Ashita no Nadja: a shoujo romantic adventure that defies its childish-looking exterior

Type: TV series

Genres: Adventure, Drama, Historical, Romance, Shoujo

Episodic count: 50

Years aired: 2003 – 2004

Ashita no Nadja is a historical shoujo anime that tells the story of a young thirteen year old orphan girl who sets out on an adventure to find her mother after learning that she is alive. With a positive and cheerful demeanour, she joins a travelling circus troupe as a dancer, and meets many people along the way, touching their lives in subtle ways and making their lives for the better.

I have always been hesitant in watching any series that looked like its specifically built for kids – with rainbows, dancing ponies, unicorns, floating bubbles and a Happy Ending because childhood innocence should be preserved and children should be given a right to enjoy the precious few years they have looking at the world through innocent eyes filled with wonder before they are destroyed by the ubiquitous negative messages of physical violence prevalent in mass media today. Ashita no Nadja seemed to be precisely that, portraying Nadja as an ideal protagonist with kindness brimming with every action, and gullible to the point of my frustration…

… Except that what seemed to kick off as a rather episodic series and a superficially optimistic character quickly developed into something more for me. Nadja and her story of adventure actually defy conventional standards of a shoujo anime in certain ways, but yet manages to retain that sense of innocent delight , due to the following reasons.

Fleshed out characters

Nadja’s character is more fleshed out as the series progressed. She definitely has certain principles about how kindness and helpfulness towards others should be extended and maintained, which she stands by throughout the series. Yet, she also learns to stand tall in the face of adversity, and she represents the more valuable trait of tenacity and resilience in the face of her surrounding circumstances, and realistically so. In fact, I don’t think I have seen another anime that has portrayed so resoundingly the importance of maintaining a positive mindset despite encountering misfortune. (For example, in contrast, Cosette of Les Miserables holds on to that attitude in a way that is too unrealistic for me to truly comprehend.)

The other characters whom we meet in an episodic fashion are also recurring characters with sympathetic backstories that all play a role of enabling Nadja to grow as a person. Even the supporting cast have certain motivations for their behaviour that aren’t immediately apparent, yet understandable later on when explored. The romantic interest(s) here also have decidedly different values which they hold steadfast to, and this turns out to be extremely crucial as part of the romantic development and resolution.

A gripping plot with a satisfying resolution

Ashita no Nadja starts out with a surrounding air of mystery regarding Nadja’s true mother, and as she goes to different places and finds out little snippets of her mother’s whereabouts and true identity, the audience is kept in the suspense as well. Though early scenes actually show that side of the story, the developments in the middle still manage to withhold that element of surprise, tripping one up just when one is lulled into a false sense of security with a series of unexpected twists.

Moreover, the content of the setting and plot are to be lauded in keeping things interesting during the more episodic parts of the series. As a performer, Nadia visits different countries and visual treats come in the form of different backgrounds, dances that Nadja performs, and people.

Of worthy mention…

In watching a series, there is rarely any one episode that particularly stands out to me unless it contains a major plot twist. However, Ashita no Nadja has managed to become the only exception with its groundbreaking episode 26, which has the most stunning episodic direction that I have seen. Episode 26 is lush with beautiful animation, the famous lyrical waltz of the series playing in appropriate times in the background, and it is also heartbreaking even though there isn’t actually anything sad happening in that episode. I have rewatched that episode on its own not less than three times, and I have never done that for any other episode in any other anime. (In fact, I feel like doing it again now.) It probably also helps that it contains a major romantic development with the male romantic interest I root for, and whose beauty still manages to break my heart.

Those beautiful shades of light in his hair…

Conclusion

Ashita no Nadja is highly recommended for all shoujo romance fans despite a seemingly hefty 50 episodes that indicates a huge investment of sorts. For those who love seeing more-than-one love interests, this is definitely a series for you to try out, especially for those who like to try out a well developed historical romantic adventure.

*All images belong to their original creators and I do not own any of these images.*

Jan 15 and Feb 15 Updates!

As I have mentioned in my previous post, I am going to list out what anime I have been watching so far and have yet to have completed; and also a mid-way opinion on it and whether I recommend that particular series or not 😀 Gonna split this up into two sections here 🙂

*what I mean by episode count is the current episode I am on, not the number that has been released so far!

Currently Airing (Winter 15)

Aldnoah Zero 2nd Season

Genres: AAldnoah.Zero 2nd Seasonction, Mecha

Episode count: 3/12

Plot summary: Seeking for revenge, Count Saazbaum, a Martian, attacked the Earth. Later on, the war between the Terrans and Martians ended with Earth’s Terrans gaining the victory. However, nineteen months later, the battle between them continues. Martians still continues to invade the Earth and the Terrans to protect it.

How’s it so far: Not bad for a second season. Slaine is shaping up to be a more interesting character than the first season. And who doesn’t like watching Inaho being so calmly badass and smoothly dissecting his enemy’s weaknesses and winning? Its pure entertainment for sure. Watching the harems develop is really hilarious as well.

Recommended if: You have watched the first season. And you like mecha fights. And badassery,

Not recommended if: You don’t like slightly one-dimensional characters or bland dialogue.

Ansatsu Kyoushitsu TV

Genres: Action, Comedy, School, Supernatural

Episode Count: 6/22Ansatsu Kyoushitsu (TV)

Plot Summary: A humorous and action-packed story about a class of misfits who are trying to kill their new teacher—an alien octopus with bizarre powers and super strength! The teacher has just destroyed the moon and is threatening to destroy the earth—unless his students can destroy him first. What makes things more complicated is that he’s the best teacher they’ve ever had!

How’s it so far: Interesting premise, hilarious comedy. Some interesting themes about teaching and education. But I personally don’t see what is the rage about this.

Recommended if: you have read the manga, and you would like to see it animated.

Not recommended if: you have too little time to try something new, and teacher-student dynamics are not your thing.

Binan Koukou Chikyuu Bouei-bu LOVE! (i.e. Cute High Earth Defense Club LOVE!)

Binan Koukou Chikyuu Bouei-bu LOVE!Genres: Comedy, Magic, Slice of Life

Episode Count: 6/12

Plot Summary: This is the tale of five unlikely heroes who unite under the name of the “Earth Defense Club” alongside a pink wombat-like alien to defend their world and restore love to all; however, does a sinister organization lurk behind the scenes of Binan High school?

How’s it so far: FINALLY A MAHOU SHOUNEN SERIES. The transformation scenes are totally hilarious; and its a very good parody of the usual mahou shoujo type of anime.

Recommended if: You want to see something that defies typical mahou shoujo gender stereotypes. (Yes, calling all Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki Kun fans here). Or if you would want a good laugh at the end of a long, stress-filled day. Or if … you just like watching bishies prancing around in ridiculous costumes. Oh, and also if you don’t mind the rather strong bromance vibes (Calling FREE! fans)

Not Recommended if: You prefer your mahou shoujo as they are, untouched.

Death Parade

Death ParadeGenres: Game, Psychological

Episode count: 7/12

Plot Summary: After death, humans go to either heaven or hell. But for some, at the instant of their death, they arrive at Quindecim, a bar attended by the mysterious white-haired Decim. He challenges them to the Death Game, wherein they wager their lives and reveal their true natures. Decim himself is the ultimate arbitrator of who wins and who loses, who will go to heaven, and who will go to hell.

How’s it so far: Absolutely brilliant. There hasn’t been a single anime I have encountered that broke me down into a puddle of tears one episode and had me laughing so hard the next. The dark side of human nature is forced to light here so it sometimes comes as a shock that some of those negative sentiments resound within me. For an episodic series, side characters’ backstories are explained so well that enable one to empathise with them and their actions. I personally like the themes explored here, and I have fun thinking about whether Decim’s judgment is morally wrong or correct.

Recommended if: You like your entertainment to be thought-provoking, and you are looking for some depth. You like delving into moral gray areas. I personally recommend this anime to all 🙂

Not recommended if: You are just looking for light, fun anime.

Durarara!!x2 Shou

Genres: Action, Mystery, Supernatural, Urban

Durarara!!x2 ShouEpisode Count: 5/12

Plot Summary: Half a year after the turmoil that rocked the entire city of Ikebukuro – Peace has once again returned to the city and people are living each day normally. The high school students enjoy their days of youth as the strongest and most dangerous man of Ikebukuro works diligently. The informant plots (or plans) a new scheme and the headless rider is pursued by the cops as she rides through the night… But soon this normal will be cut short by the abnormal. Slowly but surely, the unknown will seize the city and face an all new storm.

How’s it so far: Absolutely captivating. This is one series set out to entertain. There may be some confusion sometimes due to its disjunct narrative structure, but it all pays off when the pieces all fall together, like a finished jigsaw puzzle. This series really pulls off quirky, entertaining characters that are unique in themselves. If there’s any cast of characters that I would like to be friends with, its this set.

Recommended if: You have watched the first season. Even if you haven’t, please do give it a try, its awesome 😀 If you are looking for a very unique way of telling a story and you are in love with the idea of one person’s actions affecting another, and then setting off a chain of unexpected events, with an unexpected conclusion.

Not recommended if: You really don’t have brain juice to spare, and you just want a linear plot of sorts. But really, this is NEVER not recommended. 😀

Soukyuu no Fafner: Dead Aggressor – Exodus

Genres: Drama, Mecha, Sci-fi

Soukyuu no Fafner: Dead Aggressor - ExodusEpisode Count: 7/26

Plot Summary: MAL doesn’t provide one, lol.

How’s it so far: About as confusing the first season. There is vast improvement in the action scenes though. Some of them look like they belong to Shingeki no Kyojin except that they are fighting in giant robots. Great exploration of the theme of making children fight to protect humanity.

Recommended if: You have watched the first season, and you like the overall feel of the show. Also, awesome action mecha scenes.

Not recommended if: You hate being confused. I personally still have troubles understanding this show, and there isn’t much help online either ><

Tokyo Ghoul √A

Genres: Action, Mystery, Drama, Horror, Supernatural, Psychological, Seinen

Tokyo Ghoul √AEpisode count: 7/12

Plot Summary: In modern day Tokyo, society lives in fear of Ghouls: mysterious creatures who look exactly like humans — yet hunger insatiably for their flesh. None of this matters to Ken Kaneki, a bookish and ordinary young man, until a dark and violent encounter turns him into the first ever Ghoul-human half breed. Trapped between two worlds, Ken must survive the violent conflicts of warring Ghoul factions, while attempting to learn more about Ghoul society, his newfound powers, and the fine line between man and monster.

How’s it so far: More interesting than I would have thought. Though Kaneki doesn’t feature much at the start, we see his involvement behind the scenes. Kaneki gets more development and so do the other characters.

Recommended if: You watched the first season, and you personally like how Kaneki develops and deals with all that crap thrown his way. Or you like tortured, brooding protagonists with a kind heart.

Not recommended if: You are looking for a faithful manga adaptation. Or you just don’t like horror and gore in genre. Other than that, it is a pretty good show ^^

Non-airing anime but planning to finish 

Ashita no Nadja (not sure whether I want to continue this, though.)

Danshi Koukousei no Nichijou

Mushishi

Samurai Flamenco (just started this)

White Album 2 (just started this)

Yep that’s all from me! 🙂 Feel free to comment about anything or agree/disagree with me on what I have said so far 😀 I may not be doing reviews for all of these anime even if I have completed them though, it’ll have to depend on whether I have anything much to write about the anime 🙂

*All images and plot summaries were obtained from http://www.myanimelist.net and do not belong to me.*