Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Mechanime: Martian Successor Nadesico

Martian Successor Nadesico
There are girls, there are robots, but there are not robot girls. What's up with that?

Original Run: 1996-1997
Number of Episodes: 26
Average Episode Length: 22 minutes
Subgenres: Parody, Harem
Dub?: Yes

Welcome back to Mechanime! As per usual, this is a review of the first few episodes, not the whole thing. Without further delay, lets talk about Martian Successor Nadesico, an anime for anime lovers.


The title to Nadesico’s opening is “You Get to Burning.” Yes, really. Engrish aside, the song itself is pretty good. It combines some pop elements with Latin-esque instrumentations for something truly infectious and energetic. The song has seriously grown on me, and while I feel that the whole song is better than the part used for the opening, its still very good.

A group of loonies are our best hope against the Jovians. I'm totally serious.
The year is 2196, and Earth is fighting a losing war against the Jovian Lizards. The Jovians advance quickly, taking control of Mars and the Moon. Nergal Heavy Industries, a private defence company, plan to counter the Jovians with the Nadesico: a high mobility battleship armed manned by a civilian crew. Each of the crew is an expert in their field, despite their personality disorders (no, really, they’re all insane). While they meet some resistance from the United Earth Air Force, who believe such a mission will provoke further aggression from the Jovians, the Nadesico soon takes off, and our lovable group of weirdos set out to liberate Mars.

Robot math: Mazinger + Getter Robo + Robot Romance trilogy = the best damn robot parody ever.

It is also worth mentioning that MSN features a show within a show. This show, Gekiganger 3, is a parody of many 70s super robot shows. As the plot develops, we see more of the anime and more references are made to the show.

The story of MSN is not a very complex one, but it is an effective one. The set up is pretty good for a parody show and it does have some unexpected twists. This isn’t a straight up comedy show, however, as the show also has a fair number of dramatic moments. While the drama and more serious stuff isn’t terrible, it's usually weaker than the comedy, and sometimes I found myself wading through the drama instead of enjoying it. Really, the main draw of Nadesico is not the story but its character and humor.

This is only a few of them. First row: Megumi ,Minato and Gai. Second row: Ruri, Yurika, and Jun. Front: Akito. 

Get a piece of paper ready, cause this show is stuff to the brim with crazy characters. Ready? Okay. *inhales*

We have Akito, the hapless leading man who only fights because he has to. There’s Yurika, the captain of the Nadesico and the self proclaimed love interest of Akito. Also aboard the ship is Megumi, the communications officer, Minato, the helmswoman, Ruri, a stoic child prodigy who operates the ship’s computer, Gai, a hotblooded pilot and rabid Gekiganger otaku, and Seiya, the neurotic mechanic. Joining the crew later would be Ryoko, a fiery tomboy pilot, Hikaru, a pilot and all around anime nut, Izumi, a pilot and incurable punster, and Jun, Yurika’s best friend and the ship’s prime resident in the friendzone.

The entire cast. Good grief.

Yeah, this show has tons of characters. It got to the point where I had to keep a sheet of paper on hand just so I could keep track of everybody. But while the cast is massive, its also very solid. Most of the cast members are entertaining to watch, and Akito is even kinda relatable. Each character gets several funny lines in, and they often bounce off each other in amusing ways. There are a few annoying characters (Hikaru intentionally, Yurika unintentionally), but otherwise the characters are a great collection of nutcases. Be warned though: this show is not afraid to kill off characters.

Nope! Is that a problem?

One of the greatest aspects of MSN is the writing. The writing is incredibly self aware, filled with lines like “Does anyone know where this plot is headed?” and with constant breaking of the fourth wall (including one ship member advertising the benefits of joining the Nadesico), this show features some great comedy. Here’s one of my favorite scenes to demonstrate my love for this show’s comedy. In this, Akito has flown out to assist the other pilots...and promptly runs out of energy.

Izumi: Um, did you know that if there’s a barrier between you and the Nadesico, your power supply will be cut off?
Hikaru: That’s the first thing in the basic manual!
Akito: Well, okay, so what do we do now?
Ryoko: We draw back and PUNT! *promptly kicks Akito’s mech into open space*
Akito: AUGH~! *his mech’s computer comes back online* Hey, it worked!

I would say, "notice me, senpai," but that's his girlfriend, so...

Of course, for all its great comedy, the writing does have its issues, and its mainly in the form of its romance. Akito is the object of affection of many of the Nadesico’s female members, which of course leads to talk about love and who has the privilege to be called Akito’s waifu. Rather than being funny or romantic, it feels much more cringeworthy, and I found myself groaning at the behavior of some of the girls.

While comedy trumps most of the show’s other aspects, it at least tries to develop its main characters and add drama, and more often than not it pays off. This is a competently written anime, make no mistake.

I don’t have much to say about MSN’s animation. Overall, its very solid: there are very few noticeable hiccups and its fairly consistent. The animation flows well and its self aware enough to be pretty amusing. But honestly, the animation doesn’t really stand out from many other 90s anime. Not saying it's terrible, just ...meh.

By the power of parody-skull!
However, I really have to praise the animation of Gekiganger 3. It absolutely nails the style of of 70s super robot animation: its choppy, its sketchy, and it moves as little as it possibly can. As a parody of the super robot genre, it hits all the notes. If anything, G3’s animation is the true star in terms of animation.

Mecha and Fight Scenes
An Aestivalis 0G frame, meant for space combat.
There are two variety of mecha in this show: the Aestivalis, which are piloted by the Earthlings, and the Jovian mechs, which resemble insects. The Aestivalis themselves are pretty neat, with a slick looking design and great battle abilities. Probably their biggest draw is their interchangeable cockpits, which can fit into specialized frames (one for land combat, one for space combat, etc). This is a neat mechanic, and it gives the Aestivalis an element of uniqueness.

Jovian fighters engaging Earth forces.
Now this show doesn’t have fight scenes: it has battles. Given that this anime takes place during a war, it would make sense that the Aestivalis engage entire fleets of Jovian ships. The battles are filled with explosions and enemy ships dropping like flies, which, while entertaining, made me aware of how powerful the character’s plot armor was. Nonetheless, the battles are pretty good, though they do take a bit of a backseat to the characters and humor.

Sub or Dub?
Either one is fine. The dub isn’t fantastic, but it will grow on you, and it is pretty well localized. The sub is a bit more passionate, but most subbed versions I came across had problem syncing the dialogue and subtitles. However, the dub has one leg up over the subbed version: Gekiganger 3. The dub has the G3 characters screaming their lines in an over dramatic fashion, and its definitely “so bad its good,” which goes with the spirit of 70s super robots.

MSA is an anime for people who like anime. Its self conscious writing, constant fourth wall breaking, genre jokes, and (largely) endearing cast is all the better if you have knowledge of the medium. It may be bogged down by groan-inducing romance, it is a fun experience. Expect follow-up reviews for this one.

7/10 - Good

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