Blue Submarine No. 6
When I posted a review of the first episode of Blue Submarine No. 6 back in the summer of 2000, there was a whole lotta hype going on. The series was one of the first to have a release in America soon after its Japanese debut. It was a blend of computer and cel animation the likes of which had hardly been seen before. And for a kicker, it was released one episode at a time, at about $15 a pop. Although I avoided much of the hype, the price point for so little anime bothered me. Was this to be a sign of things to come? Thankfully, anime prices have gone down, not up. In celebration of the upcoming Special Edition DVD set that contains all four OVA episodes at a reasonable cost, I watched the entire series. And you know what? If you can get past the occasionally awkward marriage of two different forms of animation, you'll find a strikingly unique and entertaining show that carefully sidesteps many clichés the sci-fi genre typically provides.
A billion people are dead. Struck down by tidal floods unleashed by Zorndyke, a professor who's created his own underwater creatures to start a new world, the remains of humanity stake their claim to the small portions of earth still jutting out from under the waters. But Zorndyke is not satisfied, and there's a plan in place that will melt the polar caps and shift the magnetic poles, making the remaining surface of the planet uninhabitable. It's the responsibility of the Blue Fleet and its flagship, Submarine No. 6, to stop Zorndyke's forces before they annihilate humanity. But to accomplish their task, the crew needs a certain man...Tetsu, a jaded pilot whose skills are legendary (along with his attitude). Mayumi, a young female crew member, finds Tetsu and tries to bring him back to the ship, though he fights it all along the way. As events unfold, Blue Submarine No. 6 and her crew will face terrifying threats, meet some friends they thought were enemies, and come face-to-face with the man whose name has become a curse.
Bandai really shot themselves in the foot releasing Blue Submarine No. 6 the way they did, because it's a show that unfolds mostly within its second half. Granted, the first episode is a razzle-dazzle explosion of sound and color and enemy ships. However, it does virtually nothing to establish a plot, and that fact turned me off of finding the rest of the show at the outrageous prices it was once listed at. After all, who's going to pay $60 for a two-hour movie?
But get into the second and third episode, and surprises emerge. We're treated to the rare case where the grand high villain isn't at all the megalomaniac we're used to seeing (though there is one on display elsewhere in the show). We have an exciting submarine flick--which, in my opinion, is rare. Although the characters don't have a ton of time to develop, the leads do have histories that drive their inner selves. The errors in the animation of the first episode also are much less prominent as the series goes on. It appears that the animators took a long, hard look at what didn't work in the first episode and made sure those things didn't happen again. The first episode is shock and awe animation; the rest is what makes the series worthwhile. Although it fits in the same general mold of the summer blockbuster, this puts to shame typical entertainments of the genre like Armageddon or ID4.
When you can see the entire thing all at once, you're treated to one of the best OVA releases to date, particularly in the oversaturated action market. It's thrilling and yet ably plotted, and it even makes me want to read the quite-dated manga on which it was based. Pick up the new special edition if you've not seen this series--unless you can't stand "chocolate in my peanut butter" melds of animation, you're going to have a good time.
Blue Submarine No. 6 -- violence, nudity -- A