Anime Spotlight: Blue Submarine No. 6

Blue Submarine No. 6 is an anime OVA series based on a post-apocalyptic manga series by Satoru Ozawa. The anime was directed by Mahiro Maeda and was produced by Gonzo. The four episodes of the OVA were released between October 25, 1998 and March 25, 2000. As of this writing, Discotek Media holds the North American license for Blue Submarine No. 6.

The story is set in the “near future,” where the oceans have risen and flooded most of the sea-lying land. A rogue scientist named Zorndyke caused the flooding, which killed billions of people. Zorndyke’s army of half-animal “hybrids” have attacked or destroyed most of humanity’s remaining cities. Humanity has built up a submarine force, and the focus of this series is on Blue Submarine #6.

At the beginning of the series, a young female officer named Mayumi Kino, along with a sailor named Mouse, have been sent on a mission to re-recruit Tetsu Hayami. Hayami had been involved with the development of the Grampus (a two-person crew submarine capable of short and long-range combat) while he was at the Naval Academy.  However, he refuses to help.

As Mayumi and Mouse head back to the submarine, the city is attacked by Zorndyke’s hybrids. Hayumi sees what’s going on and joins in the fight. During the fight, Hayumi destroys most of the enemy; however, one of the enemy’s devices manages to land on a beach. Hayumi dispatches a small robot and sprays it with bullets. When Hayumi gets out of his Grampus and approaches, the device opens and reveals a female humanoid creature. After an argument with Kino, Hayami returns the creature to the water. However, the creature bites him when she regains consciousness). But as we see as the series progresses, this encounter the creature has with Hayumi causes her to start turning away from the beliefs of her people.

The main plot of this story, though, is that Zorndyke is attempting to end the conflict between his hybrid children and the humans in the favor of his children by artificially inducing a polar switch using geothermal energy at the South Pole. It’s up to Hayumi, Kino, and the others with Blue Submarine #6 and their allies to stop Zorndyke’s plot.

After watching all four episodes, I can say that it feels like the anime only touches on the surface of what this story is. I felt like this needed to “breathe” more, because the story just felt constricted by its four-episode runtime. I don’t know if this is caused by the anime being faithful to the original manga source material, or if the anime was condensing the story down in order to make it fit into this episode count. Kino and Hayumi are supposed to be the main protagonists, but I never truly felt that neither character was as fleshed out as they could have been. And the evolution of the relationship between these two characters feels rushed rather than coming across as being a natural progression. To be honest, I never felt as if I was truly ever invested in the story or the characters. There were some interesting ideas being utilized for this story, but it felt as if they were executed as fully as they could have been.

Blue Submarine No. 6 is a series that tries to combine computer graphics and traditional cel animation. Unfortunately, since this series was one of the earlier anime series produced with a heavier use of computer-generated images, the computer graphics really stand out like a sore thumb when compared to the traditionally animated characters and backgrounds. As a viewer, I found myself being distracted by how much the computer graphics stand out in this production. But it was interesting to notice that by the final episode, it felt as if the use of the computer-generated images was pulled back considerably. Even though the computer-generated graphics don’t look all that great due to the technology that was available at the time, I thought the cel animation actually looked rather impressive. There were occasional shots that didn’t look as good, but I thought that overall, the animators tried to produce the best cel-based animation that they could. But even with the issue I had with the computer-generated animation, I have to admit that the underwater fight scenes were interesting to watch.

In the end, I was disappointed that by the end of the final episode, Blue Submarine No. 6 didn’t deliver the potential that was there during the first episode. However, if you don’t care as much about character and plot development, and have an interest in seeing underwater fight scenes, then you might enjoy Blue Submarine No. 6. Otherwise, you might want to skip this one.

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