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.
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.*