Monday, April 16, 2012

Blue Submarine No. 6

Two weeks ago Adult Swim did a wonderful thing and brought back Toonami for me.  And one of the shows it brought back was "Blue Submarine No. 6", a recurring anime mini-series that Toonami used to air every so often back in the early 2000s.  I probably should do every one of those shows Adult Swim aired that night the service of a full review, but time is not with me on that one.  Instead I'm focusing on "Blue Submarine" because its by far the shortest (its length is roughly that of a long movie at a bit over two hours) and also because its the most obscure these days.  Everybody holds warm memories of "Dragonball Z" and "Gundam Wing", and you don't need to look far to find an "Outlaw Star" or "Big O" fan.  But "Blue Submarine No. 6"?  I don't think it gets enough credit.  Because this show was awesome.

Unfortunately upon starting this review I realized that ultimately my point here was "this show was awesome" and I really didn't have much more to say about it.  Oh well.  Positive reviews are always harder than negative ones.  And I always feel bad when I go a week without writing a major post.  So here you go, anime review:

"Blue Submarine No. 6" is Ocean Punk, one of my personal favorite settings.  It is not, in fact, about the divinely-inspired backside of Kino up there, that's more of a subplot.  What's happened is that in the year 20XX AD, a mad scientist named Zorndyke has flooded the world and unleashed a rival race of fish-people to wipe out humanity.  Because of this, that means that all major combat happens in the seas, specifically using acrobatic submarines fighting monster whales that can shoot torpedoes.  All the nations are flooded, ten billion people are dead*, and the ruins of humanity's half-sunked cities are being destroyed by giant robots and ghost battleships.  In comes Blue Submarine No. 6 (or just "Blue 6", manned by a crew of badasses out to stop Zorndyke... only to find things are a bit more complicated than that.  Is Zorndyke simply a Fifties B-movie style scientist destroying the world for SCIENCE, or perhaps is trying something more?  And more importantly, how many ass-shots will we get of Kino?

Unfortunately for the first part, only that one piece of artwork actually shows much ass on Kino, in the actual show she's pretty cute but you never see the backside of her wetsuit.  Its a shame, really.  That ass should have its own talk show.  Kino's Ass 2012.

In an attempt to be more serious for some reason, I'll talk about the animation, since its probably the thing you'll notice immediately.  "Blue Submarine" mixes traditional 2D animation with 3D animation, but the mixture is never particularly... smooth.  Its pretty obvious what's CG and what's being made by cels.  Some people are put-off by this kind of thing, but I actually think the contrast in graphics is stylish.  Then again, I'm the guy who will argue with a totally straight face that the Sega Dreamcast game, "Skies of Arcadia" is a better-looking game than the bleeding edge game, "Batman: Arkham City".  Most of the time the two styles don't even take place in the same shot.  Conspicuous CG, however, works a lot better in a cartoon when already you've accepted that the universe is going to be stylize than in a live-action movie, when God's own real-life creations mock the years-long efforts of Hollywood's computer wizards to make Optimus Prime look real.  "Blue Submarine" has a really unique look, so I'm going to put that in as a plus.  Not to mention that the traditional animation in of itself is amazing.

That CG animation allows for you to see such things as giant lobster robots blast helicopters out of the sky, and of course, torpedo whales.  There is some very impressive sea-based action scenes, the best however, I think, are in the first episode.  The last episode has a very long running battle where Blue 6 finally gets to show off why its so amazing, but I liked the first one better, personally.

So the hero of the story is Hayame, a grizzled cynical veteran of the ocean wars who doesn't want anything to do with the battle against Zorndyke anymore.  At first it seems like he's just a misanthrope who only wants to lazy his way through life and smoke cigarettes**, but actually he's onto something.  Everybody else, including Kino, the young soldier who brings him back into the war to fight on Blue 6, believes that Zorndyke is plain old evil and is trying to wipe out humanity.  But Hayame thinks there might be more to it, and he's ultimately the guy who saves everybody by just talking to the mad scientist.  He also falls in love with a mermaid***.

The other characters on Blue 6 are pretty quickly defined and never go beyond one characteristic.  There's the Black guy, the bitchy chick, the inexplicable genius little girl, and the lecher guy.  None of these people get much time to do much of anything important, besides the Captain, who just does Captain stuff while being cool.  If "Blue Submarine No. 6" had more episodes, maybe the supporting cast could have been better defined, I dunno.

Oddly the most memorable character isn't any of the humans, its Velg, the captain of a Ghost Battleship that spends the entire show kicking everybody's ass.  Velg is a half-man half-shark with a neck-implant that gives him the ability to talk (in a female voice for some reason).  He goes around dressed kinda like a samurai, beating up and french kissing his mermaid harem, and being all-around crazy.  One of these days I need to learn why I like the craziest characters the best.  Velg also has a downright heartbreaking emotional breakdown in the last episode, and if you didn't like him, you will after that.

Now, ultimately the show boils down to the protagonists meeting Zorndyke and talking with him about his motives.  Here's spoilers, watch out.  It turns out Zorndyke isn't straight evil, he was just pissed at humanity for being so selfish with the environment and abusing nature.  So he developed an alternate race of merpeople for us to understand.  But he also flooded our cities and killed billions, and built a doomsday device in the now-tropical arctic.  He basically dared humanity to nuke him to stop the device... which was the trigger.  It was all the world's largest "Saw" series Jigsaw Test.  (By the way, the plot of this show would have made for a much better "Saw VII".)  "Blue Submarine" tries to argue that Zorndyke isn't totally insane, but I really don't buy it.  He's fucking nuts, his plan is massively insane.  Its not the fact that's pretty much a global-version of Dr. Moreau, I don't mind the animal-people.  Call me closed-minded, but when you destroy ten billion people, for no matter what reason, you're crazy.

By the way, if Zorndyke was sane, why did he create this thing:

What the Hell is that??  Its a tree-woman!  Is it alive?  Was it human at some point?  Is it happy its a tree?  Hayame, Kino, and Zorndyke spend the entire last episode talking in front of this creature, and nobody ever acknowledges its there.  Its a really horrifying fucking thing, like a Salvador Dali painting!  WHAT IS THAT?  WHAT IS IT??  I've watched "Blue Submarine No. 6" about five times now, and I still don't know what that thing is!  And it really bugs me.  This is the kind of random disturbing shit that "Courage the Cowardly Dog" unleashed every week, and that made no sense either!  Its so distracting too.

So anyway, "Blue Submarine" isn't show, but its worth viewing.  Its uneven in places, it probably should have been a longer series, but there are memorable parts.  Adult Swim should have aired the entire thing, not just one episode.

* I didn't make that statistic up, its the actual number the English dub gives for Zorndyke's death spree.  That sounds fairly preposterous considering that today we only have seven billion, but remember its the future.  Maybe humanity will reach like twelve billion in 20XX, and Zorndyke will destroy ten out of every twelve people.  So that makes Zorndyke worse than Hitler, Genghis Khan, Stalin, the Black Death, and bears combined.

** Somehow anime is the last frontier for the hardboiled chain-smokers.  Its a shame.  Lately I think anime has cut that out too.

*** For all who are wondering, the mermaid vagina problem was solved by "Blue Submarine".  Yeah, she's a mermaid, but instead of a tail she has legs with flippers.  And considering how many times you see her nipples, one can assume she's fully functional down there.  In fact, Hayame has implied sex with her in episode three.


  1. This show sounds like a prototype for the first half of Gurren Lagann. In a post-apocalyptic world, a band of badasses tries to take out the man who caused the end of the world and his army of human/animal hybrids. Granted, it doesn't sound like there are any giant drills or mecha powered by pure awesomeness, but still. You still haven't told me whether or not you've seen that show, Blue.

  2. Ahh yes Blue Submarine. Classic good anime before it just fanservice of underage girls. I remember running home arguing with the nearest adult to just leave me alone about homework, patientlly waiting (but silentlly enjoying) the half hour of Hamtaro before Toonami comes on, and enjoying three blissfull hours of anime and anime inspired showes. God I miss my childhood. But I'm 122% to for Kino's Ass 2012!

  3. About Random Thought: I can only assume you've been watching Angry Video Game Nerd when I hear/read that.