There are some shows that come out and completely alter their genre. Classics like Super Dimension Fortress Macross and Love Hina have altered their respective landscapes to the point where future television shows and media have to have some sort of response. In the case of the original Macross, it was the transformable jet. With Love Hina, it was the revival of the harem show taken to the n-th degree. However, the show that has changed the entire format of anime is Neon Genesis Evangelion. However you feel about the show and its subsequent movies and spin-off manga, you can't ignore how it changed the way people looked at robots and the medium as a whole. There's before Evangelion and after Evangelion.
That's all well and nice, but what does that have to do with this review of Martian Successor Nadesico? Well, Nadesico comes from a time right after the release of Evangelion, before the flood of imitators and knock-offs hit the market. It's a show that probably couldn't exist today, due to the changes listed above. That is a huge shame, as we could use more shows like Nadesico. Hit the jump to read my review of the television run, the film Prince of Darkness and the Gekigangar 3 OVA.
Martian Successor Nadesico Complete Collection LE [DVD]
Licensed by: Right Stuf/Nozomi
Set in the future, Martian Successor Nadesico revolves around a war between humanity and the mysterious Jovian Lizards. The Lizards posses superior technology, slowly forcing humanity further back toward Earth and away from their interplanetary colonies. One of those colonies is on Mars, where main character Akito Tenkawa has lived since birth. However, Akito is alone, as his parents were killed years prior to the start of the show. All by himself, he's focused on becoming a chef, due to the poor quality of the food on Mars. Since his parent's death, he's become a pacifist and wants nothing to do with the conflict between Earth and the Jovians. However, due to his connections with the new captain of the spaceship Nadesico, he gets dragged on board and quickly becomes one of the only able pilots.
Based off that quick synopsis, I wouldn't be surprised if you presumed that Akito would be a sullen, angry, withdrawn child that bitches and complains more than getting the job down. While he does have his moments, that's actually pretty far off the mark for Akito. For the most part, Akito is a pretty upbeat guy. The moments where he backslides into a petulant child make sense, as they involve the death of particular characters, the revelation of his past and the identity of his true foe. He's a character that wouldn't appear in a show like this now in the era after Eva.
The rest of the plot also does a good job of giving you something different. While you'll be able to figure out a couple of things, I know that you won't be expecting several twists and turns. There's an early character death that you will not see coming. It's easily the most unexpected removal I've seen and boy does it have some consequences. There's also the big twist that occurs a bit after the half way point, but I'll keep mum on that. What I will say is that a recent show attempted something similar. However, that show did little to nothing with said twist while Nadesico's characters are sufficiently rattled by their discovery.
One of the things that sets Nadesico apart is the relationship between Akito, Yurika and Megumi, one of the 'bridge bunnies.' Right from the start, you can tell that Akito and the Nadesico's captain, Yurika Misumaru, have a connection. They were brought up together on Mars and it's clear that Yurika has the hots for Akito. If you expect Yurika to chase Akito around for the entirety of the show, you'd be right, but it isn't as simple as that. After a particularly devastating event for Akito, he ends up dating Megumi, putting him in quite an awkward love triangle early on. It was quite surprising, as most lead pilots like Akito stick to the normal will they/won't they antics with their primary love interest while the other members of the harem opine about their love lost. To have him make an early move (and recognize his mistake later on) is something you rarely see period.
Besides Akito and Yurika, the Nadesico houses some of the stranger characters you've seen in a space ship. You have your typical emotionless, genius loli in the form of Ruri Hoshino, but she has some of the better dramatic moments later on when she goes and investigates her past. There are also the Nergal employees Goat Hoary and Mr. Prospector, who oversee the crew and make sure that they act in Nergal's best interests. While they both do their jobs to the best of their ability, they show an adaptability later on that you wouldn't expect from proper employees. Unfortunately, I going into any further detail about other characters would start getting into spoiler territory, and a lot of the twists are pretty neat. I particularly dug Inez's past, which does a good job in wrapping up Akito's story.
In terms of visuals, I felt that Nadesico holds up despite its age. While it definitely has its crappy moments, characters tend to stay on model and the combat looks good. The robots are well-designed and the space ships look great. The early Jovian units look bug-like and creepy, which fits well early on. The later designs get a bit ridiculous, but it makes sense in terms of the plot. The soundtrack is also pretty solid, lacking any tracks that made my ears bleed. What did make my ears bleed was the dub for the show. Considering when this dub was made, ADV decided to up the frantic factor by having their cast go all shrill. It's irritating and I couldn't get through more than a couple of episodes of it. The sub, on the other hand, has some great performances, particularly by Tomokazu Seki, aka G Gundam's Domon Kashuu. He's always a joy to listen to, as he's got hot-blood down to a science.
Following the 26 episode TV show is the film The Prince of Darkness, a sequel set several years after the shows end. I would love to say that the film as just as fantastic as the show, but that would be ignoring a ton of problems. First and most importantly, there's an entire chunk of the story missing. Don't blame the RightStuf, it isn't their fault. What happened was that vital information involving the goings on of the crew and the antagonists of the film was revealed in a Sega Saturn game, The Blank of Three Years. Not only that, but there's an epilogue game that came out on the Dreamcast that continues right after the film.
That right there should be enough to sink the film, but there are a couple more issues. The movie is only about 80 minutes long and Prince of Darkness suffers for it. Things start off with a bang, but quickly slow up when it's time to (illogically) bring the crew of the Nadesico back together, followed by a rushed finale. What makes things worse is that there was a Dreamcast game released afterwards which follows up on the ending to the film. Despite all that, the story can still be followed, even if you feel like you're missing about a third of what's going on. The biggest problem is the running time. If the movie were 20 minutes longer, they could've fit in the missing sections and everybody would be up to speed. The only saving grace that Prince of Darkness has is its visuals. This is one pretty movie. You'd be hard pressed to find a prettier hand-drawn movie.
The final piece of the package is the one episode Gekigangar 3 OVA. A famous super robot anime within the Nadesico universe, Gekigangar plays a heavy part in the show. Framed as a movie watched by the Nadesico characters, the OVA 'recaps' what goes on prior to the movie followed by a newly animated battle. It's explosive, hot-blooded fun. If you dug the clips you saw throughout the show, you'll no doubt love this. On top of being remastered, I believe this is the first time it's available in the US. I'm sure old fans of Nadesico would like to have this in their collection.
OK, so let's do a quick recap. First, the Nadesico TV show is great on all fronts. It has an interesting plot with lots of twists and turns, it keeps viewers on their toes and it holds up 15 years after its initial release. Second, the Prince of Darkness movie is not very good. The pacing problems and missing information make it difficult to keep up with. However, the gorgeous animation will keep you entertained through at least one viewing. Finally, the Gekigangar 3 OVA is a great cap to the package, what with its reverence to classic robot shows of the '80s. All three of these items are available in one package that's full of extras that include documentaries, interviews, promotional videos and clean openings and endings. This would be worth it with just the show alone. Add everything together and you have a fantastic package that you need to have in your collection.
8.5 - Great. A great example of its genre that everyone should see, regardless of their interest.