Arriving on Blu-ray, the irreverent gets funnier the more you know about the anime conventions it’s making fun of. By Charles Solomon.
When Martian Successor Nadesico debuted in 1996, some otaku felt dissed by its irreverent spoofing of fan culture and animated sci-fi series (especially Hideaki Anno’s epic Neon Genesis Evangelion). But the satire was too good-natured and too funny for anyone to stay angry, and it quickly became a fan favorite in both Japan and the United States. Twenty years later, it’s still a textbook example of the take-no-prisoners insanity at which anime often excels.
In 2195, the mysterious “Jovian Lizards” are attacking Earth after capturing Mars and the moon. Fed up with the inept United Space Force, Nergal Heavy Industries constructs a battleship of unprecedented power, the Nadesico. Like many ships in science-fiction series, the Nadesico boasts an impressive array of hightech weapons. But neither the U.S.S. Enterprise nor the Death Star offered vending machines (with recycling bins for the empty cans), futons and crew jackets.
To staff their state-of-the-art vessel, Nergal chooses “top people who may have slight personality problems” (to put it mildly). Commanding the Nadesico is scatter-brained Captain Yurika Misumaru (Jennifer K. Earhart), who nurtures a passionate but unreciprocated crush on Akito Tenkawa (Spike Spencer, parodying his performance as Shinji, the neurotic hero of Evangelion). Akito was traumatized by the slaughter he witnessed as a child on Mars when the Jovians attacked. He doesn’t remember how — or if — he teleported from Mars during the at- tack. He only recalls waking up on Earth.
Rounding out the crew of this ship of foolishness are sardonic science officer/child prodigy Ruri Hoshino (Kira Vincent-Davis), dirty old man/ mechanic Seiya Uribatake (John Swasey) and voice actress/communications officer Megumi Reinard (Jenni Strader), once the star of Natural Princess Magical Lychee, a spoof of Sailor Moon.
Akito signs on to the Nadesico as a cook, but he’s drafted as a pilot for the Aestivalis, a Gundam-style mechanical suit. Although he turns out to be an ace mecha pilot, Akito wants no part of it — until he meets irrepressible Jiro Yamada (Brett Weaver), who’s adopted the more dashing moniker of Gai Daigoji. (His real name is the Japanese equivalent of Joe Smith.) Gai worships Gekiganger 3, a hilarious send-up of old giant robot series like Gigantor and Voltron, and uses the characters’ heroism to inspire Akito to charge into battle.
Internal Loop Director Tatsuo Sat and his crew include clips from Gekiganger that mimic the disco-beat theme song, Xeroxed lines and hammy voice acting that typified the style. Akito becomes a rabid fan, and his “solid metal casting limited edition collector’s Gekiganger 3” becomes his most valued possession. The story reaches rare heights of absurdity when characters in Nadesico and Gekiganger 3 watch each other’s programs, pointing out shortcom- ings. When dashing Gekiganger pilot Ken complains that the week’s Nadesico episode is just a clip show, the inevitable half-pint sidekick sniffs, “Don’t you know, they always do this in the middle of animated series, so new viewers will know what’s happening!” Pilot Joe scoffs, “I’ll bet the studio was running behind schedule and they needed a quick filler episode.”
The action and the vocal performances are often pitched at a hysterical pace, so Nadesico is best watched an episode or two at time, or it can become wearying. Many threads of the plot are left hanging at the end of the last episode; Ruri suggests that some of them will be sorted out “in the inevitable sequel.”
The storyline of Nadesico probably couldn’t have sustained a sequel, but Sat and many of the original artists produced a follow-up theatrical feature subtitled Prince of Darkness in 1998. Sadly, Prince of Darkness lacks the irreverent humor that made the series beloved.
That same year, the filmmakers released a 30-minute Gekiganger 3 OVA, which is included in the Blu-ray set, but in Japanese only. Akito, Yurika, Megumi and Ruri attend the opening of the Gekiganger theatrical feature, which consists of the clips from Nadesico plus new material. This choppy sequence of short scenes pushes the parody even further, poking fun at every genre cliché from the super-special alloy “Gekigangium” to the fallen hero’s inspirational visit from beyond the grave.
Martian Successor Nadesico belongs in the library of every anime fan, and the more the viewer knows about Japanese animation, the funnier it is. [
with their changing relationships.
The home release presents the film in its original Japanese with English subtitles, augmented with a “Looking Back: A Staff Reunion” featurette that gathers the creators 11 years on. The Blu-ray Combo Pack ($24.99) tacks on an exclusive storyboards feature. Ocean Waves is just as picturesque, deep and complex as its namesake. features the voices of Mandy Moore as Rapunzel, Zachary Levi as Eugene, Eden Espinosa as Cassandra, Julie Bowen as Queen Arianna and Clancy Brown as King Frederic. The movie also boasts music from Alan Menken. The DVD includes four animated “Tangled Short Cuts”: Checkmate, Prison Bake, Make Me Smile and Hare Peace. agi and Chibiusa eavesdropping on a cafe conversation between Sailor Senshi fans. The Blu-ray combo set ($29.98) also includes voice cast interviews, the L.A. premiere event Q&A, and more. Both versions feature uncut English dub and original Japanese versions for the planet-powered experience of your choice.