Combining elements of Jules Verne's 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea with Hayao Miyazaki's Castle In The Sky, this 39-part TV anime series has proven to be a popular favorite with millions of fans since its initial 1990-1991 broadcast in Japan. In particular, Nadia, one of the most interesting (and occasionally annoying) characters ever to be realized, has shown up on the Japanese Animage polls as favorite anime heroine, dethroning Miyazaki's Nausicaa. Despite having an impressive fan base, Nadia: The Secret Of Blue Water has had little exposure to U.S. audiences, but ADV Films has recently released all 39-episodes (plus the infamous, ill-fated theatrical version) to introduce this charming, involving, and sometimes traumatic fan favorite to budding Anime fans.
Composer/arranger Shiro Sagisu, probably best known to this reviewer as the arranger for some of the tracks on Final Fantasy VI: Grand Finale, was chosen as the musical director for Nadia: The Secret Of Blue Water, and would later go on to score Gainax's later series, including the ever popular Neon Genesis Evangelion and His And Her Circumstances. His score for Nadia is eclectic in both style and orchestration; the songs range stylistically from baroque to classical to contemporary to New Age to Jazz while the instrumentation is variably orchestral, with some gritty electric guitars occasionally mixing in with the symphonic strings and synthesizers. It is easy for one to notice the mood of the music and recognize the instruments that pop in.
Upon initial listening, one must keep in mind that this is a score that may or may not suit everyone's tastes. Despite a rich amount of themes, and an enormous amount of great tracks, the soundtrack sometimes feels bland. Upon remembering Sagisu's occasionally lackluster arrangements for Final Fantasy VI: Grand Finale, and recognizing some of the same "blandness" in Neon Genesis Evangelion, it may be best to say that this is an unfortunate characteristic of Sagisu's scores. Honestly, it took me a long time to warm up to this score. When I listened to the music in the first four episodes, I wasn't so impressed; it sounded a little too upbeat and childish for its own good, with some tracks that threatened to come off as cheesy or irritating. However, as the show progresses (and occasionally goes downhill, particularly in the mediocre studio-imposed "Island Episodes" and especially the two horrid "Africa Episodes"), the music slowly gets better, and holds one's interest, particularly when we are taken into the ruins of Atlantis. The latter tracks provide for some dark, moody music while keeping its sporadic share of lightheartedness. To describe the music would require an enormous essay-style page, but it should be said that in spite of its occasional oddities, the score for Nadia, although not a great score, compliments the show perfectly.
Each of the characters are given recognizable (and memorable) themes. The theme for Nadia herself is suitably gloomy, melancholy, and lonesome, appearing in different renditions to personify her inner misery and strong misgivings about killing and animal rights. By contrast, the theme for Jean, Nadia's friend and sweetheart-to-be, is not always distinguishable, but is appropriately lighthearted, bouncy, and enthusiastic, which fluently captures the bright young inventor with a heart of gold. An adorable, cute piano sonata is employed for inquisitive four-year-old Marie and Nadia's pet lion cub, King, which perfectly mirrors the comedy the duo provide in the show. A similarly comic theme is given to Grandis, Sanson, and Hanson (or, if you will, the Grandis Gang), a sneaky piece of jazz which may make one wince upon initial listening. But it's hard to imagine this awesome comic trio without this tune. The theme for the show's villain, Gargoyle, is probably an unusual type of motif: it sounds almost like it could come from Bach, but it's appropriately sinister and conveys Gargoyle's aristocratic appearance and malicious personality well. Captain Nemo has a foreboding organ solo which unfortunately pops up once in the show, but it is hypnotic to keep one mesmerized, and powerful enough to evoke the deepest of emotions. His First Officer, Electra, is equipped with a cheesy yet memorable motif for her initial appearances, but later on adopts a darker, tormented bolero for the scenes where we see her tragedy unfold. If anything, the score for Nadia is saved from altogether mediocrity because of its heavy reliance on themes.
There are also a great number of tracks that will stick out in one's mind, including the moody, haunting "Requiem", the powerful "Nadia's Awakening", and the unforgettable "Blue Water" motif hinted at various times in the score. This motif is actually the show's wonderful opening song sung by Miho Morikawa, but it is cleverly arranged within the score for consistent results. This works effectively in the mellow "Hope" and the action-packed "Jean II".
Like Nadia herself and the series, the music ranges from detestable to rich and wonderful, but it shared another characteristic similar to that of the show and the title character. It proved popular enough to spawn several album releases, from soundtrack albums to vocal collections to inspired albums. Four of these countless CDs were what you can call "collector's material", in that they included all of the music from the show, plus outtakes, alternate versions, and bonus tracks. Entitled Music In Blue Water, the four CDs have recently been rereleased as part of the Eternal Nadia album series. This series was a three double-disc album collection released monthly. One of the albums consisted of the vocal tracks while the remaining two contained the music found in Music In Blue Water.
This CD is the first of the Eternal Nadia series, and my, what a complete and extensive release it is! Included in the album is, as mentioned, all the music from the show, alternate versions (slower or faster or less orchestrated) of some tracks, and pieces of music that were omitted at the last minute. In addition, the CD contains a chart explaining each track and which episode(s) the tracks were used in. If anything, this album is decidedly collector's material for fans of the show and/or the music.
I wouldn't recommend this CD set to a newcomer, as it is rather extensive, and there are some tracks that are barely tolerable, but if you are a fan of Nadia and are looking for the music to the show, then this set is a decent place to start.