The events of The Prince of Darkness follow about three years after the events in the TV series and it finds that the war between Earth and the Jovians has ended and that a tentative peace has been reached that has the two sides cooperating, though the situation is a bit more tenuous than most would like and in the years since most of the crew of the Nadesico have gone their own way and returned to their civilian lives. One of the major exceptions to this is Ruri Hoshino, the genius child who played a major role in the events of the war with her ability to interface with the Nadesico’s computer and who has been promoted to the roll captain the original ship’s successor, the Nadesico B, after the death of Akito Tenkawa and Yurika Misumaru who had taken her in leaves her without a home. The peace gained post war is rocked when unknown attacks that make use of Boson jump technology on a level neither the Earth or Jovian forces have the sides starting to fray and as the Nadesico B investigates it uncovers a shadowy plot Ruri is shocked to her core when during the course of the investigation she comes across a one word, repeated message of desperate longing- a message that Ruri doesn’t expect but which provides her with a measure of hope as she suddenly has an idea of who is responsible for all the recent attacks by a giant battle machine. With the fate of the worlds at stake once again as well as a far morepersonal stakes for them, will the original crew of the Nadesico assemble once again…and even if they do, will they have to face the horrible possible that some barriers simply can’t be overcome?
Having a very successful hit on their hands with the Nadesico TV series, it was really a natural for the producers of the Nadesico TV series to follow up events by producing a motion picture though the result is one that is incredible different from what those who enjoyed the original series may have been expecting based on the original series, particularly if their exposure was just to the TV series before venturing into the feature. Fans in Japan who followed the series spinoffs into the video game market had a bit of an advantage in getting used to the drastic change in tone from the events that took place between the two animated works as that market saw the release of a video game for the Sega Saturn that helped to bridge the gap between the three years. Without having played the game the adjustment required is pretty steep as the audience is initially presented with the knowledge of the deaths of the two main characters of the TV series as well as having to deal with trying to catch up with the two new Nadesico B bridge characters who play a prominent role in the film as they aren’t given a lot of introduction in the film and thus their development, particularly in the case of one who gets little time of his own to be flushed out to come across as a full character rather than (mostly) a convenient piece to fill in parts of the story momentum is limited. This situation isn’t unfortunately limited to them either as once the crew is reassembled much of their screen time comes off as feeling both shallow and forced in the long run given how events play out as no small number of the cast seems to be relegated to almost cameo roles as events play out around them rather than with or because of them and a few are used as if the writers didn’t know what to do with them but knew they had to place them in events somewhere so the fans could see them again.
The reduced roll of a number of the series stars is only part of what makes the film feel so different than its TV series predecessor as the film contains a much darker tone to it than the majority of the series, though at times the TV series often danced on the edges of some of the same darkness at times without diving into it as deeply directly into some of the issues that could have been explored that events raised. From the beginning the film introduces the viewers to the deaths of the series two focal characters that took place around two years prior to the film’s setting but it then manages to create events that produce an even more dire and heartbreaking series of outcomes that ratchet up the stakes for the world as a whole- though it is in reflecting just how these events effect the characters that events waver somewhat when examining the feature. Part of this is due to the fact that the focus of the film is largely found around Ruri but her emotionally repressed nature makes for a less than ideal sounding board as one can get a bit out of the reactions she does have but her lack overt expressions as of having anyone as an equal she can communicate with to compensate for this cuts off the ability for the filmmakers to really mine the outcome of events and limits the impact that the viewer can have through emphasizing with the feature’s main character. Additionally the film’s sequel nature and short (relatively) run time makes for a poor jumping on point for new viewers as there isn’t much time to give much of an introduction to any of the characters and as such the feature relies heavily on both previous character knowledge for the older ones and a good deal of archetypes to carry a few new ones who the film shows little interest in establishing.
The film itself looks rather spectacular though as it takes the already rather high production values that the TV series had and attaches a feature film budget to the mix, though this does create a look that is more in keeping with the feel of the original than replicating its designs and look. For the TV series the production team made a number of choices that helped convey a more “cartoon” look with its slightly less reality inspired character designs and its use of a more colorful palate to convey their world while the feature film brings a more realistic design update to its characters and uses a wide, yet less bright and more “real” looking palate to convey its images. All of this work leaves a film that feels strongly produced and well written from a technical standpoint but which leaves an impression that somewhere along the way some of the series heart failed to make the leap to the silver screen which is a shame considering just how much of the original series worked because of the quirky characters it reveled in and it leaves the impression that this feature was conceived more as a middle project to launch a new round of stories- which at present have not come to pass and which leaves the franchise hanging on what feels to be an incomplete arc. That isn’t to say there isn’t material to be enjoyed here as the story itself is rather well conceived as to the development out of events, it is just that the film feels like the Nadesico crew is used less naturally and this movie plays its events more as a film where the idea was developed and then the Nadesico characters were inserted to create a larger market for the film than a progression based off following the characters which were the heart of the Nadesico series.