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Nadesico: Prince of Darkness
A few years after the conclusion of the Jovian war, the crew of the Nadesico has returned to civilian life. The Earth and Jovians have joined together in a federation, and with Boson jump gate technology, mankind has started to colonize distant solar systems. Ruri continues to be employed by Nergal Heavy Industries, and is now the captain of the Nadesico-B. For a time Akito and Yurika were like family to her, but were killed in a shuttle accident two years ago.
Everything gets turned upside down however, when a group known as the Martian Successors spear heads an uprising. Their goal is to create a new order, starting by wiping away the old Earth-Jovian one. While on assignment, Ruri encounters a Boson jump artifact which appears to be linked to Yurika, and finds out that Akito is alive as well. Trying to juggle her duties, and her own desire to find the truth behind class-A Boson jumper disappearances is going to be tough. She might need the help of the old Nadesico crew to make it happen.
Martian Successor Nadesico had proved very popular in Japan, and there was a Sega Saturn (yeah, seriously) game released there that never made it to America. This game some big developments in the series leaving us with a huge gap in the story. The movie was released in 1998, only two years after the TV series had concluded and I wouldn't have expected this to be a reunion movie - where they go out and gather up the old gang. That's the type of thing you do with a gap of 20 years, not two. I've been exposed to many "Anime Series: The Movie", and I've come to have low expectations of them. They take a popular franchise, then spend more time figuring out how to use the huge budget than making a good story. Prince of Darkness is unfortunately one of these.
Ruri had hit new heights of rabid anime fandom in Japan, so it's not surprising that she receives more attention in the movie. Her role isn't just pandering though, and feels right for her development and she has a good perspective to continue the story. She's matured, and doesn't deliver her sly wit as she had in the TV series. Gone is the fun protagonist Akito; he's now a menacing shell in the backdrop. Yurika plays such a small role her appearance is almost a cameo. If you're wondering how this movie could deliver the fun of the TV series without these three, it can't and you can start to see the problem. Oddly enough Jun was is highlight of the movie for comedy, so perhaps Yurika being taken out of the picture isnt't all bad. Jun is now tormented by former Jovian school girl Yukina - which would be seriously awesome material if the series were to ever continued past this point.
The plot was tough to chew. There are Martian Successors and a plot to overthrow the government, but I couldn't follow their motives at all. There is also human experimentation stuff the TV series had only started to tap, but the movie glosses over these details as if we were already versed on the topic - probably explained in the game. Ruri tries to gather the old crew again, but it doesn't make sense why. I decided to ignore these faults, but that's basically ignoring the entire story...
It's not all bad though. Even though the movie was more heavy than I expected, it did manage to capture most of the elements I remember Nadesico for - even if they didn't quite work on the level I had hoped. Comedy, action, and a plot involving anime fandom (shoujo manga this time), it's all there. As a high budget project released in 1998 this is a film which showcases everything great about traditional high budget mecha anime: cool space battles, mecha fighting and for the true fans: launch sequence dialogs. Not much to say musically other than it did quite well. The ending theme song is one of my favorites of all time. Dubbing had the same cast as the TV series, most of whom did a decent job for an earlier ADV dub.
Recommendations? It's a tough sell. If you haven't watched the TV series (which is one of my favorites), don't bother with the movie. You will have absolutely no idea what is going on. If you have seen it and are happy with the ending, I would consider skipping the movie. The problem is that it takes an upbeat fun series, and gives it a much darker turn than it should have - and isn't conclusive either. There are much happier conclusions to be reached by watching the Gekiganger III OVA. There was talk of a second Nadesico season, but that seems highly unlikely now. If the series will "finish" in your mind with the last thing you saw, this might not be the kind of ending you want. As such a big fan of the series, I was happy to get more Nadesico, and I can think of a few ways this could still end positively, so I was ok with that.
I wouldn't say it's all doom and gloom for Nadesico. At the end Ruri says that Akito is an important person to her, and if he doesn't return she'll look for him. This is an uncharacteristically upbeat view from Ruri that shows hope. There's also some symbolism at the end. An oil leak appears from Akito's damaged mecha looks like a tear after his victory. Aside from that, his mecha sheds its black armor to reveal his red Aestivalis underneath. I'd say that indicates that while he's changed, the real Akito is still hidden deep within him.
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