Martian Successor Nadesico – Anime Review

Japanese Title: Kidou Senkan Nadesico

 

Related: Nadesico: The Prince of Darkness (movie sequel)

Gekiganger 3: The Movie (spin-off)

Similar: The Irresponsible Captain Tylor

Gurren Lagann

 

Watched in: Japanese & English

Genre: Science Fiction Action Adventure Comedy

Length: 26 episodes

 

Positives:

  • Great parody of anime sci-fi and mecha.
  • Many laughs.

Negatives:

  • Poor balance between comedy and drama.
  • No understanding of science and space. What is zero g? Atmospheric re-entry?
  • Weak love polygon.
  • Shyamalamalam ending.
  • Frilly character design and rather static animation.

One should never base opinions on what they remember from childhood, for we were inexperienced then and anything entertaining was the greatest show ever. It’s why I have rewatched every series in full for these reviews, regardless of how many times I had seen them in the past. Martian Successor Nadesico is a prime example. I remember this anime being much better than it is. In particular, I swore it had a stronger romance element that mattered. Hell, I remembered the supposed romance more than I did the parody angle, and the parody is the largest aspect of the show. Watching Nadesico again, however, I found it to be rather disappointing.

Alien robots called Jovians invaded the galaxy, tore through Mars and now have sights set on Earth. An independent contractor gathers a ragtag group of specialists Armageddon-style to form the crew of the Nadesico. Akito, a pilot who survived the Mars attack, joins the crew as a cook (and forced pilot) to learn why his parents were killed, ship’s captain Yurika as his only lead. She is a childhood friend from Mars and her father, who is strangely proud of her…endowments, is army general.

Each character is exaggerated, a caricature of the archetypes in mecha anime. There’s a bombshell helmswoman who used to be a CEO secretary, a voice actress in charge of comms, an engineer who joined just to get away from his wife, and a lame joke pilot (“Do you enjoy playing doctor?” “Not really, but hearing other people’s problems takes my mind off my own.” “I guess you need a lot of patience then.” Snort, snigger, snigger), to name a few. The parody nature is good here, as it helps suspend disbelief that a half teen crew is the best in the business.

Jiro Yamada (Japanese version of John Smith), the gung-ho ace pilot, is the best character. He is obsessed with an old mecha anime, Gekigangar, and fancies himself a superhero from said show. He has renamed himself to Gai Daigoji, a much more heroic name that belongs to his soul. Like in the show, he yells his attacks, which people tease him for, and is full of mad energy. In fact, the tone of the show is mad energy, outside of occasional drama.

The drama is frankly rubbish. Several characters die throughout the war, but their deaths have no impact because the scene is wedged between two comedy segments. There is no build up or pay-off. I am laughing one moment, then a character dies suddenly, which, at this point, is fine if not for the fact that comedy kicks in seconds later. The deaths have no chance to leave a mark. This feels as though two separate teams worked on the comedy and drama, only crushing them together at the end with little correspondence in between. I couldn’t care less when someone died.

Luckily, the comedy is great. Early on, the crew commits mutiny because their contracts state that anything more than holding hands is forbidden. Yurika, as captain, also has to perform all funerals, last wishes, and marriages for every culture and religion in the world to avoid discrimination. Hilarious. I also loved the head engineer, a middle-aged guy and unabashed womaniser who is jealous that Akito gets all the girls because he is the main character – plenty of Meta jokes in Nadesico. When having a flashback, other character can watch as if it’s a movie.

As alluded to in the introduction, romance is another major problem. The love polygon is utter nonsense, unsure if it’s trying to be a harem or mild flirtation. Really, it’s more of a triangle because most of the characters do nothing in the polygon. Actually, no, even a triangle is too much since the main coupling is obvious and never has a moment of conflict. Even boiled down to one pair the romance is lacklustre.

Martian Successor Nadesico seems torn between parodying the mecha genre and trying to be it. Why didn’t they play the romance and drama for satire? Some shows simply aren’t as good as we remember.

Nadesico: The Prince of Darkness – a few notes on the movie. It has nothing to do with the series. A forced connection to the series, removal of all humour (one joke – only one joke), and character changes that make no sense, that’s all one can find in the movie. Sure, the visuals are superior, but why bother if it means removing anything that made Nadesico worth watching. Movie Quality – Low

Art – Medium

I was tempted to give the art a low rating because of the peacock-ish character design (massive eyes, hair curls everywhere, and eyelashes thicker than thighs) and aged animation (static movements at times and mouth on the side of the face ugliness). However, to call this low quality is going a little far. The visual comedy is good, as is the vibrancy.

Sound – High

I receive waves of nostalgia from the opening theme – it isn’t the greatest with its nonsensical Engrish, but I love it. The acting is hilarious is English, over the top, parody in nature. I get the sense that the actors improvised half the gags. The Japanese track has horrid Engrish for American characters, though this could be hilarious to some. I agonised over this rating as well, unsure if it was worth the high rating, but I stayed with my instinct.

Story – Low

A space opera parody with drama wedged into a weak romance. The comedy carries it all.

Overall Quality – Medium

Recommendation: Only for fans of old sci-fi anime. Martian Successor Nadesico relies on prior knowledge of mecha tropes for full enjoyment. If you’re familiar, you will find a lot of laughs here.

(Request reviews here. Find out more about the rating system here.)

 

Awards: (hover mouse over each award to see descriptions; click award for more recipients)

Positive: 

HilariousPositive Recommended English Voice Track

Negative:

DissapointingNo DevelopmentShyamalamalam-Worthy Twists

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