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"Martian Successor Nadesico" Vol. 1: Marginally Successful, or Massively Surprising?

The Jovians, lizard-like aliens who have attacked and decimated Earth’s base on Mars, have their sights set on attacking Earth. Who else can defend the planet but Nergal’s High Mobile Battleship Nadesico? Given that the main pilot of Nadesico’s mecha is a sentai-watching assistant chef who doesn’t want to actually fight, the commander a love-struck girl who has no idea what she’s doing, the communications officer an out-of-work voice actor and the main operators of the ship a secretary, a ten-year old girl, and assorted idiots, all I can say is if this is the future I’m glad I’ll be dead.

ImageEpisodes included on this two-disc set in the “Essential Anime” series:
:: Disc One ::
Episode 1: “To Go Like a Man”
Episode 2: “Leave the Blue Earth to Me”
Episode 3: “A Goodbye That Came Too Soon”
Episode 4: “Charmed By Aqua Space”
Episode 5: “Ruri’s Navigation Log”
:: Disc Two ::
Episode 6: “Sort Of Like a Faithful Decision”
Episode 7: “The Song That You Will One Day Sing”
Episode 8: “The Lukewarm Cold Equation”
Episode 9: “The Miracle Operation of The Kiss”

Martian Successor Nadesico is one of those series that has a fiercely loyal fanbase, but you never hear as much about it as you do such series as Neon Genesis Evangelion, Dragonball Z, Sailor Moon, and the like, potentially because it never got a full television run (true, Evangelion succeeded without, but then that show is an exception to every rule). Sure, it was one of the shows to get on the spectacular failure Toonami called Giant Robot Week, but we only saw a random selection, never giving someone a real chance to enjoy the series.

So now, ADV’s deemed it worthy of “Essential Animé Collection” status. What does that mean for us? We get over third of the series in a two disc set that, if you look around, you can easily find for thirteen bucks.

Yes. Nine episodes of what some consider the “Best Animé Show of All Time” (hey, that’s what the case says) for less than three hours of minimum wage. The show is easily a few years old, but what does someone who’s really watching it for the first time in 2004 think about this bargain release?

Honestly, there’s no better way to describe the show than as a soap opera with spaceships, spandex suits, giant robots, geeks, and the like. Imagine Star Trek, Power Rangers Lost Galaxy, Animation Runner Kuromi, and Tenchi Muyo! all rolled up into one funky fusion of styles.

The premise seems basic enough. A ragtag bunch of people are thrown together on the ship “Nadesico.” One of the pilots of the Aestivalis (the name for this series’ mechs), Akito Tenkawa, is also the ship’s assistant chef, and resident focus of female affection. Captain Yurika and communications officer/former voice actress Megumi are constantly battling for his attention, all while former secretary Haruka and computer guru Ruri sit back and watch the show. Add in Gai Daigouji (well, his real name is Jiro Yamada, but he thinks “Gai Daigouji” sounds more kickass), a fanboy of fictional mecha anime Gekiganger III living out his dream to pilot an Aestivalis (well, until he breaks his leg), and you’ve got the idiots of the Nadesico. Throw in a few fanboy nods to giant robots and sentai, and it seems like it’d be a fun, light comedy.

Then you get the serious stuff. The captain must make life or death decisions (save the ship or save the people they’re supposed to rescue), important people die, and you realize this is an actual war they’re fighting. It’s not going to turn into Evangelion, but darn if it doesn’t seem like it wants to go there at times.

So, there you have it—the show goes from one dynamic to the next, lighthearted comedy one second, only to get a bullet in the brain the next.

And you know what? It works. Characters come off more believable because of the fact they’re joking around in the middle of a crisis. Yes, some characters come off as shallow stereotypes, but the core cast is well fleshed-out. Voices are well done, the art style only leans slightly to the “huge eyes” side and the animation looks only slightly dated. All in all, the show is appealing to drama fans, to comedy fans, and to those critical of animation and voice acting.

For this two disc set, extras are decent, especially given the small price. Of special note is a commentary (I love commentaries) on the first episode with John Swasey, Mark X. Lakowski, Brett Weaver, and Matt Greenfield (despite not being listed on the menus or the case). It’s obvious the guys had fun with series, and the commentary is pretty darn entertaining. Character Bios are standard, along with the Clean Opening and Closing. I really wish Production Sketch Galleries were put on paper in an insert, instead of an animated slideshow, but they still are some good production sketches. Also, ADV Previews, if you consider that an extra.

I can’t recommend it enough: thirteen bucks for nine episodes of a very enjoyable series is a steal. Go grab it; it really is an Essential part of any Animé Collection.

… Rets go Gekiganger Sree!

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