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DVD Review

'Nadesico' Brings Home Its Nutty Anime Warfare

September 24, 2002|CHARLES SOLOMON | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

For sheer freewheeling insanity, only "Rocky and Bullwinkle" and "The Simpsons" rival the 1996 anime series "Martian Successor Nadesico." "Nadesico" was initially criticized in Japan for making fun of both anime and the fan subculture. But its good-natured silliness won over both critics and large audiences on both sides of the Pacific.

Although it was not a landmark in Japanese animation, as "Neon Genesis Evangelion" was, "Nadesico" holds a special place in the hearts of otaku (devotees of anime). Fans of both sexes turn up at anime conventions dressed as Ruri Hoshino, the sardonic science officer with the light blue ponytails.

The six-disc "Complete Chronicles" set (available today from A.D. Vision, $90) presents the entire 26-episode series in all its nuttiness.

The year is 2195, and Earth is at war with the Jovian Lizards, who have conquered the moon and Mars. Fed up with the ineffectual United Earth Space Force, the directors of Nergal Heavy Industries build their own super-battleship, the Nadesico.

To staff the ship, Nergal hires "top people who may have slight personality problems." In addition to Ruri (voiced by the single-named Kira), the crew includes lecherous mechanic Seiya Uribatake (John Swasey) and voice-actress-turned-communications officer Megumi Reinard (Jenni Strader), the former star of "Natural Princess Magical Lychee," a takeoff on "Sailor Moon."

Then there's Gai Daigoji (Brett Weaver), a fanatic admirer of "Gekiganger 3," a hilarious spoof of '60s and '70s giant robot shows ("Getter Robo," "Gigantor," et al.). Passion for the show spreads and at one point, to bolster morale, the crew holds a "Geki fest" that satirizes anime conventions, including participants in costume, marathon screenings and booths selling special merchandise.

The story reaches unparalleled heights of absurdity in Episode No. 14, "Let's Go With Hot-Blooded Anime," as the casts of "Nadesico" and "Gekiganger 3" watch each other's programs, borrowing ideas for weapons and grumbling about the plots. When "Gekiganger" pilot Akira complains that the day's episode of "Nadesico" is just a clip show that looks like an introductory program, half-pint Junpei replies, "Don't you know, they always do this in the middle of animated series, so new viewers will know what's happening!" Joe, another pilot, disagrees: "I'll bet the studio was running behind schedule and they needed a quick filler episode."

When they're not watching "Gekiganger 3," the crew of this spaceship of fools has to deal with some serious problems. The ship's computer, for example, has a psychotic episode and begins attacking enemy and allied ships with equal fervor. Then the crew unmasks the disinformation campaign waged by Nergal and the Earth government: The Jovian enemies aren't alien lizards but the descendants of exiled human freedom fighters.

As is often the case in anime, the ending of "Nadesico" leaves a number of plot points unresolved. Ruri suggests that some of these issues may be sorted out "in the inevitable sequel."

Although the three studios involved didn't produce a sequel, they made a feature ("Nadesico: Prince of Darkness," 1998) and a season of "Gekiganger 3"; negotiations are reportedly underway to release both in the U.S.

Who knew interplanetary warfare could be so much fun?

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