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Martian Successor Nadesico Complete Collection Blu-ray Anime Review

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Martian Successor Nadesico Blu-ray CoverIt’s always time to get to burning!

What They Say:
The Earth, its moon and its Martian colonies are under alien attack, but the war against the “Jovian lizards” has, so far, been nothing short of a series of disasters.

Disgusted by the incompetence of Earth’s military, the independent arms manufacturer Nergal builds its own space battleship and plans to launch a desperate offensive to save humanity. But due to a shortage of trained soldiers, they’ve assembled the most unorthodox crew to ever launch into orbit! With a pacifist cook-turned-unwilling mecha pilot and a ditsy admiral’s daughter in command, can this unprecedented gathering of geeks, misfits and anime fans prevail against the Jovian menace?

The Review:
The audio presentation for this release has a mixed range of elements to it based on the material at hand. With the Blu-ray releases of the TV series and movie we get them done in PCM and that’s definitely a plus as it gives it a nice boost overall. Dialogue is fairly standard and well-placed as there’s lots going on with standard talking sequences but also lots of loud and big moments of it during the action with how they shout and fight. It comes across well, while acknowledging its age, with a nice boost for those that are more attuned to it. The action sequences naturally stand out better and the mix from the film where it was designed for a theatrical release ups it a bit more. Audio is always a bit more subjective and complicated when it comes to setups people have and the wide range of taking it in but overall it’s great to have this in uncompressed PCM form throughout the Blu-ray discs.

Originally airing in 1996, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. The show is spread across three discs in a nine/nine/eight format and the work from Xebec definitely comes across well. This is more noticeable when you revisit the Gekigangar III OVA at the end as that’s on a DVD and shows what most of the standard definition releases looked like over the years. The TV encoding here retains the grain as it should but it’s not problematic like it was in past release as it’s minimized and more natural, less distracting. This also helps to eliminate the cross coloration and other things that plagued a number of shows from this era on DVD with the low bit rates and weaker encoding tools. The show looks great here overall with a real warmth and sense of detail and flow about it that you get from traditional animation that can be very appealing. Similarly, the theatrical film has a somewhat cleaner and glossier look to it with its higher budget but it makes out just as well, showing some of the natural film grain in the encoding but coming across as more vibrant and of a higher quality overall.

The packaging for this release brings us a slightly thicker than normal Blu-ray case that holds most of the discs on hinges. The front cover artwork goes for a minimal but appealing design with the core trio through the middle set against the black background while tying the logo through the middle of it all. It has a minimal approach to it but works very well in looking strong and colorful without being too busy. The back cover works a straightforward black background where we get a few larger shots from the show and film and a solid summary of the premise that doesn’t overcompensate for the amount of material in the set. The various properties are clearly listed with what’s included as are the extras. No show related inserts are included but we do get a really nice reversible cover that works off of the main character and the mecha spread across both panels.

The menus for this release are pretty nice across the Blu-ray’s as we get a full screen image that has various pieces of character key artwork along the right that are vibrant and colorful. Each disc changes up what it has while also putting in some mild motion pieces in the background to give it a bit more life without overdoing it and becoming distracting, all while fitting into the theme of the show. The navigation is a little awkward as the top level menu as it’s kept along the lower left but doesn’t continue along the bottom as a whole, making it look a little cut short. More problematic for me is that it uses a different sidebar menu during playback and with the TV episodes it doesn’t show which episode is playing when you’re looking at it, which always bothers the heck out of me when trying to remember where I am in a series and want to look quickly – especially with shows that don’t include their episode numbers in the opening titles. They’re included in the credits with each episode here at least.

The extras for this release are all kept on the DVD as they bring what we had with past releases for the TV show. This has the familiar pieces with the clean opening and closing sequences, various TV spots, and the music video. We also get some of the interview material that was produced ages ago from the Japanese side and a featurette. It’s solid stuff to be sure and welcome to have here.

Also considered an extra is the inclusion of the Gekigangar III OVAs. I’d seen these before and they were a struggle to watch then, particularly as I found their inclusion in the TV series itself to be a real drag on the show even though they’re a critical part of the overall progress that the cast makes and the impact of the show. I get it but watching three OVAs worth of it was just far more than I could withstand once again.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
While not quite the “evergreen” property that Neon Genesis Evangelion is from this period of anime history, Martian Successor Nadesico is a show that continues to find new fans and delighting older fans with new releases of it. While we’re pretty much in the midst of the 20th anniversary of it as the last episode aired at the end of March 1997, the timing is spot on and this edition can most definitely be considered the definitive version of it.

Taking place in the year 2195, it’s been a year since life changed for humanity after their Martian colony and Lunar colony was destroyed by a mysterious race of creatures known only as the Jovian Lizards. This enemy from Jupiter has been sending numerous unmanned ships and fighters through portals called Chulips to Mars and then on to the Moon in order to drive humanity to extinction. The series is very much an ensemble piece, but the central character is that of young Akito, a man who was on Mars during the initial attacks and saw numerous people die before his eyes. This comes years after watching his own parents die when he was but a child, and his helplessness in this situation hamstrings him for the entire series.

The war effort against the Jovian Lizards by the United Earth Armed Forces takes a curious turn when they seemingly get help from one of the biggest conglomerates on Earth known as Nergal. Nergal has been bringing in all manner of interesting personalities for their new venture which is a civilian based battleship built to fight the invaders. Akito, who has been having little luck on Earth since he mysteriously woke up there after the invasion of Mars, is accidentally recruited after he comes into contact with the captain of the Nadesico, a young woman named Yurika who was actually his next door neighbor back on Mars. Yurika is a classic superior intelligence ditz who has earned her position but comes across as unfocused and silly. Her reunion with Akito has her believing in fate and she’s still very much in love with him, though he can’t figure out why and avoids her a lot of the time.

Nadesico has a fairly large cast of characters to it as it uses the battleship to move about the solar system and interact with the military, Nergal itself and eventually the Jovian Lizards. The setup of the series is what lets the characters shine as it moves fairly well between serious moments and comedy. There is also a strong harem aspect as several women are interested in Akito to varying degrees, though he’s not the only one to be involved in a relationship. Curiously, Akito is resistant to Yurika right from the start but he’s a bit more ambivalent with Megumi, a former voice actress turned communications officer. Megumi is quite attracted to him and is outgoing enough in her competition with Yurika, but Akito is fairly oblivious to how serious she is about him. The helmswoman, Minato, finds herself in a relationship with one of the Nergal execs on board but it’s one of the weaker ones since it gets so little time. As the series expands, the relationships get a touch more complex as well which adds nicely to all of it.

One of the things that really sets Nadesico apart from other shows is the way it’s somewhat self referential. A good deal of the show revolves around an anime series that several of the characters are very keen about called Gekigangar 3. The series, which runs for thirty-nine episodes, is something that harkens back to the good old days of giant robot shows in which it’s all about hot blooded passion and little real sense to it. The actions of the characters in the show sometimes reflect what the Nadesico characters are going through, and it inspires certain mecha related actions, but its influence is far wider than realized at first. As the series goes forward and we actually get to know who the Jovian Lizards are and how they came to be, Gekigangar 3 takes on a very strange feeling but one that isn’t wholly unbelievable either.

This edition, like the previous DVD edition, features a lot of welcome “upgrades” to it compared to the original DVD release that had overlays and the like to it. That’s from a whole other time in anime history that comes to mind when these properties surface again and are done in a clean way, especially with a strong upgrade visually thanks to Blu-ray. That technical aspect to it is a big plus and helps to smooth over some of the flaws to the show, though there are some things within the series itself that still rankles a bit.

The harem aspect of it bothered me a lot when I first saw it back in 2000, but it does feel more restrained in this viewing once again compared to shows of today. So many shows have gone so much further over the top that it feels quaint in a lot of ways. The show also does feel like it was trying to ape aspects of Evangelion as well with the way it brings text onto the screen, giving lots of military jargon and doing quick cuts to lots of fancy military equipment and settings. The part that is still the weakest though is the ending. In viewing the series again, I had found the show as a whole clicking very well up until I got to the last few minutes of the last episode. Once the credits finished out, I simply felt like it was a copout ending and one that pretty much cheated the viewer of any kind of real resolution. This isn’t new and there are plenty of shows where the journey is far better than the destination. Nadesico simply fails in this area though and it left me not wanting to really think about it any more than I had to as it was just disappointing all around.

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