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?
Contains the full TV series and the film “Prince of Darkness” on Blu-Ray and with both the English dub and the original Japanese track with English subtitles. Also included is a DVD full of extras including the Gekiganger 3 OVA, all presented in Collectors packaging.
This is one of the more unique releases – it is a Blu-Ray release with an English and Japanese 2.0 Stereo release BUT it also has a 5.1 Dolby Surround release in Japanese only – usually this is the other way round. On top of that, there is a DVD of the Gekigengar OVA which is in 2.0 Japanese only. There were no complications of the audio throughout the release and the 5.1 option definitely comes through well with no need to adjust default settings on the audio system I was using. The sound on the DVD definitely needed adjusting (it was never dubbed) but there was no transition problems with the audio and the subtitles/action so in that respect it was fine – the dub track on the Blu-Ray was slightly adjustable but again, nothing hugely problematic. The movie however has a 5.1 release in both English and Japanese which is utterly superb with the atmospheric music and action sequences in turn.
Similar with the audio, the video is set in 16:9 – 1.78:1 aspect ratio via NTSC transfer to PAL format – unfortunately with this being an older release the transition to Blu-Ray isn’t one of the best – it is still in a ¾ screen format (with black bars on the side) and does feel more of a DVD or even a VHS comparison sadly (which I did own – Nadesico being one of the first anime series I watched back in the days of VHS…) That said, the animation was fine and with a lot of bright colours and outfits, combined with no repeated animation (and the fine transition between the older style of Gekigengar with the Nadesico, clearly shown during the recap episode) it still transfers well onto the screen, just some obviously noticeable issues. The Gekigengar OVA also has this similar issues and as on a DVD format, when pausing it sometimes feels a little blurry (and when you get to the movie part it shrinks further, trying to simulate the feeling of a cinema but doesn’t quite work) – the movie is in full aspect ratio with full screen and looks better, but it is still an older movie so sometimes if feels a bit grainy as well.
There was no packing for this test release.
Each menu has the cast of some of the cast in a space background, ranging from Akito, Yurika, Gai, Ryoko, Hikaru, Izumi, Ruri, etc on the main show, the Gekigengar OVA has one of Yurika and Akito, whilst the movie has one of Ruri and ‘dark’ Akito. The menu is pretty straight forward on those – we have Play All, Episodes and Set Up, whilst strangely the extras are only on the Gekigengar OVA DVD. All are easily selectable and on the Blu-Ray you have the pop-up menus which don’t delay the choices, but on the DVD there is a slight delay in selection. Otherwise, no problems, just very standard.
As said, the extras only appear on the DVD part which the main extra is of course the 30 minute Gekigengar OVA, which is part of the bridge between the series and the movie – Akito, Yurika, Minato and Ruri are in a movie theatre after the war where they are watching the new Gekigengar movie, which is one part recap and one part new material. It is basically a hot blooded show with the Gekigengar group which is a lot of fun, but the only main purpose is to set up that Akito and Yurika are getting married – unfortunately you don’t know the full story in between the anime and the movie unless you are familiar with the Sega Saturn/Dreamcast game and promotional information which was only familiar in Japan, so to get the whole story, you need the research…
We then get the TV Series extras, first is a segment called ‘Welcome to Belle Equipe’ which is a back-story towards the show and the history of the Martian wars as told by Ruri and Yurika (well mostly Ruri…) and the story of the show. We get to see the people behind the opening ‘You Get To Burning’ singing in the studio in full, an interview with the singer Yumi Matsuzawa on her thoughts about watching Nadesico, how she came to be singing the song, watching the music video, etc. It is intermixed with clips of the show, narrated by Yurika in her own way, then by Inez, then by Ruri – it is basically a huge recap episode but going in depth with a lot of things that they couldn’t explain in the show about the specs of the Nadesico, the Aestivalis, etc – and then going into live action sequences – we get one with Houko Kuwashima, the Japanese seiyuu of Yurika, who jokingly stays in character as she is interviewing other members of the cast during the recording sessions (jokingly she barges in like Yurika) – so she interviews Yuji Ueda (Akito), Naoko Takano (Megumi), Kentarou Itou (Jun), Maya Okamoto (Minato), Omi Minami (Ruri), Nobuo Tobita (Seiya), Chisa Yokoyama (Ryoko), Shiho Kikuchi (Hikaru), Miki Nagasawa (Izumi), Kenichi Ono (Prospector), Naoko Matsui (Inez), Juurouta Kosugi (Goat), Yuko Nagashima (Erina), Ryotaro Okiayu (Nagare), Miyuki Ichijou (Howmei), Mitsuaki Madono (Munetake) and lastly they get to Gai who of course puts in his Gekigengar collection for this part ^^ so we get Tomokazu Seki (Gai) – fun that the character that is in the least gets the biggest opening considering Gai is probably second only to Ruri in terms of popularity despite how little he is in the show. They also talk to the director Tatsuo Sato, the mechanical designer Mika Akitaka, the character designer Keiji Gotoh, the sound director Hideyuki Tanaka and the producer Toru Sato. It is 45 minutes long so they are all only short segments but it makes you realize how big the cast is and how many people got involved with the show.
The next extra is a segment called Nadesico Sorekara which is after a similar introduction by Ruri, is a live segment interview with an audience with Houko Kuwashima and Naoka Takano (Yurika and Megumi), with a lot of the staff working on it as well, which is a Q&A with questions written by an audience and picked out of a box, they talk about the movie, do a singing performance, with a few televised interview segments to end it (one with Mitsuaki Madono/Munetake, one with Kentarou Itou/Jun, one with Ryotaro Okiayu/Nagare, one with Tomoko Kawakami/Howmei, one with Omi Minami/Ruri, and one with Houko and Naoka, with all of them giving words to the fans.)
We have some TV spots and some other promotional videos as well, and then some full interviews with many of the cast – Houko Kuwashima (Yurika), Tomokazu Seki (Gai), Naoko Takano (Megumi), Omi Minami (Ruri), Maya Okamoto (Minato), Chisa Yokoyama (Ryoko) and Yuji Udea (Akito). These are all short (about 1 minute to 2 minutes long) but all introduce the series in their own way.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Well, this takes me back. As in VHS release back. This was one of the first series I watched when I first started to get into anime back when I was at university, so I believe that would have been 17 years ago when I first purchased this series. Back in the day when I first started getting into anime, I was also a fanfiction writer and I had a few online friends who were recommending series outside the then more well known starter kits of Pokemon, Dragon Ball Z and Sailor Moon that was being shown. One of these series was Nadesico.
I did purchase the VHS – it was around £15 pounds for 4 episodes (yes, welcome to nearly 20 years ago when you can get half season and sometimes full season sets for that price, this was still a better deal than some where you only got 2 episodes on there!)…and I was hooked. It was in dub only but it was still one of those series that had everything – comedy, drama, good characters, an interesting story and some plot twists that come out of nowhere.
So nearly 20 years later does it still hold up?
Our story begins with our lead Akito Tenkawa on Mars, helping a young girl name Ai (who initially seems unimportant but is both a trigger for Akito and also much later in the series a brilliant deus ex machina) in a settlement, but they are attacked by some robots, assumed to be Jovian lizards, Akito rushes in all Leeroy Jenkins like, but is pretty much outmatched quickly. Just as he appears he is about to die, some weird markings flash around him…
…flash forward…or back…and we see Akito on Earth working as a cook, but he clearly gets triggered about it when news of the war is around. Forced to leave, he rushes to try and find himself but gets knocked over accidentally by a pretty young woman named Yurika who seems to recognise him somewhere. It is seen that Yurika was Akito’s childhood friend and Akito thinks her family had something to do with his parent’s death so he chases after her…
…to the battleship Nadesico, where some of the most colourful crew have come on board. More characters get introduced later on, but the core ones at the moment are Minato, a busty former secretary as a helmswoman, Megumi – a communications officer who used to be a voice actress, and of course everyone’s soon to be favourite, Ruri – a young girl who appears to have been raised in a lab and has a cold tongue but a warm heart. When Akito gets on board, he is asked to remain as a cook on the Nadesico so he can find out about Yurika but accidentally gets involved when a pilot of one of their robots the Aestivalis, Jiro Yamada…
GAI DAIGOJI DAMMIT!
Ahem…sorry, Gai Daigoji, a character you will utterly love for his anime tropes but hate for his sadly short screen time which is another big thing for Akito’s development. Akito has the technology inserts which allows him to pilot…but along with that, Yurika recognises him and…clearly has an attitude of Akito was her boyfriend which basically is the 2nd side of Yurika – whilst ditzy, she is a very capable captain as proved by her first outing causing minimal deaths compared to the traitorous previous management wanting to send more sacrifices out. So the story is a sci-fi drama of Yurika trying to convince Akito he is love with her but he is concerned she was involved with his parent’s death. They get through some troubles like being forced to fight for Earth’s trouble instead of their goal of reaching Mars as well as convincing Yurika’s friend Jun to join them despite him clearly in love with Yurika…
…but out of nowhere, the show becomes serious with the death of Gai – yeah, it’s a big spoiler but one that is necessary because it comes out of nowhere, as well as the fact that Akito and Gai become good friends over their bond and love over the show within a show Gekigengar 3 which has MUCH more significance believe it or not as the series draws to the end. Things take a turn for the surprising when more pilots arrive in the hot-headed Ryoko, the otaku Hikaru and the very strange Izumi, and through a common bond of being the only ones who seem to care when people die, Akito and Megumi seem to start a romance much to Yurika’s panic.
A lot of episodes then become a mission of the day type things, but important things do happen throughout. They do make it to Mars but the Jovian Lizards basically ambush them through the Chullips (almost like portals that the Nadesico is able to take as well) but it does introduce the character of Inez Fressange, an explaining lady who again is much more significant to the story than it first appears, and Akito discovering that the admiral on board was behind the mission that killed his parents (though again, there is more than what it seems) and being replaced by a previous admiral Munekate (who also was the one who killed Gai), a new pilot Nagare Akatsuki, and a rather uppity former secretary as a second helmswoman named Erina Won, who becomes very interested in Akito as it appears that he, Yurika and Inez seem to have the ability to do what is known as a boson jump…which is basically teleportation which could become quite useful…as well as be another member of the Akito Tenkawa fanclub (along with Ryoko and MAYBE even Ruri…)
But amidst a lot of comedy and missions and some good character development (a fan favourite is the episode where Ruri and Akito team up to save the ship’s computer from being taken over by Nergal and lose its personality when it appears to be acting up), the story begins to take water when half way through the series when the character of Tsukumo Shiratori appears, a Jovian Lizard who infiltrated the Nadesico but was caught by his love of Gekigengar. Long story short, it is revealed that the Lizards were humans who were exiled to the moon, forcing them to terraform Jupiter whilst Nergal made up a story that they were evil aliens – changing the mentality of all the cast, which leads to Megumi and Akito’s break up and the crux of the story beginning. There are still some fun moments (like the mechanic Seiya and Hikaru’s budding friendship which nearly becomes awkward, the episode where it is told in the wrong order and see ghosts, which also gives a major hint on who Inez really is, Ruri discovering her past and showcasing she does love being on the Nadesico, and the infamous talent episode), it basically leads to deciding whether to fight the Jovians or negotiate peace. Tsukomo is up for peace especially as he and Minato really clicked, but Nergal clearly wants this kept hush-hush, and the twist which was definitely referenced in earlier episodes that Akatsuki is the chairman of Nergal, forcing the Nadesico to be under his command and nearly assassinate the Jovian’s peace officer, Tsukomo’s little sister Yukina (hilariously she only wanted to do it so she could try and kill Minato for bewitching her older brother, but she wasn’t quite a good assassin and basically makes friends with her instead) – so now everyone is under surveillance on Earth with the pilots AWOL, but one cute little girl is also missing and she snuck and hid on the Nadesico with Inez and Howmei the ships main chef well aware of it – Ruri basically is able to take over the Nadesico and get the crew back, and manage to make peace with Tsukomo via their love of Gekigengar as the Jovians have almost made a cult of it…
…but again, a twist happens as the Jovian head isn’t exactly a rational person which leads to Tsukomo’s assassination by his best friend. It leads to war but the Nadesico and Nergal team up to try and stop it (though the Nadesico’s initial plan wasn’t one they wanted). Right at the end, everything is explained by Inez about boson jumping, the significance of the Martian’s able to do it without dying, and who Inez truly is. The end is very cliché but actually makes sense as it sets up a period before the movie…
Before I get to the movie, the series itself definitely still holds up. Even in today’s market, a lot of the in-jokes and clichés can definitely be used in other similar anime and the mix of comedy, drama and characterization is fantastic. The surprise of the popular Gai dying so early made this series much more darker than it appeared it was going to be, and whilst the romance element felt a bit forced (especially with Megumi) it gave us the two ways split of credible captain vs. ditzy genius. Yurika has to make a lot of tough decisions (the one on Mars makes her physically sick and is one of the first tender moments she and Akito have which is quite serious) yet despite that bubbly persona she is very capable and this things you need to notice because her overbearing Akito personality takes charge a lot. Akito himself develops well due to wanting not to be part of battle yet always going for it, his mindset develops similar to Gai’s but also recognises when others see things differently (which is a snap in him after Tsukomo’s death). Pretty much most of the cast gets development, some for the better (Seiya goes from skirt chaser to family man by the end of the series, Ryoko whilst has a crush on Akito never loses her mentality even when she is concerned about killing, and Ruri is clearly someone who has a strong good heart and develops more on the Nadesico loving the idiots she hangs around with) whilst some not so much (the worst case is Megumi, who goes from love interest, to is just there…she gets it even worse in the movie). That said, there is a huge cast of characters and the range of emotions from Akatsuki’s switch to the Nergal chairman, to Minato’s romance with Tsukomo, to Yukina being the bridge to snap her back into shape, it all shapes incredibly well.
Which is why the movie is considered a disappointment to many fans.
Before I showcase the movie, a major problem first is that to understand the gap between series and movie, you needed to know the story from a Sega Saturn game called Martian Successor Nadesico: The Blank of Three Years. I was fortunate enough to play this with a friend who knew Japanese so I do know what happens in between which made the movie a better experience for me – that said, outside of Japan, importing and understanding, you won’t have played this so it is confusing…and also feels very un-Nadesico like. On one hand, a much darker movie can work but on the other hand it makes lose what made Nadesico so popular.
The movie pretty much sets up as everyone is at peace, but Akito and Yurika are presumed dead along with Inez, and a sub-group who wish to continue the war named the Martian Successors have come about. To stop this, we have the Nadesico B captained by Ruri, along with former Jovian soldier Saburota, and ensign Hari, the one major new character with similar abilities to Ruri and quite jealous of her love with the old crew. It leads to a reunion when Ruri meets up with Ryoko during a battle where a mysterious black Aestivalas and his own Ruri, named Lapis is also trying to stop them but on his own. It is pretty obvious that this is Akito, but only confirmed when she visits Yurika’s grave later. However Yurika also isn’t dead and is being used as an experiment for boson jumping so needs to a mission for the Nadesico C to get the old crew together. Hikaru is a manga author and Izumi a bar owner, but thanks to Prospector (an underrated character on the ship who was always worried about money but quite humorous and more active than you’d think) he slowly gets them together with Hari jealous of Ruri’s affection to the previous generation. That is, until he meets Minato and slowly changes his mind (leads to possibly a romantic edge between him and Ruri?) and you get to see that class A boson jumpers were a threat – hence why Inez was also under wraps with Nergal, and thanks to Seiya, they manage to boson jump Haley to travel to begin arresting the Martian Successors. Akito however does leave before Yurika wakes up, which seems to almost set up a sequel, but from what I looked at because the movie didn’t do that well, future movies were cancelled.
It is a shame because on retrospect the movie isn’t that bad at all. I personally enjoyed the darker twist it took, but it didn’t really expand enough on what happened between Akito and Yurika. You do need to know what happened beforehand (short version: Ruri was adopted by Akito and Yurika, they ran a restaurant away from war, but then Yurika and Akito were captured whilst Inez was protected by Nergal but reported dead to make the Successors go away, and Akito had experiments on him which affects his sense of taste and smell, affectively taking his livelihood away and now passionate for revenge) which is why this can come off very strange.
The other problem people have is the fact the characters personalities change or aren’t as focused – as the movie is only 80 minutes and the huge cast are tried to get in, a lot of characters barely get screentime (Megumi, Erina, the Howmei girls, even Akatsuki and Seiya to a minor degree) which also ties in to the fact that basically because Ruri was so popular, she is pretty much got 70% of the screentime and is pretty much overpowered to the point it can be laughable. Now I love Ruri – she was my favourite character of the show and her personality still has some fun moments (her pretending to be a child on the tour was amusing) but a lot what made people love her (her snarky comments) pretty much is gone in favour of a purely serious character and wanting to find Akito. Hari manages to be the most interesting character with a crush on Ruri, his jealousy of the old crew changing, and being quite the fighter mentally, he probably is the only other character with a major impact – even Akito’s Lapis is only discovered in the late half of the movie as again, you’d need to play the game to see how she came to be with him. Granted, a lot of moments are still fun – Yukina for example embarrassing Jun is very comical, and the satisfaction of Akito passing down his ramen recipe so that Ruri remembers the man he was shows he still loves his adoptive daughter, but yes, it definitely didn’t feel the Nadesico of old.
However, as a package, it is still worth getting. The DVD has a ton of extras (including the Gekigengar OVA) and whilst the transition of the series isn’t the best to Blu-Ray in its original 4:3, the series is still a classic. Lots of fun characters and development combined with it knowing when to be serious and when to be silly is the Nadesico we remember. The movie may hinder it a little but I personally still liked it but not to the extent of the series. If you can find online the in-between stuff you can enjoy the movie with more knowledge like I did, otherwise it can feel like a mess. The series, however, is still a personal favourite, and anyone who disagrees, I quote my favourite character.
Two grades for the series and the movie separately – whilst the movie requires some back knowledge and suffers a lot from not having what the original series did, it still has its moments and its attempt to be darker does give it atmosphere, but the over-reliance of Ruri makes it take a backpedal despite being a decent movie. The series however is a classic – what appears to be soap-opera sci-fi has some surprisingly good twists and dark moments, combined with the memorable cast, Nadesico is in the late 90s mid-season pack of anime after you’ve got some other series down so you can get some references and enjoy the mock-take of Gekigengar…before it actually becomes a legit plot point. Add a bit of fun and romance, and is a bit of everything in a series. Highly recommended.
Content Grade: A- (series) B-(movie)
Audio Grade: B+ (series) A(movie)
Video Grade: C+ (series) A(movie)
Packaging Grade: N/A
Menu Grade: B- (series) B-(movie)
Extras Grade: A-
Released By: Anime Limited
Release Date: August 28th, 2017
Running Time: 650 minutes (series), 80 minutes (movie)
Video Encoding: PAL
Aspect Ratio: 4:3 (series) 16:9 – 1.78:1 (movie)
Playstation 4, Sony Bravia 32 Inc EX4 Television, Aiwa 2 Way Twin Duct Bass Reflex Speaker System.