Nadia [1984]

These first four episodes introduce a long, involving anime series that should provide a wonderful stepping stone for youngsters being weaned from Pokémon. Based partially on Jules Verne's 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water begins as Jean, a young French boy who builds airplanes, teams with his uncle to enter a flying competition at the 1899 World's Fair in Paris. It's there that the preteen Jean meets and immediately falls for the exotic Nadia, who leads an unhappy life as a circus performer. Jean turns protector when Nadia is chased by a trio of bumbling villains who are after the mysterious "blue water" in Nadia's necklace. Their pursuit leads to the open sea, where Jean and Nadia board an American battleship searching for a vengeful sea monster, ultimately revealed as Captain Nemo's submarine, Nautilus. This first series from Hideaki Anno (Neon Genesis Evangelion) has some of the charm and rich detail of the films of Hayao Miyazaki (Princess Mononoke) but features cardboard villains that could be distant cousins of Pokémon's Team Rocket. Nadia, Secret of Blue Water stepped into the limelight in 2001, 12 years after its original production, thanks to myriad similarities to Disney's ambitious animated feature Atlantis: The Lost Empire, including period setting, design, characters, story, and a mystical blue necklace. Nadia has the added benefit of its scope, 39 episodes spanning 16 hours, affording fans many more adventures ahead. Rated 12 and up for violence, but suitable for ages 7 to teens. --Doug Thomas

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