You Get to Burning! / by Mark Egan

nadesico.jpg

Hello, and welcome back space cadets to yet another trip into the vacuum filled depths of an Anime Space Opera! 

Yes I know…it’s a bit of a trend with me to review these things, but at least this time I’m going to jump out of the 80’s, and move a bit closer in time with tonight’s review of Martian Successor Nadesico!

First off, I think it is important to be up-front in saying that Nadesico is quite probably my favorite anime. I would almost go so far as to say that it is my favorite thing that has ever been on television. It’s *that* good to me! 

Please allow me to try and explain why I think so highly of this show.

The premise of Nadesico is decent, although not extremely original. Set a few hundred years into the future, the story mostly follows a young man born on Mars named Akito Tenkawa, who is thrown with the rest of humanity into an inter-stellar war. Earth and her colonies are under increasing treat of invasion from the seemingly unstoppable robot armies of the mysterious Jovians.

Mars is lost to the Jovians while Akito is there and through a mysterious event he is suddenly transported to Earth. There his memories haunt him and manifest into a fear of the war, which cripples him whenever the alien forces attack his new home in Japan.

Despairing with his lot in life Akito tries to flee the city, only for fate to throw him into the path of his childhood friend and future love-interest Yurika Misamaru ….as well as her car. Yurika is also from Mars, and despite her young age has become the Captain of a privately operated battle cruiser named the Nadesico.

Although anonymous to each other during their traffic collision, Akito’s memory is jogged, and he then sets off in pursuit of Yurika in hope of finding answers from his past.

Thereafter we have the main gist of the plot, when Akito joins the Nadesico’s crew as they set out on a mission to find out what happened on Mars.

So Nadesico is all in all a fairly standard space-romp on the whole.

But what sets it apart from the rest is the wholly excellent way it was done. This is what I hope to explain here.

First off, the characters. Akito and Yurika were part of a fairly large and well put together ensemble of characters. Akito himself was an on the whole very likable as our token everyman. Due to him being from Mars, he was kitted out with a digital interface in his hand, which qualified him to be a robot pilot….much to his own horror as he preferred to be a peace-loving cook while working in the ship’s galley. Much of the series dealt with him juggling himself between these two roles and the understandable turmoil that followed. The other side of Akito was his ‘harem’ attracting qualities. Damn near every woman on board wanted him, nearly without exception. Although harem plots like this can be commonplace in Anime, I think Nadesico handled it with the humor that such a situation comedy deserves.

Captain of a Starship before she's even 25. Hell of a way to spend your 20s!

Captain of a Starship before she's even 25. Hell of a way to spend your 20s!

This brings me along to the female lead of Nadesico and my own favorite of the show, Captain Yurika Misamaru. Despite being in her early 20s, she was promoted to the rank of Captain based mostly on her high test scores in strategy-school, and also her sex appeal. It seemed that in future Navy policy; automated vessels mostly need attractive leaders, as opposed to experienced ones. Thus a very kind-hearted, if ditzy, young-woman is given the command an experimental war-ship, with the fate of humanity entirely in her hands. No pressure then.

Akito was Yurika’s primary love-interest, and upon remembering him from her past all of her memories came flooding back. She spent much of her time competing with the female members of her own crew for Akito’s love, much to the guy’s shock and exhaustion. Yurika’s strength as a character was her persistence in her goals, even when failure appeared certain. Akito does date other women, but she still holds onto her hope. This fitted in nicely with another side of her character, and it’s a side that won me over as a fan.

Nadesico was a comedy, but it was also a surprisingly serious war drama. Within this drama, we are shown very realistic suffering and death. This weighed heavily on Yurika’s shoulders, and at times her distress was played out as it would with anyone else in her boots. Her normally bubbly and fun ‘girl next door’ character would smoothly change gear into a character that had seen hell, and was haunted by it. This made her an excellent character, with a fully fleshed spectrum of emotions, which made it very easy to care what happened to her.

Yurika wasn’t the only character that got this treatment, but she was my favorite. Many of the others had similar baggage, but I’m beginning to now realize as I write, that if I went into every character, I may never finish.

There's a lot of 'em!

There's a lot of 'em!

As I wrote the cast was very large. It contained bureaucrats, engineers, galley staff, robot pilots, and an unlucky-in-love First Officer with a thing for the Captain (ah Jun, you unfortunate sod). They were all excellent in their own rights, but for the last character mention I will focus on one girl in particular.

 

Life of the Party.....

Life of the Party.....

I feel that a lot of Nadesico characters were analogues of Star Trek characters. Yurika may have been a humorous parody of Captain Janeway, and the engineering crew reminded me of various Scottys and LaForges. But one character in particular was a dead-ringer for a certain Mr. Data….(well…she would have been if Data looked like a little girl). Ruri Hoshino was the Ops Manager for the entire ship. She was essentially an organic computer terminal who ran all aspects of the Nadesico, leaving the remainder of the crew to pursue their various love interests (and mostly fail at them). Somewhat robot-like, she seemed mostly annoyed with her crew and would spend much of her time complaining. She wasn’t the worst child character in Sci-fi history by a long ways, but she kind of bugged me. Not enough for me to generally dislike her, but it was enough for me to become a little annoyed when I learned that she was the favorite character of many a Nadesico Fan-boy.

That always perplexed me, as Nadesico was choc full of frankly better characters. Not just Yurika, but all manner of hilarious / interesting / likeable personalities that trump an annoyed robot-like girl most days of the week. Ruri was fine, Ruri was interesting, but why did she have so many Fan-boys? This perplexes me still, and alas it had a bearing on the fate of the show, which I will mention later on.

warnadesico.jpg

Apart from the characters the show’s plot, placing and overall execution was top notch. Nadesico pulled off something which I’ve rarely ever seen done well. It pulled off a seamless balance between oddball comedy and gritty war-drama. The only show I’ve seen even come close to this was M*A*S*H, and that didn’t really do as good a job. Nadesico would shift moods effortlessly, regardless of how sudden it needed to do so. The pace of the show also made it easy to follow and enjoy.

I could really go on forever about this show, and I’d really love to. However I will try to keep things as short as I can.

Nadesico is in my opinion one of the best Anime ever produced. For a time it was even one of the most popular in Japan, and rightly so. It goes without saying that I strongly recommend you seek it out. You will not regret this, but what about Ruri? I did mention that she had a bearing on the fate on the show, and this is something I will be saving for the second part of this review. Please allow me to explain.

The show ended its two-season run with a fairly decent ending. A lot of ends were tied up nicely, and it finished on a quite satisfying note. However given the show’s popularity a feature film was green-lit and soon hype started to build up. I too was excited by this idea, looking forward to even more Nadesico while not realising what was about to happen. To my horror, the Fan boys had gotten their way, and we were subjected to movie that headlined a teenage Ruri as the new Captain of the Nadesico, with very little of the original cast remaining.

Next time, please join me as I review the immense disappointment that was Martian Successor Nadesico: The Prince of Darkness.

Until then, go Get to Burning!