Nadia: Secret of Blue Water – 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea… in SPACE!

Classic Gainax & Great!

If you know much about me, you’d know that my relationship with Gainax studios is a rocky one at best. While they have produced some great shows that I really enjoyed (Eva, Gurren Lagann, His and Her Circumstances), they have produced, more often than not, shows that I just couldn’t get into. Whether it be for subject matter, a lack of an ending, or something else, I just am not a fan overall. However, when something does land, it really does. That’s the case with today’s review:  Nadia: Secret of Blue Water.

Image result for nadia secret of the blue waterNow don’t get me wrong, Nadia is far from perfect, and a big reason for that is Nadia herself. She would make an ideal spokesperson for PETA, so I bet you can imagine she is more than just a little bit grating… Really, she’s my biggest problem with the show. I can live with the filler, inconsistent animation, and even the slightly stilted acting (in the dub at least), however, Nadia was just obnoxious.

Putting her aside, you have a fun cast with a range of personalities. Nobody lacked any presence when they were on screen and the whole bunch is fairly memorable. Spanning 39 episodes, you get to witness an epic re-envisioning of Jules Verne’s “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea”.

Centered around a conflict between the dreaded Gargoyle and Captain Nemo, their battle quickly becomes one that will decide the fate of the entire world. Nadia, and a boy she meets along the way, Jean, get caught in the middle. They learn a lot about themselves, others, and the world around them. Witnessing marvels once lost to the world, unlocking long-forgotten secrets.

It’s a pretty exciting story where a lot happens, even on an episode-by-episode basis. Now, it does start off kind of slow. Jean and Nadia early on aren’t doing much and they don’t have great chemistry initially. Once everyone joins up with Nemo though, the story really opens up.

I mentioned some filler at the start of this, and there is a lot of it. This was later cut in the Japanese release, but for everyone else, you are going to have this no matter what. This whole sequence is best known as the “Island Arc” because most of it is about Nadia and company living on various islands, being lost at sea.

At first the story stays mostly focused in these filler episodes, but it quickly devolves into madness. This may sound like something you would really want to skip, but my friend and I just couldn’t help but have a good time with them. Every episode, with the exception of one in this filler arc, had at least one super funny joke in it.

Then there was the musical recap episode! Oh man, that was awful in all the right ways! If you want to see some weird stuff, then don’t skip these. How did they even happen anyway though?

Related image
A picture of Gargoyle, the bad guy

Gainax properties are often subjected to production issues or internal conflicts between staff, and this is no exception. This whole filler arc was born from this, handed off to a totally different studio, and resulted in a bizarre inflation of a fairly focused story.

Still, this unique side of Nadia makes it standout. If it weren’t for the filler, I wouldn’t have watched the show in the first place. I remember when Scott of Mechanical Anime Reviews was watching the show and talking about it, he mentioned these things and I was really interested as a result.

While I’m still thinking about recap episodes, I actually loved the way Nadia handled all (with that one exception) of its recap. On a few episodes, they would open with an elderly sounding woman narrating over footage from the other episodes. It had this storybook quality to it, like a grandma reading a long tale to a child before bed or to pass the time, but it never exceeded more than a few minutes. It was pretty extensive in what it covered too.

In that way, you could really have missed chunks of episodes and felt caught up. It’s not something you see modern anime do anymore, these short recaps. Instead you get full episode long recap, sometimes multiple in a row. It’s something I really hate and don’t see as necessary in the modern age where everything is mostly available 24/7.

This isn’t to say that recap is never valuable and shouldn’t be done, but more often than not, it ends up being a waste of time, energy, and talent. In recent years My Hero Academia has been one of the worst offenders of this, along with a few others. It just acts to inflate your episode count arbitrarily without providing much value in return.

Focusing back on the actual story of Nadia, things do get kind of ridiculous toward the end. I’m not sure I was the biggest fan of how all of this was executed, likely because some of this was tainted by the filler which just contradicts some stuff, but thrusting the narrative in a sci-fi direction wasn’t super expected.

Let me explain, there was always this slight sci-fi feeling everything had in the story once Nemo enters the scene, but it gets to the point where literal spaceships and technobabble starts getting leisurely used. I wouldn’t say this defied my suspension of disbelief, but it wore things a bit thin.

Still, I have to give proper credit for how Nadia brought it all together for the end. It was handled very well and even had a nice epilogue where all the little loose threads got tied up. I genuinely didn’t expect that in a Gainax show, so it was a pleasant surprise.

There is a lot more that could be said when it comes to Nadia, and there is plenty I didn’t mention here. Though, this is something you should really watch for yourself. While for some, this may be a hard sell, because it is an older show, I would recommend it. There was a lot going on here and the story ultimately pays off in a good way.

Have you seen Nadia? What were your thoughts on it? What other older titles would you recommend to modern anime fans? I’d love to hear your answers to these questions and more in the comments below. If you enjoy the work I do here, consider a small donation via my Ko-fi and hit the blue button. Thanks again for reading, and I hope to see you soon!


23 thoughts on “Nadia: Secret of Blue Water – 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea… in SPACE!

  1. Nice post!

    Apart from the island arc, which was dire, and the uncomfortable racism, this was a great show. A real adventure that was superbly constructed, which many writers today could learn from, instead of having a good idea then messing around with unrelated nonsense for most of the run.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks! 😀

      I still defend the island stuff to a degree /some/ of it was meaningful. It also helped that there was some really funny stuff, like when Nadia read King’s “letter”. My mom loved that because she has an inside joke now and I just thought it was hysterical.

      I agree though, it would be pretty refreshing to see newer shows tackle a tighter structure but also have the episode count to match. I’d watch it almost regardless of what it was.


  2. Nadia has a special place in my heart for just how out there it was. I remember fondly watching the whole series thanks to my library. One of my favorite summer memories, despite it’s flaws. (Not to mention the creepy age gap between Marie and one of the lackeys….) Still it’s an older series I hope more anime fans get the chance to watch!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It was pretty good and definitely created memories! You have to remember when this show was set, canonically she is a legal adult by today’s standard (which they didn’t have to do), but I still get what you mean. It didn’t bother me though.

      Anyway, I’d recommend this one to a lot of folks. There is a lot going on and a lot to like, even for all the shortcomings.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I’ve tried so hard to get into Nadia, but the dub kills it for me. But I still NEED to see it, both as a fan of Gainax in general and anime set on the high seas. Perhaps I’ll give it a go in the sub sometime in the near future. Glad you enjoyed it though!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for linking! I looked on your site yesterday for it but finding archived posts is kind of hard on your place.

      I’ll go give it a read now since I want to compare notes (though you basically already did that lol). I know that a lot don’t like the island arc but the things that got me laughing were so funny to me that it kind of made up for all of its nonsense.

      I thought you would enjoy this! I was on a really big longer, and older, show watch recently so reviews should be coming for those 🙂 Hikaru no Go is on the list of very soon to review.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Your welcome. My search bar used to be easier to find without the ads I suppose, but that’s the easiest way to navigate through the site. I do need to make a page for every series that I’ve reviewed but just haven’t gotten to it yet for one reason or another.

        Oh, I’ve heard great things about Hikaru no Go and have to watch it or read it myself at some point. Just don’t know that much about it.

        Liked by 2 people

        1. I looked hard for your search bar. Where is it exactly? That way I can use it next time.

          Oh, it is /really/ good. Spans multiple years of the MC’s life and is a classic hero’s journey and coming of age story. Super good and it’ll teach you a bit about Go as well 🙂

          Liked by 2 people

  4. Great job with the review. Nadia is one series that I have only seen parts of, but never the whole thing. Yes, I’m fully aware that The Island Arc gets insane with all the filler in it. Old-school Gainax can be pretty good and I did hear some legitimately good things about the series as a whole.

    Of course, I’m going to have to be THAT blogger when it comes to anime and movies. Since you talked about Nadia, did you know that this anime sometimes gets mentioned in film plagiarism conversations? There have been eerie parallels between Nadia and Atlantis. Shoot, Milo looks like an adult Jean while Nadia and Kida are both Black Atlantian princesses who have powers tied to their necklaces. To be fair, both are loosely based on the aforementioned 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea and at least Disney didn’t steal stuff when making Atlantis NEARLY as much as a certain other animated film they “created” a decade earlier *wink wink*. :3

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah, on the whole this was a great show. There were little things that broke the immersion here-and-there but nothing that made me want to stop watching it. Fun, that’s how I’d describe it.

      I actually hadn’t heard that. Most of the conversation around this show is how Miyazaki and Anno argued a lot when it came to making this show. Oh yeah, I didn’t even mention that Miyazki played a key part in this story.

      It’s just got a bizarre history and that makes it all the better if you ask me. One of those shows that has a lot of historical context that makes it a good touchstone for any anime viewer.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Nice. I can see that, but this also explains other shows I like that have some different flaws that prevent me from calling something a masterpiece. Good to know the whole thing is still fun. Did you watch the Nadia movie?

        Oh, yeah. It’s certainly crazy when you look at both Nadia and Atlantis with some of the similarities. However, it doesn’t anger me as much as other plagiarism controversies where there are more egregious and painfully obvious things that were stolen.

        I’ve heard stories about that with Miyazaki and Anno. They’ve both worked on Nausicaa and I believe Future Boy Conan if you go farther back in animation history. It does make you wonder what it would be like if Gainax and Ghibli teamed up for something back in the day. Speaking of Gainax, Anno actually reused templates of the Nadia character to make Shinji Ikari. They have the same facial structure, and all he did was change the skin color, gender, and hair. Hahaha!

        The history is certainly strange one, but it’s certainly intriguing.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. I didn’t watch the movie. The only thing really out there (that’s easy to get your hands on) is the show proper.

          When it comes to Anno recycling things, yeah that’s really obvious (to me at least). The whole time I couldn’t help but draw on how such-and-such was very similar to some other show they made. Still interesting regardless.

          Liked by 1 person

          1. Gotcha. I know the movie was licensed a while ago, but it is probably lapsed right now. It’s good that Sentai rescued the show.

            I’m glad you noticed it about the Nadia/Shinji connection, too. I’m sure it would be a blast finding out the different characters. Also, am I the only person who thinks Jesse from Pokémon kind of looks like Grandis?

            Liked by 1 person

What'd you think?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s