Review for Martian Successor Nadesico - Collector's Edition
While my first love affair with anime was a brief dalliance during the time of Manga Video, my subsequent rediscovery of the medium came with the advent of the DVD format, around about the turn of the millennium. That meant that I actually missed out on a whole host of titles that proved to be formative to a generation of anime fans. And so it was that I only discovered shows like Cowboy Bebop, Escaflowne, and Neon Genesis Evangelion in retrospect. Martian Successor Nadesico was one such title that I completely missed out on during its initial release. It got a UK release on DVD and VHS from ADV Films.
The DVD transfer quality back then was par for the course, standards converted and from a tape source (I’ve seen the ADV trailer), and I never got around to seeking those discs out. But a few years ago, the Japanese released a re-mastered collection of Martian Successor Nadesico, and when TRSI rescued the licence, they used those masters for their boxset collection, which I imported and reviewed back in 2013; the whole series, plus the movie, and for the first time in the West, the Gekigangar OVA all across 7 DVDs. It certainly looked better than the ADV release, but it wasn’t without its own issues. It had an interlaced transfer, with jerky pans and scrolls, as well as aliasing. It didn’t look good on bigger TVs at all. And the less said about the transfer for the feature film the better. Thankfully, TRSI took another shot at Martian Successor Nadesico, this time giving it the full HD upgrade, and All the Anime are using their masters for the UK Blu-ray release of Martian Successor Nadesico. On top of that, this is the first time we in the UK get to see those Gekigangar OVAs.
Introduction: The Series
They came from beyond Jupiter, the alien invaders dubbed Jovian Lizards. At the end of the 22nd Century, the alien robots attacked Mars, and overwhelmed the human fleet. Mankind abandoned its colonies in space and retreated to Earth, where they could mount some sort of defence against the attack. And there humanity remained, fending off the invaders as best they could. For the Nergal Corporation, that just isn’t good business, so they create the Nadesico, the most advanced spaceship that humanity has ever built, intending to take the fight back to the Jovian Lizards, defending the space colonies where the Earth’s military has failed to do so. But this business has some unique recruitment standards for its prized starship’s crew, including an anime dub voice actress, a disgruntled secretary, a slightly psychopathic mechanic, an anime fan turned mecha pilot, and a mecha pilot turned trainee chef, and as ship’s captain, a ditzy rich girl.
Captain Yurika Misumaru was born and raised on Mars, and she grew up with trainee chef Akito Tenkawa. What’s more, their shared past gives them both sufficient reason to want to return to Mars, especially as Akito was there when the aliens attacked an underground shelter, an attack in which he was somehow the sole survivor. But just getting the Nadesico off the ground will be a challenge, especially as the Earth’s military has no intention of leaving the most advanced ship ever constructed in the hands of such reprobates.
This Complete Collection of Martian Successor Nadesico collects all 26 episodes, the feature film, and the Gekigangar OVA, all on five discs, plus some tantalising extra features.
1. To Go “Like a Man”!
2. Leave the “Blue Earth” to Me!
3. A “Goodbye” That Came Too Soon
4.”Charmed” by Sky Blue Space
5. Ruri’s Navigation Logs
6. Sort of Like a “Fateful Decision”
7. “The Song” That You Will Sing One Day
8. The Lukewarm “Cold Equation”
9. The Miracle Operation of “The Kiss”?
10. The Dangers of “Femininity”
11. Finding Yourself in a “Routine Plot”
12. Those “Unforgettable Days”
13. There is no “Single Truth”
14. Let’s Go With “Hot Blooded Anime”
15. The “Significant Other” From a Star Far Away
16. The Beginning of “Nadesico’s War”
17. It Was “A Reunion That Came Too Late”
18. The Sound of Water is “My” Sound
19. You’re the Next “Captain” of the Nadesico!
20. “Run” Silent, “Run” Deep
21. The “Meadows” We Once Ran Across
22. Protect the “Visitor”?
23. A Place We Call “Home”
24. Ubiquitous “Righteousness”
25. “Being Myself”, Being Yourself!
26. “For the Lady We Will Meet Someday”
Picture: The Series
Martian Successor Nadesico gets a 4:3 pillarboxed transfer on these three series discs. The re-mastered print exhibits the traits of the film that it is sourced from, although any print damage and dirt has been cleaned up. The film has a nice layer of grain, the hand painted anime cels exhibit the unevenness and flicker that you would expect from such, and detail levels are high. The colours look very natural in this incarnation, and at no point overpower the image. But Nadesico is a television animation from the late nineties, where budget and schedules outweighed questions of quality and finesse. You’ll see the best of this show during the credit sequences, while in the show itself, the line art can be rough, the monotone shading lacks nuance and depth, and the simplicity of the animation really does become apparent in high definition. Martian Successor Nadesico might be a cel and paint animation, shot on film, but it’s clear that the show was animated with an SD broadcast medium in mind, and the animators understandably didn’t feel the need to put in too much fine detail for what were then, pie in the sky HD resolutions.
Having said that, this release is an improvement over TRSI’s DVD release of the show, presenting the animation in smooth, progressive format. You no longer have to worry about interlacing or judder. This is a sci-fi anime that exhibits a whole lot of imagination, blending the show’s starship adventures and giant robot combat sequences with a future world setting that creates a very agreeable whole. The character designs are memorable if not exactly unique, and as so often happens in anime, the budget seems to tail off in the middle of the run, but the show is never less than watchable.
Sound: The Series
You have the choice between PCM 5.1 Surround, and 2.0 Stereo Japanese, as well as PCM 2.0 Stereo English with subtitles and a songs and signs track. I gave the old ADV dub another go, and was even less enamoured of it this time around. Fortunately, the original Japanese audio is a lot more amenable, especially with the surround mix bringing out the action and the music of the show, although the dialogue remains mostly front and centre. The Japanese voice performances still sound fresh, while the show gets a couple of very memorable theme songs. I noticed this time around that the subtitles have a couple of typos, but they are accurately timed. The preamble on the DVDs that stated ‘due to reanimated sequences for home video, the English dub might not be perfectly synced’ is missing here, but I can’t imagine that the dub suddenly fits better.
Extras: The Series
The discs present the show with animated menus. One nifty contrivance is that the pop-up menu during playback uses the black pillars either side, without covering the 4:3 image. Each episode is followed by a translated English credit scroll.
The episode discs in the DVD collection offered TSRI trailers and textless credits for the show, but all of that is missing here. All you get on the Blu-rays are the episodes.
Disc 5 of the collection, the sole DVD disc, is a clone of disc 7 of the DVD collection.
The rest of the extras are as follows, and you get a lot more than the average anime release, beginning with the Gekigangar 3 OVA. Through the series, the crew of the Nadesico are revealed to be anime fans, and are often shown watching the Gekigangar 3 giant robot anime. The OVA on disc 5 is presented to Western fans for the first time here, lasts 29 minutes, and is in 4:3 with subtitled Japanese audio only. It follows the conceit of Akito and friends going to the cinema to watch the Gekigangar movie and it turns out to be a poor man’s Evangelion: Death and Rebirth. The first half of the OVA is a clip show that showcases all the snippets shown in the series, while the second half is original animation for the OVA.
Welcome to Belle Equipe lasts 45 minutes, and serves as introduction to the show, with the characters of Ruri and Yurika commenting over scenes to introduce the Nadesico universe without revealing too many spoilers. This is intermixed with live action footage of interviews with the voice cast, Yumi Matsuzawa, the singer of the opening theme, and the creators of the show.
Nadesico Sorekara lasts 22 minutes, and is a promotional piece for the movie. It begins with a recap of the series in full, so avoid if you haven’t seen the series yet. There then follows a stage promotional event, followed by some brief interviews with the movie cast.
There are around 4 minutes of TV spots for the series, as well as 4 minutes worth of other promotional videos for the soundtrack CDs and the like.
Finally there is what is listed as Interviews with the Japanese Cast. These are actually 7 brief pieces of to camera material from the voice actors, running to about 90 seconds in length in average, and these accompanied the Japanese laser disc releases. Here you get everything in one lump for each actor, but originally they would have introduced each disc of episodes, and signed off at the end, and for six of the seven discs, would have popped up to tell the viewer to turn the disc over.
Conclusion: The Series
I thought this would be a simple cut and paste of my previous review, updating the technicals to reflect the high definition format. Surprisingly though, my opinion of Martian Successor Nadesico has changed. The first time you watch it, there will probably be that culture shock, the sense of wonder at watching a pre-millennial anime series, the different storytelling style, the different character tropes, the sense that this is a show made for mainstream television, a broad audience, and that its storytelling has to cover more bases. The differences from the current fashion in anime will prove to be an appealing novelty.
That’s the first time. This is now the third time I’m watching Martian Successor Nadesico, and I have to say that it just doesn’t stand up all that well, certainly not against its peers like Cowboy Bebop, Outlaw Star, or Trigun. The episodic novelty of it wears off, and you might begin to sense that this is a show with maybe 10 episodes worth of narrative, spread thinly across its 26 episode run time, and the filler aspect of it becomes more apparent. Its episodic nature begins to grate, with random shifts in location from week to week, and not a lot of sense to the story. Finally, the absurdity of contrasting comedy with tragedy seems less audacious as it does misjudged. Martian Successor Nadesico is not a show that stands up well to repeated scrutiny, while the ending now seems abrupt and unearned.
The show starts off innocuously enough, following the prologue that sets up the main protagonist as having survived the Jovian invasion of Mars, and with humanity retreated to Earth, fighting a faltering defence against further Jovian incursions. We meet up with Akito again, this time working as a cook on Earth trying to forget his past life. With the military content to forget the other solar colonies and intent on defending the Earth alone, it’s actually the corporate world that decides to take the fight back to the Jovians, and the Nergal Corporation begins by constructing the Nadesico, the most advanced spaceship yet built.
They need a crew for the ship, and they obviously can’t ask the military, as they would just co-opt the ship for themselves. They wind up recruiting the unlikeliest of crew, to help take back Mars from the Jovians, and given Akito’s past, he’d be ideal as a mecha pilot. He only agrees to go as an assistant chef in the galley, but there’s no doubt that he will have to face his past. When the ship’s captain turns out to be an utter ditz named Yurika, who Akito grew up with on Mars, that confrontation with the past comes sooner rather than later, especially as Yurika is convinced that Akito is in love with her. Throw in a disgruntled secretary, a former voice actress, a sardonic operations officer with a mysterious past, a psychopathic mechanic, and a fighter pilot who finds inspiration in anime, and you have the most mismatched crew in history, and the seeds for a goofy comedy action adventure that doesn’t seem all that promising at the start of the series. Truth be told, the goofiness and comic tone is never far from proceedings, but as Martian Successor Nadesico unfolds, it quickly reveals that it is far more than the sum of its parts.
Initially, the war with the Jovians feels like a game, especially as all that the enemy sends into battle are unmanned robots and spaceships. There’s no internal conflict for the characters as they battle a faceless enemy, and soon Akito too is inspired by the same anime that fellow mecha pilot Gai is a fan of. Gekigangar is an old giant robot anime that espouses justice, freedom, self sacrifice and loyalty, and these aspects of this fictional show are easy for Akito to identify with as he faces the Jovians in his own Aestivalis mecha. It’s all fun and games with few consequences, even though the Nadesico has to flout Earth orders and go against the military, to escape the Earth and help the colonies that Earth has abandoned. And then a dose of reality hits in episode 3 when one of the crew is killed, and it isn’t the Jovians that are responsible.
That is how Nadesico continues. It’s still an anime for a broad audience, and most episodes will comprise of comedy and silliness, interspersed with action and excitement, but every so often it will throw a bucket of cold reality over proceedings, which serves to kick the viewer in the gut, and make them pause for thought. The comedy comes from the unconventional crew and their interpersonal relationships, as well as the idea of serving on a military ship with a corporate command structure. It wouldn’t be much of an anime comedy without a harem, and it isn’t long before Akito inexplicably picks up a gaggle of female admirers. Most episodes will continue in a light and humorous vein that will appeal to a wide viewer base, but the fact of the matter is that they are fighting in a war, and that war does take its toll, win or lose. In episode 5 Yurika, who up to that point has been something of a figurehead leader, has to make her first real decision as a captain, that of saving the lives of innocents, or saving her own ship, and the pragmatism is another dose of reality that you just don’t expect in a light, frothy comedy.
Then halfway through the show, the true nature of the Jovian menace is revealed, and the whole tenor changes, and changes for the better. The light comedy is still there, but the narrative becomes a lot more complex and intricate, with layers of meaning and allegory, and the challenges that the characters face, become a lot more conflicting and heart-wrenching. Nadesico has a lot to say about the nature of war, about how wars are sold to the public, the way that information is twisted and manipulated, and how nothing is as it appears to be. Into this all, it also throws in some compelling sci-fi concepts and some excellent character development. And yet it all appears to revolve around a fictional anime show that the characters love to watch. Incidentally, Nadesico has one of the best recap episodes I have seen in anime. The recap episode is that staple of the anime year, the animators’ week off, when they put together a clip show summarising the story so far. In Martian Successor Nadesico, the characters are shown often watching the Gekigangar anime. For the clip show, the Gekigangar characters are shown watching clips from the Nadesico anime.
Martian Successor Nadesico is a decent sci-fi show that has a lot going for it, with a story more complex than most, some thoughtful messages and ideas in amongst its character mayhem and comedy. I do have a doubt about its re-watch value though, as what I first saw as a charming incongruity between its story and its comedy, now seems somewhat goofy and out of kilter.
Introduction: The Movie
Four years have passed since the events of the Martian Successor Nadesico series. Ruri is now the Captain of the Nadesico B, and Yurika and Akito are missing, presumed dead. But the war is over, and the solar system is united. Humanity is tentatively working together to explore the universe, and at the heart of their expansion plans is the Hisago project, a massive construction in outer space centred on several colonies. When the colonies come under attack by a rumoured Ghost Robot, the Nadesico is sent to investigate. What Ruri finds is a hidden conspiracy, centred on the disappearances of boson jumpers that began with Yurika and Akito’s loss. Boson Jump technology is still the golden goose that will determine the future of mankind, and this time there is a new faction, the Martian Successors, who look set to plunge the solar system back into war. To stop them, Ruri will need a better ship, and she’ll need to put together the old Nadesico crew.
Picture: The Movie
If TRSI/Nozomi got one thing wrong in their re-mastered DVD release of Nadesico, it was the movie transfer, which was a horribly, and given the run-time unnecessarily compressed and muddy mess. They redeem themselves with the Blu-ray presentation, which offers the film in clear, sharp, well defined and gloriously colourful high definition. This time you can really appreciate the jump the story took from television to theatrical levels of detail, and it’s as big an aesthetic improvement as was the jump between the original Star Trek and the Motion Picture. It gets the bigger, more space opera scope that it needs, lots of action, imaginative world designs, and very appealing spaceship designs. The new Nadesico looks fantastic, and is a world away from the simplistic images of the television series. The action sequences are very strong, imaginative and fluidly animated, while the character designs are familiar from the series, but have the extra motion and expressiveness fitting of a feature film.
Sound: The Movie
The film offers PCM 5.1 Surround English and Japanese, with optional subtitles and a signs only track. It’s a full-blooded surround experience this time, with discrete placement of dialogue and effects, while the theatrical music score envelops the viewer and drives the emotion of the film. I only listened to the original language track, and found the subtitles accurately timed and free of error.
Extras: The Movie
Nothing but an animated menu with a Play All option?
You’ll be missing out on the music video and the promos from the DVD disc.
Conclusion: The Movie
I hate sequels like this. There ought to be a law against cruelty towards fictional characters. It’s as if they said, “Hey, Yurika and Akito. You know we gave you that ambiguous, but romantic happily ever after at the end of the series? Well, we were just kidding about that. Have four years of torment and anguish instead. And then, when the movie comes around, we’ll make it even worse!” No matter how good the story may turn out to be, how satisfying the movie experience, if you have at all invested in the characters, it’s bound to feel like a betrayal.
But this movie is about the new Captain of the Nadesico, Ruri Hoshino, not so much about Akito and Yurika. Except Ruri is no longer the dry sarcastic kid from the show, she’s grown up to be a somewhat bland and non-descript Captain, and with her comes a whole new crew. We have to get to know her dandy-esque second in command, and bratty and androgynous ship’s operator over the course of the film, and given the density of plot and exposition, there isn’t really enough time to appreciate these new characters.
It is an interesting plot though, cloak and dagger, a little mystery, conspiracies and plots, and the return of an old threat, tied into the adventure that the original Nadesico experienced in the series. The problem is that the film is just far too short at eighty minutes to develop this story, especially as the final half of the film is devoted to the sort of fan service that fans of the series expect, a series of character cameos to make sure that everyone in the TV show gets a name-check and a little screen time in which to shine.
The Prince of Darkness is like a lot of disappointing anime film sequels in that respect, in that the plot dissolves into incoherence in a deluge of character cameos to satisfy long term fans, which in the final analysis really satisfies no one. The film is of theatrical quality though, and the upgrade to the big screen really does suit the world of Nadesico fine. It looks epic, and the action sequences do satisfy. The story does not, and what it does to the characters is heart-breaking.
You know, I think I liked the movie a little more this time, certainly I appreciated those fan-sating little character moments, and if you can get past what it does to Yurika and Akito, it’s a well put together film spin-off. Although how much of that appreciation is actually down to finally seeing it as the creators intended is another matter. But the series... I was going to say that it hasn’t aged well, but given that I only saw it for the first time a few years ago that isn’t quite appropriate. Perhaps it’s fairer to say that it doesn’t bear up under repeat viewing.
The real benefit to this Blu-ray release comes in the feature film; the television series is pretty enough, but given the quality HD upgrades that other shows of this vintage have received, and from All the Anime no less, shows such as Outlaw Star, Cowboy Bebop, and Escaflowne, Martian Successor Nadesico looks comparatively mundane. I couldn’t tell if it was down to the quality of the source material, or whether it was scaled-up, but it lacks the crispness and pop that you’d expect from HD anime, and which is visible in the feature film disc. Having said that, most people in the UK will have seen Nadesico on the original ADV discs, and this release is well worth a double dip. If like me, you have imported Nozomi’s original DVD re-master version, based on the same material as this Blu-ray, then unless you really want the feature film, it’s less worthy of a double dip, despite the smoother, progressive transfer.