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Nadia: The Secret Of Blue Water (1990-91)

Nadia: The Secret Of Blue Water
is a series with a considerable pedigree. Not only is it a significant early work from GAINAX and future Evangelion creator Hideaki Anno, but its based on an idea pitched by a pre-Castle of Cagliostro Hayao Miyazaki. (Very) loosely inspired by Jules Verne's 20, 000 Leagues Under The Sea it follows young inventor Jean and runaway acrobat Nadia who first encounter each other in Victorian-era Paris. After saving Nadia from a trio of villains who seek her mysterious Blue Water pendant, Jean finds himself on the adventure of a lifetime. Along the way they meet up with none other than Captain Nemo and the crew of the Nautilus.

The mixed parentage of this series makes for a very interesting result. It has the feel of early-period Miyazaki with a sense of adventure that recalls Cagliostro or Castle In The Sky. Yet at the same time, Anno brings his own darker sensibility to the table, ensuring death and loss play a major part. So what starts off as an adventure romp quickly takes a turn, with some surprisingly brutal things happening early on. That's not to say it's not fun, and most of the time it feels much more light-hearted. However, with Anno steering this ship, tragedy is never too far away.

Look out too for some of Anno's trademark touches. From biblical imagery to references to the likes of Macross and Thunderbirds, there are several elements that will be familiar to fans of his later Neon Genesis Evangelion.

Nadia herself has proved an enduringly popular character. It's not hard to see why- she's a strong and likeable- but believably flawed- lead. There's strong characterization elsewhere too, with Nemo particularly engaging as a strong leader with a tortured soul. Male lead Jean, on the other hand, is a fairly bland pure-hearted hero of the kind so common-place in anime.

GKIDS Films' new US Blu-Ray edition of the film arrives with a brand new 4K restoration meaning the show looks better than ever before. I was only able to review the film on an earlier DVD edition, but even then it looked surprisingly good- although the print showed its age in places.

It's not all plain sailing. The dub, an early 2000s effort from the dearly departed ADV is pretty poor- with some truly atrocious attempted accents. The latter part sees the plot screech to a halt as the cast are stranded on an island for multiple episodes and very little of consequence happens until the very end. A trip to Africa is also mostly filler, and the less said about the terrible musical clip show the better. The plot eventually gets back on track though, and it's not quite enough to cost this show its classic reputation.

The Secret of Blue Water is an entertaining old-school slice of adventure with hidden depths. Often as emotionally satisfying as it is exciting, it's an essential part of anime history. The only real question is why it's taken so long for this secret to get out.


IN A NUTSHELL:   Thoroughly charming and effortlessly engaging, Nadia is considered a classic for a reason.


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