- Ashita no Nadja
- Izumi Todo,Tomoko Konparu
- Released: 2003
- Episodes: 50
- Hits: 2607
Ashita no Nadja follows the adventures of a young 13 year old, blonde girl with blue eyes called Nadja Applefield (her name originates in the same name novel of Andre Breton, which means hope in Russian) who travels across Europe with an entertainment act called the "Dandelion Troupe".
Although at first glance it appears to be a light-hearted and superficial romantic tale, there are some serious undertones about class discrimination, poverty, and ill-fortune of the conflict between these issues which viewers can't miss; most notably, the dividing line between lords and paupers.
It also holds the unique aspect of being set predominantly in real-world Europe; although this is not unheard of, it is relatively uncommon for anime to be set on the actual continent ( a notable example being the legendary World Masterpiece Theater series ).
In the early first few episodes, Nadja is an orphan who lives at the Applefield Orphanage - run by Miss Appleton - in the early 20th century England. During a calm morning spent out with her friends Alex and Oliver, Nadja is called by Miss Appleton to receive a package delivered to her.
Inside a small briefcase, there is an elegant and ornate dress, and a diary. Humbled by these extravagant gifts, Nadja also finds a small letter which reads, "Congratulations, Nadja. Soon, it will be your 13th birthday. To congratulate you, I'm sending you your Lady Mother's memento of her first ball. I'm hoping in my dreams that you and your Lady Mother will be together again."
Naturally shocked by the prospect of her mother being still alive, she listens as Miss Appleton reveals that she took Nadja as a small baby from a friend of her mother's, because of her ill health. It was believed that Nadja's mother, due to a life-threatening illness that she suffered, could not raise a child.
However, the diary, the dress, and most prominently the heart-shaped brooch which adorns Nadja, all connect her to her mother. These symbolic items are heavily emphasised upon during the show.
* Nadja Applefield
Nadja Applefield is a sunny, charming girl, with a talent for dancing and making friends wherever she goes. Even though she is very young, she shoulders responsibility well, often taking care of the children younger than her at the orphanage. On the other hand she's also prone to ditz fests, impulsive, naïve and too trusting, which leads others to take easy advantage of her kindness and even abuse it, if the right buttons are pressed. Her biggest dream is to someday be reunited with her mother.
Nadja was left to be raised at the Applefield Orphanage as a baby, her only possession at the time being an elaborated heart-shaped brooch. Nadja grew up at the orphanage believing her parents were dead; however, in the days before her 13th birthday, Nadja received a surprising gift in the mail: a trunk containing a party dress and a diary, both keepsakes belonging to Nadja's true mother. The gown was worn by Nadja's mother at her first ball, and the diary was her mother's colorful description of all the people she met and danced with at that ball. Nadja is amazed by this gift, and stunned to discover that her mother might actually be alive out there somewhere. When bad men arrive to steal the brooch away from Nadja, she leaves the Applefield Orphanage and begins a career as a dancer with the travelling Dandelion Troupe.
* George Haskill (Master George)
He is vigorous and trusting; his co-workers often call him 'Dancho'(Master), due to his leadership skills. He is the unofficial head of the "Dandelion Troupe" and a good friend to Raphael, the free-spirited co-owner of the company. George is the "gentle strongman" and leader of the Dandelion Troupe; the car they all travel in appears to belong to him, and he is the one who decides where they will travel to next. George is gruff and macho, but he has his weaknesses as well. He's extremely superstitious and addicted to treasure hunting, and cannot turn down any maps offered to him. His treasure hunting passion has dragged the Troupe off course in their travels several times. It is unclear if any of his treasure hunting exploits have ever actually yielded any treasure, but George is always keen on going after the next treasure on the horizon.
* Anna Petrova (Granny)
A mysterious, kindly Russian old lady who makes extravagant hats or hair ornaments for dukes and nobles. She also knitted a dress for Nadja, and it's likely that she's the primary source of income for the "Dandelion Troupe", along with donations. Anna Petrova is a very mysterious character: she is sort of a grandmotherly figure for everyone in the Troupe, yet none of them are really sure just how old she is. Anna sews all the costumes for the Troupe (Though it seems that Nadja and Kennosuke are the only ones who occasionally change costume) and she also operates the phonograph mounted on the top of the car. Anna has a side business of making fashionable hats for noblewomen, and occasionally the Dandelion car must detour so Anna can deliver a hat to a buyer. Anna is also a fortune teller; she know right away after she first sees Nadja that fate has some adventures in store for her, and throughout the series she always seems to know when important things will happen to Nadja. She's also an unexpectedly good fighter, due to her small size and skill with her deadly iron pan.
* Sylvie Arte
The French singer for the "Dandelion Troupe". Somewhat of a skeptical lady, she takes kindly to Nadja when they reach Paris and Nadja proves her worth as a performer. Sylvie is the "songbird" of the Dandelion Troupe; her beautiful voice and sexy looks captivate her audience wherever she goes. Sylvie is sort of an older sister figure for Nadja while they are on the road, good at giving Nadja advice, and is someone Nadja can turn to with her emotional problems. Sylvie can be frivilous at times; she likes going shopping, like almost any other girl her age, and at one point she is seen dating Antonio Fabiani, a very shady character. However, Sylvie has some romantic problems of her own; she suffers unrequited love for Raphael, a traveling musician and co-owner of the Dandelion Troupe, who currently can't correspond her feelings since his first wife died of illness and he still blames himself for it. Sylvie is also a pretty good fighter, thanks to her ability to use her umbrella as a weapon.
* Abel Geiger
Abel is German and works as the Pierrot of the Troupe, in charge of comedy and laughter. He wears clown make-up while on stage, and performs all kinds of amusing antics such as juggling, acrobatics, and standing on a large ball. Even though he is the Pierrot, Abel can be very serious and wise at times. He is a very well educated man, somewhat of a scholar and mentor figure; he helps Nadja to read her mother's diary, which is written in German, a language Nadja does not know since she has been raised in England. He also helps her look for some books in a library. Behind Abel's Pierrot make-up lies a sad past and a family he had to leave behind; he was the doctor of an empoverished village, but spent years in jail after stealing medicine from an hospital to save his patients from an epidemy and had to abandon his family after his release, since his son Stefan also had the illness and was left in a wheelchair.
* Thomas O'Brien
A gentle Irish musician, Thomas plays the violin for the Dandelion Troupe. He is a very quiet sort of guy, and very talented, very dedicated to his music; one of the few times Thomas really gets angry is when someone insults his music and his playing, like genius pianist John Whittard does. Thomas gives Nadja her first dancing prop: a baton of sorts that has a matching castanet that attaches to one end, and a belled piece that attaches to the other end. Another thing about Thomas is his practicality; he is gentle and quiet, but he is also very down to earth when it comes to day-to-day life, becoming concerned about how the Troupe earns money and the success of their performances. He's rather cowardly when faced with violence and physical danger, and at those times Abel and Sylvie give him booze to make him overcome his fear.
* Kennosuke Tsurugi
Descendant of samurais, Kennosuke set off to Europe from Japan after being orphaned, determined to get money for himself and his sister Hanako. His dream is to become either a good samurai or an aviator, since one of his first bosses in Japan was a dreamy inventor who wanted to fly. In England, he sneaks into the Dandelion Troupe's car and accidentally sets a whole disaster, but is forgiven and joins the company. Onstage, he usually performs dance and/or fighting sequences with his bokken (wooden sword), and occasionally joins Nadja in her own dance acts. He has a crush on Nadja, usually portrayed as a running gag more than a serious issue; whatever the source of those feelings is, he always remains as her best friend. He's also a very skilled mechanic.
* Rita Rossi
A very young Italian girl, who is also a mute (the term was not considered offensive in the time period; it is much more likely she would be referred to as a girl with a speech disorder today). She communicates with Nadja and Kennosuke quite easily, regardless. She's a lion tamer performs with a pair of growth-stunted lions on stage for the "Dandelion Troupe". She is an orphan like Nadja, since her parents (also lion tamers, who raised her in the circus life) died in a fire that consumed their circus; that tragic incident robbed her of the ability to speak for years and also left her with an absolute fear of any kind of fire. After the death of her parents, Rita was adopted by the Dandelion Troupe (who witnessed the whole tragedy), and performs on stage with the twin lions 'Creme' (the white-coloured one) and 'Chocolat' (the black-coloured one; he is white like his sibling, but George uses painting on him to make him look black), both of which seem that they never age into adult lions. With Nadja's help, Rita gets over her trauma and starts talking again.
* Rosemary Applefield
A childhood friend of Nadja in the Applefield Orphanage. While Nadja is the type to always run around climbing trees with the boys, Rosemary is more dreamy and would rather watch from afar. Rosemary is unhappy about her status as an orphan, and always likes to fantasize that she is really a beautiful princess who was lost by her family, and who will be rescued any day now. Nadja played along with Rosemary's dreams by calling Rosemary 'princess' and pretending to be her faithful knight. But when Rosemary turns 13, she, like all Applefield children, has to leave the orphanage and get a job. She works first as the maid of a wealthy family in Spain, and later as a lady-in-waiting for the scheming Hermann Preminger, who disguises her as Nadja for his own purposes; Rosemary sees her second job as a way to make her own princess dreams finally come true at any costs... even if it hurts Nadja, whom she sees as a traitor after a tragic misunderstanding that happens when they re-meet in Spain, months after they parted.
Rosemary is somewhat similar to Yui Hongo from Fushigi Yuugi; they are originally good-hearted girls with hidden self-esteem issues, developing extremely nasty and cruel sides after their trust on their friends (Miaka in Yui's case, Nadja in Rosemary's) is shattered, recurring to practically anything to get what they see as revenge.
One big difference is that Yui was largely manipulated by her retainer Nakago, who used her anger and loneliness to pit Yui against Miaka; Rosemary is less of a victim because, believing that Nadja had betrayed her and seeing that her dream is at the grasp of her fingers, she's much more active and manipulative and at times even reaches levels of madness and evil that are scary for a 13 year old girl.
Even Hermann starts to fear her at some point, since he knows that Rosemary is perfectly able and willing to use his weaknesses against him if needed. In the end, Rosemary recovers her dignity and becomes tired of all the lies and manipulations; after speaking to Nadja one last time, she leaves the Preminger manor to "build her own princess castle", in her own words.
* Collette Preminger
Nadja's real mother, the one who originally wore the pink gown and wrote the diary that were sent to her. She was the eldest daughter of the rich Austrian nobleman Duke Preminger who eloped with Raymond, a French musician; they lived in poverty but happily in Paris until Raymond died in an accident and Collette was very close to die due to sickness.
Believing that Nadja was dead too, she was easily convinced to return home by her family's retainers, and has lived her life quietly with her father, second husband (her old friend Count Waltmüller, a good man who takes care of her very well) and younger brother Hermann. She's remarkably similar to Nadja: trustful, good-hearted, stubborn when she wants to, slightly klutzy at times.
* Hermann Preminger.
Nadja's uncle and son of Duke Preminger, who scorns him openly after he failed to meet his expectatives and almost caused the clan to lose its wealth with bad monetary inversions. He became a cynical, scheming, money-and-power hungry man who only wants to disprove Nadja's worth as the possible future heiress of the Premingers, first by sending the private detectives Rosso and Bianco to steal Nadja's brooch, and later hiring Rosemary to pose as Nadja.
A move he would later regret, as Rosemary isn't so easy to manipulate as he thought and whenever he threatens to expose her as a fraud she reminds him he can't do it without getting himself into bigger trouble for being responsible for this hoax.
Eventually, Rosso and Bianco start taking advantage of Hermann forcing him to buy stuff for them as he can't let his father find them. As a revenge, when they lock Nadja in Hermann's mansion catacombs, Hermann locks them with her.
* Duke Preminger.
A well-respected Austrian nobleman, father of Collette and Hermann and grandfather to Nadja. He's a powerful and proud man, very cold and obsessed with family honor. He also hires Rosso and Bianco, but to gather information about Nadja's life to see if she's worthy or not to join the Preminger clan; he is, in fact, the one who sends the gown and the diary to Nadja when she's still in the Appefield Orphanage.
* Oscar Preminger.
Hermann's stepson, son of his wife Hilda. Oscar doesn't get along with his stepfather, but Collette and the Duke like him. In fact, Oscar's lack of real Preminger blood is the only thing keeping him from having any chances of becoming the Duke's heir but he doesn't seem to care about it. He's often there for Colette, and is very protective of his mother Hilda, who is a sweet and still-young woman trapped in an unhappy marriage with Hermann.
When Oscar attends a ball where he was expected by Hermann to find a rich girl and marry her, he instead meets people who tell him that, in order to finance his search for Nadja, Hermann borrowed money from Antonio Fabiani and avoids meeting his creditor since he missed the deadline to pay the debt and still doesn't have enough money to do it.
Oscar then arranged a meeting for Antonio, to whom Hermann says he'll be able to repay his debt as soon as he inherits his father's fortune. Antonio then talks about meeting Duke Preminger about that and Hermann asks him not to do so. Oscar tells Antonio he hates guys like him and only arranged the meeting because he intends to use "poison against poison".
Oscar is a heir of the Colorado clan, who owns the mansion where Hermann lives, and has enough money to pay Hermann's debt but Oscar won't do it unless Hermann agrees to leave Hilda and the Colorado mansion forever.
* Harvey Livingston.
A friendly, lanky and talented American journalist who works for a French newspaper. He's one of the first persons to give serious tips to Nadja about her origins, examining her brooch and deducing that she's of a very noble origin, also warning her seriously about what this truly means. Harvey also has a very strong sense of justice and greatly admires the thief Black Rose; one of his dreams is to interview him. He has raised his little brother TJ ever since they were orphaned.
* Mary Anne Hamilton.
She's the daughter of another English noble clan, who has known Francis Harcourt since childhood and has loved him since then. In fact, the Hamilton and Harcourt families were planning to engage Mary Anne to Francis, but Nadja's appearance disrupts these plans.
While she makes clear to Nadja that she won't give Francis up to her, upon heraring her family plea Mary Anne accepts to help Nadja prove her bond to the Premingers, if mostly to see who she really is.
She's painted as a very morally-ambiguous character with both good (focused and straightforward) and bad (manipulative and selfish) sides, less malicious than Rosemary or Hermann, but still not completely good. Despite her self-centered tendences, she seems to truly love Francis in her own way.
* Francis Harcourt
He's the son of a wealth English nobleman, raised by his aunt Emma after his mother died. Unlike other nobles, he doesn't believe in social classes and differences, so under the 'noblesse obligue' motto he becomes an active advocate for charity and a sort of kind, sweet guardian angel for the poor.
He's extremely focused in this work to the point of being somewhat work-a-holic, therefore ignoring the affections of girls like his close friend Mary Anne Hamilton. He and Nadja meet in a charity ball, bonding through their common memories and crossing paths many times as they separately travel through Europe.
However, while still good-hearted, Francis is not as ultra-perfect as he seems, specially since he has serious self-worth problems regarding both his own persona and someone he dearly loves, as well as heavy guilt trips that arise when he sees that his good intentions aren't enough to make the poor happier.
* Black Rose
Black Rose is one dashing, handsome and mysterious thief who steals from the rich and gives the stolen wealth to the poor, since he believes that all the wealthy people are frivolous and self-centered.
He's very well-loved by the crowd, and famous among the journalists. His trademarks are his black costume with cape, mask, and calling card that he uses to taunt his future victims. He crosses paths with Nadja several times during her travels with the Dandelion Troupe; she's at first enraged by his dry wit and exploits, but later learns his motives and starts to empaathize more with him.
Black Rose's true identity is revealed mid-way the series. His true name is Keith Harcourt, and he's the older twin brother of Nadja's crush Francis, who walked away from his family after he finished his schooling at age 15.
He shares his twin's desire to help the poor, but is far more cynical and disenchanted, since he thinks that 'noblesse obligue' is insufficient. The death of their mother also had an influence; while the more innocent Francis saw only Countess Harcourt's kinder side, Keith saw her supposed and secret unhappiness upon being a bird in a gilded cage.
Nadja's love of freedom touches him so much that he appoints himself as her protector after he rescues her from Rosso and Bianco; therefore, Keith is the 'Starry-eyed Knight' that Nadja worships so much, not Francis... and Keith has also fallen in love with Nadja as they knew each other better.
Nadja is very confused upon the question... Who does she really love? Francis, who she thought was a knight that saved her, and showed a more understanding and kind side? Or Keith, the embittered but still generous thief who rejected everything to pursue his ideals?
The twins confrotn each other, with Francis even offering to back off and sacrifice his own feelings for Nadja if it was needed to make her and Keith happy... and Nadja, with some counseling from her friend Julietta, made her decision: though she remained very grateful to Keith for his help, she chose Francis. But since this decision brings even more problems to the already troubled twins, the three reach an agreement: they'll part temporally to re-build their lives, and the final word on who is Nadja's true loved one will be only said when everything is 100% settled and the three are emotionally mature enough.
- Nadja (French)
- Nadja do Amanhã (Portuguese)
- Tomorrow's Nadja
- 내일의 나쟈 (Korean)