AKA: Patapata Airship Adventure, Secret of the Cerulean Sand
Related Films/Series: N/A
For Fans Of: Nadia: Secret of Blue Water, Last Exile, Nausicaa, Castle in the Sky, Steamboy, Tintin
-This anime is loosely based on two different novels from Jules Verne. They are Facing the Flag and City in the Sahara.
After slowly getting back into anime, I thought I would check out this unknown series from the early 00s as I looked for things I’ve never seen before. I still wasn’t sure why I checked it out in the first place given the simplistic character designs and more lighthearted tone compared to most series I’ve watched.
I was definitely in for a surprise here.
Patapata Hikousen no Bouken deals with a rich girl named Jane Buxton who dreams of making a flying machine. Given that this anime takes place in the late 19th century, people think that’s impossible and she gets greeted with insulting laughter. Her older brother George is trying to find a substance called “floating liquid” which would allow there to be a flying machine, so he goes to the Middle East on an expedition to find this resource. Rumor has it that George got executed over there, so Jane and her butler St. Berain travel to find him and the floating liquid while meeting some other characters along the way.
I will admit that the series starts out slow where most of the story takes place in the Buxton family house. It did get slightly boring at times despite the tragedy of having two characters die in the first episode. In hindsight, it was fine since the first few episodes are there to establish many of the main and secondary characters. Once the adventure started, the quality did pick up. The journey does get exciting and pretty treacherous for Jane and company.
Jane is a fairly likable character. She has a clearly defined goal and personality, but her upper-class upbringing makes her very naive at times which I did appreciate. St. Berain is an overbearing butler who is dedicated to defend the Buxton family, but he does develop into a better character and can definitely hold his own in dangerous situations. Saburi, the Turkish pickpocket who joins them later on should have been a really annoying character who’s a one note joke, but even he grows into a decent character who provides levity without resorting to be just a comic relief personality. One side character who I thought was more interesting than intended was Marcenay. He’s this really muscular soldier who takes his duties very seriously, but he gets a crush on female character later on and is able to loosen up while being a great ally to Jane, St. Berain, and Saburi.
The animation is nothing too much to write home about, but there was some effort put into it. The regular animation is quite serviceable, but I do confess that the CGI looks really dated and one can tell this was made over a decade ago. Don’t expect something along the lines of Madhouse or Kyoto Animation, but it’s competent. Although I found it very lazy that they reused the same animation sequence for both ending themes. That was a cop out because I’ve seen anime series with lower budgets and animation quality put more effort in creating new credits animation every time there was a theme change.
Speaking of themes, the music is a mixed, but mostly positive bag. The opening theme does fit the show despite having a questionable title called “Naked Story”. Seriously, people? This isn’t some kind of hentai series, so why a title like that. It’s a sign of using random English words. There are two ending themes which are more mellow. The first one “What Can I Do?” is a generic teen pop ballad, but what really ruins it is the painfully obvious auto-tuned backup vocals. The second ending theme “This Is Your Life” is better, but nothing too crazy to write home about. It sounds pleasant, but it would have been better if the singer had better pronunciation of the English language. The background score is the best aspect from a music standpoint. There’s a lot of orchestral tracks with the occasional anachronistic electronic piece that works surprisingly well in certain scenes.
The story starts out a bit dull, but I was surprised with the character development and the plotting. The adventure itself is exciting and I binge watched some of the later episodes together. The last six episodes really up the ante once the villain Harry Killer comes into the picture. Even though it’s obvious who Harry Killer is supposed to be, he is a very threatening villain yet has some sympathetic qualities even when he does bad things. The level of storytelling gets surprisingly good even though some parts were predictable. The ending is very bittersweet and it may cause a viewer to shed a tear. I was also surprised how they used concepts of imperialism with Harry Killer’s underground factory and when some gold gets extracted from the nearby countries for a bunch of crazed rich people dive into some treasure troves.
Despite some aged animation and a few predictable story points, I found Patapata Hikousen no Bouken to be a surprisingly good watch. It would be great if this got an American release on DVD or Blu-Ray. Given some of the steampunk aesthetics being popular for the past couple of years, I couldn’t see why anyone would pass it up. Recommended.
Adjustable Point System:
Add 1 point if you like steampunk stuff
Subtract 2 points if you like darker stories
-Nice orchestral score
-Predictable story points in some parts
-Mediocre theme songs
Final Score: 8/10 Points
Content Warning: I would say older kids an up. Overall, this is tamer than a lot of anime and this was aimed at an older child demographic, but this is more intense than the average Saturday morning cartoon. There are some characters who die, the villain Harry Killer does some very cutthroat things, and some of the themes including slavery and imperialism are shown. There’s also a couple of swear words here and there, but it’s about as much as some Dreamworks animated movies.
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