Nadia does the one thing right with steampunk that I see so often done wrong: the sense of wonder. Whenever I’ve seen steampunk during this whole recent steampunk boom, it seems like everything basically consists of taking something and adding one part exposed pipes and two parts air quotes. Obviously, you cannot simultaneously have wonder and ironic detachment. The both require two different emotional distances from the work.
The sense of wonder plays in nicely with the fact that this is supposed to be a kid’s show. Gee whiz, science and the world are amazing! This is so cool! Yes, the technologies like steam are somewhat primitive now and we can map the entire world with satellites down to the foot, but what they represent (the potential and ability to do things never even imagined before) is the key. Give kids the opportunity to let their imaginations and creativity run wild! The steampunk aesthetic also helps to make Yoshiyuki Sadamoto’s character designs more distinct, since they can look awfully similar. He’s not Hisashi Hirai bad, but more along the lines of how if you took away Electra’s costume, she is totally Ritsuko from Evangelion.
Ironically, Nadia doesn’t have a Gainax ending. There’s nothing mystifying or confusing at all about it. And I mean let’s face it: this is a kid’s show. That wouldn’t even belong here in the first place. It does, however have a really boring filler arc. Wikipedia says that the show was supposed to run for two cours, but was renewed for a third. Most of that third cours is weirdly out of place filler (it’s primarily comic hijinks), and the story quite obviously feels like it’s set up to only last for about 26 episodes.
While it doesn’t have a Gainax ending, it does totally have some Gainax being Gainax moments, like the omake, which range from Gunbuster-esque science lessons to lots of title cards. My favorite of these moments, of course, are the naval battles which totally all play out like this, complete with Akio Ohtsuka playing Captain Nemo. They even have the dude who gets stuck in the engine room when they seal it off from the rest of the ship!
PS: WOW is the movie bad.
PPS: I got in trouble every time I would yell “THE SECRET OF BLUE WATER” during the eyecatches.
Would I watch it even if I weren’t forced? I’ve been trying to watch at least some of every Gainax title. All that’s left now are Houno no Tenkousei and Puchi Puri Yucie.