Nadia, Secret of the Blue Water TV Series DVD Collection 2 (Hyb)
Jon F. Turner - Jul 5 2010 JTurner82@aol.com
Rating: Not all that good.
A disappointing second half of a fine show.
Sadly, the second collection of NADIA: THE SECRET OF BLUE WATER is a whole other matter. The show, initially scheduled to run for approximately 30 episodes, did better than expected in Japan, and so it was decided to expand the episode count to be considerably longer than its initial count. But director Hideaki Anno was already working overtime and Gainax was running short on funds, so it was decided to outsource the animation to other studios in Japan and Korea, and turn direction over to Shinji Higuchi. This only succeeded in spelling a major disaster for NADIA, resulting in a sourly disappointingly second half that sadly undermines everything that came before it.
The set actually starts out pretty promising; Episodes 21 and 22 conclude the Nautilus arc in a spectacular showcase of pyrotechnics, emotional turmoil, and surprisingly gutwrenching (if not unpredictable) plot twists which can arguably be considered as the last truly great episodes of NADIA. After a showdown with the evil Gargoyle that cripples the submarine, Captain Nemo jettisons Jean, Nadia, Marie, and King into his capsule, and all four soon become shipwrecked on a deserted island.
Now naturally from this set-up, one would assume that the show will continue on its adventurous, compelling course for its remaining seventeen episodes. But that's just it--from episodes 23 to 34, NADIA doesn't even feel like the same show anymore. Subtitled by many fans as the "infamous island episodes", these dozen half-hours are rather nasty, haphazardly animated and abysmally written "fillers" in which absolutely nothing valuable is provided to the central storyline. Contrary to the richly detailed backdrops of the first 22 episodes, the cheaply drawn, stilted, slapdash quality of the artwork resembles a cut-rate Saturday morning cartoon. Most distressing of all is the attempt to work in slapsticky "cartoonish" visual gags (in one scene, Jean steps off a cliff, yet stands suspended in mid-air; about ten seconds later his eyes bug out and he falls!), which clash with the "normal" tone of the series.
Worse still, the characters are all spectacularly derailed, to the point where they are not acting anything at all like their usual selves. Case in point: in the early episodes Nadia was a somewhat troubled but nonetheless interesting heroine with personality flaws and redeeming values. Here, however, all traces of her character development from the first episodes are all but completely discarded, and her personality devolves into a totally annoying and downright unlikeable bitch. Seriously, for nearly every episode in this sequence, this change of character is both alienating and only succeeds in making the audience want to root AGAINST the character. Even Jean, Marie, King, and the Grandis gang all lose their appealing qualities and become CARICATURES of their former selves. (Defenders of these episodes declare that these serve as character development, but any such moments are more like character "derailment" than anything else.) That the plots for these episodes are just about as intelligent and compelling as an awful LOONEY TUNES cartoon further exacerbates the problem.
Bad as these episodes are, the ones that truly hit rock-bottom include a totally pointless and downright despicable adventure in an African tribal village which make up 32 and 33 (with boring, uninspired new characters and a plot that all but totally destroys the characters) and episode 26, half of which is a mindnumbingly repetitive dream sequence (it's the same one where Jean does that aforementioned Wyle E Coyote stunt). And then there's Episode 34, which basically recycles clips from various episodes while the characters break into song. Although meant to be a transition, this is, again, a skippable episode. (I do give points to the dub actors, however, for doing their own singing for these songs; I especially liked Nadia's English VA songs and the Grandis Gang's one.) And don't even get me started about that "King VS. King" race; where they got the materials to build two mechanical robots is never explained, just like much of whatever happens in most of the island sequence.
Hold on, though, there ARE some saving graces in this collection. The sole episode that provides any actual value to the plot is episode 31, "Farewell Red Noah", in which the characters learn a vital clue about the protagonist's past. It still suffers from uncharacteristically goofy gags and a torturously padding pace, but otherwise this is the only episode I'd ever recommend sitting through of this Island/Africa filler. (It should also be known that even director Hideaki Anno admits that this is the only half-hour he would have salvaged of episodes 23-34.) Episodes 35-39 are also deserving of mention; it becomes very obvious that Hideaki Anno returned to the director's chair for this portion, as the animation returns to its former brilliance, the characters all retain their true personalities, and basically everything that happens in episodes 23-30 and 32-34 are all but completely discarded. In fact, you can just watch episodes 21-22, 31, and then these final five episodes and have a much better experience with this collection overall. Watching the filler episodes with them only succeeds in downgrading a fabulous show, and even undermining the awesome impact of its ending.
The final disc in this collection is the best-ignored theatrical feature, which basically wastes a third of its 90-minute running time with (badly edited and sequenced) footage from the TV show, rendering the remaining hour very rushed and underdeveloped. And there are character stupidities to be had here too: Grandis and her boys attack Jean after all that they've went through? Nadia wants to be an independent reporter? Preposterous! Matters are not helped by the absolutely DREADFUL animation and the dull, uninteresting new characters (especially Fuzzy, a not very talkative blondie who puts a new meaning in the definition of lifeless). Although better than the awful Africa episodes, it isn't saying much at all; it's every bit as disposable.
In all fairness, though, ADV does a fine job at packaging this latter half of the show. The video takes a hit in quality, but that's more due to the poor quality of the bad episodes. The voice acting in both the Japanese and English tracks continue to be spot-on as well, particularly in the final episodes. And while the accents are still occasionally shaky in the dub, the voice actors continue to show enthusiasm for their characters. In fact, one of the best extras in this set are text-only interviews with the English voice actors. If you're a dub fan, this is a very nice bonus.
All in all, however, I cannot recommend NADIA COLLECTION 2 as highly as I would like to; sure, it does have eight watchable episodes, but these are outweighed by far too many unbearable ones. If you decide to pony up the cash to purchase this set, I strongly suggest skipping the aforementioned filler and watching only the worthwhile episodes. That way, NADIA will surely play much better, and the impact of its ending will be a whole lot stronger.