to enter his machine into a competition and as he’s making last-minute adjustments he spies Nadia traveling by bicycle with her lion, King. Jean is immediately smitten and follows her to the Eiffel Tower. While Nadia doesn’t care much for his attentions at first, he does make for a good distraction as the jewel thieves Grandis, Sanson, and Hanson arrive, trying to steal the Blue Water—a blue diamond that is Nadia’s only link to her past. Nadia escapes, but the gang follows her to the circus where they buy her from the owner. If not for Jean’s timely intervention, Nadia would have been captured and her Blue Water stolen.
This sets the course for the rest of the thirty-nine episodes. Jean and Nadia form a strong yet contentious relationship with Jean constantly reaching out to Nadia and Nadia constantly getting frustrated with him, despite the fact that she cares for the boy. Nadia believes that she comes from Africa, and smitten Jean vows to get her there in his airplane. Their journey to Africa takes many twists and detours and soon they become embroiled in a secret war between Captain Nemo and a group calling themselves Neo-Atlantians. Both Nemo and the Neo-Atlantians possess terrifying technology centuries ahead of what humankind should be capable of, and as the story progresses we learn more about who they are, where they came from, and how Nadia and Jean fit into the grand scheme of things.
I love almost everything about this series, but one of the aspects that I enjoyed the most was the sense that we were being taken on a grand tour of a vast, mysterious, wonderful world. We the viewers are taken on an amazing journey just as much as Nadia and Jean, and seeing sights such as the ruins of Atlantis made this such a treat to watch.
I also loved how the characters developed over the course of the series. When Grandis and her two lackeys Hanson and Sanson showed up I thought that they were going to be incredibly annoying, but they ended up being layered, endearing characters that I grew to care for. The same goes for Marie, a young girl that Jean and Nadia rescue from the Neo Atlantians. Although she acts like a regular child, her observations about Jean and Nadia, and the way that she and King pal around, made for some of my favorite little moments in the show.
The series manages to strike a nice balance between small, silly character moments and the headier, philosophical questions that underlie the overall plot. I loved the moments when the characters would talk or act in unison or the hundred little and not-so-little ways that King acted more like a man than a lion. Those moments fitted those particular scenes and never came off as comic relief simply for the sake of comic relief. They were natural (if somewhat exaggerated) character moments. Those moments are counterbalanced by the death and destruction that Jean and Nadia witness and the way it impacts not just them but everyone around them. This is one aspect of Japanese anime that I’ve always felt was superior to American cartoons: it shows that violence has consequences both on the people who perpetrate it and the people who are victims of it. Nadia brings up the moral questions of violence and killing, but she does so from a child’s viewpoint. Captain Nemo, really, is the one who embodies both sides of that coin—perpetrator and victim—and it adds a sense of tragic gravitas to his character that just highlights his already mysterious nature.
Where the show fails in many respects, though, is in the character Nadia. She is incredibly unlikable. She’s mean, she’s selfish, and she’s judgmental. For a great deal of the show I kept trying to talk myself out of not liking her. I kept trying to justify her actions and put myself in her situation, but there reached a point in the show where the narrator for each episode began actually mentioning Nadia’s selfish nature and it was at that point that I quit trying. The brunt of her anger is put on Jean, and while there are times when he does say and do stupid things, he doesn’t deserve a fourth of the scorn with which she treats him. For all his faults, he loves her and would do anything for her. He’s selfless where she is selfish, he’s inventive when she’s defeatist, and he’s entirely too good for her, as some of the characters rightly point out to him.
I think in some ways that I identified a bit too much with Jean, which was another reason for my wanting to justify Nadia’s actions, but she’s just a genuinely unlikable person for 90% of the show. This is all the worse because everyone else is so well-written. This was one of those shows where pretty much everyone was my favorite character. I would be watching a scene with Jean and then it would switch to Grandis or Sanson and Hanson or King and Marie and for a moment I would be disappointed because I was invested in what Jean was doing, but a half-second later I would be completely immersed in whatever this other character was doing. That’s a rarity in any medium, and from a writer’s point of view, it’s very impressive.
I could understand Nadia’s personality if she had grown, but she actively refuses to. There comes a point in the middle of the series where she and Jean seem to reach an understanding and she seems to mellow out a little bit, but it barely lasts for a minute. It’s like she realizes that she’s changing and she fights against it. She’s so set on being this one specific idea of herself that she won’t let anyone or anything change that and it’s only in the most dire of situations that she allows herself to snap out of this mold—if only for a moment. It will be interesting rewatching this series to see how much her character will affect my enjoyment. My hope is that if I just ignore her and concentrate on the other characters then I will get more out of it.
Nadia’s character is the largest flaw in this work, but there are others that I could point out as well—mainly the meandering plot, the pointless episode in Africa where Nadia falls in love, or the odd reintroduction of the character Ayerton near the final third—but none of those points truly affected my enjoyment of the show. There’s a charm and an energy to this show that make it a joy to watch, not to mention exciting action scenes, and larger thematic questions that add extra depth and meaning to the series. If not for Nadia, I would say that this is one of my top ten favorite series.
Sometimes one particular element to a story can make or break it, and in this case, it comes very close to breaking. While I love the concept, the setting, the story, and almost every character in this show, the character Nadia drags down the series. She’s cruel, selfish, and judgmental and it becomes more and more difficult to like her as the show progresses. If not for Nadia, I would say that this is just about a perfect anime. This is not to say that you should not watch it, as the other elements do well in balancing out her negativity. Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water is rightly considered a classic and I am definitely glad that I was able to see it. Just try to ignore the title character. Highly recommended.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Japanese Promos, TV Spot, Clean Opening Animation, Clean Closing Animation
Content Grade: A-
Audio Grade: A
Video Grade: A
Packaging Grade: A
Menu Grade: B-
Extras Grade: C
Released By: Sentai Filmworks
Release Date: March 4th, 2014
Running Time: 975 minutes
Video Encoding: 480 i/p
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Panasonic Viera TH42PX50U 42” Plasma HDTV, Sony BPD-S3050 BluRay Player w/HDMI Connection