© 1998 Satoru Ozawa, Bandai Visual, Toshiba EMI, GONZO
Blue Submarine No. 6
Blue Submarine No. 6 has made itself a standout in the anime crowd by bucking the usual trend and incorporating heavy use of 3D animation along with traditional 2D-style animation and artwork. While this certainly gave it an edge in marketing it to the masses, it also means that virtually every discussion revolves around the visual aspects of the series and less focus is on things like plot and characters. While this means that a lot of curious fans have probably picked up Blue Submarine No. 6, I can't help feeling that people are doing so for the wrong reasons.
I feel obligated to dive right into the visual aspects of the series, if for no other reason than to get them out of the way. The 3D animation is dramatically different from what fans are generally used to and has led to much public scrutiny. While some fans have cried blasphemy over the 3D visuals, I didn't think they were all that bad. The explosion effects did look pretty goofy, but explosions and fire is one of the hardest things to render in 3D. The underwater scenes of the various submarines engaging in combat were quite impressive, and I think 3D animation was far more suitable than 2D animation would have been. Speaking of which, something that does get little mention in the face of the 3D animation is the 2D animation. It's certainly much more fluid than most anime and a shame that it gets so little recognition in between discussions of all the 3D effects.
Another element of the production which doesn't get enough recognition is the excellent audio. The fast-paced, jazzy action music by the Thrill is a welcome break from traditional techno-synth tunes of most action flicks. Additionally, the slower, blues-style pieces are quite good as well. Furthermore, the soundtrack itself is incredibly bassy. If you've got a home theater with a decent subwoofer, this is one anime worth cranking it for. I don't think I've experienced this much bass since Spybreak in The Matrix.
Mind you, flashy production values and jazzy music don't mean squat without a decent story to back things up. Fortunately, Blue Submarine No. 6 delivers. The story takes place in the near future, after a catastrophic event has caused the melting of the polar ice caps. This results in huge flooding and the loss of almost all human life on the planet. This cataclysmic event, however, was perpetrated by a madman named Zorndyke who seems to have it in for the poor human race. And as if inflicting massive flooding isn't bad enough, Zorndyke also dabbles in genetic mutations and has unleashed a horde of inhuman beasts against the remaining populace.
As the title itself suggests, the series focuses on the crew of part of the submarine fleet; in this case, submarine number six. Actually, the focus is primarily on two members of the crew, Hayami Tetsu and Mayumi Kino. Hayami happens to be a former submariner pilot who left his duty to get away from the conflict. Mayumi tries to coax him back to the fleet, due to the fact that Zorndyke's forces have severely decimated humankind. At first, Hayami refuses, but then puts himself into the conflict when saving Mayumi's life shortly after. There's a lot of character development surrounding Hayami with a strong look into his past and motivations for his actions. While it initially looks like he'll fall into the stereotypical role of the rogue hero turned savior of humanity, he actually breaks the stereotype and demonstrates a much greater understanding than I would've thought possible. Mayumi is a more likeable character as a young, idealistic and impetuous girl who gradually comes to realize the truth of the war, and that it's not as black and white as she had envisioned. The remainder of the characters are more or less inconsequential, with the exceptions of Verg, Zorndyke's hideous half-shark/half-man creation, and Zorndyke himself, who unfortunately, has a more limited role than I would've liked.
The story takes a back seat to the action during the first couple episodes. The action itself is pretty good, if one is able to look past the some of the cheesier special effects, and having a good sound system doesn't hurt either. I found the underwater battle scenes a refreshing break from more typical arial or outer-space conflicts in traditional action anime. Of course, the laws of underwater physics don't seem to entirely apply in all cases here, but reality hardly makes for worthwhile entertainment. For the final two episodes, the action takes a back seat as revelations about both the heroes and villains of this series are brought into the light and new plot developments occur. It makes for a well balanced series that can grab an audience in the early goings and spin a meaningful story by the end.
While Blue Submarine No. 6 is a moderately entertaining show in its own right, it does suffer a rather large knock in the price department. Due to to licensing restrictions, Bandai had to release this four-episode series one episode per VHS tape or DVD. While the individual episodes are priced lower than typical anime releases, this series can still end up costing $60 or more to collect. Considering it's possible to get other 26 episode TV series on DVD for about $80, Blue Submarine No. 6 does not give much bang for its buck. On the other hand, it has been shown on the Cartoon Network, albeit in an edited format.
Overall, Blue Submarine No. 6 is a decent anime with a solid story line backed by good action, character development and some dandy production values. While some fans won't be able to put aside their 3D-animation prejudices to really enjoy this anime, those that do will be rewarded with an entertaining series.
The Verdict: * * * 1/2 (above average)
|last modified: 05-26-03||The Anime Critic and associated content © 1999-2003 Pete Harcoff. All rights reserved.|