"This is getting ridiculous!" ever-perky little girl Marie shouts. Ironically, she may as well be speaking for the viewer, because this seventh entry of NADIA is a complete disaster in every way imaginable. Chalk this up to a case of corporate greed; the executives at the NHK Enterprises were thrilled by the success of NADIA on Japanese TV that it was decided to extend the show from the stationary 26 by thirteen. This was bad news for director Hideaki Anno and animation studio Gainax, because they were both running short on funds ($800,000 in debt) and already butting heads with NHK over which direction the show should go. The staff behind NADIA have every reason to be ashamed of their decision, because these "infamous island episodes" are universally derided as the lowest point in the show.
The first twenty-two episodes of NADIA were wonderful, compellingly scripted masterpieces of deeply moving character relationships, exciting action sequences, an engrossing plot, an ever-present sense of danger and imaginative marvels to behold. All that is gone in these episodes, which place the cast on a deserted island and route them through poorly written story lines that are absolutely devoid of any substance or adventure. Even director Hideaki Anno was reported to be horrified by the end result to the point that he declared them non-canon. Ironically, Anno was not even directing the show for this section of the show (23-34); he was working on the ending while his assistant Shinji Higuchi took control of the director's chair. Needless to say, Higuchi wasn't on the same page as Anno when it came to the development of the script.
The animation in these episodes is some of the sloppiest I've ever seen, with lots of shots where the characters are off model and backgrounds lacking in detail. In other words, it looks like a poorly made Saturday morning cartoon. (The reason: other studios in Japan and Korea were commissioned to produce these episodes, rather quickly and cheaply, too, and it really shows.) This aspect is exacerbated by the decision to insert physics that seem more at home with LOONEY TUNES than NADIA. For instance, in Episode 26, we see Jean step off a cliff, yet he is suspended in space until he looks down. At which point his eyes bug out and he falls, Wile E. Coyote-style, into the ground, leaving a Jean-shaped pancake. This clashes with the dramatic tone of the earlier episodes, (there was a similar scene in episode 24 on the previous volume in which Jean swells up like a balloon while swallowing water, a clue that things were seeming off) and more distressingly, this style continues for the remaining episodes.
Bad as the animation is, it's not the sole reason why these episodes are so awful. As mentioned, the scenarios for each of these episodes are distressingly bloated, boring, and extremely stupid, giving the protagonists very little to do except argue. More unforgivable is the derailment of the characters. Jean, Marie, King, and even the Grandis gang (who turn up in the last episode of this volume) all lose both their developments with each other and personalities and turn into caricatures of themselves. Later on, Ayerton, a sailor from episode 3, is brought into the picture, but he spends most of the time telling exaggerated stories and bragging. In other words, he serves little purpose - it's almost as if the writers decided to throw in another character just because.
Worst of all is Nadia herself, who devolves into a totally unlikeable, obnoxious brat, spending most of the volume treating her friends hideously and doing nothing worthwhile. Her relationship with Jean is also affected negatively as a result. While there were moments in the first 22 episodes where she could be grumpy, such rocky scenes were basically overshadowed by ones of heartwarming progression and a genially friendly nature. In other words, the audience could really feel that she was being changed by Jean (any scene where both are on good terms with each other is a winner). Here, however, the writers press reset on their development for every five minutes, which not only becomes tiresome (very fast), but infuriatingly frustrating... to the point where one no longer cares about their bonding. For instance, at one point in episode 26, Jean and Nadia share their a romantic kiss under a nighttime sky, but the writers quickly take them back to square one immediately afterward. The only reason it happens at all is because of a bizarre and inappropriately placed incident involving hallucinogenic mushrooms and Nadia shifting from hostile to loving without any explanation... as well as engaging in stupidity which is rather out of character on her part, wrecking the buildup of the moon-watching scene. This turns a potential turning point in the progress between Jean and Nadia into a disappointing and extremely cruel tease. Sitting through episode after episode of such asinine flip-flopping moments in these fillers is the stuff of maddening insanity.
Even without that, there is still a lot wrong with these episodes. There is an inexplicably long and mindnumbingly repetitive "dream" scene in episode 26, in which Jean is seen developing invention after invention before Nadia and Marie (including an atomic bomb!) which does absolutely no favors to the story. The culmination of this scene is a flight aboard an aircraft taken straight out of another Anime series called THUNDERBIRD, an inside joke that proves to be lost on audiences unfamiliar with that particular show. Then there is the matter of King behaving rather erratically; he spends most of the island episodes doing some sort of rain dance/worshipping by the statue or walking on his hind legs... just like a human... for no apparent reason. In a similarly insulting scene, Marie chases King around the beach sadistically, swinging him by the tail into the hot sun. (She also seems to act more mature than everybody else at this point, which is rather inappropriate for a character her age. And what's up with her calling King her husband?) There's also a ridiculous subplot involving a mysterious "moving" island with low gravity which causes the companions to run superfast just like Road Runner and jump for miles. Once again, this is the stuff of Saturday morning cartoon fare, not what NADIA was aiming for.
That we don't even learn about what is happening to Nemo, the Nautilus, or even the Neo Atlanteans offscreen is an even bigger problem, although there is one moment in episode 25 in which Gargoyle gives Nemo a "mock funeral" and foreshadows at the awakening of "Red Noah." That sequence, along with two flashback scenes where we get a glimpse of Nadia's childhood in the circus, abused by her cruel ringmaster and separated from her elephant friend Momo, are the sole saving graces of that episode... as well as the whole volume, which is only about 2 minutes out of 100. Unless you count the episode in which the children finally reunite with the Grandis gang. If the rest of the volume had more bits of story development like this, it would have at least been good for something. As such, it only shows that the whole thing would've been much better if it was squashed down to one episode, as the whole thing is really three and a half episodes too long.
Ironically, the quality of this DVD is similarly disappointing. The visual transfer looks jaded (no wonder; I bet someone at GAINAX tried to destroy the masters for these episodes!), for one, and the dialogue is both inept and uninspiring. In all fairness, though, the English vocal cast continues to do an excellent job with their characters; particularly the children and the Grandis gang - even though they are unable to redeem these episodes, it is at least reassuring to know that they never lose their touch. That's another point in favor of this volume. (For purists, the same is true for the Japanese version.)
Overall, though, this seventh entry in NADIA is insufferably awful and a slapping insult to an otherwise fine series. Even as someone who generally likes the show overall, I cannot recommend this volume. It's a crying shame to see NADIA: THE SECRET OF BLUE WATER tread into dubious territory, especially since the previous five and-a-half volumes were so brilliant. Alas.