Finished Nadia: Secret of the Blue Water

Well, I have at last finished watching Hideaki Anno’s interesting take on Jules Verne.  The long course of time over which I watched this show renders me less able to give a comprehensive review, so you might want to check out Cajun Samurai’s three part review (Part One, Part Two, Part Three) for a more in-depth take on the series.  On this blog, the show managed to inspire a post on vanity and another on unlikely animal lovers.  The greatest problem with rating Nadia overall is that the parts which are good are really good, while the parts of it which are bad are really bad.  The Lincoln Island arc and even the episodes following until the final four episodes make for a very painful memory.  While slogging through them, I was ready to give the show a 6/10.

NSOTBW

However, the nail-biting action and gripping drama of the last four episodes saved the show’s rating.  How did the studio ever allow the show to get so far off track?  If they had compressed the events of episodes 23-35 (Yes, it was that long of a slog) into two or three episodes, I would gladly have given this show a 9/10 or even a perfect score.  But, I just can’t ignore what must be deemed the worst sagging middle in all of anime.  And I thought Glass Fleet had a terrible sagging middle!  But, it does not even compare to Nadia: Secret of the Blue Water.  I am never watching that part again!

Samson on left.

And so, the great story arcs, moments of striking originality, and the likable characters of Nadia: Secret of the Blue Water–especially Samson, Hanson and Senorita Grandis–merit for this show an 8/10.  I found myself a little annoyed by the show’s alternate history of the human race, but, as I mentioned above, this does come from the director of Neon Genesis Evangelion.  The similarities between the two shows will delight the fans of Evangelion–as would watching Gunbuster, amuch more focused and of higher quality work of Hideaki Anno’s than Nadia.  Even if you’re not a fan of Evangelion, you might want to give this show a shot–if reading Cajun Samurai’s adverse and more critical opinion does not put you off.

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On Vanity

Though the Lincoln Island episodes (I love the nod to Jules Verne’s The Mysterious Island) of Nadia: Secret of the Blue Water stand as some of the most ridiculous and boring episodes of anime (John Samuel even advised me to spare myself the pain of watching them), they at least inspired the present article on vanity.  You see, Nadia has an absurd attachment to her vegetarian and technophobic ways.  Now, there is nothing wrong with with either declining to eat meat or preferring low tech or archaic things.  These are personal choices, the first perhaps makes for a healthier lifestyle and the latter less slavery to technology.  Problems arise, however, when the person ceases to believe that these things are personal choices, but rather the only correct choices for everybody.  In the anime, we see Nadia calling Jean a bad person for eating meat and exclaiming that Marie is on her way to fiery damnation for her carnivorous ways.

nadia angry

It sometimes surprises me that Nadia can be so likable with all her vanity and pride, but elevating one’s personal preferences to the objectively best manner of thinking is a common fault.  In the Gospels, we see the Pharisees do this when they complain of the Apostles eating with unwashed hands as if they have committed a terrible transgression.  In our own time, we can point to various snobs who vaunt their peculiarities over the erring ways of the rest of humanity: vegans, vegetarians, non-smokers, teetotalers, hybrid car drivers, anti-hunters, anti-gunners, literary snobs, wine snobs, health fanatics, exercise fanatics, tea connoisseurs, fountain pen connoisseurs, art enthusiasts, classical music enthusiasts, people who use organic foods only, cigar snobs, cosmopolitans, nationalists, intellectuals, otaku, lengthy anime series haters, popular anime series haters, and the list might go on forever.  All the above are personal inclinations–no more that that.  If someone tries to argue that these choices are clearly superior to other choices, intelligent people can easily peg them as a snob.  Why does following a particular fad or predilection so easily make people believe they are superior to people following different fads or predilections?

Captain Nemo

But, my favorite feature of human vanity is the anti-snobbery snob.  This occurs when a person develops opposite habits to those whom he perceives to be snobs in order to further disassociate with them: eating red meat with every meal, never buying organic products, having one beer a day, owning a gas guzzling truck, having animal trophies in every room, refusing to read literature, never touching wine, etc.  Avoiding the arrogance of the snobs often causes one to become a snob oneself–and occasionally to one’s detriment.  When I advised one person to use a glass mug with his craft beer, he deliberately picked up a plastic mug and would not change his mind!  Why?  What pleasure is there in putting one’s lips to a plastic mug rather than a glass one except whatever pleasure anti-beer connoisseur snobbery affords?

Samson playing house

In the case of reverse snobbery, I confess myself to have fallen into such concerning alcohol.  The only creature worse than a wine snob is a teetotaling snob: the wine snob is superior to you because his tastes are more refined; the teetotaling snob claims moral superiority over his fellows.  Reading about the Temperance movement birthed this anti-snobbery.  After all, we see that people in the Temperance movement resorted to violence in order to further their goals, founded religions with teetotalism as a fundamental tenet, lied to influence the passage of Prohibition, and made clearly exaggerated claims against drinkers–such as that drinking was un-American.  (Those German and Irish immigrants were terrible drunks, you know!  But, I don’t think the per capita consumption of 18 gallons of pure alcohol at the beginning of the 19th century can be laid entirely on Germans and Irish.)  Meeting and listening to people whose teetotalism was infected by moral superiority helped my prejudice along.  Only in the last three years have I softened my discrimination against non-drinkers as I met people whose teetotalism was unmixed with hauteur.

Nadia002

However, perhaps the worst forms of snobbery and anti-snobbery find themselves in the realm of religion.  The groups having members most likely to be guilty of this are atheists, militant agnostics, Catholics, fundamentalist Protestants, Anglicans, and Western followers of Eastern religions.  Of course, believers and proponents of these systems can wrongly be perceived as arrogant merely because they believe their ideas are true–especially with the plague of relativism affecting the modern world.  But, some proponents of these worldviews go further than that.  They despise people of other backgrounds as backwards, uneducated, unthinking, unintelligent, unsophisticated, or morally defective.  They say to themselves, “If those people were not so stupid, stubborn, or wicked, surely they would believe what I believe!”  The worst thing about the arrogance of these people is that they drive away people who would otherwise be interested in the Faith.  (For obvious reasons, I am not as concerned about arrogant atheists or agnostics.)  When the stench of arrogance surrounds anything, people not inclined to examine it–whether it be Bordeaux or dogma.

ABC Awards Nomination!

abc-awardWell, I find myself quite humbled and honored by Naru’s nomination of me for the ABC Award.  Please check out her blog, which is written with such humor and good style that you might find yourself sucked in for an hour or two.  And thanks to all my dear readers who keep me motivated to write!

Since some of you might have read my Liebster Award post and my Medieval Interrogation. I promise to try to make this, my 200th post, contain new information about me.  Some of which is a bit silly, but hopefully humorous.  Without further ado, let me paste the rules:

1. Download the award logo and add it to your acceptance post.
2. Nominate a few fellow bloggers and share the award.
3. Since the award is ABC, take each letter of the alphabet and use it to tell something about yourself.

Here goes:

A: Arcueid Brunestud.  My ideal woman.  I’m fairly certain an Arcueid doesn’t exist in real life, but one can dream–and no, it has nothing to do with her being a vampire. >.<

51J88526HJL

B: Baltimore.  This city holds a place in my heart for two reasons: 1) the first ancestor of mine to come to America settled in this city in 1775 and 2) this city holds the seminary where I went and where my classmates still are.

C: Cats.  I love cats.  Since I moved out of my parents’ house, I haven’t gotten a chance to own one; but, I love visiting to see these two characters:

Dexter

Dexter

Cindy

Cindy

D: Despondent.  The virtue which I most want is none other than cheerfulness.  But, as a writer, it is no wonder that I should have to carry the cross of the blues.  However, for now, I’m doing pretty good at saying “Jigoku e ochiro!” to depression.

E: Escaflowne.  The techniques displayed in the mecha fights in Escaflowne seem to come right out of medieval fencing manuals.  As a lover of swords and medieval combat, these fights always carry me into the sublime.

F: Fathers of the Church.  Catholic spiritual writers don’t write like they used to.  The early Church Fathers have the most interesting vision of religion followed by the mystics of the Middle Ages.

carlo-braccesco-four-doctors-of-the-church

G: Games.  I love Chess, Go, and Shogi above all; but, board games of all sorts delight me–as long as they’re not ridiculously complicated.

H: Historian.  I love history, as is likely apparent from my similes and references.  There is nothing like warfare in particular to show forth the best qualities of people, and the people who are remembered most fondly in history are also those people who are most original.  So, I find the study of history a continual delight.

I: Imprimis.  This is the name of the newsletter of my Alma Mater: Hillsdale College.  Going here was perhaps the best experience in my life.  All my best friends studied here with me.  You might also call the college a cathedral to Western Heritage.  It’s hard to believe that it will have been five years since I’ve graduated come this May!  How time flies!

J: Jimmy Stewart.  He happens to be my favorite actor.  It is rare to find such modesty in Hollywood!

This image is from Winchester '73.  I might also mention that I love old movies and Westerns.

This image is from Winchester ’73. I might also mention that I love old movies and Westerns.

K: Kind.  I am a very kind person, though my timidity often prevents me from opening up to others.  Just imagine Robert E. Lee or George Washington.

L: Liberty.  One of the dearest concepts to the human heart.  By writing, I hope to fire people for the desire of true liberty: liberty under the law and under God.  Additionally, I want to squash the notion that liberty equals license and freedom from pain.  True liberty involves struggle each and every day.

M: Mustache.  During college, I discovered that a handlebar mustache rather suited me.  Now, a much simpler one adorns my face but I still consider going back to the handlebar.  My real hope is one day to grow a fine looking beard.

Jeb Stuart: Owner of the most perfect beard ever to grace a man's face.

Jeb Stuart: Owner of the most perfect beard ever to grace a man’s face.

N: New Jersey.  The state of my birth, from which I have just succeeded from escaping again.  May I remain here in Virginia!

O: Oblomov.  The eponymous hero of this work by Ivan Goncharov does nothing but sleep and eat all day and refuses to visit other people.  As such, he dies in miserable obscurity even though he had the chance to escape isolation.  Nothing worked so well in convincing me to break out of my shell; though, its literary merits are indeed questionable.

P: Plaid.  Though I may not have a drop of Irish or Scottish blood in my veins, I love plaid.  From pajamas to flannel shirts, I try to stock my wardrobe with as much of it as possible.

Q: Quizzical.  This word refers to my personality.  I eschew being easily defined.  At best, this mysterious quality makes me interesting.  At worst, people label me an odd fish.  Someone’s best attempt at definition was to say that I “was a creature who subsists on tea.”

By typing in "creature who subsists on tea" on google search, I found a great way to play a prank on someone.

By typing in “creature who subsists on tea” on google search, I found a great way to play a prank on someone.

R: Reflective.  I am a retiring and meditative sort of person.

S: Seafood.  I prefer fish over meat.  This makes it very easy to be Catholic during Lent, but I sometimes wonder whether I should avoid fish too on Friday in order to make it more penitential.

T: Tolkien.  Dumas might be my favorite author, but within my genre of choice, Tolkien is the writer whom I most wish to emulate.  Terry Brooks is my second favorite writer in the Fantasy genre.  Despite certain accusations against Brooks, he is one of the least derivative modern fantasy authors–until he returns to Shannara in the Voyage of the Jerle Shannara.  Yet, in those books, he is mostly culpable for copying too much from his prior works rather than the works of others.

U: Utawarerumono.  Best harem anime ever made.  One might validly place Tenchi Muyo in this place, but I’d disagree.  It doesn’t have Towa or Karura.

Look up awesome in the dictionary, and you'll see a picture of Karura.

Look up awesome in the dictionary, and you’ll see a picture of Karura.

V: Venus.  My favorite planet.  (Can you tell that I’m running out of ideas?)  How can one not love a planet whose temperature reaches 462ºC and can melt our strongest probes in half an hour?

W: Wizards.  From Allanon to Gandalf to Walker Boh, wizards tend to be my favorite characters in fantasy novels.  I suppose because they are so learned–something which I hope to be.

X: Xenophile.  Looking through the two pages of X words under the dictionary, I only found one which related to me.  A xenophile is one who is attracted to foreign peoples, manners, or cultures.  All my dear readers know that, but might I also add that I find foreign women attractive?

Y: Yukon.  One day, I want to visit the frozen vasts of Alaska, though I would settle for the Yukon territory.  You might say that Jules Verne and Jack London fired my imagination enough as a kid to want to see the frigid north.  I also want to take down a moose: I hear they taste like fillet mignon.  And, if I can see wolves in the wild, that would be icing on the cake.  (I won’t shoot the wolves!  Don’t worry!)

Wolves are too cute looking to shoot. :)

Wolves are too cute looking to shoot. 🙂

Z: Zinfandel.  My favorite table wine for three reasons: 1) It’s very American, 2) few other wines are as jammy and full, and 3) even the best ones are inexpensive comparatively.  Want a great Cabernet Sauvignon?  Spend $200.  Want an awesome, top class Zinfandel?  Spend $45.  Of course, the $9 – $15 dollar range in Zinfandel is better than the same range in any other grape.

Well, I hope that you enjoyed that!  Now, for me to nominate some people:

Dusty Thanes

Beneath the Tangles

Rayout

Feidor S. LaView

Black Strawberry

Cacao, Put Down the Shovel!

Caraniel’s Ramblings

Anime Commentary on the March

Pacificparatrooper

MIB’s Instant Headache

Finally! The Adventures of Captain Hatteras Reviewed

How long has it been since I promised to review this work?  Well, it’s better to be late than never, and I find myself motivated by my move to college tomorrow.  Who knows how long it may take to set up the internet service or how much time I’ll have to write these little articles?  So, I’ll try to post one more article up today after this one, and may that, my dear readers, tide you over until the next one.

The Adventures of Captain Hatteras has been relegated to obscurity among Jules Verne’s works.  After reading this page-turner again, I find myself at a loss as to why this novel has been ignored by so many.  According to the introduction, Verne had a great love for northern climes, which comes out in the exquisite detail and liveliness with which Verne describes the towering mountains of ice and the snowy vasts of the Arctic.  In addition to the beautiful setting, the characters suffer through a never ending torrent of conflicts, which prevents the reader from becoming bored.  Rather, if the reader does begin to tire from the tale, it is through having his empathetic soul infected with the exhaustion constantly plaguing our heroes.  Verne also keeps the reader in his chair by filling the story with mysteries and the ever present doubt that our heroes will ever succeed in their venture of reaching the North Pole.

The first of these mysteries lies in the Captain’s refusal to reveal himself.  No one doubts that the captain is also funding the voyage, but he allows Richard Shandon, his second in command, to be in charge of building the ship and assembling the crew.  Yet, Richard does not know either the captain or the destination towards which the captain intends to sail!  In focusing on a few gossiping sailors, they confirm for us the arctic destination of this vessel, the Forward,  and describe how the design would help in navigating those waters–such as the reinforced steel bow, the fact that it runs on both sail and coal, the extraneous wooden deck and other structures which may be cannibalized in a pinch, and that it can carry enough food for five or six years.  The choice of crewmen is also precisely gears to those men of sanguine humor who could more easily weather cold climes.  Meanwhile, Shandon received instructions for a mysterious dog to remain on the ship, which the crewmen take to referring to as the captain.

The most interesting members of this crew consist in the ship’s doctor, Dr. Clawbonny, and the bosun, Johnson.  The former is a simple doctor with a thirst for all forms of knowledge, and the latter is a middle aged mariner with a wealth of experience including polar expeditions.  The two become fast friends.  Dr. Clawbonny’s wisdom and cheerfulness make him the life of the crew, especially in bad situations.  Verne seems to delight in having likeable polymaths in his works, and Dr. Clawbonny makes an excellent mouthpiece for imparting many pieces of scientific knowledge and information pertaining to other expeditions–though, most of the crewmen are conversant with the latter.  Johnson makes for an interesting character due to his aforementioned experience, his loyalty to the captain, and hardihood.

Kind of how I envision Johnson, except that Johnson’s a bit thinner.

Captain Hatteras refuses to reveal himself until the crew is about to mutiny against Richard Shandon, who had brought the expedition all the way through Lancaster Strait and passed the Devil’s Thumb before this.  Somehow the captain had managed to direct the entire expedition by letter thus far, and Shandon was beginning to fancy himself the captain.  The abruptness of the Captain’s appearance, the force of his authority, and the dog recognizing Hatteras as his master bring the crew back to order.  He also adds an enticing bonus for each line of latitude closer to the pole.  Captain Hatteras may be described as very nationalistic–a flaw which Jules Verne exploits to create more conflict when they discover an American expedition, very resolute, rather silent, and usually impassive.  But his stony countenance conceals strong emotions within that reveal themselves through the extremes of violent fits of anger (he almost buries an ax in someone’s brain at one point) and even tears on a few occasions.  All this makes for a multifaceted character who must stand as one of Verne’s most memorable.

Verne very aptly employs conflict among the crew, danger from the elements, mystery, and suspense to keep the reader’s full attention.  One finds it difficult to put the work down.  Very few pages have the characters not facing some kind of danger or suffering in some manner.  During this second reading of the work, I was struck by how good of a movie it would make.  Though, this work has not been adapted into a movie since Georges Méliès’s Conquest of the Pole, which was filmed in 1912.  As a piece of trivia, that’s the same Georges Méliès featured in Martin Scorsese’s Hugo.  As you can see from the picture below, it must have been a truly amazing spectacle, which modern audiences and people of good taste would not be able to stand.  If someone doesn’t do a modern adaptation soon, I’ll write that screenplay–but I don’t mind someone beating me to it.

This movie must have caused Jules Verne to roll in his grave.

 

The other reason this book would make for a great movie is how beautiful and fantastic Verne renders the Arctic.  (Though, not as fantastic as what you just saw.  There were no man-eating frost giants in the novel!  Just man-eating polar bears.)  Verne really outdoes himself in describing the flora, fauna, landscape, and other characteristics; yet, he spreads these facts so evenly throughout the work and makes them so varied that not only does he not bore the reader, but the reader is eager to know more.  The most amusing thing he writes about is how the refraction of the light in this area constantly messes with the sailors.  One sailor shoots and kills a polar bear, only to discover upon closer inspection that the animal was an arctic fox!  Dr. Clawbonny, in stepping over what he thinks is a small hole one foot wide, finds himself falling into a large ditch over ten feet wide!

Well, I hope that you enjoyed my little review of The Adventures of Captain Hatteras, and it will find itself on your shelves, kindle, or iPhone sometime in the future.  (Project Gutenberg is a wonderful thing!)

 

 

 

 

Ever Read a Jules Verne Novel?

Reading The Mysterious Island marks the third work of Jules Verne which I’ve completed.  It concerns five Union prisoners who escape from Richmond in 1864 by using the confusion of a passing hurricane to steal a balloon.  You likely can already see a problem developing, right?  Going up in a balloon during a hurricane!  This action, while freeing them from the Confederates, at the same time leads to them flying all to way to an uninhabited and uncharted island in the South Pacific!  At least the confines of their prison have been enlarged from a POW camp to an island.  This is a true Robinsonade (named after the incomparable novel written by Daniel Defoe): these five prisoners, of varying backgrounds, must survive off the land and build a civilization from scratch.  Various obstacles ranging from jaguar attacks to orangutangs capturing their dwelling place to pirates all try to impede them from this goal.  Overall, this was a very entertaining work: only the overabundant digressions into scientific topics detract from it–interesting to be sure, but it does almost feel like a text book at times.

Here’s a picture of the island where our five heroes find themselves.

The other two works comprising my experience of Jules Verne are Around the World in Eighty Days and the little known Adventures of Captain Hatteras, which concerns an English expedition to the North Pole.  (The latter is particularly memorable for me because of the footnotes pointing out phallic jokes; however, I would never have caught these jokes if not for the footnotes in the Oxford edition!  Which almost makes me think the translator was making them up, no matter how good his arguments.  Whenever you see a footnote which makes you say “Why’s that there?”, you might just have read a phallic joke.)  Though Verne’s ability to create tales brimming with scientific information is what makes him most famous, his real strong suit is his ability to create unique, likeable characters.  As a matter of fact, I seem to have enjoyed the novels more which delved less into science, ranking Around the World in Eighty Days first, Adventures of Captain Hatteras second, and The Mysterious Island last. The Mysterious Island does have one great bonus to reading it: we learn how a famous character of Jules Verne ends his days–I refuse to say who!