Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water is a complicated series. Despite being a decently well-known Gainax work, it isn’t talked about on the same level of consistency and praise as works like Neon Genesis Evangelion and Gurren Lagann. Part of the reason is due to what happens roughly ⅔ into the series. Nadia, King, Jean, and Marie are detached from a now sinking submarine, and end up stranded on an island.
The 8 episodes spent on this island (rather, the 6 spent in it and the 2 spent on an adjacent island) along with 3 extra episodes that amount to little happening, have garnered much criticism for a variety of reasons. They include the eventual downgrade in animation quality, the character regressions and inconsistencies that pop up in this point of the series, and the amount of time wasted, among other reasons. Here, I hope to examine how I can retool this whole arc to make it more meaningful to the characters and the narrative at large while keeping some of its ideas intact.
The arc, including the 2-episode Africa arc that follows and the musical clip-show filler episode that follows even that, lasts 11 episodes. In this rewrite, I’m cutting it down to 5. Perhaps why all that was done was so that the show could reach the planned 39 episode count, but part of why this section of the show was so terrible is because it was dragged out for so long. These 5 episodes will rework and be based on some of the episodes of this arc, namely episodes 23, 24, 27, 28, 30, and 31. Episode 1 or R23 of this retooled arc will redo 23 while taking parts of 24, 2/R24 will redo 24, 3/R25 will redo 27 and 28, 4/R26 will remake 30, and finally, 5/R27 will tweak 31. Combined with the 5 episodes that follow this arc, this will make for a unique/awkward episode count of 32, but this is merely a hypothetical rewrite, without anything business-related to shut down the irregular episode count.
Episode R23 will begin with a less goofy and annoying version of the submarine portion of the original episode 23, focusing more on Nadia and Jean dealing with the bombshells and deaths from the previous episode, while Marie starts feeling helpless and even melancholic. They’ll arise, washed ashore on the island with none of the Looney Toons style antics that permeated the actual arc (which cannot work in this show given how the show was far more realistic than that -as realistic as a series involving pseudoscientific aliens that formed a hyper-technological underground society gets, anyway-. Then, we cut to Gargoyle’s memorial for Nemo from episode 24, as it makes perfect sense to be placed here, in an episode immediately following his supposed death. The gang continues to mourn his death and the death of everyone on the submarine, as they assume no one survived after what happened. They even reminisce over and mourn Grandis, Hanson, and Sanson, thinking they went down fighting.
Sometime later, they try to explore the island before finding out it’s deserted and then creating their own living quarters. The episode can get more hopeful as these two sequences go on, leaving us and the characters we’re witnessing with the feeling that despite the horrible tragedies that occurred recently, there’s always a new home for them and a future to look forward to. By the end after working with Jean, she begins more clearly noticing her feelings for him, like he did for her several episodes ago. This fixes the idea of having to resort to a ton of clip shows for the episode and has the humor and tone actually reflect the series. Obviously, with a different director, it probably will not have the same weight or charm as it would with Hideaki Anno on board (given that he left the production for the duration of the arc). However, showing this at least makes sure the episode isn’t a total slap in the face.
R24 could potentially play out in a number of different ways compared to any other episode I’m covering, as it’s really going to be a filler episode meant to allow the characters to take a break from all the pain, just be people regardless of the narrative, and have some hijinks while their relationship improves. It’s a similar utility to the more standalone episodes from earlier such as episode 17. Here, I will begin with Nadia having a dream sequence about her time in the circus, exactly like the one used in the actual episode. After that, I will concoct a different scheme than what the actual episode does. Here, after another argument between the two, Jean asks Nadia where she gets this unreasonable side and her stubbornness about animals from, to which she gives him a non-answer. They then propose a bet. Nadia will begin a diet of only the berries and vegetation she finds in the wilderness for a day while the others eat what they eat. They will see whose diet is more effective by the end of the next day. The former will use her skills as an earthly woman while Jean uses his science to aid him. Whoever loses has to give the other’s type of cuisine a try. Jean monologues in his head about the fact that he is perfectly aware that he can handle non-meaty meals, so it’s really only a way to get Nadia to be a bit more open-minded, assuming she isn’t a sore loser about the ordeal, which he admits she could very well be.
Cue montages and later, some rapport between Marie & Jean and Nadia & King. The former group wants Nadia to open up more and be more understanding, and Jean then says that this is part of the reason why he finds himself so scared of her sometimes, and why he’s deathly afraid of admitting her feelings, which Marie encourages him to do regardless. Meanwhile, Nadia talks with King about how those two are ignorant fools who couldn’t possibly understand anything. She then finds that now that there are no alternative ways to make up for nutrients she may have gained her strength as most of the non-meat meals that were once available are nowhere to be seen in this island, she can’t help but grow hungry. The berries aren’t enough. She begins crumbling under the pressure to beat Jean, telling herself this silly wager isn’t something worth sticking to her guns for, and races back to camp. She notices that she doesn’t feel quite right, and feels remorse about the possibility that Jean might be worried about her.
They meet, Nadia slowly feels her pride crumble before telling Jean that she admits defeat and that he was right. Marie gloats about Nadia’s punishment for losing, like the child she is, before Jean relents. He tells her that perhaps if she were to give him ingredients he could turn some of the vegetation into food for her, such as wheat to make bread, but that for now, she’ll have to make due with either the measly berries or the fish Jean prepared. Before he could finish, Nadia faints, and after rushing to her, the boy concludes that she must have eaten a berry she shouldn’t have. He gives her medical attention based on the encyclopedia since he was resourceful enough to gather some medicinal herbs and whatnot during their initial exploration (a detail that must be mentioned in R23). Marie tells Jean that she’ll do something while he does this, and after Nadia wakes up and Jean hugs her out of relief, Marie hands her something she made: a letter about the two of them and the time she spent with them, including drawings of the two (again, exactly like the one in the original 24). She takes special note about Marie calling Jean her husband and ponders it before continuing. Once she’s done, she begins crying as she hugs the both of them. She then tells them her story, specifically the one from the original episode about her upbringing. They finally understand why she feels the way she does so often about this issue. After this, the two pause, see each other’s faces, and kiss. Marie and King feel their hearts warming as they look on with happiness for those two. The camera rises to greet the moon: episode end.
R25 skips the original 25 and 26 almost entirely as they genuinely shouldn’t exist. I will create a scene similar to the start of 26 however, with Nadia acting more warmly to Jean than before and Jean feeling refreshed. Marie and King are ecstatic about this, noticing how there haven’t been any fights at breakfast. The two groups do their own thing for a little bit before nightfall rolls in. They notice a storm of sorts coming and Nadia believes it to be a typhoon as she clings on to Jean, hoping he’ll be able to do something. Jean tries to create something to reinforce the hut they’ve created, but eventually, it gives into the storm and everyone is soaking wet. They then notice a strange new island, and after they dry off a little and create something to sail there (as the little piece of submarine won’t do), we see their voyage as the two lovers hold hands and appreciate the moonlight and overall scenery.
Effectively, the encounter with Ayerton is the same, and so is his story about what turns out to be our lovable trio of Grandis, Hanson, and Sanson, who appear soon after. The groups greet each other with open arms, much to Ayerton’s confusion, and after some brief banter with each other about how good it is that they’re safe and that they haven’t seen anyone from the crew in days, Grandis asks Nadia what happened after the three were sent flying during the epic battle with Gargoyle. Nadia replies that Nemo and co. are dead, which disappoints Grandis whilst she solemnly remarks about not being the least bit surprised. Jean, Hanson, and Sanson have a heart-to-heart about the grief they felt about not knowing if anyone else was alive, how Grandis suffered heartbreak as a result, and then all of them talk about how each of them survived and ended up on their respective islands. Hanson then tells Jean they saw something suspicious about this island and that everyone should check it out tomorrow morning, saying that there was a metal floor for some reason. Everyone sets up camp and wishes each other goodnight. Jean and Nadia share a goodnight kiss, astonishing Grandis, Hanson, and Sanson before they comedically cry tears of joy for the young couple before Marie tells them they only started dating yesterday. Everyone finally heads to bed.
R26 plays out very similarly to episode 30 but the introduction is especially different. They all wake up and have breakfast, witnessing Jean and Nadia act naturally and kindly around each other. Jean asks Grandis if he could assist in making breakfast, as he learned how to cook after being stranded on an island. With slight hesitation, she agrees and we get to see a fun and upbeat montage of them cooking. Once everyone begins eating, Grandis, Hanson, and Sanson are all surprised by how the two aren’t fighting, with Marie telling them she felt that way too. They then begin working on patching up a hole in the Gratan’s balloon. They make it far but decide to take a break. With this in mind, Hanson gets everyone to come along so he can drive them to that one location he mentioned earlier. All those not already in the know notice how the floor is indeed metal, and immediately believe that something about this island is strange. Hanson tells them that this island might be related to the Neo Atlanteans, and demonstrates his point by finding a rock to throw. It hits a barrier, and he remarks that it’s similar to the kind Gargoyle had at that one base so many episodes ago. Nadia, curious about this, asks them to drive around, noticing that her Blue Water is responding to this. They drive around until they reach a point where they can enter, causing the thing to flash wildly. After entering, they reach a doorway they cannot reach, all except for Nadia. After losing her consciousness to the Blue Water, she phases through the doorway with her clothes phasing through her. This causes a gigantic blowback that sends everyone in the Gratan flying.
The rest of the episode is one giant scene with Nadia entering this control panel in this strange island, being greeted by Atlantean AI, and dealing with a wave of painful exposition (that actually lines up with episode 35 this time, or at least is told in a way in which what we actually learn in episode 35 is kept a secret from us. Either or, take your pick.) as she tries to argue with them about how cruel this all is and how she doesn’t want to have to deal with it. At the very end, we cut to the others reeling from what happened, saying that it’s a good thing Sanson used his skills with the Gratan’s moveset to keep them from crashing horribly and dying. Jean breaks down, yelling that he will save Nadia.
R27 begins with the remaining members sans Hanson working diligently on patching up the balloon on the Gratan while Hanson works on patching up the Gratan itself. It did sustain a beating, even with Sanson’s skilled piloting and maneuvering, after all. They banter about what they’re gonna try to do, and Jean tells them that he feels this place isn’t an island at all and that it is indeed a piece of machinery related to Atlantis that happened to get an island-like landmass on top of it. The others, impressed by his observation continue working before coming up with a plan. The island starts breaking apart, which forces them to begin moving as they continue planning. We cut to Nadia still talking with the AI from the previous episode, completely rejecting her destiny. The exchange between them in the original episode is exactly the same, while the crew drives to wherever the entrance was while the island slowly breaks apart as Jean makes accurate observations of the nature of this island’s destruction. The scene of Nadia being allowed to go to Africa is the same, and aside from the location and how Nadia notices everyone else at the end of it, the scene of her reuniting with Jean is the same. They all roll out on the Gratan before Sanson deploys the balloon, lifting them all upwards right before the ground collapses underneath them.
Gargoyle in his ship notices the landmass breaking apart and correctly assumes it’s Red Noah, as he then sees part of it for what it actually is. The scene of the crew noticing the Garfish is the same, except for the end where they also spot Gargoyle’s ship from a distance and increase speed in a panic. Gargoyle soon notices the Gratan and orders the Garfish to fire bullet and missile volleys at it. The episode becomes a frantic chase as they are forced to disengage the balloon and go into that one boat mode that was used once in episode 2. Eventually, Gargoyle gets tired and blasts them with his ship. It misses and the explosion sends the Gratan upwards. Once they believe they are high enough, Sanson deploys the balloon once more to gain high enough altitude to surpass Gargoyle’s ship. The Garfish fires a bit more and manages to hit the balloon, causing the group to spiral out of control and fly far far away, transitioning perfectly into the original episode 35, where they crashland in Africa.
So, what did this all change, aside from getting rid of the fluff and the bad gags? For one, it kept every character in the show intact. One of the things I hate most about this island arc is the level of character inconsistency present here, from a moment of Marie being malicious to King, to episode 29 butchering Hanson and Sanson, to moments where Nadia is inconsistent and horrible for either cheap gags or for convenience, in a way that makes no sense. It omitted the entirely worthless Africa and sing-along episodes. It actually committed to the relationship between Nadia and Jean instead of having some cock and bull tease. This actually changes nothing about what comes after, even the fact that these two are in a romantic relationship earlier than the epilogue of the finale, where they are already married. For two, it felt more in line with the rest of the show, balancing between fun and adventurous, and dark and depressing. The actual arc often failed to meet this balance for one reason or another depending on the episode. It also doesn’t spend too much time away from Gargoyle, since given that this arc lasts for months, it really cheapens the efficiency, threat, and presence of the Neo Atlanteans. The arc also makes more sense this time around. Nadia does have its problems with logic and how it handles its main plotline about the Neo Atlanteans after episode 19, especially in the final 5 episodes, but this portion of the show is the one I felt not only merited the most changes but made for fun writing that would have made an impact on the quality and reception of the show if this was what they were able to go with instead of whatever the hell that actual arc was.
fanart by: @jampsee on Twitter / @khong.phai.triet on Instagram