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.

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.

The Timeliness of Books and the Insidiousness of Vanity

My TR Quote App came up with a great passage today.  Here it is along with some thoughts of mine about it:

“A book must be interesting to the particular reader at that particular time.  But there are tens of thousands of interesting books, and some of them are sealed to some men and some are sealed to others, and some stir the soul at some given point of a man’s life and yet convey no message at another time.  The reader, the booklover, must meet his own needs without paying too much attention to what his neighbors say those needs should be.  He must not hypocritically pretend to like what he does not like.  Yet, at the same time he must avoid that most unpleasant of all the indications of puffed-up vanity which consists in treating mere individual, and perhaps unfortunate, idiosyncrasy as a matter of pride.”  – from Teddy Roosevelt’s autobiography

This quote brings up a couple of points on which I’d like to remark: 1) The importance of timing in a book’s effectiveness and 2) how easily people become infected with various forms of vanity.  Concerning the first point, a novel called Oblomov by Ivan Goncharov comes to mind.  Among the classics, this work rates so low that I cannot in good conscience recommend it; but, it aided me a great deal in changing my attitude toward friendship and socializing with others, which rather approximated that of Squall from Final Fantasy VIII, Allanon of The Sword of Shanara, Raskolnikov of Crime and Punishment, or–to use a current reference from pop culture–Twilight Sparkle in the first episode of My Little Pony.  (And my readership suddenly plummets. 🙂  Let me just say that this is an amusing little show, and I’ve only watched four or five episodes.)

Squall’s the guy looking at his shoes in the lower left.

Ivan Goncharov’s only successful work spawned the term Oblomovism, which is defined as indolent apathy or benign self-neglect.  (Apparently, the Russian form of this word is still often used in that country.)  Oblomov, the main character of this story is said to have answered the question “To be or not to be?” by saying “No!”   This story contains a sagging middle and may be summed up as follows:

A young nobleman with a large inheritance spends his days collecting dust on his bed and only gets up to eat.  He also passes the time by complaining to his only valet–often about certain pests, to which his valet responds “Did I invent them?”  One day, a friend from his university days comes to see him.  Seeing his horrid state of indolence, he cajoles him to reenter society and read books, which Oblomov dutifully accomplishes until his friend leaves him for a time in order to do business.  Oblomov relapses into his indolence and cements this state by marrying a homely German woman who cooks good food.  His friend and his friend’s fiancee find Oblomov thus and lament that there is no longer any hope for him.  Oblomov vegetates in obscurity to his last days.

This rather lame sounding work moved me to tears!  Finishing this work the day before I left for college, I resolved not to end my days in a similar manner, and went on to form many friendships at college, being much more active than I would have been otherwise.  Unfortunately, I slipped back into a form of Oblomovism in my last two years of college which continued until May last year.  But, fear not, dear readers, my life has turned much more interesting since then and promises to become even more so in ten days.  And ironically, if my next steps in education turn out successful, I will not have to worry about slipping back into Oblomovism until retirement.

So, even though this work stands as one of the most influential in my life, I do not want to read it now and will not recommend it to anyone–unless you’re an Oblomov.

On to the second point: how easily people may be moved to vanity, especially concerning their tastes.  Concerning this kind of vanity, your writer happens to be rather guilty.  I can only console myself by remembering how G. K. Chesterton remarked that most men are made of petty vanities and, fortunately, most are harmless.  To use myself as an example again, I tend to prefer subs to dubs, but I pride myself at being willing to watch a good dub.  So, I consider myself a discriminating individual who doesn’t blindly prefer one or the other.  I particularly enjoy it when someone who refused to listen to my advice is forced to change the audio track after listening to what is usually an awful dub–though, there are times when the dub is really better.  In any event, this vanity leads to me being annoyed with the other viewer or viewers, silently grumbling against them, and maintaining an unchristian attitude of superiority.  But, I must confess that I don’t see an easy way out of this vanity besides refusing to watch foreign films with other people.  Any ideas?

And the inability of escaping from many forms of vanity without drastic change stands as one of the worst things about them.  If one considers this quotation from the Imitation of Christ: “Vanity of vanities and all is vanity, except to love God and serve Him alone,” this indicates that only lifestyles which are entirely focused on serving God can be entirely free of vanity.  Such lifestyles are characterized by poverty, self-sacrifice, charity, and self-effacement.  Any striving to gain one’s own comfort or to rejoice in one’s achievements or talents opens the door to vanity.  While the excellence of such a life is apparent to all, only a few achieve it perfectly, and these require special graces from God.  So, I suppose the most we weaklings can do is to recognize our vanity and not think too much of ourselves.

So, what books have come at opportune moments to change your life for the better?  Any vanities you want to share? 🙂