Again this week we continue with the mecha theme, but we are also covering some other genres. This is also a comedy – in fact this was the first ever comedy anime I ever watched – and also a combination with another anime-centric genre: harem (see Mayo Chiki!, No. 12 and Ouran High School Host Club, No. 3).
Martian Successor Nadesico originally went out as a 26-part series in between 1996 and 1997. It was followed up by a feature film subtitled Prince of Darkness, and an OVA spin-off, but we will come to this later for reasons which are rather relevant to the plot.
Set in the year 2196, the Earth is in the middle of a war, fighting a race called the “Jovian Lizards”, despite the fact no-one has actually seen the enemy to confirm whether or not they are lizard-like. A private company called Nergal Heavy Industries decides to take matters into their own hands, creating the incredibly powerful spaceship the ND-001 Nadesico. To make it the best the company decides that rather than relying on primarily military personnel they will mainly use civilian experts, even if they have, “some slight personality issues”.
Amongst the unstable crew is Akito Tenkawa, a boy born on a colony on Mars but now living on Earth. He just wants to be a cook, but because he is able to control machines due to nanomachines in his body he is also called upon to control the “Aestevalis” mecha when required. Not only does he have to fight the enemy, but he also discovers that the ship’s military captain is childhood friend Yurika Misumaru. Yurika is madly in love with Akito, but Akito considers her to be unhinged. Also, as the series progresses, other women crew members also express their feelings for Akito, sparking jealously amongst them and frustration for the hapless Akito.
The plus points for this series are partly to do with the ensemble cast. The central relationship between Akito and Yurika is funny itself, but the other peculiar members of the crew all have their charms. They include Seiya, the mechanic who joins the ship just to get away from his wife and child so he can chase women; Jun Aoi, a military crew member in love with Yurika; and Akito’s fellow Aestevalis pilots, Ryoko (who forms feelings for Akito too), Hikaru (something of a nerd) and Izumi (who keeps making terrible puns).
But the most notable of these characters, aside from Akito and Yurika, is Ruri Hoshino. Ruri is a child prodigy who mainly works with the ship’s computer, called Omoikane, whom she begins to bond with. However, when it comes to other people she is much colder. She considers just about everyone else on board to be an idiot and lets everyone know it.
The other significant factor of this series relates to the OVA spin-off I alluded to earlier. One of the running jokes in the series is that Akito and other members of the crew are fans of a fictional anime series of Gekiganger III, which is a parody of rather cheesy mecha anime of the 1970s and 1980s. It starts off small, but as the series moves along we discover that it is actually a major part of the plot, especially when concerning the Jovian Lizards. It becomes so popular that eventually Gekiganger III was really made and became an actual OVA.
The film version of the series is widely regarded as being not as good as the original, mainly because it concentrated more on the drama than the comedy, and the fact that Akito and Yurika featured less in it, with Ruri being the main character and now commander of the Nadesico. However, it did win an award at the time so it did have its fans.
Martian Successor Nadesico is not popular with everyone, but it is a series which has its admires. It has romance, comedy, action, and arguably two series for the price of one.
The original series and the film version of Martian Successor Nadesico was released in Region 2 under the now out-of-print ADV Films label, so only second-hand copies are available in this region. However, a now expanded Region 1 set has been released by Right Stuf under the Nozomi Entertainment label, which also includes Gekiganger III.