Submarine 707R Review
Based on Satoru Ozawa’s manga Blue Sub 6 as a two-part OAV to introduce the characters and set up the initial situations, Submarine 707R presents an intriguing situation, effective animation and some fabulous underwater submarine battle sequences, but is unfortunately let down by the traditional problems of an episodic structure that fails to build on the situations put forward and just recycles the more exciting action elements of the series.
A coalition of sea-faring nations has formed a group called the PKN – the Peace Keeping Navy – to counter the hostile activities of a mysterious organisation called the USR. Each of the nations have donated their finest military commanders and most advanced marine technology in the form of nuclear submarines like America’s ‘Great Guardian’, but Japan’s contribution is Submarine 707, an ancient diesel submarine that, turning in late to the ceremonial inauguration of the PKN, is the laughing stock of the fleet. Under the command of Captain Hayami however, they soon prove their worth when the deadly force of the USR’s UX submarine turns up uninvited to the party.
Submarine 707R shows a certain amount of potential in its set-up, characterisation and pacing. In contrast to the straightforward good guys/bad guys situation, it takes pains to show both sides of the conflict outside of the military zone, having family lives and being part of something that is worth fighting for. It is very much broad brushstrokes, but at least it provides some context for the military operations to take place in. The story also suggests that the USR might not be just a bunch of no-good evil-doers, but as the Undersea Silence Revolution - an anti-militaristic, eco-group, possibly with religious fundamentalist views in their aim to conserve God’s earth and seas. The contradiction that they themselves use high-technology to achieve their aims could be seen as a confused concept or an intriguing paradox - but the theme is not really developed far enough to see whether it lives up to its promise or not.
Living up to its promise is the real issue here, in that there is an interesting concept proposed in ‘Mission 1’ first part of the OAV, and thrilling use of CGI animation to render the submarine technology – but it doesn’t take them anywhere and is let down by predictable, conventional scripting (a HAL-like computer that “doesn’t make mistakes” - you know where that is going to go), and some very basic, simplified character designs and animation. There are some attempts to vary the animation styles, including some experimentation with still frame drawings and whole scenes done using solely sound effects, radio messages and video noise, which does give the series a more ‘feature film’ feel. The division into episodes however tends to hinder any real character or plot progression, ‘Mission 2’ compounds the problems of the first part by failing to develop the situations and falling back onto another show stopping, head-to-head, all-out battle between Captain Hayami of 707 and the Admiral Red of UX, from which the main characters are predictably the only survivors, who regroup and get ready for their next confrontation – although in the absence of any follow-up to this OAV, whether there is another confrontation remains to be seen and the undeveloped storyline must consequently be judged on what Submarine 707R actually delivers rather than any potential it demonstrates.
Submarine 707R is released in the UK by Manga Entertainment. Submarine 707R is divided into two ‘Missions’, Mission 1 (54:22) and Mission 2 (46:01). The DVD is in PAL format and encoded for Region 2.
The video transfer is reasonably good. The traditional pitfalls of DVD animation are there to some extent – edge enhancement can be quite heavy in places, chroma noise is evident and the usual interlacing issues are there – but they don’t have that much impact on the overall look of the film. The main effect is a slight softening of the image, but it prevents the animation – particularly the underwater scenes and CGI effects – from having too clinical an appearance. Colours are well defined and the image remains generally stable throughout.
There are a huge range of audio choices here. A few random samples of the English voice acting was all I could bear of the three English dub mixes, so that narrowed the choice down to the three Japanese soundtracks, of which the DTS mix seemed the obvious choice. It is generally the best of the bunch and is certainly better than the Dolby Digital 2.0 which is comparatively rather weak. That said, the surround mixes don’t demonstrate any great leap in quality, or show any greater definition or clarity, just a rather fuller sound. The DTS mix certainly doesn’t have the significant impact you might expect.
English subtitles are provided in a clear, white font and they are optional.
Apart from the Trailer (2:07) for the series (which is nothing more than a short excerpt from ‘Mission 1’, and a few other trailers for other Manga Entertainment releases, there are no real extra features on the DVD.
Submarine 707R has an intriguing concept and some stylish animation, which uses its simplified approach and CGI effects to good advantage, but any in-depth examination of the characters or the situation is unfortunately let down by the episodic and somewhat predictable nature of the continuous head-to-head confrontations of the main adversaries. With no follow-up series in sight, this two-part OAV’s failure to develop its situation or even conclude it in any way effectively, leaving many threads and themes open, makes it unfortunately an unsatisfactory release. Manga Entertainment’s DVD has a few of the typical issues associated with animation on DVD, but presented in anamorphic widescreen, few of them cause much of a problem.