Finish or Fail 1989 – Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water

Time for yet another ridiculous plot to power through my infamous on-hold list! According to MAL, I currently have 195 shows on-hold, which I’m proud to say is a lot fewer than last year at this time—but not enough. I don’t want to have *any* shows on-hold, so I must keep plowing forward! This new plan revolves around airdates~

I picked one anime that I had on-hold from each of the past 25 years and wrote them down on lots to be drawn one after another until all are completed. (Sadly, I didn’t have an on-hold show for every year, so there will only be 21 total). The first lot that I pulled from an old shoe was Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water. I started this show in 2008 at a time when I was buying a lot of random used DVDs wherever I could find them. I’d only seen the first four episodes and I remembered only basic things about them, so I started back from the beginning.

Parts in [bold pink brackets] are spoilers.

1989—1990 – Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water

Nadia suffers from an unfortunate case of Escaflowne Syndrome, which is when there’s a part of a show that I really enjoy followed by a chain of soul-crushingly bad episodes. Unlike Escaflowne, Nadia has the benefit of a great finale, but not unlike Escaflowne, I’d become so disconnected with the show by the end of it that I didn’t really give a damn anymore.

Nevertheless, I’m glad I watched the show for database purposes because I never could’ve imagined how similar it would be to Neon Genesis Evangelion. Maybe it shouldn’t be so surprising, seeing as the exact same people made both shows, but I wouldn’t have guessed that almost every directorial flourish from Evangelion was also present in Nadia (not to mention the rampant Christian symbolism).

Besides directing, there were many parallel themes. Both series dealt with the same conflicts—male vs. female, adult vs. child, life vs. death—in similar ways—albeit Nadia never shared the gravitas and strength of message that Evangelion did. (Which is sad because it almost could’ve.)

Other things that caught my attention revolved around Electra, who makes a decent parallel of Ritsuko Akagi from Eva, including a scene wherein she points a gun at Captain Nemo—whom she loves—and plays out a very familiar scene from End of Evangelion. She also gets the Gainax bounce once they put her in a plugsuit during the last few episodes and had her writhe in sexy agony at least three times. I could go on all day (including the stuff in the images), but that’s enough about those similarities.

Nadia was cool to me for two primary reasons: the first being that I’m a fan of adventure stories, especially when they involve the romance of a young boy trying to catch the heart of a beautiful girl (Eureka Seven, etc.). Maybe I had my expectations set too high when I started drawing a bunch of parallels to Eureka Seven around the halfway point when the show was really good.

The other reason was that Nadia interested me as a character. She was like a self-aware Asuka, or maybe just a more honest one. She was a classic tsundere anime girl with an amazingly fickle heart, but she admitted this to others and tried to work through it.

Just me or is it getting Zeta Gundam in here?

The show fell apart for me when those two points of interest died amidst of the infamous island arc. To understand why it sucked, here’s a poem I wrote about it:

And lo, they spent two minutes on a still image,
disguising the shortage of cells with trippy imagery
during a fever dream sequence.

And the story came to a stop as characters dicked around—
terrible episodic plots created to kill time
while they scrambled to finish more episodes.

And they included a moment of important dialog at the episode’s end,
so that all who skipped recognizing it as filler
missed important information.

And footage from an old episode was used in recaps,
cutting the last threads of entertainment and
disappointing everyone.

The island arc comes in two halves covering ten or eleven episodes and I actually really enjoyed the first half. It was a great chance for Nadia and Jean to develop alone, and some of those retarded episodic plots were a lot of fun. I’m all for weird experimental shit as long as it’s cool and, perhaps more importantly, doesn’t stall story progress forever.



Things got really bad when the characters left the first island for a second island (i.e. second half of the arc), entering some episodes so bad that, well, I started writing poetry to keep myself awake.

The point of an adventure story is the ADVENTURE. Seeing new lands and new scenarios unfold. Stuff like the episode where the submarine was trapped in an underwater minefield, or the sub-continental cavern leading into an underground graveyard, were really badass.

The island arcs were set on fucking islands. The second island was supposed to be notable for being like an island Frankenstine, composed of many strange parts, but this wasn’t really explored, and thanks to the laziness of animation in those episodes (they didn’t even try covering it at that point), the island was hideously ugly.

Even when the plot finally kicked back in, they [only visited two more locales before going into space for the final boss battle.] At that point, the sense of adventure had died.

Far worse even than the death of adventure is how the show suffered from a bad case of Rumiko Takahashi Syndrome (I know, so many illnesses).

Rumiko Takahashi Syndrome is when no matter how much progress a relationship seems to make in one episode, there’s a chance it will completely reset itself at the start of the next episode (see: Ranma, Inuyasha, etc.).

Nadia actually reminded me a lot of Tendo Akane (which is hilariously ironic since her boyfriend, Jean, had the same seiyuu as Akane). Both were fickle and stubborn girls that I adored (Akane far moreso, may I add), and who could at the drop of a hat throw out everything they supposedly learned before.

As a matter of fact, because of this, I can tell you the exact moment that I stopped caring about Nadia (the character and the show).

It was an episode in the early 30 range—not one of the island episodes (the last of which was actually very good), but the episode immediately afterward.

[The last island episode ended with the most touching moment in the series. Nadia, after learning all sorts of frightening secrets about her past, comes back to Jean (naked, I might add) and embraces him, full of love. That, to me, was supposed to be their defining moment as a couple. I was like, “great, we can finally put all of the ridiculous flip-flopping behind us, because they’re official now.”

And then in the NEXT FUCKING EPISODE, the group arrives in Africa and Nadia instantly falls in love with the first good-looking young African guy she meets (me: “Done.”). She spends the next two episodes being goo-eyed over him, and when she doesn’t get together with him, she rebounds to Jean.

Did I mention Sanson is proto-Kamina?

But worse still, the two of them never get another good romantic moment together. Throughout the finale, they get to share almost no dialog, and Jean spends most of it with his thumb up his ass while the more interesting characters (who hadn’t been around for almost twenty episodes) took all the glory. What happened to the Jean who took charge and ran shit when it came to Nadia? He doesn’t even get to save her! What does he do? He dies, and she has to save him. Jean effectively did nothing of interest during the entire finale except die.]

Now, the final episode was very well done. [The scene where Captain Nemo had to take a hail of gunfire from his own children was quite brutal.] But you’ll notice that “Captain Nemo” wasn’t on my list of primary interests in the series. Yes, his scenes were well done, but they lacked any emotional impact for me because I wasn’t really interested in his ending—I wanted to see Jean and Nadia’s romantic finale, and didn’t get it. I’ll give Nadia the series points for having an interesting and well put-together plot, but I don’t really look for that in anime to begin with.

I think what perfectly summed up my mixed feelings was the resolution, which was a lot better and more thorough than that of pretty much any show this side of Manabi Straight. [I liked seeing that Nadia and Jean got married and had kids, along with pretty much everyone else in the show, and generally, it was all happily ever afters.

But tell me, how the fuck does this make sense: during the last big emotional scene with Electra and Captain Nemo before they disappear for twenty episodes, Captain Nemo makes a point of telling Electra that she’s “been like a daughter to him.” But then, in the last episode, we find out that she’s pregnant with his child. And not only that, but he impregnated her full well knowing that they were all probably going to die, and then dies. After all Captain Nemo tried to do to not make her miserable, he’s going to fuck her over by leaving her a single mother? And why is he impregnating a girl he thinks of as his daughter?!

SPOILER: See that image at the top? Same couple!

But then again, Marie (who was four years old throughout the series) and Sanson (who was in his twenties) got married and had a kid together.] And that was, by far, my favorite part of the ending.

Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water – Finished

10 thoughts on “Finish or Fail 1989 – Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water

  1. Yeah, Nadia is pretty much what you get when you take a great 26 episode series and stretch it to 39 (IIRC, that’s pretty much exactly what Gainax was forced to do) with some really baaad filler. I still love it though and it gets better with rewatches since you can just skip all that crap. Grandis Gang FOREVER!

    Food for though:Nadia is basically Shinji with longer hair and breasts, as admitted by Sadamoto.

  2. Oh, so your collection doesn’t have it? I have the old twopart collection that also has the movie and four OSTs, guess the newer versions only have the series. Anyway, not worth tracking down.

  3. I don’t blame you for disliking the filler episodes so much. They really ruined the show for me.

    Interestingly, Hideaki Anno also thought they ruined the show. He actually made a shortened compilation called “The Nautilus Story”, where he basically eliminated all but half of the island/Africa episodes: all that remains of that section is a shot where Jean & Nadia are on the beach, then they get back with their pals, then go into the cave (ala ep. 30), then all the android scenes (ep. 31), and finally the loving embrace at the end. After that we go straight to episode 35 (the Tartessos episode) to the end. This is the show that I think Gainax wanted to create all along.

    I also agree with you about the relationship resetting drawback. It really got out of hand during the filler arc. I personally thought that Jean and Nadia’s friendship was far better developed during the opening episodes and even the Nautilus ones. Sure, there were moments when Nadia could lose her temper, but he always forgave her and she otherwise seemed to be showing signs of progress. Case in point: she always seems to feel bad about hurting Jean and even tries to cheer him up–bringing him food, apologizing, comforting him, and even suggesting him to build a gyrocopter–I thought she was a much more sympathetic and believeable character and that their relationship was much more sweet-natured and not so frustrating at all. It didn’t feel to me like the writers were pushing reset during episodes 1-22. But during the filler arc? DEFINITELY. Episodes 26, 32 and 33 were, IMO the worst offenders. Nadia and Jean’s romantic kiss under the stars COULD have been a good case of character development, but instead the writers turned it into a nasty tease and immediately pushed both on reset after it. It really aggrivated me. And yes, the whole Africa village storyline was a complete mistake. Simply put, it doesn’t belong in the continuity of the story. Ditto with the musical episode. It’s no wonder all three are forgotten when the show returns to its roots.

      • My pleasure! I also hope that I’m not in the minority in thinking that I thought that J & N’s relationship was more warm and genial in the first 22 episodes (despite a few outbursts) and actually making progress. That’s what it always felt like to me; I felt the filler basically destroyed all that.

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