Hello and welcome back for the follow up to my last review of the excellent space opera comedy ’Martian Sucessor Nadesico’!
Since I started reviewing for UKAnifest, I’ve been mostly reviewing stuff I have loved and as a result I’ve been writing on mostly positive vibes. Alas, I now must change gears for a while, as I review what became one of the greater disappointments in my time as an Anime viewer. What I am referring to is Martian Successor Nadesico’s feature film: The Prince of Darkness.
To start with, I think it’s important to mention that The Price of Darkness wasn’t really that bad of an Anime feature film. All-in-all, it was kind of alright. However, what really worked against it in my mind was that it compared very poorly against the original Anime.
If you take a look at my previous Nadesico review, you will see the praise I gave for the show’s characterisations, the story and the expert way they managed to balance madcap comedy with gritty war-drama. The Prince of Darkness, while still being a spiritual successor to the show, falls flat in these departments.
In trying to explain my point of view, I must warn you that there will be spoilers. If you have not seen the original Nadesico series yet, please do so now before continuing. I really don’t want to ruin an excellent Anime for you. Especially when its surprises are worth the wait!
You may remember that I wrote of Nadesico wrapping up fairly nicely after it’s 2-season run. It did end on a relatively high note, with Yurika & Akito finally together, with their mission complete, and with the Jovian War placed into a long-range stalemate resulting in a sort of peace. Nadesico’s story could have ended there with some satisfaction.
However, the unresolved nature of the War had left the door open for more stories, and as it turned out we would get more.
When I first learned of an impending Nadesico feature film, I became quite excited. Nadesico had become my favourite Anime bar none, and I my experiences of Anime feature films had been quite good up until that point. I had to wait quite a while to get my hands on the feature, and blindly I bought the DVD upon its European release. What I got in the end…was a surprise.
Thanks to some fleeting exposition and cut scenes, I learned the following news in the first act of the film. Akito & Yurika were missing & presumed dead, the Jovians were at peace with the Earth & even were co-operating with it, and last but not least Ruri was Captain of the new ‘Nadesico B’.
This didn’t bode very well. My favourite character was now probably dead, and the character that bugged me most was now headlining the show. So what happened?! How did this story turn around so dramatically, and why did we only get a small amount of explanation for all of this?
At the time I didn’t know, but I had actually missed out on a chuck of the Nadesico story. Between the Anime and Prince of Darkness, a Sega Saturn game named: ‘Martian Successor Nadesico: The Blank of Three Years’ continued the story via its gameplay and cut scenes. Gamers beyond Japan never saw this game released, leaving a knowledge gap for many a western Nadesico fan (or indeed anyone who hasn’t played the game). The Film does attempt to make up for this gap with a series of flashbacks and exposition. Alas, it often didn’t feel like there was enough of it.
Thus we were left with an odd beginning where Ruri becomes our main character as Captain of the new Nadesico. It is worth mentioning that she wasn’t all that much older than during the Anime and was essentially still a ‘tween’, who had somehow managed to land the captaincy of a space battleship. That wasn’t in itself completely beyond the pale, as the girl was practically running every aspect of the old Nadesico. But the fact that she was somehow the leader of an adult crew kind of stretched the plausibility of her character too far for me. Especially given that her ‘warm’ personality hadn’t changed all that much from last time.
Alas, I suspect that the ‘fan-boy element’ had something to do with all of this. I mentioned this in the last review, and simply put there was a huge section of Nadesico fans who were completely gaga for Ruri. Many were Japanese fan-boys who must have caught the producer’s attention given the slowly increasing focus on her in the Anime’s second season. This seemed to go into overdrive with The Prince of Darkness, with the main focus of the film placed directly upon her.
Interest was in her was so intense, that there were reports of an epidemic of poster thefts in Japan during the Film’s release due to Ruri featuring prominently upon them!
But what of the stellar cast of the original Anime? Oh, they were still around although their role seemed to be relegated to that of cheerleaders and seat-fillers. Instead we got a couple of kids from Ruri’s crew and really not much else.
Well…that wasn’t entirely true. Yurika and Akito weren’t entirely gone; in fact they weren’t really dead. It turned out they had simply gone missing, thinks to the misdeeds of this story’s villains.
These evil folk were a faction of the Jovians who weren’t entirely pleased with the peace situation, and had decided to go off on their own crusade as the newly labelled ‘Martian Successors’. That’s right folks…the ‘Martian Successor’ part of ‘Martian Successor Nadesico’ finally had a meaning!
The Martian Successors aimed to use the ancient alien transport technology that was central to the Anime’s plot, in order to serve their own ends. To achieve that, they had been kidnapping people who had direct contact with the technology, such as those who had used it to travel, and holding them prisoner for experiments. Yurika and Akito were among these people, and their ‘deaths’ were just a cover for their capture.
After escaping from their grip, a physically and mentally scarred Akito set out for revenge as the newly styled ‘Prince of Darkness’ (there’s your film sub-title sorted). In addition, he sought out to rescue Yurika who had become a human cog in the machinery of their terrible plans.
This was the essence of the whole plot. Ruri’s Nadesico learned through Akito of Yurika’s fate, and then rallied the original Nadesico crew together into a daring rescue mission, and to save the world all at the same time.
It wasn’t the worst plot in the world by far, and if handled well may have turned out more enjoyable than what resulted in The Prince of Darkness. There are a couple of reasons why I felt this way.
First off, Akito wasn’t the relatable character he once was. He became an embattled Emo mecha-pilot how never smiled and was focused on the mission. It seemed like he would have felt more at home as the lead of ‘Gundam Wing’ than in a Nadesico story. This was particularly bad, as Akito had sort of served as the viewer’s anchor into the chaotic world of the Anime. With him distant from us, that anchor was gone.
Thankfully, my favourite Captain Yurika was still the same character as always. Alas we wouldn’t get to see much of that, while she spent most of the Film as a frozen naked statue. Her body was literally fused to the ‘boson jump’ core that the Successors wanted to control. They had put Yurika in an unending dream state, and used shoujo manga plots to turn her into a System Controller for the boson technology.
Some of the more amusing parts of the movie actually came from the Yurika scenes, where the mostly middle-aged male Successors would enthusiastically huddle together to read the latest pages of Yurika’s shoujo dream manga. Also the fact that she was naked resulted in the female Successors dressing her, as they were uncomfortable with her nudity in the workplace. It was a funny and wonderfully frank response to very obvious fan-service, which I always appreciate.
As much as would like to go on about Yurika, I really can’t. There wasn’t all that much left when it came to her part of the plot.
Needless to say, Ruri and Co. were successful. They defeated the Successors and liberated Yurika, but alas someone was missing.
Akito had become resolved to his new Gundam / Heero Yuy emo persona, and dicided to ‘do a Heero’ and just disappear into the sunset…probably to go and be even more Emo somewhere else.
Thus we were robbed of the couple’s happy reunion, in an ending that just felt very hollow.
I wish I could wrap up a fairly negative retrospective with a positive ending, but Prince of Darkness and the overall manner that Nadesico continued after the Anime make this difficult to do.
The story does continue after this Film with yet another Japan-only Nadesico game named ‘The Mission’. I don’t know much about this beyond the fact that Ruri is still Captain of the Nadesico, that Yurika has gotten a new command, and that they are out searching for Akito. But that’s all I know alas.
What I will say however, this that when considering this Film, please try to give it a chance. Although it has many failings compared to the Anime, it also has strengths. The animation is superb, the story itself is told well and the original humor of the Anime is still there in it’s own way.
Ultimately for myself, I think Prince of Darkness is a lesson that ‘All Good Things come to an End’, and even if you wish for more sometimes it’s better to just end on a happy note and look forward to new things in the future.
Until next time, Go get to Burning!