Nadia and the mystery of the blue stone: the story of an animation cult

Nadia and the mystery of the blue stone: the story of an animation cult

Nadia and the mystery of the blue stone

What binds a penniless young inventor and a fascinating and mysterious circus performer? Anime fans with a few years on their shoulders will already have the answer ready, ready to tell about one of the most loved and celebrated animated series of the 90s: Nadia and the mystery of the blue stone. A true cult of Japanese animation of the period, Fushigi no umi no Nadia is an animated series that left an indelible trace in the collective imagination of the period. Easy, on the other hand, thinking that behind this exciting project there are the names of some of the great names in Japanese animation. A flourishing era for souls, the 90s, which by now had also established themselves in our country, a familiarity that contributed not a little to the warm welcome which Nadia benefited from and the mystery of the blue stone.

The setting historical was one of the most iconic features of the anime, stemming from the desire to pay homage to one of the noble fathers of modern science fiction: Jules Verne. The French writer has always been considered the innovator of adventure fiction, capable of combining a strong imagination with a passion for the great achievements of human ingenuity at the end of the 19th century. On the other hand, Verne's rich literary production is a universe of possibilities that cannot leave you indifferent, and one of the masters of Japanese animation was also a victim of this fascination: Hayao Miyazak i.

The genesis of Nadia and the mystery of the blue stone

Master Miyazaki was the artist to whom, at the end of the 70s, Toho, a Japanese production company, turned to famous for being the birthplace of Godzilla, intent on making new television series. Impressed by the adventurous spirit of Verne's productions, Miyazaki initially thought of making an animated adaptation of Around the World in Eighty Days, but this concept soon expanded to involve the entire literary corpus of the French novelist. Inspired by Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea and The Mysterious Island, the figure of Captain Nemo was introduced, who would welcome two young men on the run to embark on an incredible journey around the world with them.

Unfortunately, the ideas of the maestro did not find space at Toho. Convinced of his vision, however, Miyazaki used some of his insights as narrative elements of other ideas of him, realized with his Studio Ghibli, such as Laputa - The Castle in the sky and Conan the boy of the future. However, the imprinting given to this apparently unfortunate project was by now ingrained, it was only a matter of waiting a decade, before someone at Toho would revive this idea.

In 1989, in fact, the production company decided to hire Studio Gainax to give life to this animated adventure. Initially entrusted to the founder of Gainax, Hiroaki Inoue, the as yet unnamed project took life from Miazaki's ideas, evolving into a more complex and rich story. Perhaps excessively, given that when Inoue presented her vision, accompanied by sketches and artbooks, the estimated costs were so high that they pushed her to be fired, making it necessary to involve another name dear to anime fans: Hideaki Anno.

A name now mainly known for Evangelion, Anno was back from the success of Gunbuster at the time, but had already begun to conceive the idea that would lead to the creation of his famous anime based on robots and problematic teenagers. It is no coincidence, in fact, that some of the roots of Nadia's plot and the mystery of the blue stone, such as some biblical concepts or the concept of proto-humanity, are also present in Evangelion, so much so that the idea of ​​Anno was of create clear links between the two animated series through Neo-Atlantis, but to block everything was the question of Nadia's rights and the mystery of the blue stone, firmly in the hands of NHK. Unfortunately, that didn't materialize, leaving it to the more attentive fans of Anno's work to trace these connections, which are mostly narrative in nature. Although, almost like an inside joke, it was hypothesized that the protagonist of Evangelion, Shinji, was the male version of Nadia, a hypothesis also confirmed by the character design of the two souls, Yoshiyuki Sadamoto, who made fun of this similarity with a famous sketch.

In the first phase of production, Anno and his team also had to face some small technical difficulties, which led to change the initial appearance of the protagonist, Nadia. Initially conceived with distinctly African somatic features and with a thick curly hair, the young woman was finally brought to her current state after the difficulty in maintaining a high quality level of her curls was detected. The quality of Nadia's animation and the mystery of the blue stone, in fact, is one of the strengths of this production, which since the first episode, which aired in Japan on 13 April 1990, made clear an obsessive care especially in the realization of mechanical equipment and scenarios.

Episodes to forget and alternative endings

So much so that when, to give the series more breath, a block of filler episodes was entrusted to another studio led, gave birth to what fans still remember today as the disastrous island cycle. After deciding to extend the series by nine episodes, bringing it to 39 episodes, NHK had noticed that Anno was now exhausted, a problem that was solved by entrusting others with the task of creating filler episodes.

How she explained Toshio Okada, a member of Gainax, the lesser evil was chosen, that is, a significantly lower quality level for a handful of episodes, rather than a drastic drop across the entire production. Surely, we would never have expected this choice to end up in parliament, when the Japanese Communist Party took this debacle of the series as a starting point to criticize the use of foreign companies that undermined one of the great Japanese cultural values ​​with low-value jobs. .

As a consequence of this poor quality of the island cycle, Anno did not hide that if he could he would have removed those episodes. An intention that then took the form of the version renamed The Nautilus Story, in which the overall length of the series dropped to five hours, thanks to the cut of the incriminated episodes.

Net of this small hiccup, the The series was nevertheless a success, even if the shape we know today is the result of a reworking of Anno's ideas. In the first draft of the final, in fact, it was expected that Nadia would become a reporter for the New York Times, and that she and Jean would be portrayed by now aged under the Eiffel Tower in 1945, while learning the news of the release of the first atomic bomb. These ideas were then taken up by Nadia and the mystery of Fuzzy, an animated film set three years after the conclusion of the series, made without the support of Anno, too tried by the realization of Nadia and the mystery of the blue stone, and by another studio, Group TAC, which recycled much of the animations from the animated series.

Why didn't Gainax take care of it? Simple: the study was reduced to misery. The realization of the series, in fact, had cost an exorbitant amount that was not recovered, considering that the studio could not boast any rights and the only revenues were those of the video game made by the series. Insufficient however, as was the millionaire advance for the making of the film inspired by the series, later made by Group Tac. Only the release of Evangelion allowed Gainax to stay alive.

Inspirations and influences

The original title of Nadia and the mystery of the blue stone, Fushigi no uno no Nadia is inspired by Japanese version of Alice in Wonderland, or Fuishigi no uni no Alice, a choice made to prepare the spectators of the Sun Levant in the right mood to better enjoy the production. Foreign enthusiasts were less fortunate, who enjoyed less evocative titles, since in English it became The Secret of Blue Water, which in Italy became The mystery of the blue stone.

Nadia and the mystery of the blue stone is based on Verne's narrative, and this detail is fundamental to understanding some of the themes of the series. The French writer produced much of his work in the first part of his life, a time when human conquests still had great charm and infinite potential for Verne, a vision that, due to dark events in the second half of his existence, changed radically.

To embody this dualism of Verne are Jean and Nadia. The first, enthusiastic and brilliant inventor, is the first Verne, capable of experiencing the advancement of technology with genuine optimism, seeing only the good. It is up to the young woman, however, to give voice to the mature and disillusioned Verne, who hardly sees in this empire of the mechanic a positive aspect of the future of humanity. Hence the contrast between progress and nature, which is accompanied by Nadia's disillusionment in understanding how Jean's inventions are still necessary. To this, however, also corresponds an awareness of the young genius, who in learning the history of Atlantis understands the danger of a reckless use of science. An ambivalent narrative, never deliberately defined, but which is developed with an attempted objectivity, showing the limits of both approaches and leaving the viewer the possibility of forming his own idea.

But the duality in Nadia and the mystery of the blue stone also goes to other aspects, such as the man / child or god / man relationship, which find perfect incarnations in characters like Gargoyle and Nemo. As for Nemo, conceptually inspired by Prince Dakkar of Verne, his physiognomy is inspired by Matsumoto's Harlock, just as his Nautilus contains elements that recall two symbolic spaceships of Matsumoto's production, the Yamato and the Arcadia of the space pirate .

The cultural impact of Nadia and the mystery of the blue stone was such that even unsuspected works pay pawns to this animated series. Just mention the Nadion particles (or nadioni), whose interaction with special crystals, called fushigi-no-umi, powers the phasers supplied to the officers of Star Trek: The Next Generation, a small tribute created by the historic trekkie designer Michael Okuda , fan of the animated series of Anno. Curious, considering that on Captain Nemo's hat appears a symbol reminiscent of the federal alpha typical of Starfleet in the period of Star Trek: The Next Generation, released a few years before Nadia's and the mystery of the blue stone. >
The influence exerted by Nadia and the mystery of the blue stone on Atlantis - The Lost Empire, a Disney film released in 2001, is decidedly more controversial. Despite the fact that the entertainment giant has always denied plagiarism, seeing it in the common genesis linked to the production of Verne the origin of this similarity, it is difficult not to recognize in the Disney film a certain adherence to the stylistic and visual choices seen in Nadia and the mystery of the blue stone. Ironically, the Disney artists have cited as a defense that they were more inspired by the works of Miyazaki, who after starting the genesis of the series, had reused some of the discarded ideas for his proposal to Toho in his subsequent productions.

How to see Nadia and the mystery of the blue stone

In Italy, Nadia and the mystery of the blue stone was broadcast for the first time, in a censored version, by the then Fininvest in 1991, while only in 2003 did Yamato Video create a version without cuts and with greater respect than the Japanese original.

Today we can see Nadia and the mystery of the blue stone comfortably on Amazon Prime Video, in a remastered version in high definition and uncensored.

To see all the Amazon Prime Video content just one click and you can try the service for free for 30 days!

Or take advantage of the recent announcement of a new programming on Italia 2, find all the details in our article.

Whatever the way we will return to live this cult of animation, it will be hard not to feel the familiar thrill of the promise of great adventures when we hear the opening words of the first episode:

“Are you an adventurous spirit? In legends, are you looking for the truth that dwells, remote and hidden, beyond the terrible cascades of danger? Then it is me you will seek "

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