Synopsis: Set in 1889, Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water is about an orphaned 14-year old girl named... Nadia. She makes a living as a circus acrobat, and her past is a mystery even to herself. Nadia has in her possession a gem called Blue Water which is much sought after by a bunch of thieves. We first meet Nadia as she is fleeing from the thieves and rescued by a French boy named Jean, a 14-year old inventor who basically fell in love with Nadia at first sight. Jean decides to be her guardian and constant companion henceforth. The chase eventually leads to the Atlantic Ocean where they are picked up by Captain Nemo. Much adventure (and some romance) ensues, as the fate of the world hangs in the balance until the Secret of Blue Water is revealed...
Review: Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water is very loosely based on the Jules Verne classic "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea". I can assure you there is no Nadia or Jean in Verne's novel. Captain Nemo and his high tech submarine the Nautilus are there but that's about it, most elements of Verne's story have been jettisoned in favor of Gainax's own concepts. This is not such a crass idea though as Gainax did have a good story to tell, and Disney had already made a classic live action movie in the 60's based on Verne's novel, so an anime version of the same would seem superfluous.
Nadia is a very entertaining and wholesome series. It is quite addictive as it is one continuous saga rather than episodic in structure, and the well-developed characters are worth rooting for. The lead characters are appealing and more complex compared to those in most anime series. I am particularly fond of Jean, who is honest, dedicated, clumsy, naive and yet at the same time very bright. Nadia herself is temperamental, stubborn, and yet has a sweet and caring nature (very pretty too, I think ^^). There are many unexpected twists and turns throughout the series and the characters that we are initially led to believe are "bad guys" turn out to be not so bad after all, and are in fact very amusing. When the real hyper-dastardly villain does show up, he makes Saddam Hussein look like Santa Claus.
A lot of humor is infused throughout the series, except in the last few episodes when the world is in serious peril and nobody is in the mood to goof around. The middle of the series does sag a little at times, especially when they are all cooped up in the Nautilus, but something new is always happening to resuscitate our wavering attention. The art and animation are excellent, as is characteristic of a Gainax-produced anime. The way the characters are drawn is slightly similarity to the style employed Evangelion.
Miscellanies: EVA fans who may be looking for profound life-changing subtexts are unlikely to find any such enlightenment here. I'd suggest reading the I-Ching, Freud, or the Bible instead. Nadia spans 39 episodes.