Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water is the 1990 epic adventure story from Hideaki Anno (Neon Genesis Evangelion), inspired by the Jules Verne novel – 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. This series marks one of the earliest directorial projects by Hideaki Anno and his studio, Gainax. A classic series that deserves the love it has been given by Animatsu Entertainment.
The story follows that of the titular character Nadia and her pet lion, King, along with our unlikely hero, and young inventor, Jean, as they try to escape from their villainous pursuers, who aim to steal Nadia’s magical Blue Water. After evading their pursuers, thanks to the various inventions of Jean’s that tend to break during use, they find themselves on-board an American battleship – only to be shipwrecked due to a mysterious sea monster. Nadia, Jean, and King are then surprised to be rescued by Captain Nemo and his submarine, the Nautilus, from which they are hastily sent on their way to an island that should provide transport back to France. That it did not, being under the control of the Neo-Altaneans and their leader, Gargoyle, whose sole purpose is to find Nadia, take control of her Blue Water, and rule the world.
At the midway point, the series takes a break from its serious side, with a series of episodes following Nadia, Jean, Marie, and King on a desert island. Given that this part of the series is quite clearly filler, it’s a welcome departure from what came before and gives you time to digest. That is until you get to a song and dance episode, which obviously signals that we are ready to return to the main story. During this part of the series, we do get to see some great character development that couldn’t happen before because of the main story. It also deals with some issues that have been developing between characters; however, due to the number of episodes this story arc covers, it throws off the pacing of the show quite noticeably.
Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water marks a transitional period of the older classics from the ’80s, and the use of plot tropes revolving around masked bad guys and transforming robots, to the more realistic and intellectual storytelling approach of the ’90s. You can clearly see Hideaki Anno’s future vision beginning to evolve here with Nadia; the latter half of the series uses darker themes, much closer to that of Neon Genesis Evangelion than that of the first half of the series.
Presented in 4:3 format, it’s such a treat to relive an era of traditional animation; while today’s anime can look visually flawless, there’s something about bits of grain and the odd frame movement that makes these classics so special. While film grain in a scene may add to the charm of the show, artefacts appearing on-screen during scenes of heavy action does not. I can only attribute this to the compression on this DVD set and would assume that the Blu-ray is free of this issue.
The soundscape for Nadia makes use of some great tracks, although some can be a little repetitive; overall they’re used to great effect throughout the series. This release comes with both Japanese and English language options, the English dub stands out immediately as being a little odd and unique, compared to today’s standards. Although, it was nice to see effort put into each character, Sanson being a personal favourite, as opposed to the all-American accent dubs we have become accustomed to. Subtitles for the Japanese option use yellow text with a black border, with white text used to differentiate when different groups are talking. Extras on disc include, as standard, the textless opening and ending animation, as well as the Japanese promo and spot animation.
Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water is an exhilarating journey from start to finish, with little nuances here and there really giving charm to the series. Whether you choose to watch in Japanese or English, you’re in for a treat; each has its own merits they bring to the series, so it’s worth trying out both. In an age of flawless animation, a classic like this shows us how traditional animation isn't about perfection, as those little imperfections really help bring magic to a series.