Martian Successor Nadesico Vol. 1

Sometimes, shows just come out of the shadows and heartily surprise you. For example, one of the new hits on American TV is Ed, an hour-long drama/comedy about a guy who goes back home to find his dream girl after his perfect life and marriage fall apart. It's unusual to find an hour-long show that is so funny, yet it combines a nice blend of drama, humor, and unpredictability to really affect the viewer. It's not completely unique, but its blend is what matters, and it's perfect--I go back for more every week. Although Nadesico belongs to an entirely different genre--somehow, mecha shows seem about as far removed as you can get from most US television programming--it succeeds on very much the same blend of genres. Although Nadesico isn't exactly covering unique ground, it covers its territory very well, blending hilarious moments into a show that can't be simply categorized as a drama, comedy, romance, or action series. Within the first four episodes that I watched, I found that I simply could not predict what would happen, despite the mecha roots that ground the show. Although some elements might have you writing this off as a spoof, it never truly sinks to that level. This one is a keeper if it keeps this up.

Nadesico is a spaceship that might just be able to save Earth from the Jovians, an alien race that has already taken residence of Mars and has eyes on the blue planet. But Nadesico is more than a simple ship--it is what brings together a large cast of characters with their own unique personalities that make this show entertaining. Our main protagonist is Akito, a young man who barely escaped the destruction of the Mars colony and has no more aspirations than being a chef. However, a chance encounter with Nadesico's captain, Yurika, got him onboard not only as a cook but also as a temporary mech pilot (not that he was looking for that). As the show progresses, we learn more about what has made him an angry young man, and we also gain insight into the other kooks on board. There's Gai, an obsessive fan of an ancient mecha anime who wants to be a hero. There's Yurika, the perky captain who's been in love with Akito most of her life. There's also a wacky bridge crew, a bizarre set of pilots who showed up in the fourth episode, and more. Everybody in this show is just a little crazy, which makes for an interesting time. Will the Nadesico actually be able to repel the invaders? Will Akito ever find out who was responsible for his parents' death? And who's going to wind up with whom when all is said and done? If you're like me, you'll actually be interested in finding out these answers after watching the first volume.

From a basic perspective, Nadesico looks and sounds great. The animation is definitely high quality, the voice acting (at least in Japanese) is good, and the quality of the newly pressed DVD is superb. But going beyond character designs, look, and more of your superficial qualities, Nadesico has something I haven't seen much recently, and that is a reckless disregard for the rules of anime. It takes the typical mecha show conventions and turns them upside-down. The show makes fun of the standards seen in many giant robot shows while using them for its own purposes. Meanwhile, the show can also quickly turn dramatic...this is a war, and everybody's at risk. One minute, you're laughing yourself silly, and the next, you're touched by something different. I haven't had this much fun watching a show since The Irresponsible Captain Tylor, while at the same time there's much more depth than your standard Gundam series.

Of course, I cannot predict where this show will head from here, but I have ordered everything that's available based on the first set of episodes. It's a fine debut, and I strongly recommend this show to anyone who enjoys mecha shows. Even if you don't, you'll find the parodies of the genre funny, and you'll find the serious moments all the better for it.

Martian Successor Nadesico Vol. 1 -- violence, mild language -- A