Blue Submarine No. 6 Special Edition DVD Review
A renowned scientist named Zorndyke has turned his back on humanity and caused a pole shift to occur. As the ice caps at the earth’s poles begin to melt Zorndyke creates a new hybrid species of animals and fish with human-like appearance and intelligence. The fish turn against the humans, killing billions and sinking cities into the new-formed oceans. The human race has been forced to fight for dear life, and it is losing. The Blue Fleet – military submarines patrolling across the oceans – are humanities last hope. As the point when reversing the polar shift becomes impossible approaches the entire Blue Fleet assembles for a final assault that will decide the fate of the human race. Leading the fleet is Blue 6 – one of the most noteworthy submarines in the world.
Blue Submarine No. 6 begins by introducing Hayami – the only main character in the movie. Hayami was once a submariner ace and one of the Blue 6 crew. He knows how to handle marine vehicles but is rash and a bit on the dumb side. After some crew members arrive on land to ask him to rejoin the force we are promptly thrown into a dazzling fight when several enemy units arrive on shore as well. From here onwards the OVA slowly informs us (and Hayami) of the current situation. Most of the plot is shown from the humans’ point of view but occasionally we do get glimpses of the fish commander Verg and his officers. The fish-people come in various shapes and sizes. Some of them look like sharks, others like dolphins and a few seems to be dogs, cats and birds. This can get quite confusing, especially when you witness them breathing underwater with no apparent gills. One of the most impressive fish are the Musuca – a “whale class” bio weapon that can use sonar pulses to repulse torpedoes and fire his own natural type of torpedoes at the humans. The human’s only effective weapons against these invading fish are the submarines.
Blue Submarine No.6 bases itself from the very beginning as a hardcore action series. Almost every conversation or event ends with a fight. These usually take place at the bottom of the sea and are filled with submarine maneuvering and torpedo firing. It can get very exciting, especially during the first battles when you aren’t really sure how the submarines are used and who the humans are fighting against. The action is definitely the OVAs strongest point although it does tend to get a bit tedious by the sheer number of battles fought. Moreover since all the submarines look the same you might find yourself disoriented when battles occur and more than two or so submarines are working together on the battlefield.
The OVA’s overwhelming focus on marine battles leaves very little space for character development. To say it bluntly the OVA doesn’t even try to develop, or even introduce, most of the characters; And that includes the crew of Blue 6. Hayami takes center stage at all times and receive just enough background story to explain why he left the Blue Fleet in the past, and more importantly, why he believes the humans and the fish should strive for peace. Perhaps the most interesting character is Mutio – the fish woman that Hayami spares in the beginning of the OVA. While she is unable to speak she exerts an impressive range of emotions using body movement and facial expressions. The rest of the characters in this OVA didn’t really strike a chord with me. Some of them were obviously there to create the illusion of a bigger crew, while a few do talk but are highly stereotypical. Although the overall story is simple enough to understand some of the more interesting facts (such as why these people chose to join the military or why the Blue Fleet is using children as “human sonars”) are sadly left unexplained.
There exist movies and OVAs that focus on a single character and yet retain an elaborate plot which manages to cleverly build upon, expend or at least compensate for the lack of other characters around. Sadly this isn’t the case with Blue Submarine No. 6, mainly because the plot itself isn’t very sophisticated and is in fact flawed. As it turns out Zorndyke simply created the fish people because he wished to kill billions of humans. If you were expecting a more elaborate reason, an ecological or philosophical motivation behind the slaughter, you will not find one here. The reasons behind the human-fish war are very childish and the pawns fighting the war are themselves quite childish. Verg fights the humans because “they started it” while Hayami wants to stop the war because he “doesn’t want anybody the get hurt anymore”. The marine battles might be nice but once you step aside and look at how pitiful the logic behind them is you lose any enjoyment from the overarching plot. With close to no character development (or characters to follow for that matter) and an uninventive plot Blue Submarine No. 6 falls apart at the seams.
There is one amazing thing in Blue Submarine No. 6 – its music. The OVA boasts rich and spunky Jazz tracks that greatly invigorate the action during battles. Music outside of battle is nonexistent, but as I explained before such moments are few and far between. The ending theme Minasoko ni Nemure (“sleep on the bottom of the sea”) is an exotic and passionate song, one that I advise each and every one of you to hear regardless if you chose to watch this OVA or not.
For this review I watched the Blue Submarine No. 6 Special Edition DVD from Bandai Entertainment. The special edition contains 3 DVDs in a thick box and comes with a blue dust sleeve that gives the box an underwater feel. It is important to note that this dust cover is the only difference between the special edition and the now widely available Blue Submarine No. 6: Anime Legends Complete Collection (the Anime Legends box set was released four years after the special edition). The first two DVDs contain the 4 episodes’ OVA. The DVDs are double sided, with one episode on each side. This means that after you watch episode one you need to open the DVD player, flip over the DVD and insert it again. Each of the sides (4 sides in all since we have 4 episodes) has a different menu. I can understand why Bandai decided to have each episode on a separate DVD (this was probably due to the fact that this OVA was originally released on four individual DVDs in the U.S. and in Japan) but it still remains an annoyance. In the (very likable) possibility that you would want to watch all four episodes in a row you will have to open the DVD tray of your DVD player three times and watch the studio credits (which cannot be skipped) roll at the beginning of the DVD four times. This is a time consuming chore and also hurts the continuity of the OVA since you have no choice but to stop the playback three times while watching. This ordeal is not limited to the special edition as future editions (such as the now commonly available Blue Submarine No. 6: Anime Legends Complete Collection) also suffer from this. Contrary to what the stock photo of the special edition would have you believe there are no pictures on the OVA’s DVD discs. This makes them feel like cheap burnable DVDs you can buy at your local kiosk.
The visual quality of Blue Submarine No. 6 is not very good. When I watched this OVA on a widescreen HDTV I noticed some scenes looked very blurry and pixelates, especially on the third and fourth episodes. The sharpness and inspiring details this OVA once had when it was released all the way back in 1998 in Japan (and 2000 in the U.S) are unfortunately gone. Interestingly the CG elements in the OVA still look sharp and impressive. Considering Blue Submarine No. 6 was one of the first anime to experiment with 3D technology I’d say using 3D proved to be the right decision. The OVA comes with a Dolby Digital 5.1 Japanese audio track with English subtitles and a 2.0 stereo English audio track. Both the English subtitles and the English dub are great. The English voice actors are on par, and sometimes above, their Japanese counterparts so if you prefer to watch anime dubbed this is a good title for you.
The second DVD features some extra content. Aside from the usual trailers you can view a lengthy (and kind of cocky) interview with the production studio and an English-only summary of the first three episodes (ideal for that friend that arrived late and missed the first episode or two). There’s an unreachable question mark in the extra menu, which is probably an authoring error. The third DVD in this pack is different from the rest. It contains trailers, documentaries and an overview of the Japanese PlayStation game Blue Submarine No. 6: Antarctica. This game was never released in the U.S. but about 10 minutes of animated footage from it is contained on this DVD with English subtitles. More importantly, this DVD offer an impressive amount of information for those who wish to know more about the world in which Blue Submarine No.6 takes place in or about the OVA’s creation process.
Blue Submarine No. 6 was a breathtaking example of animation when it came out in 1998. However the passage of time hurt this OVA badly. It doesn’t look half as good as it used to and the waning of its former visual glory flushes out its childish, insufficient, plot. The OVA’s cast is full of characters lacking any presence or potential and the OVA wastes no time on trying to introduce them either. Blue Submarine No. 6 has a fabulous music track, and the third extra DVD does offer some more depth to the story. Unfortunately these shiny glimpses of hope cannot save this old submarine from sinking down into the murky deep waters of the past.
- Excellent music.
- The action looks nice.
- No character introductions or character developments to speak of.
- Childish and insufficient plot.
- Blurry and pixelated visuals.
Final Score: 7/10
Product Information: Blue Submarine No. 6 (Special Edition). Published by Bandai Entertainment. Release Date: June 3, 2003.
Review Equipment: Samsung 32-Inch LCD HDTV (LA32B530) connected to a Premier DVX131 DVD player using an HDMI cable.
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