Thursday, June 24, 2010

Anime review: Blue Submarine No. 6

Blue Submarine No. 6 follows a similar formula to Cowboy Bebop and Samurai Champloo, mixing action and intense fight sequences with a specific subculture music and art style. In the case of Blue Submarine No. 6, the soundtrack happens to be rock-infused jazz. With a world that has already suffered so much destruction and humanity now on the brink of extinction, the story carries quite a serious tone and the art style looks grungy as half-submerged buildings are all that remain of the world’s major cities.

It is because of these two distinctly different styles of art and music that the show doesn’t seem to flow all that smoothly. While the crew of Blue Sub No. 6 are fighting for their lives and the future of humanity, the fact that torpedoes launching at giant mutant whales are accompanied upbeat and peppy numbers doesn’t fit all that well. The animation itself also hits more than a few bumps along the way. The creators wanted to combine hand-drawn and digitally-rendered elements into the series, but the age of the series really shows in the digital animation. Even for the time of the series’ release, it doesn’t seem that impressive and isn’t anywhere near as impressive as the hand-drawn characters and backgrounds. That said, the digital animation does receive a noticeable improvement with each episode, so by the finale of the series it doesn’t seem to drag the show down so much.

The characters are very limited due to the length of the OVA, and viewers are either going to love them or hate them, as only one really changes at all over the course of the series. Most of the crew members of Blue Sub No. 6 are put on the back burner and only make brief appearances, though their conversations with one another add another level of engagement to the series and they come across as more believable because of this. The only three secondary characters to really speak of are Verg, the ruthless yet childish leader of the Phantom Ship and one of Zorndyke’s creations, Mutio, another one of Zorndyke’s creations that is initially hostile out of fear but later comes to the aid of Hayami in return for the aid he provided her, and finally, the captain of Blue Sub No. 6 and longtime friend of Hayami.

Two of the main characters of the series are aligned with the crew of Blue Sub No. 6 – Mayumi Kino, a young soldier aboard the sub and Tetsu Hayami, a former soldier who has spent the past few years doing odd jobs and until he is asked to return to the fight. Hayami is the easily the most prominent and important character in the OVA, and develops from a stone-cold “I don’t really give a damn” type into someone who reacts quickly in tight situations but also does a lot of deep pondering on the current global state of affairs. In this sense, he carries the series very well and viewers can sympathize with him in more ways than one. Kino, on the other hand, is Hayami’s whiny younger comrade who is equally annoying between the original Japanese version of the anime and the English dub. It’s puzzling as to why the crew kept her around, as (aside from her piloting skills with the smaller combat sub) the only thing she seems capable of is failing to complete her mission or yelling at Hayami for completing his in an unorthodox fashion. Dr. Zorndyke – though he doesn’t really show up in person until the final episode – plays a pivotal role as the harbinger of all the events in the series, as well as revealing a major plot twist near the show’s final moments.

The English voice actors do a really impressive job and are arguably as good as their Japanese counterparts. Zorndyke and Hayami in particular are carried across wonderfully, and their voice actors hit them spot-on. While I didn’t enjoy the character any more, Kino’s voice actress portrays her exactly as she should be – an energetic and often over-confident kid thrust into the heat of war.

The show comes across largely as a political piece disguised as a short anime. The story and action sequences are wildly entertaining and make for an interesting experience. The characters, however, are either a hit-or-miss deal, and the soundtrack doesn’t mesh well with the overall art style. Blue Submarine Number 6 is entertaining and a rather quick watch at four episodes long, but – as well thought-out as the plot is - viewers shouldn’t expect anything mind-blowing out of the experience as a whole.

My rating: 7 (out of 10)

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