“Nadja Applefield grows up in an orphanage, but on her thirteenth birthday she finds out that her mother is still alive, and possibly even a noble. Thus she joins a band of travelling performers and travels all across Europe to find her.” That doesn’t exactly sound like a top-tier shoujo series, now does it? Ashita no Nadja indeed takes the format of a classic shoujo adventure, and makes it downright awesome. I am really surprised with how actually GOOD this series turned out to be.
I originally decided to check out this series on recommendations of Wyrdwad, but I put it on hold around episode 23, discouraged by how the final 13 episodes haven’t been subbed yet. My impression of this series at that point was a fun adventure series across Europe. It’s a fun watch, in which Nadja meets all sorts of interesting people who get the chance to tell their story. Most episodes are light in nature and a lot of fun to watch. It wasn’t anything special at that point, it was episodic, but the individual stories all have their individual charms.
Anyway, eventually I got too impatient and just finished the rest of the series raw (so yeah, don’t bother asking for subs of the final 13 episodes: they’re unfortunately not there yet, but they SO deserve to be!), and with that I was blown away completely by the strength, GUTS and charms of the main storyline of this series. I was so expecting your average cheesy shoujo storyline with stereotypically incompetent villains and a lot of time spent on the lead characters being incredibly indecisive. None of that returns here: instead we get a story where always something interesting is going on and where characters manage to show their utter best in terms of character-development.
And the villains! This series really has some of the best villains out there, who are nothing like your average bunch of incompetent idiots who can never get anything right. The main villains for this series all are a bunch of excellent actors: they’ve created a scenario in their head and stick to it, and time and time again they manage to foil the lead characters’ plans and happiness (which usually is the other way around!). Eventually, this series evolves into a battle of wits and emotions between Nadja and the main villains, which involves an intricate plan that looks simple (and isn’t of the ridiculously complicated variant like you see in shows as Death Note), yet incredibly hard to find any holes in it.
This series seriously has a bunch of incredible script-writers, who have the talent to make a solid and engaging story of just about everything. As an episodic series, I often found myself doubting whether an episode was going to turn out all-right based on its premise, especially around the middle parts of the series. However, nearly every single episode delivered with solid build-up, excellent characterization and a conclusion that felt intelligent, believable and yet pushed the characters further in terms of character-development. Even the small side-characters who only appear in one episode have multiple sides to them and feel fresh.
With all these praises I’m singing for this series, I unfortunately also have to admit that it has a flaw, and a really big one at that. Wherever Nadja travels in Europe, wherever she goes, she always meets up with the right people. Even though European cities are incredibly big, she always meets up with recurring characters if they happen to be in the neighbourhood, she also conveniently runs into a bunch of nobles that she immediately befriends, (including one of them that becomes her love interest).
This really happens a lot, throughout the entire series. Still, I guess that the creators had good intentions when they used them: they don’t use these plot-holes just for cheap laughs, but instead to allow characters to tell their story, to allow for more and better character-development so that we as an audience get to know more about the cast. There only was one plot twist in the series that really felt cheap and rushed. Apart from that they can all be forgiven. Still, they can become a major reason for some people to get turned off by the rest of the storyline. It all depends on your suspense of disbelief. For me, I indeed acknowledge that these sorts of coincidences are a bit lazy and convenient, but the rest of the series is just so damn good that I really stopped caring about them at one point.
Overall, this series was in a way just like Glass Mask 2005 and Kaleido Star for me: all three are 50 episoded Shoujo Series of Awesomeness. They all stand out in their amazing characterization and rivalry that goes waaaay beyond what you normally expect from anime. All of them are very well paced and truly excellent in the thing they do, with a storyline that just keeps evolving and time and time again they come with unexpected situations. They all involve performing (Maya acts, Sora does acrobatics, Nadja dances) and all three of them try to reach the hearts of their audience by performing, all in their own way. All three series are highly underrated (with two of them not even fully subbed, for God’s sake), but perhaps the most important thing: all three of them have the power to reach an audience beyond the usual shoujo fans, and are a true example of the great things that the genre is capable of. Of the three, Ashita no Nadja is the most light-hearted one, but make no mistake that the story cannot get really dark at times, and the light and dark parts combine wonderfully.