Posted by psgels on 6 August 2009 with categories: Anime Reviews



Watching a series like Nadia is interesting, if only because of the place it takes up in the history of the adventure genre. It’s based on the novel 20000 Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne, who was one of the pioneers of the science fiction genre and wrote about aeroplanes and submarines before they were even invented. The visuals are clearly inspired by Laputa Castle in the Sky, one of Ghibli’s earliest classics, and you can also see traces of the awesome Mysterious Cities of Gold. In its turn, you can see its influence amongst great future adventure series as Bonen no Xamdou, Blue Submarine No06 and of course Ashita no Nadja. Amongst these excellent works, Nadia obviously doesn’t stand out as the greatest adventure ever, but nevertheless it’s an excellent series and a proof of Gainax’ ambition.

Nadia starts out as an historical series in the year 1889 and shows the two lead characters (two kids named Jean and Nadia) as they are chased by what at first sight seems to be the prototype for Team Rocket. Gradually though, this series gains more and more depth, and the setting develops into something truly epic, and a great look at how science fiction would have been more than a century ago. We gradually get to see more and more of the back-story of the world that this series plays in, which really becomes increasingly more interesting as the series goes on.

Throughout the series, we get to see a wide variety of situations, as we see Jean and Nadja travel on aeroplanes, hot air balloons, robots, the Nautilus Submarine of which the novel 20000 Leagues Under the Sea has become famous for, and much more. There’s also an entire arc that takes a step back from being epic, and instead has the lead characters stranded on a desert island for about eight episodes, with the focus being much more on “slice of life” and trying to survive on that desert island. While it will probably be boring for those who are watching this series for its action, but these episode did a great job of fleshing out and developing the characters.

But what great action this series has! Consider that this series aired in 1990, it looks like no other TV-series that aired before. Hideki Anno did a great job in creating a TV-version of the Ghibli-esque graphics, in the days that Hayao Miyazaki was really at his most prolific. The series has a excellent selection of rich and colourful character-designs and other graphics, and while you can see that the drawings in this series were still done by hand, the animation is surprisingly smooth and detailed.

There unfortunately are a bunch of flaws that hold this series back from calling itself among the greatest adventure series out there. Especially the villains of this series just are hardly fleshed out. The major villain is your typical evil mastermind who wants to take over the world, and every single one of his subordinates has the personality of a paper bag. It’s very hard to take these guys seriously and consider them a serious threat, even though they’re usually competent at their jobs. I think that it’s also because of this that the ending contains a bunch of weird Deus ex Machina that just seemed to have been inserted to wrap up the story. Also, Nadia may have been a bit too often a damsel in distress, especially in the first half of the series.

At times the show is a bit hard to watch, because the barrier between men and women forms a major theme for especially the lead couple, but most of the important characters end up nicely developed by the end. Nothing memorable, but this development does makes sure for a bunch of really charming scenes in which this development comes together. And a honorable mention has to go to King, the animal side-kick who proved that subtlety and GAR do go together.

Storytelling: 8/10
Characters: 8/10
Production-Values: 9/10
Setting: 9/10

11 Responses

  1. Avatar Wyrdwad says:

    This one really haunts me, as I really *want* to like it… I’m a huuuuuge fan of adventure shows, with Ashita no Nadja, Future Boy Conan, and Castle in the Sky all among my favorites. But Nadia… ooph… admittedly, I only watched 8 or 10 episodes of this, but I really, really couldn’t get into it. And the reason I couldn’t get into it was Nadia herself… I really, really couldn’t stand Nadia. I just found her extremely unlikable! And I have a pet peeve about unlikable protagonists… if I can’t relate to them, I find myself unable to enjoy what I’m watching.

    I’m guessing she DOES get better over time… but I question how MUCH better she can possibly get. Because as of episode 8 or 10 or so, she just seems totally pompous, ungrateful, and distrustful of everyone.

    So what do you think… does she become more likable over time, or does she retain her general attitude and temperament throughout the whole series? ‘Cause if she DOES become more likable, it might be worth giving this show a second chance…

    -Tom

  2. Avatar Uebo7 says:

    Oh, you actually liked the island episodes? For me there was nothing good about them. They almost ruined the whole show. Character developement? More like de-development ( is that a word?. We finally get one good episode in the bunch when Nadia is released from the underground mind fuckery and whatnot and we see her with Jean looking quite content. Then on the next episode, we get a rediculous plot point that involves her getting a crush on a random African dude. They should have just went directly to the place they were at a few episodes later and it would have flowed better. From there the episodes felt like the earlier ones and things were good again. And then the animation is the worst I have ever seen in these middle episodes. It doesn’t really connect too well with the otherwise beutiful animation of the rest. Really the moment I saw Jean fill up with water litterally in the submarine…yeah I could tell things were going down hill. The only other middle episode I liked was the one featuring Jean passing out and dreaming about making a large oil factory and so on. But really I do like the show for everything else.

  3. psgels psgels says:

    Tom: granted, you did drop the series at its weakest point. The whole exploding second babel tower did get on my nerves as well, but this series gets a lot more enjoyable once the characters fully board the Nautilus and this series gets to flesh out the crew. But I guess that whether or not you should continue is going to depend whether you like the idea of three kids being thrown on an island and having to survive on their own for a number of episodes, which are probably the most controversial episodes of this series like noted by Uebo. I found them really charming and innocent, but you don’t want to watch them for the action or animation.

  4. Avatar Wyrdwad says:

    As long as Nadia’s less obnoxious during those episodes, that actually sounds rather charming to me. Remember, I’m a huge advocate of PopoloCrois 1998, where basically NOTHING HAPPENED between episodes 12 and 21… it was just character development, with almost no story advancement whatsoever. And I *loved* it. (:

    -Tom

  5. Avatar Anonymous says:

    This review really shows you know really little about animes and must have started watching them not that much time ago. A prototype for Team Rocket? More like an homage to the “evil” Doronbo Trio of the Time Bokan Series (Yatterman and others), which the Team Rocket was too. Oh and you really think that Xamd, Blue Submarine and Nadja are better than this masterpiece? Please. This tv series was really innovative back in the day, it was something no one had ever seen before. The only other series that stood a chance against it, in the adventure department, is the immortal classic Mirai Shonen Conan, but that’s it. Maybe I’m biased, because I watched it when it was released, but truly, there was no other series like this, and imho, there still isnt. Yeah some of the island episodes are kinda shit, but thats like the only flaw I can find.

  6. psgels psgels says:

    Well, seeing as I was only three years old when this series aired, I indeed lack the backstory here. This review is simply written from my perspective on how well it aged.

    Another reason why I didn’t take the age of this series into account is because of the Mysterious Cities of Gold: another adventure series which aired nine years earlier (and there are actually quite a few similarities between the two settings), and yet I had no problems whatsoever enjoying that series and it stands among my favourite adventure series I’ve seen, even though I watched it a bit less than a year ago.

  7. Avatar Pax says:

    I do remember I saw this anime back when I was a kid but I can’t remember anything about the story,oh well,maybe I will start watching it again,who knows.

    btw if you want to watch another great adventure try Takarajima(Secret Island),unfortunately it’s not completely subbed,still,that is why I recommend it to you and also to those who know german,since a german dubbed version can be found online.

  8. Avatar Amber says:

    Nadia’s Ghibli-esque storytelling is no accident. Miyazaki worked on an outline for a similar story. When he went on his own, he took his ideas with him and made Castle in the Sky and other such stories. However, Gainax got their hands on this outline and were so in awe of it, they decided to make the series.

    Also, the Isand and Africa episodes were done by a different director while the original fleshed out the last five episodes.

    All in all, I agree, it is a fun series, I just finished watching it myself. If only Nadia were more tolerable as a character, I would like it more. I agreed with a lot of things she pushed for, but the way she argued her stance made me hope someone slapped her and told her to shut up and sit down. Instead of being strong willed, she comes off as annoying. I guess…she is fourteen so I’ll let it slide.

    I love this series, and while it may not usurp every anime series ever, it is one of my personal favorites.

  9. Avatar Hettan says:

    Oh I know this anime!There was the kid, a boy genius who made that airplane and the helicopter when they were in a submarine and also invented a rocket or was it a jet? And the girl, Nadia has this diamond shape, violet/blue pendant whose from atlantis. My memory is kind of fuzzy but I remember liking it very much . . . and you did too! Great to know that it stood the test of time. ^^

  10. Avatar greentea says:

    I actually just finished rewatching this anime just now, and I thought it was pretty decent… as long as you cut out all the weird filler on the deserted island up till the part where they find the Red Noah…

    The entire storyline on the deserted island just feels like it was tacked on after the rest of the story was done. It seemed to me the whole deserted island part was about Jean and Nadia coming to terms about their feelings for each other, but the first thing they do when they land on Africa is get Nadia to fall in love with some random African? To me that seemed to kill the point of the entire deserted island arc. It also didn’t help that the animation seemed very inconsistent during the arc either.

    If I ever rewatch this series I’ve left myself a note to skip episodes 25,26,32,33, and 34. However these only serve to slightly tarnish the lustre of a generally good series that is well deserving of praise.

  11. Avatar Momo says:

    Well..this is old,

    but as for the filler, they DID tack on those episode because the show was exceeding their expectations in popularity. You know, they needed to drag it out =P

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