Show: Martian Successor Nadesico
Studio (US network)/years aired: Xebec (Cartoon Network/Toonami), 1996-1997
AniB’s thoughts: Man, it’s been a while since I visited the 90’s in an anime review. It hasn’t been a while overall, since I did a quick Batman: The Animated Series look not too long ago. In fact, for whatever bizarre reason, this is only the third anime I’m covering here on AniB Productions from the 1990’s since I started writing (although I’ve seen quite a few more, which means other future reviews!) and if we’re being very honest, this show actually encapsulates the major ideas and themes of that era very well. It’s a space epic with a crew full of your usual anime types cast as characters, and features plenty of combat with an “unknown enemy” – the so called Jovian Lizards, which for whatever reason requires the deployment of giant mechas in dogfights. (It’s also billed as a comedy, though I’d argue it’s closer to a drama than anything.) If that doesn’t scream “90’s” to you, I’m not sure what will. But, carrying on:
Nadesico attained fairly good popularity in Japan during its run, which actually saw Akito place in the top 10 of the July 1998 Animage Grand Prix male results (which Shinji Ikari of Evangelion fame won.) There was originally going to be a sequel, which the finale of this show (no spoilers!) seemed to also be setting up for, but all that came of it was a movie that occurred after a time-skip, apparently focusing instead on Ruri, the young navigator of the titular ship rather than the original lead characters from the show. It was confirmed around 2005 that the proposed sequel series was scrapped, confirmed by the director of the series (Tatsuo Sato) on his blog.
As for the content of the show itself, a majorly innovative move it made was the incorporation of an anime within this anime- specifically, a show in-universe called Gekigengar III. Modeled as a homage to giant mech shows of the 70’s, this seemingly minor fanboy interest of Akito’s and fellow pilot Gai Daijogi winds up taking on a much more prominent role in the overall narrative that was unusual but a refreshing idea that worked in the context of the show. Interestingly, Xebec (the studio) made Gekigengar into a full-fledged OVA that featured the clips from this show as well as some new content, and within Nadesico itself, the recap episode that occurs around the midway point of the show is a clever reversal in which Gekigengar characters commentate on the show, suggesting an alternate universe exists in which the show actually follows Nadesico and idolizes it. Either way, the way in which this idea of an original anime influencing the actual anime in which it is employed is a clever, if unconventional decision and interesting to watch unfold as the show’s events play out.
Overall, Nadesico was a solid period pick with some unusual twists mixed in along with fairly standard anime tropes and a colorful cast. It’s worth a look for fans of the 90’s, or anyone interested in the genre as a good but not sensational show. Also…the dub isn’t that great, but it’s there as an option, as a heads-up.
Animation Quality: Classic hand-drawn 2-D animation. The 90’s bear the distinction of being the last major decade to see hand drawn, hand colored and shaded animation techniques as its predominant form, and Nadesico is no exception. I’m not sure I’d say it’s a standout among its peers from the era in this respect, but the style and presentation gets the job done for the show, and there’s nothing too unusual or amazingly notable about how it’s employed. It’s engaging enough to comfortably fit the genre at hand, and looks good even now years after the show aired, so it’s held up against the test of time. 3.75/5 points.
Characterization: The cast and crew of the Nadesico, the state of the art battleship the show is named after, comprise the main and supporting cast of the show with some exceptions. As a result, a large variety of the more “everyday” issues take place within the ship itself, not unlike a Cowboy Bebop- but unlike that show, this ship has a much larger crew, leading to abjectly more silliness.
The main protagonist of the show is Akito Tenkawa, a young man who mysteriously wound up on Earth after a major attack by Jovian forces on his home colony on Mars. Despite having the skills to be a combat pilot and a special implant to do so, Akito prefers to run from his past, steadfastly claiming that his goal in life is to be a great cook- and he does in fact pursue this goal. However, after a chance event has him run into a dear childhood friend, Akito find himself hired aboard the Nadesico- as both a cook and “emergency” pilot. In turn, his actual goal through the series is to find out what happened on Mars and the secrets that seem to surround his life and circumstances as a result.
The childhood friend in question is Yurika Misumaru. The daughter of an admiral in Earth’s elite military forces, Yurika is anointed the captain of the Nadesico, where she flashes both strategic competence and youthful naivness in equal part. As it turns out, Yurika spent her childhood with Akito on Mars, before leaving the planet shortly before the Jovian attack, but continued to harbor a childhood crush on the main protagonist, notable despite not seeing him for years. Her arc therefore is a subplot of pursuing Akito’s heart onboard the Nadesico, which has unexpected suitors, and her role as a competent and able captain, which oftentimes finds itself in doubt due to her flighty and emotional side quests.
From the picture that headlines this review, you’re probably curious who the rest of these women are, and I can tell you they are a hodgepodge of bridge officers and mech pilots who all have a clearly defined role to play in the story. Quite a few of them have an interest in Akito as well, who is the reluctant focus of an entirely cheesy romance subplot that while amusing, isn’t particularly amazing, but also not entirely unexpected in how it unfolds.
There are other players too, from the lecherous head mechanic who’s also a genius at mechanical engineering and electronics, to the kind cook who mentors Akito on his cooking skills; the fanboy pilot Gai Daigoji who centers his life around Gekingengar, as mentioned in my thoughts, and several other interesting parties involved with the government, or the makers of the ship itself (NERGAL, an international corporation and private firm in the business of space exploration.) 3.5/5 points.
Story Quality: A space drama with mecha elements and comedy, Nadesico has an intriguing enough narrative core which progresses, but the resolution of the plot’s main questions finds itself with a merely okay answer as opposed to a spectacular revelation the show seemed to be gearing up for. I can’t say much more than that without spoilers. It does get off to a fast start though, lags a bit in pacing during the middle of the show, and picks up again as the final episodes come along. Overall, a pretty 90’s centric plot and feel, with some clever references and homages in particular to mecha anime. 3.75/5 points.
Themes: A huge emphasis in this show is that “there’s always another side to the story.” This is true from character-specific interactions, to government secrets, and even to the true identity of the Jovians the Earth is at war with. As different truths are unveiled, the plot of the show takes some interesting and unexpected turns, and while this show isn’t as deep as a Cowboy Bebop, it doesn’t necessarily have to be, and it does well with what it has, despite also falling into some fairly standard anime tropes and cliches. 3.25/5 points.
Don’t Insult the Viewer: As I talked briefly about in my 10 Thoughts column, this show has an incredibly catchy opening: “You Get to Burning.” It’s just got a nice iconic sound to it that still resonates strongly in terms of the mood it creates and its overall catchiness. Aside from that, the show has some of the typical cliches as mentioned under themes, and the comedy can be a bit heavy-handed at times in comparison to the more serious parts of the plot. However, none of the drawback remotely make for an unwatchable experience, and so a good mark is earned. 4.75/5 points.
Overall: 19/25 (76%): Martian Successor Nadesico serves as a representative period pick with more good than bad to go off of and a fusion of the space drama and mecha anime. It’s worth a watch for fans interested in what it offers.
Like what you see? Any thoughts on Nadesico? Leave a comment!