On October 1st, 1996, the anime series Martian Successor Nadesico began airing in Japan. Two decades later, on this past October 1st, the director, producer, and primary cast of the show came together for an event celebrating the series’ twentieth anniversary.
The event brought together director Tatsuo Satō, producer Takatoshi Chino, and lead actors Yūji Ueda (Akito Tenkawa), Houko Kuwashima (Yurika Misumaru), and Omi Minami (Ruri Hoshino). On stage, the cast and staff members reminisced about the series and their experiences with it.
It has been twenty years since the original series aired–and indeed a lot can happen in that time. Yet, for the staff and cast, returning to Nadesico seemed to be like putting on a familiar pair of shoes. The more they talked of their experiences making the series, the more memories seemed to come back.
After the event, ANIME NOW! got a chance to sit down with the staff and cast to talk a bit more about their memories of the series.
Tatsuo Satō: The lead director of Martian Successor Nadesico and the subsequent movie, Martian Successor Nadesico: The Motion Picture – Prince of Darkness. Sato has also helmed series such as Bodacious Space Pirates, Lagrange: The Flower of Rin-ne and Madan no Ō to Vanadis.
Takatoshi Chino: A producer at XEBEC. Chino has also been involved with series such as Lagrange: The Flower of Rin-ne, Fafner in the Azure, and Love Hina.
Yūji Ueda: The voice of protagonist, Akito Tenkawa. Nadesico was his first time taking a role as the lead. Ueda has also played roles like Keitaro Urashima from Love Hina, Billy Katagiri from Gundam 00, Johannes Krauser II from Detroit Metal City, and Adashino from Mushishi.
Houko Kuwashima: The voice of heroine, Yurika Misumaru. Nadesico was Kuwashima’s first time taking a role as a lead heroine. Kuwashima has played roles like Aoi Housen from Infinite Ryvius, Sango from Inu Yasha, Flay Allster and Natarle Badgiruel from Gundam SEED, and Vivian from Cross Ange.
Omi Minami: The voice of Ruri Hoshino, the ship’s operator in the anime series and heroine for the Nadesico movie, Martian Successor Nadesico: The Motion Picture – Prince of Darkness. Minami has also played roles like Euphemia li Britannia from Code Geass, Ruri Hayasaka from Oneechan ga Kita, and Fan Xinglou from The Asterisk War.
Note: This article contains major spoilers for Martian Successor Nadesico.
Looking back on the past twenty years, the staff and cast reflected on what Martian Successor Nadesico had been like for them.
Ueda: It’s not so much that I’m amazed that twenty years have passed. Rather, looking back, I’m amazed we were able to make the series twenty years ago (laugh). I can’t imagine it being done today. Not just in terms of the content, but the richness of the staff and cast… It really was a good age.
Chino: I’ve had a chance to be involved with several original anime series, but with Nadesico, the sheer depth and volume of the script was quite a lot. It was impressive that [director Satō] Tastuo was able to put all that together into a storyboard. That’s not to say that’s either a positive or a negative of the script, but it’s hard to encounter another series with that kind of challenge. Even when I work on one, I often find myself feeling that there’s something lacking. It was a feat that we managed to make the series and it’s in no small part thanks to the writers and episode directors. Looking over the staff list now, it’s become a Who’s Who of people who’ve gone on to become big players.
Satō: Well, the first thing I think about is the relief that we got it made. If we were to make it today, I don’t think I could say with confidence that I could get it done, much less someone else. It was very much that combination of elements and the period. It was also a cell-drawn anime on film. These days, with digital, it seems like we can do anything, and yet there are more things that we can’t, so looking back, it feels like we got it done because we pushed ourselves so hard. I sweat just thinking about it.
But Nadesico was more than just a 26-episode TV series. The movie, Martian Successor Nadesico: The Motion Picture – Prince of Darkness, which takes place three years after the TV series, premiered in 1998. A video game for the Sega Saturn was released after the movie and depicts some of the events that took place between the TV series and movie. Another game for the Sega Dreamcast released in 1999 depicts some brief events that follow the movie.
However, since then, the series has not been revisited or expanded upon. Asked if any specific plot exists, director Satō noted that the issue had been discussed.
Satō: “Is there more story?” Obviously, one thinks of these things as a possibility. I think most creators do that. Going from Nadesico’s world setting, they have the ability to travel long distances through these gates using boson jumping, so it would become a story of finding gates and exploring from there, so we discussed that it would obviously become a Star Trek-like story.
While the future of the characters remains a mystery, director Satō and producer Chino already had their fates sealed within the movie.
Chino: I had a grave with my family name “Chino” written on it [in the movie] (laughs). I saw it and thought, “Huh!? I’m dead!?”
Satō: The Chino family and the Satō family!
Chino: Right! Next to [my grave] was a grave for the Satō family! It’s supposed to be a really good scene. There’s this serious discussion going on and all I can see is my grave in the background…
The cast has since had multiple opportunities to revisit the characters: they played multiple video games featuring their characters. Ueda expressed regret that he had originally played Akito like an unexperienced youth, screaming many of his lines, which causes him to hurt his throat every time he has to record for a new game.
Looking back on their experiences with the series, the cast recalled the biggest impressions they got from acting in the series.
Kuwashima: For me, it was when I was told to sing. I had to come up with something random to sing, like a fishing song. I was also told, “Yurika probably can’t sing very well” and was told to sing badly which ended up causing problems later.
Satō: That’s the episode Mr. Sakurai directed. Mr. Sakurai was saying, “We can’t use this! Yurika should be able to sing better than this!”
Kuwashima: It half felt like playing, but it was like playing seriously… There was this kind of passion. You couldn’t tell what would be requested of you until you went in.
Ueda: It was an original story and we couldn’t tell where it was going, so all we could do was feel our way along and act episode to episode. You’d think it was a slapstick comedy, but then you find out the people they’re fighting aren’t the aliens you thought they were but are, in fact, former Earthlings, and something that’s made fun of on Earth has become a sacred scripture for them. When you think about it, it’s a chilling story. It’s because of that depth that going into the serious tone of the movie didn’t feel that strange at all.
Minami: Just like [Ms. Kuwashima] said, you never knew what you were going to get episode to episode, so all I could do with Ruri was give it my all. But, going back to the singing, for the song that everyone brings up, Anata no Ichiban ni Naritai, with that, I was just handed the script like, “here,” without any planning or anything, and I remember thinking, “[the key is] so low”(laughs). It literally was just, “here” and then “sing” where I had to sing in the studio. It was really just giving it my all every time.
Flying by the seat of their pants wasn’t an experience exclusive to the cast. One of the major twists within the series is that the teleportation is not in fact teleporting at all, but rather time travel. Looking over the series as a whole, this dynamic twist seems like it was planned right from the start. However, as director Satō revealed, this was very much not the case.
Satō: Well, that was–when we first started out, when the staff was different, it started as teleportation. Whether it was an individual’s will or power or not was where the discussion cut off. Then there was a staff change and we started over from scratch. But the plot point of going to and from Mars was set in stone and couldn’t be moved, so the issue became homework for us as we went along. The fellow in charge of the science fiction setting talked with a physicist friend of his and came up with the idea for utilizing Richard Feynmann’s theory of delayed waves.
Martian Successor Nadesico enjoys a strongly devoted overseas fan base. Asked to give a message to their foreign supporters, the staff and cast had this to say:
Satō: I often get invited to conventions in the US, but every time I do for signings and such, fans come up with box sets of Nadesico and ask me to sign them. Some people will even cry when I do. It’s not something I ever really thought about when making the series, but to realize that people felt that strongly when they watched it makes me feel that as a piece of work, it’s been really fortunate. Please continue to love Nadesico.
Chino: I continue to receive emails from people through the company email in English, Spanish, Russian, and other languages telling me that they love Nadesico. I can’t understand everything that’s written, but even from what I can gather, I can tell that people are expressing their love or wondering what happens next. My feelings of gratitude that people fell in love with the series, and reflections that we were able to make the series a reality all give me strength moving forward. I’m looking forward to seeing everyone when we next meet.
Ueda: It’s the twentieth anniversary, but back when the series was being made, we had no idea it would come this far. I hope when our fans look back over the series and reflect on this they can understand how much we appreciate it. Thank you all.
Kuwashima: The series has reached its twentieth anniversary, so we’ve held an event here in Japan. I hope that this excitement was able to reach across the ocean to our overseas fans. I hope that everyone remains healthy as we proceed towards the thirtieth anniversary. Thank you for your support.
Minami: Thank you for finding Nadesico in its long twenty-year history. Nadesico will continue to exist as a piece of work and I hope that it will continue to be loved across the sea to its thirtieth or even fortieth anniversary. Thank you very much.
Here’s to another twenty years!