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Submraine 707R Anime DVD Review

9 min read

Based off of a classic manga series from 1963, Submarine 707R gets a revival in this two-part OVA series.

What They Say:
A high-tech terrorist plagues the ocean… To counter the subversive activities of the USR, a shadowy terrorist group menacing the seas, the leading nations of the world join forces to form the Peace Keeping Navy (PKN).

Its inauguration ceremony, however, quickly turns into disaster as Admiral Red, charismatic leader of the USR, launches a surprise attack on the PKN. With fierce firepower, Red lets his intentions be known that he will destroy anything that gets in the way of his twisted vision of an ideal future… Dive into this exciting deep-sea military action-adventure thriller, as Captain Hayami and the crew of the 707 try to outwit Admiral Red’s gargantuan nuclear submarine!

For our primary viewing session, we listened to this show in its original language of Japanese. The Japanese track for this release has a solid 5.1 mix that has plenty of directionality during the underwater battle sequences and in a number of other areas but it’s not quite as immersive a mix as one might think. The tracks dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we had no problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback. The English 5.1 mix actually does a better job of a mix I think as they give a lot of the in-submarine moments a better sense of the location with a depth to their voices that the Japanese track doesn’t have. This is replicated nicely in the DTS mix as well, though we didn’t listen to either mix for too long.

Originally released in 2003, the two OVAs are presented here in their original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and are enhanced for anamorphic playback. With the lush rich visuals of the sea and lots of very sleek digital animation mixed into the show, the glossy and very detailed show looks great here. With the rich colors, particularly the blues and other shadings within the submarines, it looks so well layered and just sucks you right into the environment. With this transfer looking so lush and beautiful overall, there’s hardly anything I can find wrong with the transfer. Colors are rich and solid, color gradation is a non-issue and aliasing and cross coloration are pretty much non-existent. Once this show kicks in, it’s just a visual pleasure for the next hundred minutes.

Using a great mixture of a cast and submarine shot, the cover has that theatrical poster feel to it. What’s neat is that since they use a clear keepcase, they made a lot of the blue here very light so that you can look through it. If you have the insert behind it, it takes on a dark blue look, but once it’s out it looks really neat. The character art is good looking and the detailed sub shot is great. The back cover is done in a similar way with the enemy submarine as the background while mixing in the usual pieces. The summary is brief and covers the basics, there’s a few screen shots from the show and the discs features and production information is all clear and easy to find. The insert is a four-panel foldout that on one side has all four panels providing a mini-poster of the front cover while the other side lists the DVD navigation and has an unobscured version of the artwork from the back cover.

I’m probably sounding like a broken record, but Geneon scores high again with their menus here from the folks at Nightjar. Using the sonar look combined with a sleek modern feel, great looking water visuals and a mixture of animation all in a 5.1 sound menu and this is a piece that just wows from the moment it queues up on the screen. Fast load times, great brief transitions and a very in-theme feel make this a top notch menu. The disc also correctly read our players’ language presets making this release even easier to deal with.

While the extras aren’t overly stacked with deep material, there’s some good stuff to be found here. The lighter side of the extras includes things such as the clean opening and closing sequence and various trailers for the series in Japan. The art gallery takes on the form of one showcasing the 3D CG background artwork. But the real meat in terms of the extras here is the Staff Interview piece that talks with a large number of folks involved and how they brought in different people. The reverence given to Miyatake is amusing and well placed, particularly as a number of the folks who worked on this production are long time veterans themselves or people who got into the industry due to his own works back in the early 80’s. Though I wish more of the original manga had been covered, it does touch on it and we get to see a lot of neat pieces here as they talk about the project.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Based on the 1963 manga series by Satoru Ozawa, who also contributed some design ideas to this production, Submarine 707R is another one of those series that the bulk of Western audiences have never heard of but those within the anime industry who cut their teeth in the 80’s and earlier grew up reading about. Many of some of the best mechanical designers attribute their interest in design to the works of Ozawa and the way he so finely detailed his submarine imagery and the creative nature of the ships that he came up with over the years. With a lot of these people on the production crew for this modern day interpretation of the series, something that Ozawa obviously had no problem with, we get a great mixture of the classic and the modern.

The premise for the show is fairly straightforward. Across the seas of the world, mankind has continued to move forward and conquer as it has. For reasons undisclosed, a man known only as Admiral Red has decided that he cannot allow humanity to spoil the beautiful seas any longer and creates the Underwater Silence Revolution group. Based out of some arctic area where a small canopy is visible above ground but a massive base is found under the water, he’s built up a sizeable fleet of nearly sixty submarines of a modern nature that are nearly impossible for the worlds navies to handle anymore. With his submarine the UX, Admiral Red has struck fear into the hearts of nations so far that they actually create a global Peacekeeping Navy.

The PKN goes through all the usual ceremonies of a new group and an massive ceremony is held at sea where the leviathan ship that houses the bulk of the administration for it is surrounded by all of the attendant submarines and other ships. Each of the nations that have committed to the force have supplied their own submarines and they go through an amusing procession for it where they all show off, up to and including the flashy and sleek looking Great Guardian from the US fleet. When the Japanese submarine arrives, the old and out of production 707R, it pretty much gets derided by much of those in attendance as it lacks the flair and design of the more modern subs around it. But as we known from the subs captain, Hayami, it’s a great old boat that’s done amazing things over the years.

With all the pomp and circumstance going on, Admiral Red finds that it’s a fitting time for them to be taught a lesson and he and his fleet launch an all out attack on the ceremony. Since all the ships are close together, things are sunk quickly and the battle goes poorly for quite awhile. The sequence also brings out a lot of weaknesses in the PKN such as that no actual command structure for the fleet had been set yet so each of the ships captains start to take on the lead themselves leading to much more chaos and confusion. But even worse, Admiral Red knows how to take down a massive leviathan ship with only a minimal amount of effort, but his attempt to do so brings him into contact with his new adversary, Hayami. Though Red succeeds in eliminating the 707R, he doesn’t eliminate the man.

And that’s always the dangerous part as this allows Japan to bring out its most advanced submarine and assign Hayami to command of it, bringing aboard his hardened crew to head back out into the seas and show the world what the Japanese are really made of. Though much of the two episodes does play out as a standard cat and mouse game ala many past submarine movies and novels, it manages to attain the same level of tension and beauty that something like the Hunt for Red October does in the theatrical sense (not that anything visual could be like that novel). Submarine 707R takes it a few steps further as well by layering in a number of characters and the start of potential smaller subplots with the secondary characters and relations that you really want to see where they go.

For example, when Hayami is on his downtime, we get to see how his life and career has affected the relationship with his wife and daughter. The time spent with them is difficult for him since he loves them dearly but the sea is a strong siren call to him. His letters to his wife are most amusing, especially with the less than subtle raunchy nature to them. Another area that really drew me in was the entire base concept that they used in the snow, much like in the Blue Submarine No. 6 series. This is a concept that I find fascinating, particularly as the interior of the base of which we only see a little of is really intriguing. With Red’s wife living there with his three older daughters and his infant son, the combination of classic architecture and the beautiful contrasting scenery of lush lawns and trees with the terrible snow and cold outside is gorgeous. His story doesn’t really get told and elements like this only help to serve ensure that it’s not a simple tale or that he’s truly a villain in the classic Hollywood sense.

The design of the show is very attractive as well. The look and feel of the submarines are critical to making a show like this work and they did a spectacular job with it, from the almost outlandish designs of such vessels as the Great Guardian to the sleek nature of the new 707R. I loved the way that a lot of the submarines went for the closed in feel and kept that tradition and wondered just what kind of design like the Great Guardian would actually be allowed since it would require so much open air to be available. There’s so much to see here that in repeat viewings the technological side of the show stands out even more since you’re able to focus on it more than the story.

In Summary:
Coming back to this standalone title after quite a few years proved to be a good experience. The show is a great bit of fun and a solid cat and mouse game between advanced submarines while being commanded by hardened old time veterans, which is definitely how I like my submarine stories. The core story is very simple and straightforward but this show, which has largely gone unknown, manages to layer it with enough secondary characters and plots that it feels like a much richer piece. With only the two episodes and no indication as to whether there will be more, or if more were even planned from the start, the show does come to a conclusion and ends but it leaves you wanting much, much more afterwards. It’s hard to do something original with a show like this but with the number of talented folks on the production and some great classic material to work with, this show has a lot to offer and was a very engaging show that kept me entertained. Definitely recommended.

Japanese Dolby Digital 5.1 Language, English Dolby Digital 5.1 Language, English DTS 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Creator Interviews, 3D CG Modeling Demo, Theatrical Trailers, Art Gallery

Content Grade: B+
Audio Grade: A-
Video Grade: B+
Packaging Grade: B+
Menu Grade: A-
Extras Grade: A

Readers Rating: [ratings]

Released By: Geneon Entertainment
Release Date: November 9th, 2004
MSRP: $29.98
Running Time: 100 Minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen

Review Equipment:
Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70″ LCoS 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.

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