Nadia: Secret Of The Blue Water Review – Blu-ray
Anime is a wondrous thing. From the emotional to the truly bizarre, there is a series covering every possible spectrum of entertainment. It really is unique in the fact that you can get a series about pretty much anything, and the quality is equally as sporadic.
Originally broadcasting in 1990 to 1991 on Japanese TV, Nadia has been released to Blu-ray in the UK courtesy of Animatsu, and the initial presentation is promising. It sports a sleek case design with two Blu-ray cases inside, featuring the series spread across five discs. Spreading it across so many discs was a wise choice – it allows each episode to be played in its best uncompressed quality, with all the various options of voiceovers and subtitles that you could possibly want.
The menus are nice and simple too, simply a high quality picture with the episodes down the side, accessible at any time during playback. It’s a great package all round. For an anime from 1990, it looks surprisingly good. It’s not widescreen – but each frame has been obviously cleaned up, with the image being very stable and lines nice and sharp. The colours are very vibrant too, and overall it’s a pleasure to look at. Every few episodes there is one or two scenes which are noticeably of far lower quality, being blurry and looking as though they came directly from a VHS – this was probably a case of the original masters being lost for those scenes, something that has to be expected of a 30 year old TV show.
The actual anime itself, is also very enjoyable. It takes a lot of inspiration from various western sources – Greek Mythology, Jules Verne’s ‘20,000 leagues under the Sea’, biblical tales and more, and combines it all with some historical facts to create an interesting little story. The main characters are Jean and of course the Titular Nadia, two 14 year old teenagers on the cusp of adulthood, exploring what it means to be an adult and the challenges that it faces. Much of the series and character development is based on this premise, as they both learn about love and loss, death and responsibility, and the characters noticeably change and develop as the series goes on. There are some moments in which you get frustrated with them – but then you have to remind yourself that it is what the series wanted, they are bound to make poor decisions based on wild emotion, as all people do around that age.
Joining the main characters are a pet lion King, a young child Marie, an older lady called Grandis Granva and her two manservants, Hanson and Sanson. Every character has a backstory that is slowly shown across the series, either through flashbacks or in conversations with other characters, or the actions they take. It is really enjoyable to watch an anime in which the characters are treated with more respect than most anime’s take – these aren’t cartoons but a serious attempt to make deep, fleshed out characters. It may not always succeed – almost nothing can – but the attempt at actual strong characterisation is refreshing to see, even if it is thirty years old. If you’re a fan of anime you’ll know that this doesn’t happen very often, most consign their characters to basic tropes or stereotypes and you can predict exactly how they will act as soon as you see the design – but thankfully, Nadia is not like this.
The storyline itself is fairly interesting. Jean and Nadia meet at the 1889 World’s Fair in Paris, in which Jean the inventor is itching to display his flying machine in a competition. He finds Nadia being pursued by Grandis for her ‘Blue Water’ a jewel she has around her neck, and he steps in and the escape together. This leads to a series of events in which they eventually find themselves in a sea battle, before joining the crew of the ‘Nautilus’ a secret, ultra advanced submarine that is fighting a war against the evil fascist like ‘Neo Atlantians’. The story builds on this central conflict throughout the series, with the leader of the Neo Atlantians ‘Gargoyle’ becoming the central antagonist soon enough. There are plenty of secrets and twists and turns to the story – and it’s almost impossible to talk about any of them without spoilers. All I will say is it constantly keeps you guessing, and is played out very well.
The war is fairly interesting and is explored from several angles – with the pacifist Nadia questioning almost everything they do, and the captain of the submarine Nemo mysteriously hiding potential motives for his actions. Much of the tale takes place aboard this ship, with the interactions between the crew and the gang becoming a focal point. Grandis soon enough becomes one of the good guys, and eventually they form a family like relationship, which is endearing to see.
The only problem with the series comes late in the series. From about episode 30 to 35, there is a significant shift in quality as the gang becomes stranded on a desert island and has to fend for themselves. These episodes are more for comic relief than the more hard hitting stories featured earlier – and whilst they can be fun – they feature significantly worse animation. They don’t ruin the series, but they do stick out like a sore thumb.
Overall, Nadia: Secret Of The Blue Water is an accomplished anime that is sadly a little underrated in todays world. It has it’s fans however, and if you are looking for a new anime with a bit of depth – you can’t go wrong here.