Thursday, August 26, 2010

Marine Boy : Dragon of the Sea (1965)

Marine Boy was one of the first color anime cartoons to be shown in a dubbed form in the U.S., and later in Australia and the United Kingdom. It was originally produced in Japan as Undersea Boy Marine (海底少年マリン, Kaitei Shōnen Marin?) by Minoru Adachi and animation company Japan Tele-Cartoons. It was sold outside of Japan via K. Fujita Associates Inc., with Warner Bros / Seven Arts Television handling worldwide distribution of the English language version.
The show revolves around a talented boy who is further enhanced by some sophisticated inventions. With these, he serves with the underwater policing agency, the Ocean Patrol, in making Earth's oceans safe. The series is set in the future, when humankind has pioneered the world's oceans, establishing great facilities for undersea ranching (episode 4, 17, 22), mineral and oil exploitation (ep. 2, 12), research (ep. 6, 7), and some underocean communities (ep. 10, 15). In this era there is an ocean based government agency: The Ocean Patrol, whose mission includes protecting all in the sea from danger (episode 4). Most of the activity we witness of the OP is that of policing the world's oceans, for this affluent frontier and its resources seems to have produced a startling number of megalomaniacs—it seems hardly a week goes by in which the Ocean Patrol doesn't divert someone with an impressive private military force from taking over the world. That being the case, the Ocean Patrol is also an impressive military force with small and large subs, war ships, and an air force (ep. 5, 18). The military branch of the OP includes researchers and scientists who are constantly developing their defensive and offensive arsenal (ep. 9, 10, 17, 19) as well as new research vehicles (ep. 10, 12) and devices (ep. 13). Key people in this department are Marine Boy's father, Dr. Mariner, as well as the brilliant Professor Fumble. However, there are non-military branches of the Ocean Patrol which conduct some of the aforementioned ranching, research, oil drilling and so on.
The series follows the Ocean Patrol's patrol boat P-1. The patrol boats are small submarine craft, comfortably sized to be manned by 3 or 4 people. They are also capable of flight for limited times using retractable wings (episode 4, 27). Patrol boats may be heavily armed, most commonly with small "rocket torpedos," but optional weaponry is sometimes mounted. These have included a heat beam, boxing glove missiles (ep. 4), smoke screen (ep. 4, 14), a heavy saw, sonic cannon (ep. 9), a steel net (ep. 11), power claws, drill and laser beam guns (ep. 28). The crew of the P-1 includes Bullton and Piper (a double act, reminiscent of Laurel and Hardy) and often the Ocean Patrol member Marine Boy. Marine Boy is an extremely intelligent, strong and athletic boy of perhaps 13 to 15 years of age. He is a martial artist (episode 1, 2, 8, 16), and an accomplished pilot (ep. 10) whose talents are further enhanced by the inventions of his father, Dr. Mariner. He has a great affinity with sea life, most particularly with a white dolphin he calls Splasher who Marine Boy occasionally seems able to communicate with quite clearly (ep. 11, 12, 28). (He also wears a ring with a dolphin-calling whistle in it (ep. 2, 4, 16).) It is perhaps because of his talents along with his avid insistence to get involved with trouble that his father, Dr. Mariner, along with Professor Fumble, invented for him the red wetsuit which protects and equips Marine Boy, allowing for him to use his talents to perform dangerous duty. With his headstrong personality, he hardly seems able to avoid it. The suit is highly resistant to penetration (ep. 1, 2)(it appears it may be bulletproof) and temperature (ep. 17, 21). The boots have hyper-powered propeller packs built into the heels which are so efficient they can enable Marine Boy to move huge boulders (ep. 3) and break free from metal manacles (ep. 10). When the power units are exhausted Marine Boy has spares in his belt. He also has retractable flippers, released at the click of his heels (ep. 3). The headgear includes a radio transceiver, but most remarkably, there is no breathing apparatus or face shield. Oxygen is supplied through another of Professor Fumble's inventions: "oxy-gum" which Marine Boy can chew and receive hours of oxygenation. He tends to have to replenish the gum after heavy activity. Presumably the oxy-gum is very limited in production because no other Ocean Patrol officers use it. Marine Boy also carries a weapon: a boomerang made of a hardened alloy. The alloy can cut through many matierials and the nimble Marine Boy has even used it to deflect bullets (ep. 24). It folds on a spring so it can be carried in a holster on his left arm. When unfolded and thrown it can generate a powerful electric shock, which has proved to be so disruptive to some electrical systems, it has blown up entire submarines (ep. 14, 16, 28). Marine Boy also has a friend in Neptina, a young (8-12 year old?) bare-chested mermaid who was always kept decent by her long flowing hair. Neptina wears a magic pearl around her neck, which could be used for various purposes including creating an envelope of protection and deterring dangerous animals (episode 1, 2), as well as working as a crystal ball to see events (ep. 3, 6, 13, 15, 16). She also seems to understand Splasher (ep. 3, 6, 10) and have an innate understanding of sea life (ep. 4).

The program concept was developed by Terebi Doga, (aka Japan Tele-Cartoons or JTC), in Japan in 1965, originally known as Dolphin Prince (ドルフィン王子 - Dorufin Ôji). Produced as a short experimental trial series of only 3 episodes and filmed in black and white, Dolphin Prince aired on Fuji TV on Sundays at 7.30pm between 4 April and 18 April 1965. The episodes featured young Dolphin Prince, his mermaid friend Neptuna and Dr. Mariner, with stories entitled "Secret Of The Red Vortex", "Call Of The Sea" and "Attack Of The Sea-Star People". It was a well-received experiment and Terebi Doga prepared to produce a full series follow-up, although this time they decided that their program would be produced in color in order to maximise the potential of the production, both artistically and commercially. Although color television was introduced to the US in 1965, Japan had been transmitting some programs in color since 1960, however, not
 all Japanese studios had invested in the conversion of their operations to color. To complicate matters, not all the networks were interested in buying expensive color film series which were considered "vehicles" for selling commercial airtime, especially programs aimed primarily at children. Some broadcasters, (such as NHK, TBS, NET, Yomiuri, etc), had embraced color as the emerging and more engaging format, but others such as Fuji TV were unwilling to buy or co-finance color programming without a guarantee of commercial return or sponsored support. Fuji TV had broadcast the popular color series Jungle Emperor (ジャングル大帝 - Janguru Taitei) in 1965, but this would not have been filmed in color at all without the pre-sale of the series to US distributor NBC Films for broadcast in the US as Kimba The White Lion, (on the NBC Network which, at the time, insisted that it be supplied color programming by its distributors, the network using color as a promotional tool to attract both sponsors and viewers alike).

I have fond memories of watching this show, with my little sister every morning before I ran of to school.

25 MIN

1 comment:

  1. I used to love watching this show when I was a kid, KSTW used to show this right before Speed Racer, weekday mornings 70-77, very cool to see it again.