Does anyone remember Golgo 13: The Professional? I certainly do, but it's probably for all the wrong reasons. For those of you who did see the James Bond-style adventure anime, I'm sure you recall the climax of the film, where Duke Togo had to contend with a computer-animated chopper that was gunning for him. The combination of hand-drawn animation and computer graphics was anything but seamless. While at the time the technique probably induced oohs and aahs from the crowds (the film was released in the enigmatic period known as the 80's), the effect now borders on laughable. The CG was extremely simplistic, and the severe lack of detail made for a very inconsistent pairing with the far superior hand-animated scenes. Take the opening swinging sequence of the recent Spiderman cartoon on Fox, amplify the cheese effect by 10, and you'll get an idea of what I mean.
Tonight, CJAS will be presenting the first episode of Blue Submarine #6, an OAV that will hopefully show how far the entire prospect of hand-drawn and computer-generated animation has come. The story takes place in a future where humans are embroiled in an all-out conflict with genetically engineered sea mutants. Most land has been destroyed and battles take place on and underneath the oceans. The mutations are essentially an army created by a disillusioned scientist named Zorndyke who feels that humans have done nothing more than destroy nature and must be eradicated. Humanity's response comes in the form of Project Blue, an international military organization designed to counter Zorndyke's underwater armies. The protagonists are an enigmatic individual named Hayami, who left Blue years ago for undisclosed reasons and is forced to return, and an idealistic young recruit named Noriyuki. Hayami's past is a mystery, but his reputation as an outstanding graduate of the Blue Academy is unquestionable. Noriyuki, on the other hand, is a new member who is puzzled by Hayami's reluctance to return to Blue, and is largely unaware of the real reasons behind the war between Zorndyke and humanity. There is also the submarine, Blue #6, which has a significance all its own.
The premise of a mad scientist out to destroy mankind with talking sea creatures could easily fit a B movie. Blue Sub, however, carries it off with style, and it's primarily due to the amazing visuals. CG battles with hand-drawn cel animation never looked better. The overall effect is jaw-dropping and an absolute treat for the eyes ("high budget" definitely comes to mind). The eye candy is complemented beautifully by an original soundtrack that fits the action perfectly. In addition, the characters and plot are done well enough to keep one's interest, and the summary presented above does little justice to the level of seriousness with which the story is presented. I'm sure there will be people who'll still find aspects of the story ridiculous (say it with me people, "suspension of disbelief!!!"), but I doubt anyone won't appreciate the visual and aural impact of the series.
Recent titles like Tekken, Nazca, and Cowboy Bebop clearly show that impressive strides have been made in integrating CG into traditional anime, but nothing drives the point home quite like Blue Sub #6. Stick around 'till after the break and enjoy -- you won't be disappointed.