Before the wheels of madness took Anno over in Evangelion, this was the start of the crazy train…
What They Say:
FROM THE CREATOR OF NEON GENESIS EVANGELION AND BASED ON A STORY BY HAYAO MIYAZAKI The classic anime series from Hideaki Anno (Evangelion). Available for the first time! 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.
Set up in 2.0 Stereo and Mono English and Japanese language, whilst disappointing there isn’t a 5.1 release the general quality of the audio isn’t diminished in terms of set up, however this was a strange one as at times I had to raise the volume up, and others it was fine on the default setting – I did notice this a few times especially in the later discs so it seems like it is better in some episodes than others. The quality in both languages is mostly good (the above issues were mostly with the dub track, the sub track I didn’t notice this), with no issues of poor synching with the subtitles, or any cuts with the video. The show originally aired in 1990 yet has never had a UK release so with the remastering of the video quality (a Blu-Ray release is also available) not sure if there were any issues with the transfer of sound considering how sporadic the differences are with a few episodes – it still sound good, but especially in the dub track it is noticeable when after setting up the volume higher then you have to set it lower a few episodes later.
Set on a 4:3 – 1.33:1 format, with it being semi widescreen (more vertically central with black on the sides) I can say the remastering for the UK release looks amazing – the video quality I set full screen with no slow down or transition issues, no crossed animation when pausing and the colours come out superbly that I am amazed that the show is so old – if you are watching it for the first time, you’d probably be surprised it was done in 1990 as well. The subtitles sync with no issues on either language, the show is gorgeous to behold and am glad the UK release manages to capture the effect in today’s technology.
Each of the menus on the 8 discs are very similar, each with the episodes available on the menu (4-5 episodes, if you select the first episode on the disc that is pretty much the Play All function so not made immediately obvious but common sense should prevail) – the art on the main menus are exquisite – the first one for example has a shot of Nadia, Jean, King, Grandis, Sanson and Hanson (in their flying machines in the gangs’ case) in a full view just ready to leap out and the art is similar with the other discs as well with different character/poses. The languages menu is English or Japanese with subtitles (so if you want subtitles in English you will need to do it manually with your DVD controller), the choices are easily selectable from the main menu or the show – pretty basic but the excellent art work still makes it stand out.
There are a few extras on the first few DVDs, sadly nothing major regarding the show which is disappointing considering its legacy. The interesting extra is on the first disc which are trailers – I say interested because I was not aware that the UK are getting any of these series but if they are, then am a very happy reviewer. Trailers were for Girls und Panzer, From The New World, Croisee in a Foreign Labyrinth, Taisho Baseball Girls, Love Election & Chocolate, and AKB0048 Next Stage. A lot of Sentai series from the US and a lot sub only, but some are personal favourites of mine so here is hoping.
Disc 2 also has the clean opening and ending which doesn’t change in the 39 episode series, whilst Disc 3 has a Japanese Promo and Spot which again, is pretty basic and standard for sets.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
The Secret of Blue Water was the first big series that Hideaki Anno was involved with before Evangelion (and is rumoured due to the tight schedule and work load what may have started on his depression – and why Evangelion became what it is) – originally airing in 1990, it finally gets a UK release in DVD/Blu-Ray format 25 years later – an anniversary of sorts. So, nostalgia goggles aside, does it still hold up and for new comers, does this show work in today’s environment?
The story is based on an alternative universe – set in the late 19th century, and we are at the Paris World Exposition where we are introduced to one of our leads Jean, an inventor who is entering a contest along with his uncle making a flying machine – however, as they are preparing it, he spotted a young, dark skinned girl running across. Jean has always said to chase a girl that he has interest in, and how unique this young lady is catches his eye. He ditches his uncle to chase the girl, named Nadia (and unusually a pet lion cub named King), but she clearly seems to want to be alone. Suddenly, a gang of three confront her, a woman named Grandis, and her henchmen the tall Sanson and the chubby Hanson. Nadia has a jewel on her known as The Blue Water that the three are chasing after. Nadia however escapes with acrobatic like agility…tracing her to the circus where Jean completely falls for her. After some trickery and the Grandis Gang attempting to kidnap her again, Jean saves her in the flying machine…and a journey begins.
After failed attempts to take her home, Jean learns that Nadia simply wants to find her home but doesn’t know where it is. From her lion and her skin, they suspect Africa and Jean says he will take her there. However, with the Grandis Gang and mechanical blunders ahoy, the two have a rocky ride – travelling into the sea and meeting ships and submarines (which Nadia always seems to be suspicious), the two get into lots of trouble, both in the world and with themselves (Nadia’s’ not liking the overuse of technology, despising killing anything and is a vegetarian puts her at odds with Jean multiple times) – culminating in being in an area which is war bound and finding a little girl named Marie, whose parents have been killed. It leads to Marie joining them, but the real intrigue is the Blue Water gem, which glows at certain moments seemingly linked to fantastic power. The group who killed Marie’s parents is known as Gargoyle, and they trace Nadia’s location and to save Jean, she gives herself up (but gives the Blue Water to Jean). This now begins the main part of the story, as Gargoyle goes up against another vessel named the Nautilus led by a veteran captain named Nemo, whilst the Grandis Gang who had been captured by Gargoyle, team up with Jean to save Nadia – leading the Gargoyle to eventually flee as the Blue Water looks like it can be used to power up their ultimate weapon…but there is still a mystery to what the Blue Water is, why it is linked with Nadia…and why Nemo also has a Blue Water crystal in his submarine…
After this, a lot happens. The initial part is the group being on the Nautilus, interacting with the crew to both comic and serious effect. For example, Grandis falls in love with Nemo despite him being quite a bit older, whilst Hanson takes Jean under his wing as a fellow inventor as well as falling for the pretty officer Electra, Nemos’ right hand woman. Whilst there is a lot of comedy involved, there are plenty of series and tragic moments, with new friends dying, Nadia’s’ conflicts over death both in war and for food with the rest of the crew, looking for ways to cure rare illnesses, escaping Gargoyles’ traps, and what Gargoyles’ modus is – basically he believes he is a Neo-Atlantian and the power of the Blue Water can make them the true species of the world, conquering it over normal humans. There is a lot of development in the characters; Electra for example grows well in her relationship with the crew and her relationship with Nemo in particular when you hear her past. Nemo himself is very unique – a gruff old sea captain who never raises his voice, but the mystery around him is huge, and before this arc ends, the big reveal about the relationship between himself and Nadia, whilst it could be seen as coming, is still quite a heavy impact. The Grandis Gang I admit seem to quickly turn to the good side too quickly, and Grandis’ reason for wanting to steal the Blue Water is rather superficial to be honest and doesn’t affect the plot for the grand scheme of things, so you wonder why it was done. On the other side, the three characters are fun; Hanson and Jean have a good brother, whilst Nadia has to come to grips with technology and death, whilst growing in feelings for Jean. The finale of the arc forces Nemo to jettison Nadia, Jean, Marie and King as the Grandis Gang show they are more heroic than they seem, and the face off and back-story of Electra and Nemo concludes big time.
At this point the story takes a different route, as the kids are washed up on a beach and we get a survival island type of arc. It leads to more Nadia conflict as she leaves Jean and Marie to prove she can survive in nature without Jeans inventions – which was a pretty bad idea and she is forced to steal some of the rations from Jean without him knowing, whilst still complaining about them when they eat fish or meat because of her beliefs. Despite this, it does lead them to becoming closer as Jean continues to invent, and reuniting with the Grandis Family who survived their heroic distraction – and then the plot returns as the mystery of the Blue Water rears its head, and we learn of Nadias’ true back-story and what she is to Atlantis (linking with Electra and Nemos’ back-story) and the power of the Blue Water and what it can make a person, with only Atlantian blood able to use it.
Then a few silly episodes which definitely seem like filler after that big episode before the final few episodes as the group arrived at Tartessos, the new Tartessos as the previous one was destroyed during Electra’s’ background, where Nadia feels she has no right to become a god with her power, and even attempts to commit suicide, however with Gargoyle ready to pounce, Electra and Nemo return on a new submarine the New Nautilus. However the happiness is short lived as Gargoyle still stronger, Nemo surrendering his Blue Water and Nadia captured. We get the big climatic battle between the two sides, some more family relations revealed, and a final sacrifice it leads to the finale of this series.
As you can see, there is a lot going on. It splits itself into 39 episodes and 4 arcs – we have the Nadia/Jean avoid the Grandis, then we have them with Nemo and they team up, then the deserted island arc, and the final battle. This series has aged well for the most part (there are mild sexism/racism parts near the beginning but fortunately those are vanished quickly) – the animation is superb, and the characters are all still memorable. The relationships that grow between some of the cast – Nadia and Jean, Jean and Hanson, Nemo and Electra, Nemo and Nadia combined with the history of Atlantia and the back stories of Electra/Nemo/Nadia and how they are all linked, it works fantastically as a flowing narrative (bar a few episodes near the end which could have easily been cut out) and you want to see this group succeed.
The setting is also great. This is pre 20th century but in an alternative universe where technology which equals today’s is produced. The way Nemo in particular showcases how they are able to use it, but also use it wisely as it has the ability to destroy is a sound one. It combines magic and technology in a way with the Blue Water being a mystical object that has the power to make one a god if you wish. Nadia even prays to it in the last episode when something near tragic happens – so whilst it feels like a deus ex machine, it is at least explained with the history of Atlantis and the destruction of the original Tartessos.
The relationship between Nadia and Jean is also given time to be told. Whilst Jean is smitten with Nadia at first sight, it takes a while for Nadia to trust Jean completely, especially with technology that she doesn’t fully understand and things that she doesn’t believe in. The Grandis Gang are lovable rogues which, whilst I admit their turning into good guys was a bit spontaneous and the reason why they were chasing Nadia at first was simply shallow reasons (Grandis was a rich girl but now only has her two lackeys who are devoted to her) and Grandis’ crush on older fellows like Nemo more for a punch line (and amusement considering Electras’ role), they do add a good bit of humour and actual drama to the show when it comes to a lot of the action. Jean and Hanson I particular like as a friendship as well considering they are inventors, and Hansons’ crush on Electra is actually really adorable. Nemo I find a fascinating character with his history on the submarine, and his history with Nadia and Electra, a stern crew member but always has good advice for Jean, he has a good heart and always looks out for people even if means making decisions he doesn’t want. There is a particularly heartbreaking segment when Jean makes a new friend named Fait, but due to an attack by Gargoyle, a group is trapped and oxygen is running out – Nemo is forced to leave them, and the next episode they lay them to rest – it is quite sad and yet Nemo is forced to make a decision for the greater survival – one he doesn’t like making but he has to. It showcases tough decisions in these environments and it is done realistically but with heart.
Ironically, the one thing I find initially wrong with Nadia: Secret of Blue Water…is Nadia herself. Now, a lot of her reactions are understandable – she doesn’t know where she comes from, was living in a nasty circus, and chased by people after a memento of hers, combined with being in a world surrounded by people who do things you hate (at one point, Jean sneaks some meat inside one of her food dishes mixed in which I felt was a bit of a dick move even if it was more for her own good to get energy) – however, her reactions to a lot of the things do feel way over the top. She being upset over Nemo killing someone in a war situation ESPECIALLY as she was about to be killed for example – she says she would gladly die herself instead of seeing someone else die, honourable but at the same time she never (at first) seems to appreciate what people are doing to help her. It takes most of the series to accept the meat eating as well of her friends – again, she actually does have a semi good reason because she can understand animals, so if an animal is killed, it feels like a friend has died. Again, somewhat understandable, but when people need to survive, it seems very hypocritical ESPECIALLY when she has a lion cub with her who also eats meat, yet she is accepting of that. Also, Marie is really unnecessary most of the series and felt she was included as a group member just for a younger demographic can see her chase King (who is also a lot of the time not necessary) – which is strange considering this series showcases death a lot, and even a suicide attempt so this show really isn’t for kids. Nadia does improve by the end of the series, and the conclusion is mostly satisfying (though a couple of the ‘where are they now’ scenarios make you go ‘huh?’) but for the longest time, this was very noticeable as a pretty negative trait of the main heroine.
Despite that, Nadia is still an acceptable heroine and doesn’t detract from the series enough to not enjoy it. Jean often makes up for it with his dorky nature, sometimes a little perverted with her but for the most part, he is quite the gentleman, very hard working, smart and self-sacrificing. The rest of the cast also holds up as either a lot of fun or really impactful for the story – Gargoyle, despite only appearing a few times throughout the story, his impact continues to be shown and you can tell he is a very affective villain and the history of Atlantis adds some real story behind the slow romance that goes between Nadia and Jean. Sure, there are a lot of WTF moments (and that epilogue really made my eyes bug out with two of the reveals) but the story, animation, characterisation and narrative still hold up mostly in today’s’ market just as much as Annos’ later series Evangelion still holds up – unlike Eva though, Nadia doesn’t get any new adaptations via Japan…
…I certainly wouldn’t mind if they happened though.
Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water is a very smart series that mostly holds up today 25 years later – the animation is superb, the characters are mostly fantastic, the story is intelligent, and there are even some good comic elements too. Whilst some of the characters may feels not needed, and the lead heroine has her moments where you feel she is overreacting, it overall holds together very well and for me, is a series on par with how Evangelion is seen today, the series Anno was better known for. Definitely worth a gander, especially on Blu-Ray.
Content Grade: B+
Audio Grade: B-
Video Grade: B+
Packaging Grade: N/A
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: C
Released By: Manga Entertainment UK / Animatsu
Release Date: June 22nd, 2015
Running Time: 975 minutes
Playstation3, Sony Bravia 32 Inc EX4 Television, Aiwa 2 Way Twin Duct Bass Reflex Speaker System.