Martian Successor Nadesico (1996) Review

Synopsis

The year is 2195, and a war is raging between the Jovian lizards and the United Earth Forces. The Mars colony has been destroyed and is now under Jovian control. Fortunately, Nergal Heavy Industries has created a state-of-the-art ship called the Nadesico to send on a rescue mission to Mars. They have assembled a ragtag crew of specialists that must work together to battle both the Jovians and Earth in order to accomplish their mission.

Review

This series has a very unique perspective, in that it is essentially a farce of itself. In fact, so much parody is involved that there is actually an over-exaggerated anime series called Gekigangar incorporated into the show. An entire culture has built its society based on the ideals and technology expressed in this 100 year old anime series, which turns out to be rather humorous.

It is this irreverent sense of humor that somehow causes the characters to seem even more human and believable. All forms of comedy are used, from situational comedy and puns to witty banter and slapstick. This all serves to jerk the viewer back to reality in a way that keeps the show from becoming too melodramatic.

Although Nadesico is in large part a comedy, its plot is surprisingly deep without becoming needlessly convoluted. From the very first episode, the groundwork is being created for the rest of the story, and the steady pace keeps you eagerly anticipating the next. There are several plot twists and exciting developments that entice you to watch. I can honestly say that this series seemed to fly by like no other in recent memory.

The action in the series was another element that exceeded my expectations. Although there are definitely other shows with more explosive action sequences, I can think of none that have such a complete package. While the animation quality was just average, the action was fast and smooth, without many repetitive sequences or still frames, which is a rarity.

There also seems to be quite a bit of effort put into creating a detailed sci-fi setting for the series. The design of the ships and mechs used was attractive and original. The ability of the Nadesico’s crew to materialize viewscreens of varying sizes at almost any location was a source of frequent humor. Overall, the ship’s interior and equipment had a consistent and believable appearance.

The soundtrack was not phenomenal but was perfectly capable of complementing the tone of the series. The opening and closing themes were both fairly melodic, and the music had an appropriate sci-fi quality, utilizing horns and synthesizers in a unique way. The rest of the audio was of good quality, and the voiceovers were appropriate and amusing.

Character development is Nadesico’s forte, and it creates a cast of colorful and endearing characters. Although Akito Tenkawa is the primary hero, he is not the focal point of the show. Ample screen time is given to many of the other delightful crew members so that even the most critical viewer will find something to enjoy.

There is the imperturbable Ruri, who, despite being only 12, is probably the most mature crewmember. She is essentially the narrator for the show, and her dry commentary is the source of endless amusement. Yurika, the air-headed captain, is Akito’s childhood friend and has been infatuated with him for years. She competes with the assertive Megumi, who has also been vying for Akito’s affections. Akito is an unlikely hero, who has a variety of misgivings about becoming a pilot, insisting that he wants to be a fry cook.

There are also several female pilots, including Izumi, a rather creepy girl who has a very morbid sense of humor, Ryoko, who has latent feelings for Akito, and Hikaru, the tom-boyish anime fan.

The crew of the Nadesico provides a good deal of drama, most of it centering on Akito, who does his best to avoid it all. Akito’s internal conflicts are also examined at some length, but luckily it never devolves into meaningless, infinite loop style monologues that so many anime series seem to embrace. Despite its steady pace, the show does an admirable job of exploring the pasts of several characters, although there is much more that could be investigated. The characters and their backgrounds could have easily provided sufficient material to extend the series to double its length, but being left wanting more is not such a bad thing.

Conclusion

Although Martian Successor Nadesico is not exceptional in any single aspect, the near-perfect blend of action, comedy, and drama creates an atmosphere of pure enjoyment. With Nadesico containing some of the best comedy and most enjoyable characters I’ve seen, I have no reservations about giving this series the highest recommendation. It stops short of perfection, but it comes very close.

  • Audio: Nice soundtrack. Good voiceovers
  • Video: Average animation, but good design elements
  • Plot: A mix of suspense and action with several twists
  • Style: Distinctive style with nice sci-fi design elements
  • Characters: A large cast of likeable, funny characters
  • Violence: Mild
  • Language: Mild
  • Nudity: None
  • Genre: Scifi
  • Episodes: 26
  • Rating: 5.0 of 5

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