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In the late 19th Century, sailing ships were sunk one after another...
I decided to spend one more week in the Victorian Era.  I am technically stepping off-topic for the Readers & Book Lovers Group, because this week's topic is an animated TV series rather than  a novel.  On the other hand, this series drew a lot of its inspiration from the works of Jules Verne; and it was a really good series.  I mentioned it a couple times in my Polls during these past few weeks, and I wanted to discuss it some more.

The title of the show is Fushigi no Umi no Nadia (Nadia of the Mysterious Seas), but it carried the English title "Secret of Blue Water", and that how American fans often refer to it.  

Anime legend Hayao Miyazaki worked on the original concept in the 1970s, an adventure loosely based on Jules Verne's 20,000 Leagues to be called "Around the World Under the Sea"; but the project was shelved and he recycled many of the ideas for the series in his movie, Laputa (english title: Castle in the Sky).  Years later, the animation studio Gainax created a series based on the Miyazaki outline which aired on Japanese television in 1990-91.

The the series is set in 1889 and central characters are two children named Jean and Nadia.  Jean Roque Raltigue is a youthful inventor, cheerful, outgoing and optomistic, with an interest in flying machines.  The series starts with him entering an airplane of his own invention in a competition at the Paris Exposition.

There he meets Nadia, a mysterious dark-skinned girl with a white lion cub.  Nadia performs as an animal trainer and acrobat in a circus.  She is an orphan who never knew her family.  She tends to be bitter and suspicious and has a sharp temper, but Jean wins her trust when he helps her escape from a gang of jewel theives out to steal the mystic jewel, the Blue Water of the title, which Nadia wears around her neck.

The thieves are led by Seniorita Grandis, a vain, self-centered woman with flaming red hair and a temper to match.  She is assisted by Sanson, a smooth self-professed lady-killer with impressive strength, and Hanson, an engineer who built a transforming all-terrain vehicle called the Gratan (short for "Grandis' Tank"; Grandis calls the vehicle "Katherine").

In fleeing the Grandis Trio, Nadia and Jean become invovled with the hunt for a sea monster which is sinking ships.  Having spent nearly two months reading 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, it is not to difficult to see where this is going.  And the two wind up on board the Nautilus.  But Nemo is not resposible for the sinkings.  There is another sub out there commanded by a figure named Gargoyle.

Gargoyle is the mastermind behind Neo-Atlantis, the last remnants of the great Atlantean Empire; and he wishes to use the ancient Atlantean super-technology to subjugate the world.  He has constructed a tower made of the same material as Nadia's gem which is a source of tremendous power.  Nemo, we learn, was the king of the last remaining Atlantean colony, which was destroyed by Gargoyle in his quest for power.  Now Nemo uses the Nautilus hoping to stop Gargoyle's mad plot.

In the process, the Grandis Trio wind up joining the side of the good guys; we learn more about Nemo's past; Jean builds more inventions, some of which actually work; and Nadia learns something of her own connection to Atlantis.

The series is overall good, but uneven in places.  The first twenty episodes are excellent, cumulating in a battle between Nemo and Gargoyle in which the Nautilus is destroyed and Nadia and Jean are launched away in an escape pod.  The next several episodes are weaker, with poorer plot and animation.  They are essentially filler episodes requested by the network because of the show'd popularity.  The final five episodes, however brings back Nemo with a new Nautilus to battle Gargoyle's greatest plot of all in a climax that brings them to the very edge of space.

The series mines several of Verne's books for plot elements.  Most obviously, Nemo and the Nautilus are taken from 20,000 Leagues.  The episodes of the lengthy filler sequence, often called the "Island Episodes" by fans, owe their inspiration to The Mysterious Island; and later on a couple episodes recall Five Weeks in A Balloon.

The series also has references to other anime series.  King, Nadia's white lion cub, is a shout-out to Kimba the White Lion, and Nemo's character design resembles Captain Gloval from Super Dimension Fortress Macross/ROBOTECH.

And elements from Nadia seem to have turned up in Disney's Atlantis: The Lost Empire; but that is surely coincidence because Disney never steals from Japanese cartoons, right Simba?

There is also an underlying theme of racism running through the series.  When Jean first befriends Nadia and takes her home with him, his aunt refuses to let her into the house because of her dark skin.  Nemo also has dark skin, and in some of the earliest character design sketches both characters are shown to be African, although the producers ultimately decided to give them traditional manga-style hair.  Gargoyle and his minions wear masks with Klansman-like pointed hoods; and Gargoyle believes the Atlanteans to be superior to humans.  Although he himself is Atlantean, Nemo rejects Gargoyle's racist dogma.

Nadia is available in the US in a couple forms.  In the early '90s, Carl Macek's Streamline Pictures dubbed the first eight episodes.  Later on ADV films purchased the rights and did a re-dub of the entire series.  A movie version of Nadia, set a few years after the end of the series, was was also released, but isn't that good.

I'll be the first to admit that the series has only the vaguest connection to the plot of Verne's novel; but Nadia has engaging characters, delightful steampunk design and an exciting, suspenseful plot.  I like to think Verne would have approved.

Originally posted to Readers and Book Lovers on Sun Sep 16, 2012 at 06:30 PM PDT.

Also republished by Manga And Anime Fans At DailyKos.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (10+ / 0-)

    "All the World's a Stage and Everyone's a Critic." -- Mervyn Alquist

    by quarkstomper on Sun Sep 16, 2012 at 06:30:03 PM PDT

  •  NEXT WEEK: (8+ / 0-)

    I'm actually going to step out of the 19th Century.  But just a little bit.  We're going to take a look at some Stories that Man Was Not Meant To Know as we visit the Eldritch Worlds of H.P. Lovecraft; or, "It Wins, Cthulhus."

    "All the World's a Stage and Everyone's a Critic." -- Mervyn Alquist

    by quarkstomper on Sun Sep 16, 2012 at 06:37:27 PM PDT

  •  One of GAINAX's best works.. (5+ / 0-)

    I will have to see Nadia one of these days.   Tipped and rec'd since I love to see anime discussions.

    •  A Friend of Mine Worked for GAINAX (6+ / 0-)

      A friend of mine worked for Gainax briefly in the late '80s and would occasionally send me anime goodies such as the Nadia Pencil Box I have sitting in front of me as I type.  Another friend of mine, who taught high school science in Iowa, borrowed some of the artwork my friend sent me, made color photocopies of the art used them to create his own Nadia lunchbox to take to school.

      "All the World's a Stage and Everyone's a Critic." -- Mervyn Alquist

      by quarkstomper on Sun Sep 16, 2012 at 06:51:52 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Nadia was pretty good. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    As a Verne fan, the connection was obvious but the child characters instead of Professors and harpooners was refreshing. I especially liked the Jean character as a nerdy - gadget centric guy myself.

    Otakus forever!

    "You can tell 'Monopoly' is an old game, it has a Luxury Tax and rich people can go to jail." - George Takei

    by daddybunny on Sun Sep 16, 2012 at 08:49:59 PM PDT

  •  Gargoyle is in my top 5 anime villains! (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    A great series, my favorite early 90s anime!  Also, excellent background music!  

    I attended AnimeCon 91 in San Jose in my first ever anime based costume, of the villain of this show, Lord Gargoyle of NeoAtlantis.  Among the guests at that first big California anime con were Hideaki Anno and Yoshiyuki Sadamoto of Gainax.  When Anno saw me walking around in costume his reaction was "Oh, very good!"  :-)  I still have Sadamoto's sketch of Gargoyle, and Anno's sketch of his "Sky Ship" (the floating fortress with three long arms and the giant Wile E Coyote magnet which pulled the Nautilus out of the water) hanging on my wall.

    Worth noting, the comedic pseudo-villains Grandis & her 2 man goon squad are a reference back to the older classic anime comedy "Time Bokan"!

    ----------------------- "Zu jeder Zeit, an jedem Ort, bleibt das Tun der Menschen das gleiche..."

    by Rheinhard on Sun Sep 16, 2012 at 09:50:03 PM PDT

    •  Tean Gratan (0+ / 0-)

      Now I'm trying to remember.  Sometime in the early '90s I went on a road trip from Darkest Iowa to San Jose for AnimeCon.  I don't remember the year; it might have been '91.  My friends are big-time costumers and they and my brother wore "Team Gratan" costumes for the costume contest.  The friend who was Sanson also made up a very good Nemo costume.  They also made up an Electra costume for another of the gang of us who went on the trip.

      For a while the couple had a red van which they named the Gratan.  Shortly before the San Jose trip, however, they had to trade it in; so they got a larger silver-colored van and called it the Nautilus.

      "All the World's a Stage and Everyone's a Critic." -- Mervyn Alquist

      by quarkstomper on Mon Sep 17, 2012 at 11:53:23 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Could it have been 92? (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        I emceed the convention masquerade at the first Anime Expo in 1992 in San Jose, which was the convention the initial AnimeCon evolved into.  I do remember in that masquerade there were a couple different Gratan groups... and a whoooooole lotta Ranmas!!

        ----------------------- "Zu jeder Zeit, an jedem Ort, bleibt das Tun der Menschen das gleiche..."

        by Rheinhard on Mon Sep 17, 2012 at 02:38:55 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  I think you're right (0+ / 0-)

          Now that you mention it, Anime Expo is what it was called.  And I got married in '93, so the road trip must have been the previous year.

          My friends in Team Gratan had worked up a routine to an anime clip, but unfortunately it didn't work out because of technical glitches.

          I seem to recall that one of the many Ranmas was dressed in a black & white outfit and called himself the "Manga Ranma", a reference to VIZ Comics' botched attempt to colorize their translation.  Or that might have been at a different con.

          "All the World's a Stage and Everyone's a Critic." -- Mervyn Alquist

          by quarkstomper on Mon Sep 17, 2012 at 05:26:14 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

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