Festival of single disk anime, part 10: Ninja Cadets, Space Travelers, and Submarine 707R
Ninja Cadets was the first anime title ever to be released on DVD (in Japan), while in North America it was (if I recall correctly), the first title Bang Zoom entertainment dubbed--it featured, I believe, the debut roles of Michelle Ruff, Sandy Fox, and Lex Lang, all of whom have gone on to have extensive careers in the VA trade.
Beyond that, it's not particularly remarkable--it's the story of a small group of apprentice ninjas who are given the task of stealing a Ninja Scroll (wink wink) as part of their final examination. It is a practical examination, and if they aren't careful, they could get killed at any time.
The complication is that the enemy that they are stealing the scroll from has their eyes on one of the ninja cadets, who is actually a long-lost princess, now so incognito that she doesn't know about it herself.
This is an original OVA, and obviously it didn't sell enough to continue, so the rather non-conclusive conclusion to episode 2 is all you get. There's not much in the way of character development or plot here--it's pretty much just action scenes and comic female rivalry that frequently passes for "humor" in shonen anime.
Bang Zoom's dubbing is a bit on the sketchy side: while at least it avoids the murky audio that flawed the first Magic Knight Rayearth series, frequently the levels just don't sound right. Also, the ADR script makes the mistake of emphasizing or lengthening the wrong word: this is something the BZ definitely did get better at over time.
Evidently this was an animated version of a live-action science-fiction movie. Perhaps the original Japanese audience were familiar with the characters going into it, but the characters themselves are so stock that prior knowledge isn't that vital.
Curiously, this is one anime title that seemed to try and ape American-style animation. Perhaps it's because the plot itself was copying American science fiction cliche, from the Han Solo/Buck Rodgers-style captain on down.
Like Star Wars, this is the story of a rebellion against an totalitarian dictatorship. Unlike Star Wars, there is no mysticism to be found here: It's Star Wars without the force, and with a somewhat more idealistic Han Solo instead of Luke.
This had a beginning and a middle and and ending, but it still felt unfinished: probably there were just too many characters for so short running time. Good for Space Travelers fans, I suppose, but not so hot for those of us who hadn't seen the original.
This was, I believe, the first anime dub that Crispin Freeman ever directed (Headline was the dub studio): I think he successfully captured the spirit of the piece. There was a lot of humor in this show, and the performances were appropriately comedic.
Submarine 707 Revolution
Submarine 707R is based on a manga series from the mid-60's. This far more recent OVA series (2003/4) is certainly not dated feeling--I have no idea how much of the plot was included in the original manga and how much adaptation occurred, but the concept of a charismatic environmental militant does not seem too out of place.
So the nations of the world join together in a willing coalition to defeat "Admiral Red": in a rather tiresome scene, all the nations' submarines and commanders are introduced, never to be seen again afterwards. Of course, the US submarine is the most garishly huge.
I don't think I'm giving away too many spoilers to note that it's the scrappy Japanese submarine 707 and her Captain Hayami that face off against Admiral Red.
I must point out one thing that severely creeped me out about this show: Captain Hayami has a daughter back on shore. I'm guessing she's of preteen age, but she is drawn in a creepily sexualized way--I can't tell if it's panties, bikini bottoms, or bloomers that she's always hanging around in, but why exactly was Hayami's second in command, a grown adult male, blushing as he looked at this little girl?
And how about the young cadets who appear around the same age, one of whom is always lounging around shirtless? Is he auditioning for the music video of the Japanese version of "In the Navy"? These things probably appeared much more innocent in manga form, but the art style in this anime made it all too sexualized for my taste.