(Warning: The following article may contain spoilers for the end of the Nadesico TV series! Read at your own risk!)
In my write-up of Martian Successor Nadesico (see the August issue, on sale now), I mentioned how said series tried its hardest to become something more than what was on the tin. The plot twist with the Jovians and Gekiganger III allegories, though great, opened up a whole can of worms that was ultimately left unresolved. With the TV series’ abrupt conclusion there was no hope for immediate closure. That didn’t stop Xebec, the main studio behind it, from working their hardest to make it happen. Enter the Expanded Universe of Martian Successor Nadesico: a plan that would have not only tied up all the loose ends left by the TV series, but served as the true finale. That is if things had actually worked out.
The first instance of the Expanded Universe came out just one year later. It came in the form of the single greatest OVA ever since M.D. Geist: Gekiganger III: Great Hot-Blooded Battle!. Comprised of a “cancelled” movie and a compilation of all the episodes shown in the Nadesico TV series, the framework of this is set a little ways after the Earth/Jovian war. But after the movie ends, Yurika gives invitations to Ruri and Minato for her wedding to Akito! Ruri then proceeds to tease the audience via a fourth wall break that we’d “see them later.” However, it turned out to be more than that, as fans would find out later that year…
Several months later Xebec unleashed the film, Martian Successor Nadesico: The Prince of Darkness. Released a year after the conclusion of the TV series, the story is catapulted three years later. Rei—I mean Ruri—is now the captain of the Nadesico-B, the conflict over Mars has ceased for the most part, and our two lovebirds, Akito and Yurika… are dead. Tensions spike when a new faction, the Martian Successors (Yes! They finally integrated the English title!) launches precision strikes on the colonies forming the Hisago Plan: an effort to unite the galaxy via Boson Jump gates. Ruri and her new crew join forces with a few old favorites as she tries to stop their plans. There’s also the issue of the mysterious black mech codenamed “Black Selene,” which has a vendetta against the Successors and sounds awfully familiar…
Some have found the tonal shift of this movie from wacky hijinks to hard sci-fi/political intrigue to be jarring. Rest assured, though, the comedy is still there, along with tons of fanservice in the way of callbacks to the series. And sorry, Virginia, Gekiganger III doesn’t get any screen time in this outing. (Though, given how Gekiganger is associated with a war that nearly devastated both sides, who can blame people for not being as vocal about it?) Unfortunately, for all the cool factor, The Prince of Darkness pulls a Buckaroo Banzai by quickly throwing you into the deep end. A lot of new information is thrown at you suddenly and you’re given very little time to digest it all. And right when things are about to get resolved? The movie abruptly ends. The final confrontations are wrapped in seconds, leaving a ton of loose ends and unanswered questions. It’s still an entertaining movie, but you quickly forget all about whatever good the movie had when the ending pulls the rug from under you and runs away laughing.
“But Mike,” you hardcore Nadesico fans out there are probably saying, “If you played the video game, it all makes sense!”. The game in question is the Sega Saturn game, Martian Successor Nadesico: The Blank of Three Years. Picking up right where the series left off, the war between the Jovians and Earth ends and both sides sign a ceasefire. Unfortunately, the crew of the Nadesico end up being detained by the United Earth forces for several months. Upon their release, we get to see the formation of the Martian Successors and other key events play out that pave the way for the movie. See, the way it was supposed to work was if you needed any sort of questions answered about the state of the timeline, you could instantly get the game and have most of it explained. Think what happened with Enter The Matrix, only with less rushed glitches. Now while I have no qualms with stories being expanded in other media, the issue here is that Prince of Darkness is dependent on The Blank of Three Years. If you’re watching it in a country where the game wasn’t localized, you were very much SOL for any sort of closure. I’m reminded of Change! Shin Getter Robo (aka Getter Robo: Armageddon), where the whole thing was supposed to be a sequel to an obscure drama CD. Unlike Nadesico, though, the lack of the Drama CD didn’t take anything away from the story at large. If you want to play through this yourself, good luck trying to find it. As of this writing, expect to pay triple digits for the original disc.
But wait, there’s more! We got a game for Dreamcast that moved the story forward! Set after the events of Prince of Darkness, the turn-based strategy game Nadesico The Mission finds Ruri and the crew of the Nadesico-B continuing their fight against the Martian Successors. The plot thickens with the involvement of the new allies of the Successors, the enigmatic Crimson Corporation. If the name sounds familiar, there’s a good reason: Remember the crazy girl with a death wish during the TV series’ beach episode? The family business is back and they’re just as twisted. All the while, Ruri herself is searching for the pilot of the Black Selene mech from the movie… whose identity is obvious if you just look at a photo of him. It’s nothing special in terms of graphics or gameplay but it’s worth it to see the crew back together for one more romp. And after all is said and done, Ruri once again teases the audience, saying that the story has only just begun. We even get a big “To Be Continued” screen and everything. This time, unfortunately, the continuation never came.
The grand scheme for the expanded universe was that, following the TV series and The Blank of the Three Years, Prince of Darkness would be the first part of a trilogy. We’d get two more movies that would tie up all loose ends and deliver a grand finale to the franchise. Nadesico The Mission tried to fan the flame of that dream to no avail. The final nail in the coffin came via Tatsuo Sato, Nadesico’s director, who revealed via his blog that production of what would have been Nadesico 2 is now apparently “impossible.” There’s no official story as to what happened or the reason why. Rumors and speculation about legal disputes are the closest thing, but it’s a tragedy nonetheless. It’s true that for every massive success, there’s a story that barely gets a chance to be told. Just look at Megazone 23, which was the remnants of a failed TV series. Or how about Keita Amemiya’s Future Ninja, a one-shot low-budget film that was aiming to be the Japanese Star Wars but never quite made it? Though Nadesico may spiritually live on in Sato’s latest work, Bodacious Space Pirates, we can only hope for some kind of miracle that will (forgive me for saying this in advance) get the dream to burning just one more time.
MARTIAN SUCCESSOR NADESICO: THE COMPLETE COLLECTION is soon to be released via Nozomi Entertainment. Come for the TV series, stay for the Gekiganger OVA. Seriously, it’s that awesome.
Nadesico The Mission image via Retro Gaming Life