(Image from Amazon. Used for review purposes only.)
Martian Successor Nadesico, Grade: D
Back when I was still living in Tokyo in '93, I was watching the Irresponsible Captain Tylor TV series as it aired. It was a silly series, but I liked it enough to keep watching. However, I had to move to another city for several months on business and the show wasn't available there. I never did see how it ended. Martian Successor Nadesico started in '96, when I'd moved back to the U.S., and I didn't see any of that at all at the time. But I read comments online in the news groups, comparing the two shows, and Nadesico kept getting the poorer reviews. I also saw some of the still artwork in Newtype magazine, and I started confusing the characters of both shows, so that finally I wasn't sure who was in what series.
I decided to remedy this situation by watching the complete Nadesico DVD set from AD Vision. Again, I hate the American voice acting, so I had the Japanese language on, and subtitles off. And I can see why there were so many complaints about the show. For one, the story and designs were by Kia Asamiya (Compiler, Silent Mobius), and Kia isn't very good as a writer. I liked his Dark Angel manga when it was serialized in Newtype, but halfway through he forgot how to draw and the story fell apart. With Nadesico, the character designs change from episode to episode, and the only really good artwork is in the ship designs. There's no real story, per se, since the series is more of a sitcom in space than anything else. There's a plot, but with all of the jokes and pratfalls it's easy to forget what it is.
The series starts out fine. The colonies on Mars have been wiped out by alien attackers, with the exception of Akito Tenkawa, who, for unexplained reasons, teleports himself to Earth at the last second. The aliens, referred to as "lizards", then turn their sights on Earth. As a last-ditch effort to save the planet, the military leaders find a super ship - the Nadesico - and staff it with a bunch of misfits led by a completely inept captain named Yurika Misumaru. By sheer accident, Yurika runs into Akito, and we discover that the two had been childhood friends before Yurika left Mars and Akito's parents were killed, leaving him an orphan and having to fend for himself. Akito gets enlisted into the crew and becomes the ship's top giant robot pilot against his will. Eventually, he succeeds at defeating the enemy, but only after we discover that the enemy are really the good guys and the humans are the ones that wiped out the enemy's home planet (Mars) first.
Sigh. Where to start? The enemies are called lizards, when all of their mecha look like spiders. And after, when they are confirmed to be characters from an old TV anime. Say what?
Yes, in the Nadesico series, Akito and a few other crew members are fans of an old (fake) Japanese TV series called Gekiganger III, which was designed to look like the real shows of the 70's, such as Getter Robo. In a twist, the "lizards" come from alternate universe where Gekiganger is real, and the Nadesico crew are from an anime show on their planet. Or, something like that.
Enemies come and go, sometimes left behind when one episode ends, with no explanation for why they don't make it into the next episode. Weapons come and go, and the enemy keeps getting bigger and stronger ships, which is important since they lose roughly two hundred ships per battle; they need replacements by the crateful. There's singing and dance numbers that aren't all that well performed, and one full episode is a beauty pageant contest that has most of the female crew members in 2-piece bikinis singing karaoke. The songs aren't that great, and Yuriko wins the contest off-screen in a rock-paper-scissors duel.
If you like Asamiya's character designs, or harem shows, maybe you'll like Nadesico. Oh yeah, the harem thing. Akito is the ace pilot on the ship, he's young and easily embarrassed. So he gets chased by Yuriko and at least 4 other female crew members, although he's not attracted to any of them. A couple of the other characters on the ship have romantic relationships that go nowhere, and there's even a clause in their contracts saying "no relationships while you're a crew member of the ship". Doesn't stop the harem from chasing Akito, though. Anyway, I couldn't find anything about the full series that I liked. Maybe if it were just edited down into a 90 minute OAV it could have been better.
Next up, Captain Tylor.