Blue Submarine No. 6 (a review) (11/5/00)
This show reminds me of why I got into anime!
In the future, the rising heat has begun melting the polar ice caps. More of the Earth's surface is underwater than ever before...
Blue Submarine No. 6 (Ao no Rokugo) is hard-hitting and hyperkinetic, stylistically rich and full of high definition visuals and audio. It is a stunning (but not incompatible) mix of computer animation and graphics and hand-drawn art. The audio on the DVD is most remarkable, featuring hard-edged speedy jazz and brilliant sound production taking full advantage of Dolby Digital 5.1, producing an aural atmosphere I'd never experienced in any other anime. The character designs by Range Murata are convincing and intelligent. Former Gainax-member Mahiro Maeda directed and contributed mechanical designs, and Shoji Kawamori (of Macross and Escaflowne fame) provided the design of Grampus--the streamlined variable mini-sub in the show. The whole is greater than the sum of its already impressive individual parts, making Blue Submarine No. 6 an anime that has to be seen to be believed.
Some anime can be overstimulating, where the sights and sounds (and/or narrative) are so intense, they alienate the audience--where fans who want to place themselves into the story find that there's no room for personal interpretation and identification, only a constant barrage of stimuli.
Blue Submarine No. 6 is not such a show. Despite being a feast for the senses, it still carefully manages to draw the audience down below the surface of things. But it's depth is not measured by the number of technical details given, nor story elements handed on a platter, nor philosophies explained. Instead, we are given brief glimpses of wondrous things, and encouraged to imagine what lies beyond. Scenes of the post-apocalyptic world, the grotesque monsters and beautiful creatures of Zorndyke, the mecha of Blue Fleet--they pass by so quickly, they are gone before we can scan them over completely. We become curious and our imaginations take over. Our own thoughts become part of the experience of watching that anime. This work is one that inspires creative interpretation on the part of the audience.
Blue Submarine No. 6 accomplishes this through its refreshingly and provocatively simple treatment of the storyline. The simplicity is refreshing in that the story is a straightforward one, unconvoluted, and containing immediately recognizable themes and elements: a post-apocalyptic world, man versus nature (with machine technology on one side and biotechnology on the other), a reluctant loner hero called back into service, the psychological effects of war, the forming of relationships between supposed enemies, etc. In Blue Submarine No. 6, these elements are both pleasing in their familiarity and striking in their intensity and novel interplay.
The simplicity is also provocative, as the story doesn't explain every last detail to the audience. We are forced to make inferences and provoked to think for ourselves. As I mentioned, many fans welcome this invitation to participate in the creative process, diving headfirst into imagined landscapes. However, if you're in the mood for less abstract and more visceral entertainment, you are likely to find the story shallow and boring, so you might want to save Blue Submarine No. 6 for later.
If you're prepared to get your feet wet, however, you'll find that Blue Submarine No. 6 offers much in addition to surface appeal alone, operating in response to unseen and hidden currents only hinted at, teasing and seductive, inviting us to guess what lies beneath her waves.