- RECENT REVIEWS: SHAKUGAN NO SHANA *** FREEZING *** SHANGRI-LA *** ERGO PROXY
- STRIKE WITCHES *** KING OF THORN *** STEINS GATE *** GA-REI-ZERO *** DEADMAN WONDERLAND
- TENCHI UNIVERSE *** ONE PIECE *** WOLF CHILDREN *** RUROUNI KENSHIN *** [C]-CONTROL
- BLACK LAGOON *** SERIAL EXPERIMENT LAIN
MARTIAN SUCCESSOR NADESICO is a series I've been curious about ever since my most formative year of anime viewership - - 1998. Back when I was collecting ESCAFLOWNE tapes and plowing through every one of Manga Entertainment's releases. Back when one of the most exciting parts of the whole experience was simply watching whatever crazy trailers were appended on my Blockbuster Video rentals (DARKSIDE BLUES?! WTF?!)
This was one show that fell between the cracks for whatever reason; even despite a crazy, intriguing trailer. But boy... am I glad it took me this long to find it again. Without a more seasoned background in anime, I doubt I’d appreciate its plentiful homages as much I did. I doubt I'd even comprehend them, for that matter.
The first thing to understand about NADESICO is how incredibly meta-fictional it is. The “show within a show” concept has been done before, but never this well. NADESICO includes nods to SPACE BATTLESHIP YAMATO, GETTER ROBO and GUNDAM. Even the ship itself is a direct nod to White Base...
The second thing is that this show is a comedy. Yes, it features an intergalactic battle. Yes, there are mecha. There are even extremely unexpected deaths in the first few episodes. But the show constantly disarms any accompanying tension with a joke or gag. And instead of it being a jarring reminder that you’re watching a cartoon (like in BLEACH), the comedy plays exactly as it should: like a campy meeting between ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT and GUNDAM.
While the plot initially focuses on lowly fry-cook-turned-mech-pilot Akito coming aboard the corporate-owned Nadesico (a ship incidentally run by his childhood friend, and cute girl, Yuriko), it quickly branches out to a larger ensemble. The relationship Akito and Yuriko share (which isn't technically a relationship, most of the time) even proves to be the un-ironic saving of mankind. And the true shining stars of the show are actually the side characters. From wacky engineers to smarmy accountants, the show spends as much time on their respective quirks and picadilos as it does on duels and battles, and it's far more compelling for it.
Indeed, the most memorable of these side characters are the trio of female pilots whom the Nadesico's crew picks up around Episode 8. Ryolo, Hikaru, and Izumi have some of the funniest dialogue and interchanges of the show. As a helpless lover of puns myself, I especially enjoyed Izumi’s ceaseless wordplay.
The animation quality is a bit hit-and-miss, but it's generally around "mid-grade" and rarely "poor." Having discussed this recently on the Vice Pit, I'd say the show's strong enough to not be hampered by any animation hang-ups. Still, seeing it in a basic (and untouched) 4:3 transfer on my widescreen was a little disheartening.
There's plenty of pseudo-science being paraded about to satisfy those looking for that kind of headier stuff. “Boson jumping,” or teleportation, is a main factor of the fiction, and it’s relation to the planet Mars and Akito’s character arc is especially interesting to watch. There are also some unexpected religious themes which kind-of blew me away. (No crucified aliens, though - - sorry EVANGELION fans!)
Without getting into too many specifics (lest we spoil some surprises), I have to say that one of the biggest reasons to watch this is a blindsiding mid-season twist. Threads started in the first few episodes loop back with a vengeance, and the show possesses one of the strongest conclusions in an anime that I’ve seen in a while. It’s not world-shattering, but it’s damn satisfying, and it makes the rest of the show look that much better.
NADESICO is basically an amazing amalgam of five other shows’ best ideas. It exists in tribute, but still stands well on its own. The schewing of certain anime tropes is fresh and welcome, and the fourth wall breaking is genuinely hilarious. While I have yet to see IRRESPONSIBLE CAPTAIN TYLOR or a lot of other ensemble comedies, I can safely recommend this show as being more than worth the modern anime viewer's time.
...Even though they never describe what a “Martian Successor” is. It’s this guy, right?
You can check out the NEW Complete Collection over at Nozomi Entertainment here
Sam Weller is a writer and actor who's scribed for shows like FIRST EDITION, GEEK THERAPY, and most recently BATGIRL: SPOILED. He also really likes anime. To know what is going to happen next, follow@cravesam