Saturday, January 12, 2013

Anime Review No. 47-Martian Successor Nadesico Movie

"See what you can do to explain this shit to me"
Martian Successor Nadesico The Motion Picture (The Prince of Darkness)
Written and directed by Tatsuo Sato
Studio(s): Xebec and Production IG
Genre: mecha, scifi, space opera, satire

So, it has been a while. Between dealing with a dead laptop and getting ready for the last term of tech school, I've been quite busy. Then again, I still intend on sticking to my review blog schedule as much as possible. So, onto the subject of this review.

Martian Successor Nadesico (or Nadesico for short) is space opera TV series from 1996-97. If Evangelion is considered the turning point for mecha anime, then Nadesico can be considered the turning point for space opera anime. Previous entries in this genre were shows like Macross or Gundam, rich in action and high flung drama. While Nadesico does have these elements at first, it swiftly becomes a tale of intrigue, political/social satire, among other things. In fact, Nadesico is a far better show then Evangelion, including relatable/likable characters, coherent plot and motivation, etc., which are woefully absent in Eva I dare say.

Unfortunately, this series fell pretty quickly from the awareness of most anime fans, except for 90s anime geeks like yours truly. This is partly due to the fact that it is a unfinished series. The first and only season ends on an episode where most but not all of the plot points are resolved, leaving one hanging. It felt like a season finale, but not a series finale is what I'm getting. Instead, we get this movie. Oh yeah, spoilers ahoy.

The opening credits with company logos are similar to those from End of Eva, a film that came out a year previous. This is not a good sign, as most anime fans worth their salt will tell you. First thing in the movie I notice is that wow, this is like the TV series if it had a fecking budget (for 1998 though). It has some quite impressive visuals, even some very nice CGI for the time. What follows is a series of scenes that don't make a lot of sense unless you have watched the TV series so I won't bother mentioning.

First part of the movie feels like the TV series, well the later episodes when it got dark and serious. Some rebellion is going on at a space colony out in space , and the Nadesico is sent out to deal with it, with Ruri Hoshino as commander with two new guys under her command, Saruboto and Hari (who like Ruri is an re-engineered person able to communicate with spaceships). Now, I'll admit like Ruri from the TV series. She's one of the more interesting secondary characters, with episode 18 involving her backstory being one of my favorites. Anyway, Ruri Hoshino is now 15, so this movie takes place 3 years after the events of the TV series. Though, something seems off with her. She comes across, in terms of actions and dialogue, as more cold and distant than she was in the TV series, much less in the later part.

There is some exposition on boson jumping which is only for people who haven't the TV series. To be fair that might be part of the point, to grab the attention of audience members who hadn't yet seen the TV series. Anyway, this becomes important as it is revealed that secret boson jumping experiments are taking place within the space colony. Of course, just as that happens, a mysterious message (OTIKA) starts popping up everywhere in message screens throughout the colony.
Of course this mysterious element is quickly and predictably revealed as AKITO backwards. Akito is the main character, a young reluctant man who rather cook than fight in a giant robot, however cool that may be. He's generally nice and calm guy, but when he gets angry or outraged (as he did often in the TV series), watch out.
But a battle develops at the space colony. Ryoko (one of the female mecha pilot for the Nadesico) makes her return (with her natural dark hair inside of green dye job she had in the series) kicks some ass which is really neat. In the middle of this, a mysterious figure in a dark bulky mecha with an equally mysterious girl ('Lapis') appears. But in a twist, it turns out the second in command for the space colony conducts a double-cross. He is revealed as the Leader of the 'Martian Successor' rebel group.

In another interesting plot development, the mysterious figure (revealed as Akito) wanted to open up a secret gate on the space colony, which reveals... The Martian Ruins aka The Black Box of Boson Jumping, something that came into play in the last few episodes of the TV series. The Black Box then unveils, in a rather visual scene rather like a blooming flower, Yurika trapped in some crystalline shell. I like this, as finally there's a point to this movie

Then it comes to a different sort of movie: a nostalgic road trip. They are going to the new Nadesico C and need some of the old crew. Characters like the Prospector, Hikaru (a struggling mangaka), Izumi (bar hostess), Ms. Amano, Ms. Howmei (restaurant owner/chef), etc. This is interspersed with flashbacks to the TV series, which are nice but a bit pointless. Now, while it is nice to see these characters, I have to ask: What's the point? Hell when one of your characters (Hari) points how ridiculous this is, then you got an issue. So enough on that, because half of the characters don't really benefit or deter the plot. Moving on....
We cut back to the main action, as it seems Yurika is still sending out 'AKITO' messages and the MS rebels can't really figure out what. In order for boson jumping to occur, Yurika needs to be 'emotionally stable'. The scientists looking into this issue are getting inspiration... from shoujo magazines?! This is the breaking point in the movie for me. Oh my god that is so stupid and makes little to no feckin' sense!!!

Cut back to the nostalgic snooze fest, which is pointless anyway so moving on again....

The scientists are reading the shoujo mags. OMG it is still stupid!!! They think this will work? What you read in manga clearly and obviously does not reflect reality at all. Granted, Nadesico TV did have some silly moments, at least they made sense. And you know what, it fecking work, damn it!! ARGH!!!!!

Hari participates in a boson jumping experiment coordinated with the Nergal and Inez Fressange (whose not revealed unless you've the series) to the moon. I'm sure this will in no way lead to conclusion of the space colony battle. Wink, wink.

At last, we come to the graveyard scene where Ruri and Ms Amano see Akito, in full black garb, there praying at the supposed grave of him and Yurika. It is a very tense and dramatic scene, which is something this movie needed to have more of. However, before much happens, some assassins for the rebel group come by to capture both Akito and Ruri, for some vaguely explained reasons. But, Tsukomi (character from the series not explained) shows up to fight and after a brief struggle the assassins tap out and leave. There is a brief cut back to the crew going off via shuttle to the new Nadesico. There is also a flashback to the graveyard where there was an exchange between Ruri and Akito which is chilling to say the least, so I won't spoil it.

However, some rebel fighters attack the escort group with the shuttle that has the crew inside. Oh noes, dramatic third act tension! Meanwhile the multiple boson jumping experiment continues, with Inez Fressange (introduced after the fact) as convenient exposition dumper, telling the audience stuff already known before this point, though it is a nice little throwback to the TV series.

The MS stage an ambush on the UEF HQ and run into a concert by Akatsuki, Megumi, the Howmei girls, and the Prospector. This is an very odd but somewhat clever turn as stuff like this would happen in the series: Doing something light hearted in face of great danger, with lots of energy and enthusiam. But the UEF with assistance by Ruri and the Nadesico C completely turns the tables on the MS group and their plans. Using what, you ask? Why, with multiple boson jumping of course! Oh how lovely /sarc. The MS group rebels just surrender like that, well there goes the tension.

However, before we reach the end, there is one last battle between Akito/Lapis and the MS assassins. Akito beats the crap out of all of them, that's all.

The final scene is upon us: Yurika awakens, for who knows what reason. Honestly, I can't care enough. Akito departs, with word or anything, which is just great. Ruri makes some vague statements about pursuing him to the end of space, but since this was the last thing with Nadesico involved, that's a plot point left forever unresolved.

And that's the Nadesico Movie, how is it? Not bad but not good. I am still on the fence on this movie. On one hand, it has some very nice visuals which give it some epic feel to the proceedings. On the other hand, it is uneven in all other categories: characters, plot, comedy, etc. It feels like a mish-mash of good scripts thrown into a blender and then taped back together. Which is a shame as
there is a 'good story' here, but it is waded down by a lack of focus on it.

I would really only recommend this movie to people only if you watch the TV series at least once, that way you gain a proper understanding of what goes on with the movie.

Next review is over El Hazard The Magnificent World OVA 2 on January 26th.

See you then

The Eclectic Dude

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