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Martian Successor Nadesico

Entry updated 13 November 2023. Tagged: TV.

Japanese animated TV series (1996). Xebec, Studio Tron, TV Tokyo. Directed by Tatsuo Sato. Written by Shō Aikawa, Takeshi Shudō, Hiroyuki Kawasaki. Cast includes Hōko Kuwashima and Yūji Ueda. 26 episodes of 25 minutes. Colour.

In the first throes of an alien Invasion of alleged lizard-Monsters from Jupiter, a rogue Starship captain defies the dithering military authorities and sets off to fight the menace. Her largely female crew is augmented by a diffident male cook who turns out to be the best pilot, and an Anime fan whose obsession with the forgotten Mecha show Gekiganger III turns out to be a pivotal plot point (see Recursive SF).

Nadesico is a light-hearted and mainly comedic reprise of dozens of Military SF tropes from the generic Hero's Journey [for Monomyth see The Encyclopedia of Fantasy under links below] of 1960s and 1970s anime, with reluctant pilots, dying mentors, reversals of enmity and upgrades in puissance that recall literally hundreds of other shows, themselves often conceived as adverts for toys. However, it wears such derivations boldly on its sleeve, often pointing directly to them in the form of the show-within-a-show Gekiganger III, tapes of which are consumed and criticized by the crew, and, as later revealed, worshipped with fanatical religious fervour by their enemies. In its girl-heavy cast outnumbering a hapless point-of-view character, it also demonstrates an understanding of more recent trends in "harem" anime favoring the male gaze of the romantic singleton (see Women in SF). Nadesico Prince of Darkness (1998 Japan; vt Martian Successor Nadesico: The Motion Picture US) was a feature-length sequel revisiting the surviving cast two years on.

The title is a calque typical of the "A-Bomb" style of modern Japanese genre orthography (see Hisashi Kuroma) – an "English" name used in Japan, that is not a strict translation of the Japanese original. Its Japanese name is written Kidō Senkan Nadeshiko ["Mobile Battleship Dianthus Superbus"], deliberately designed to recall the titles of Mobile Suit Gundam (1979-1980) and Uchū Senkan Yamato ["Space Cruiser Yamato"]. The term "Yamato Nadeshiko" is a common poetic image for the flower of Japanese womanhood, suggesting that Nadesico is intended as a response to the 1970s sf boom of which Yamato was a part. While this may be true, it is a "response" with little to say beyond a celebration of Fandom itself, and largely repeats concepts already seen in Top o Nerae (1988). Its Seiun Award was born more out of a sense of embarrassment in Japanese sf that voters had ignored anime for much of the decade, and hence failed to acknowledge the massive impact of Shinseiki Evangelion (1995-1996) while they were still doling out plaudits to rubber-Monster Movies. In hindsight, it seems little different from dozens of other Mecha shows, a sense not helped in the English-language by a shrill American dub. However, it remains a milestone in Japan's sense of Postmodernism and SF, with its depiction of an sf show about an sf show, which both unites and divides the combatants in a future conflict. [JonC]


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