Have you ever wondered where Gen Urobuchi got the idea to kill off Mami? You could argue that he came up with the idea himself, but go back 15 years before Puella Magi Madoka Magica aired and you’ll be surprised at what you find.
This is my first post in the “Remembering Love” project which Trzr23 has started. Every Sunday in May, bloggers are invited to write about older anime; the series’ that made them fall in love with the medium. More details can be found here.
It’s no secret that Martian Successor Nadesico (a sci-fi mecha space comedy harem action romance drama parody from 1996) is my all-time favourite anime. The anime is about the crew of a civilian space battleship called the Nadesico which is sent to Mars to rescue and salvage whatever they can from Jovian invaders. You can read the full plot summary on MAL. To help people understand why Nadesico has endured as my favourite for so long, I’m going to share some of the moments in the first half of the series which really stuck with me.
Mami’s death in PMMM was shocking, but I should have seen it coming, after all, it followed the exact same lines as Nadesico. It was obvious that Akito and Yurika were the two main characters of the series, but Gai Daigoji, a pilot on the Nadesico, stole the spotlight with his eccentric behaviour and piloting skills. I don’t think it’s an overstatement to say that Gai was the most popular character in Nadesico. After what seemed to be a major victory in episode 3, Gai was abruptly shot dead in the closing minutes.
My first reaction to Gai’s death was that of disbelief. How could they kill off the coolest character in the series without even a fight? Surely it was just a joke and they would bring him back in the next episode. He wasn’t brought back and the series spiraled from a cheery comedy to a depressing struggle full of internal conflict. Nadesico paved the way for the “episode 3 death” in anime and provided a guideline on how to make a light-hearted happy anime do a complete 180.
For a good chunk of the series, Captain Yurika Misumaru was portrayed as an air-headed bimbo that chased Akito around all day. Her role on the Nadesico was largely cosmetic. Ruri, the youngest crew member, even explained that since WWII, captains have only acted as figureheads since the actions of a single ship no longer affect the outcomes of wars. This was all thrown out the window in episode 6 when Yurika was put to the test.
The Nadesico was anchored above a Martian bunker sheltering the only surviving civilians on the planet when the enemy launches a surprise attack. It was too late to launch the Nadesico and lead the enemy fleet away so Yurika was faced with two options: activate the Nadesico’s distortion field (which is like a force field) which would collapse the shelter and kill everyone in it, or leave the Nadesico defenseless and protect the civilians. That was the first time she stained her hands with the blood of innocent people.
While Yurika made the logical choice (neither the Nadesico nor the shelter would’ve survived without the distortion field), it’s not always the moral one. I can’t think of many anime nowadays that put their characters through similar trials without miraculously coming to a happy end, which is why this scene still impresses me.
One of the unique things about Martian Successor Nadesico is that it doesn’t come up with wild technology that defies the laws of physics, or introduces magic. Everything within the series could be explained with existing (at least back in the 90’s) theories on space-time and quantum particles. Nadesico was actually what introduced me to bosons and helped me get through and understand quantum physics in high school. Explanations throughout the series, in the form of Dr. Inez’s science classes, are helpful in understanding some of the more complex aspects of Nadesico’s technology. Few anime take the time and effort to actually research where technology is going and gain an understanding of the laws of nature, which really makes me appreciate Nadesico so much more.
Next week I will cover the second half of the series and get into some details about my favourite character of all time: Ruri Hoshino.