Anime Spotlight: Martian Successor Nadesico

Martian Successor Nadesico is an anime series created by Kia Asamiya and produced by Xebec. The series was directed by Tatsuo Sato, and it aired on Japanese television from October 1, 1996-March 24, 1997. There was also a film, titled, Nadesico The Movie: The Prince of Darkness, which was released to Japanese theaters on August 8, 1998. From 2000-2009, ADV Films held the North American license for the franchise. As of this writing, Nozomi Entertainment holds the North American license.

The series takes place in 2196, a year after a race of aliens known as the Jovian Lizards attacked Earth’s colonies on Mars. Earth is now at war with the aliens, and a company called Nergal designs a battleship known as the ND-001 Nadesico.

The main protagonist of the series is Akito Tenkawa, a young man who had once resided in Mars’ Utopia colony and escaped its destruction. When he escaped, he awakened on Earth with no memory of how he got there; however, he has a fear of the Jovian Lizards. He doesn’t want to fight and dreams of becoming a chef. After a chance encounter with his childhood friend, Yurika Misumaru, he ends up on the Nadesico. Yurika is the ship’s captain. After coming on board, Akito is constantly asked to act as a pilot for an Aestivalis, which is a humanoid combat robot.

While on board the Nadesico, Akito meets Gai Daigoji, who is a rabid otaku of an anime series called Gekigangar III. While Akito was also a fan of the series, he becomes very devoted to it over the course of Martian Successor Nadesico. And Akito also finds that he’s become popular with some of the females on board. Not only does Yurika have a crush on him, but so does communications officer Megumi Reinard and pilot Ryoko Subaru.

There are quite a few characters among the crew of the Nadesico, and they all add something important to the mix. Ruri Hoshino is the youngest member of the crew and is responsible for keeping the ship’s computer running. There’s also first officer Jun Aoi, helmswoman Minato Haruka, Mr. Prospector the accountant, mechanic Seiya Uribatake, head chef Howmei, and pilots Izumi Maki and Hikaru Amano. As the series progresses, other characters are added to the mix.

But even with all these characters, the primary focus falls onto Akito. The series follows him as he changes from the frightened young man who’s forced to pilot a mecha and fight the enemy to someone who’s more decisive and realizes what it is that he needs to do. As part of this development, he meets and interacts with other characters who are introduced during the series. A couple of them even hold a key to the mystery of how Akito managed to escape from Mars. But the biggest shock, not just for Akito, but all the crew, is the truth behind who the Jovian Lizards are. The Gekigangar III anime series that Akito is always seen watching also plays an important role in the series as well.

Martian Successor Nadesico has a mix of comedy and drama, but the mixture works well for the story that’s being told in the series. While the characters either fall into character types or may be exaggerated at times, I still came to like them and to care about them. Ruri was one of my favorite characters, and I never got tired of her constantly referring to the rest of the crew as “fools.”

As I watched Martian Successor Nadesico, I found myself recognizing references from some earlier mecha and space opera anime series. I was primarily finding references to Space Battleship Yamato and Super Dimension Fortress Macross, and I believe I even found a couple of references to Neon Genesis Evangelion and Mobile Suit Gundam in this series. When it comes to the Gekigangar III footage that’s seen throughout the series, there are definite references to Super Robot shows, such as Getter Robo, Beast King GoLion, and Armored Fleet Dairugger XV. A couple of the names of the characters in Gekigangar III are the same as a couple of protagonists in Gatchaman, so I wonder if those are supposed to be references as well. As someone who’s familiar with many of the titles that are being referenced, they added a lot to what I was seeing. For viewers watching this who may not know the references, they will probably still find some of these scenes to be humorous even without understanding that something is being referenced.

I also liked the idea of how Gekigangar III was an “anime within an anime,” and how it wasn’t just there to simply be in the background. It plays an important role in the story, to the point that an OVA was released for Gekigangar III. While the OVA itself may not have been terribly impressive, I think it was an awesome idea to release it.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t as impressed with the Nadesico movie. The film is a direct sequel to a videogame titled, Nadesico: The Blank of Three Years. The film was written in a way where it was assumed that the viewer had played the videogame, so nothing is explained to the viewer as to what happened between the end of the television series and the beginning of the film. Since I’ve never had exposure to the videogame, I found myself feeling very lost during the early part of the film. In addition to the confusion at the beginning of the movie, I have to say that another major flaw the film has is the fact that it seems to be too short in runtime for what was trying to be accomplished. A little over half the film is spent building up the story, and then during the last 20 minutes or so, the story is rushed through to its conclusion. For me, the movie was not a satisfying viewing experience, and I prefer the television anime series over it. To be honest, I think the story for the movie was big enough that it probably should have been a second television season, except maybe with 12-13 episodes instead of 26. There’s an interesting story being presented, but the film doesn’t do it any justice.

Even though I didn’t enjoy the Nadesico movie as much as I had hoped, I still thought the television series was fantastic. I would highly recommend Martian Successor Nadesico to anime viewers who enjoy mecha anime and/or space opera anime and can appreciate a series that mixes drama, humor, and references to other anime.

Additional post about Martian Successor Nadesico:

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