The Beginner’s Guide to Anime, No. 112 – Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water

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Before you even think about, if you think that “The Secret of Blue Water” is that you can wear a hoodie in a shopping centre, you are sadly mistaken.

There is a lot worth mentioning about the anime under investigation this week: how it relates to the west, its role in anime history, and how it is release this week may well help to establish a new name in the British anime business.

Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water was a TV series that ran between 1990 and 1991, with a sequel film released shortly after this. It is a loose adaptation of the classic Jules Verne novel Twenty Thousand Leagues under the Sea and features Captain Nemo as one of the main characters. It however is mainly notable for being one of the early anime of Gainax. While their first project was the feature film Royal Space Force: The Wings of Honnêamise (No. 105), Nadia was the company’s first commercial success.

It begins at the 1889 Paris Exhibition, where boy genius Jean Rocque Raltique of Le Havre has travelled to the city to take part in contest to create a heavier-than-air flying machine with his uncle – his father however is lost at sea, reportedly his ship sunk by “sea monsters”.

While in Paris, Jean encounters a beautiful African girl named Nadia and her pet lion cub King. He follows them both, and learns that she is being chased by comic Italian villain Grandis Granva and her two henchmen Hanson and Sanson. Grandis wants to take Nadia’s necklace, which contains a large gem known as the “Blue Water”, which flashes when she in danger. While at first Nadia can escape due to her skill as a circus acrobat, Grandis does eventually capture her, but Jean uses his inventions and great scientific know-how to rescue her.

Jean takes Nadia and King to Le Havre, but Grandis still follows them. Jean then uses an experimental aeroplane, which works, to escape to the sea. The plane crashes but they are rescued by an American ship. Then this ship is attacked by the sea monsters, which Jean eventually comes to learn are submarines, including one called the “Nautilus”, led by Captain Nemo. Jean, Nadia and King board the Nautilus for a brief period, but then fly off again. This time however their plane is shot down. The crash land on a remote island which has been taken over by a sinister organisation called “Neo Atlantis”. This group, head by the evil Lord Gargoyle, has enslaved most of population and killed the rest. Jean and his friend do find one young girl named Marie and try to help her, but she is kidnapped and eventually they have to delve deeper into the island.

Jean discovers not only are the natives forced to work, but Grandis and her cronies are also trapped here. Jean and Nadia try their best to stop Gargoyle and it nearly looks as if they will fail, until Captain Nemo returns to save the day. Following this Jean, Nadia, King, Marie, Grandis, Hanson and Sanson all unite with Nemo in order to take down the real enemy.

Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water as a project actually dates back to the 1970s, were future Oscar-winning anime director Hayao Miyazaki came up with some ideas for a different company, but it never got off the ground and he re-used some of his ideas in other projects. Eventually the project was taken up by Gainax, where the director of the project was Hideaki Anno, who previous worked on Wings of Honnêamise and would direct the next Gainax TV series, the hugely influential Neon Genesis Evangelion (No. 21). Thus Nadia helped to truly establish one of the great anime production companies.

However, the series should not just be remembered for this. The characters are truly a delight, and you can sort of see how they influence characters in later Gainax titles like Evangelion and Gurren Lagann (No. 50). Nadia especially is of interest. Firstly she is one of the few black anime characters in a title role. There is also her relationship with Jean, which is a mixture of frustration but also slowly blossoming love. On top of this, Nadia is also an animated lover of animal rights. She hates people who kill, whether it is plain and simple humans murdering other humans, or simply people eating meat and fish. Her militant vegetarianism must make Nadia the Morrissey of anime characters. At times her hatred of meat-eaters is so strong (and a tad annoying personally) that part of you wants to throw a sausage at the TV to see if she would storm of in a fit of anger.

More recently however, this series is a big test of a new company that has stepped onto the anime scene in the UK. Earlier this year a new distribution company was formed named Animatsu, which sprouted-off the more established Manga Entertainment. This is their biggest release to date, both in terms of expectation and series length (Nadia is 39 episodes long). They have had to spend time getting this release right. It has already been delayed in the past due to production issues, which hopefully have now been sorted out. This release is therefore a test to see if anime fans will trust this new company.

Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water thought is a classic series: at times a tearjerker, at others cartoonishly funny, with wonderful characters and relationships, it is a series deserving of your time. If it has one major problem, it is that it might have shown in the UK when it first went out in the 1990s, but it was considered too violent to show to children.

Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water is released on DVD and Blu-Ray by Animatsu.