In the mid 1970s prior to obtaining his welldeserved status as Japans greatest animator ever a young Hayao Miyazaki was hired by Japanese movie giant Toho to develop ideas for TV series. One of these concepts was Around the World Under the Sea based on Jules Vernes 20000 Leagues Under the Sea in which two orphan children pursued by villains team up with Captain Nemo and his mighty submarine the Nautilus. Although it was never produced Toho nonetheless kept the rights to the story outline. Miyazaki would reuse elements from his original concept in later projects of his most notably the terrific actionadventure Castle in the Sky. Ten years later in the mid1980s animation studio Gainax was commissioned to produce an original Anime series to be broadcast on television network NHK. Under the direction of a brilliant but angstridden artist known as Hideaki Anno the studio selected Miyazakis concept and crafted an engaging story set in a steampunk 1889 France with interesting characters amazing animation for its time and a mixture of comedy romance mystery and drama. The result was Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water which has since become a worldwide fan favorite. The story begins at a Paris World Exposition Fair where Jean a nerdy but charming and instantly lovable inventor boy of fourteen becomes smitten with a pretty darkskinned girl his own age. The girl known as Nadia is an unhappy circus acrobat with no clue about her past other than a jeweled necklace she wears. After rescuing her from a trio of comic bandits the Grandis Gang Jean earns Nadias trust. The two set off on an even bigger adventure to find Nadias birthplace which supposedly lies in Africa. Along the way they have runins with a supercharged submarine commanded by the mysterious Captain Nemo and his pretty but overprotective first officer Electra as well as a shadowy cult of Nazilike masked soldiers known as NeoAtlanteans led by the misanthropic sinister Gargoyle who wants Nadias pendant at any cost. In the course of their aroundtheworld adventure Jean and Nadia adopt an orphaned little girl Marie who senses that her new guardians will become more than just close friends. Although Nadias explosive temper poses problems Jeans patience and loyalty keeps their relationship afloat and her growing love for the boy gradually transforms her as a person. Nadia has all the makings of a classic series: a wellrounded cast of characters unforgettable sequences and a long involving action adventure. There is a distinctive Miyazakiesque style to the visual designs of the leads yet only Jean seems to emerge as a Miyazaki creation. Which is arguably what makes him the most lovable character in the whole show. Its easy to see why Nadia finds herself gradualy falling for himwho wouldnt want to be with a boy as intelligent genuinely compassionate and impossibly generous as Jean? While he does display clumsiness in terms of social graces around the opposite sex it only makes him all the more appealing as a character. Nadia herself by contrast is not always lovable. In addition to having serious anger management issues she also has unbending and irrational principles about killing eating meat or trusting grownups. She does however display courage and as mentioned finds herself growing to care for Jean. Actually Anno has said that he created Jean and Nadia based on his light and dark sides. Shiro Sagisus music is sometimes bland although some of the later tracks notably the NeoAtlantis themes are memorable. The opening and ending theme songs as sung by Miho Morikawa are also enjoyable. For all its assets however Nadia suffers from one fatal flaw that prevents it from being the classic it aims to beit doesnt always stay afloat throughout its 39episode count. The first twentytwo episodes are oldfashioned adventure at its best with humor young love traumatic situations which involve death and compelling engrossing mysteries as we learn about Nadia the Nautilus and the Atlanteans. The production values in these episodes show their age at times but frankly they still exude detail and clarity for an early 90s series. Episodes 2334 however now remembered unflatteringly as the island/Africa arc are another story. Following a powerfully charged climax from episode 22 the subsequent twelve halfhours turn a compelling scifi epic into a nonsensical haphazardly directed and written unimaginative unengaging unpleasant mess that feels more like a bad Looney Tunes cartoon on drugs than anything else. The characters become caricatures of themselves Nadia herself in particular regresses into a completely unlikeable brat the idiotic slapstickoriented stories are absolutely devoid of any adventure substance and most damaging of all ultimately sabotage the momentum of the first 22 episodes. With the exception of episodes 30 and 31 which even director Hideaki Anno would have salvaged if he was given the choice of eliminating the filler the rest in this aptlydubbed filler arc have absolutely no reason to exist. None. But dont blame Gainax for them the real problem was that backing distributor NHK requested them to be made the show was supposed to be a 2730 episode series but betterthanexpected ratings prompted said filler arc. The animation was also subcontracted to other studios in Japan and Korea which explains the poor animation quality. In the final five episodes Nadia does recover in terms of artistry and storytelling delivering a satisfying finale but its hard to compensate for the damage that has been done. Simply put the show would have been far better if it were eleven episodes shorter. In spite of my misgivings with Nadia though I personally have no qualms with the English dub provided by Monster Island. The characters are all excellently cast and give splendid lively performances. The voices of the children in particular are spoton: Meg Bauman 13 Nathan Parsons 12 and Margaret Cassidy 11 as Nadia Jean and Marie respectively are what really drive the dubs heart providing it with an intangible feeling of realism that really enhances the characters onscreen. For inexperienced youngsters they do outstanding jobs and the chemistry between all three is terrific some may have trouble with Jeans shaky French accent but I thought it was very appropriate and fitting for his character. These three are amply supported by a similarly entertaining cast of adults particularly Sarah Richardson Corey Gagne Martin Blacker as the Grandis Gang who like the children are absolutely perfect for their roles and crackle genuine chemistry. I also liked Jennifer Stuarts turn as Electra the British accent she uses is fitting for the character and she especially gets to shine in the latter episodes of the show where she has to drop her controlled attitude and express her fiery emotions. Ev Lunning Jr. Nemo and David Jones Gargoyles were the only two performances that took a bit of getting used to for me. I had a vision on how Nemo should sound and Evs Indianaccented tone wasnt quite it. As the show went on however it grew on me and learning that the idea was to connect Nemos origin to the book Mysterious Island I finally accepted it. It helps that he gets increasingly better with his performance as the show goes on the climactic episodes especially displaying a real fiery passion. The same is true with David Jones distinctively stentoriansounding Gargoyle. This dub has taken a lot of undeserved flak from critics who have made the mistake of writing it off on account of the sometimes uneven accents As mentioned Jeans admittingly shaky French dialect in particular takes some getting used to although Parsons does improve on it as the show goes on. Despite that and the occasional trepidatious moment in the opening episodes the end result is still a spirited energetic emotionally charged dub that really brings its characters to life. It is most certainly a very commendable effort that deserved better recognition than what it was accorded for back in 2001 and even today. The ADV dub is not the only English track of Nadia to exist. In the 1990s Streamline Pictures attempted a release of the show. Interestingly the head of Streamline Carl Macek did express interest in paring down the much maligned filler arc. As his version only got about as far as eight episodes we probably never may know how it would have turned out. Having said that though I dont think the Streamline dub compares favorably to the ADV version. The recording quality is obviously inferior to the current one especially the sound mix. But its the performances that are a problem. Wendee Lee and Ardwright Chamberlain are both very credible actors but both are miscast as Nadia and Jean and unfortunately underwhelm. Cheryl Chase is OK as Marie but ultimately Margaret Cassidy does a much better job. Jeff Winkless is a bit less stiff than Ev as Nemo but even then his turn isnt anything amazing. Steve Bulens Gargoyle is also played too much like a stereotypical villain and isnt helped by an obviously artificially lowered voice. While I wasnt so sure with what Jones was trying to bring with Gargoyle at first his approach gradually grew on me and he gets to do some evil cackling at the end to the point where I cant imagine anyone else. Bulens voice might have worked well for the character if he was portrayed as a supervillain but as he isnt I dont think the approach would work. I did like Edie Mirman as Electra she ties with Stuart and the Grandis gang doesnt sound too bad but on the whole I prefer the ADV dub. It strikes me as the better of the two by far. It isnt really surprising the Streamline dub isnt well remembered either compared with the companys other output it underwhelms. Out of curiosity I did sample a few episodes of the Japanese version. Although some voices are solid Nemo Gargoyle and Sanson I felt rather indifferent about the others. Maries voice is the weakest of the bunch no offense to the late Yuko Mizutani but I feel Margaret Cassidy does a far better job of bringing out this little girls innocence as opposed to Yukos highpitched shrieking. Likewise despite Yoshino Takamori and Noriko Hidakas solid turns as Jean and Nadia I found myself preferring Bauman and Parsons if mainly because both characters are supposed to be children. It just feels more natural to hear them voiced by actors of the appropriate age. Despite insistence from some longinthetooth fans that this show should only be appreciated in its native language track I dont consider either version better or worse only different. Whichever one you prefer is a matter of personal preference. Is Nadia a complete waste of time? Not at all its characters as mentioned are compelling the core storyline is interesting and labyrinthine and as long as it is focused on adventure and mystery it is indeed deserving of praise. Its just too bad that it suffers from an unfortunate filler arc without it Nadia would have been a classic. To truly appreciate the show it is recommended to watch it like this: episodes 122 30 31 and 3539. Although the missing gaps may seem jarring take it from me its better than sitting through episode after episode of discouraging nonsense that negatively impact ones enjoyment of the show. Even Gainax agrees that it plays better this way.
70 /100
9 out of 10 users liked this review