Friday, December 22, 2017

Marine Express (Blu-ray)

Orphan and M74 continue their high-definition survey of Tezuka Osamu's "Love Will Save the Earth" TV specials with the second show in the series, 1979's Kaitei Choutokkyuu Marine Express (Marine Express: Undersea Super Train, or just Marine Express for short). Like it's predecessor, Bander Book, it features time travel, a runaway computer, and a panoply of "stars" from past Tezuka Osamu works, including Black Jack, Ban Shunsaku, Duke Red, HamEgg, Rock Holmes, Atom, Don Dracula, Sharaku the Three-Eyed One, and even Leo the White Lion. Tezuka Osamu himself has a a cameo in one of the last scenes of the movie.

Marine Express' plot is so convoluted that it makes Bander Book look like a masterpiece of cohesion. Private detective Ban Shunsaku has been hired by the chairman of the Marine Express corporation, Scrooge Shylock, to investigate a possible arms smuggling plot. Before Ban can get started, the chairman is murdered and then vanishes before Ban's astonished eyes. Ban tackles the assassin but is badly injured. He is rescued by Black Jack, who save his life and then bills him five million yen for medical services. The penniless Ban notices that the murderer is boarding the inaugural run of the Marine Express, an undersea train that runs in an elastic tube from the US to Japan. Both he and Black Jack follow suit. The train is mostly populated with test dummies, but the live passengers include the corrupt American Secretary of State Credit and his daughter Milly, an equally corrupt Japanese prime minister and his aides, the Marine Express's embittered designer, Dr. Nasenkopf, and his two sons, Rock and Adam, and of course, Ban, Black Jack, and the assassins.

The train sets out on its run, with Rock at the helm, and almost immediately runs into trouble. An extinct undersea volcano erupts near the tracks. At the first stop, an altercation between Credit and Nasenkopf over Credit's nefarious schemes and the likelihood of the Marine Express creating oceanic pollution leads to Nasenkopf being seriously injured. Black Jack demands the train be delayed so he can operate, but the assassins force the train to start up again, in order to finish Nasenkopf off. The train is attacked by giant sharks. (Seriously? The train is traveling at 400km/hour. The top speed of a shark is 50km/hour. But facts never got in the way of a good story - just look at our President!) Meanwhile, Nasenkopf's younger son, Adam, who is actually a robot, has been programmed to blow up the train. He seizes control of the master computer and locks the controls. Everyone is hurtling towards DOOM when the train is suddenly diverted 10,000 years into the past, to the Mu Empire. And those are just a few of the highlights.

Tomita Kousei, who played Ban Shunsaku, voiced the same role in the TV special Fumoon, the 2001 movie Metropolis, and in several Astro Boy properties. He also played Watson in Sherlock Hound. Ohtsuki Chikao ("Duke Red" Credit) voiced the same role in Fumoon and  in the TV special Bremen 4. He also played Professor Moriarty in Sherlock Hound. Katsuta Hisashi (Dr. Nasenkopf) voiced the same role (as Professor Ochanomizu) in Astro Boy and Fumoon. He also played Louis XV in Rose of Versailles. Kimotsuki Kaneta (Sharaku) played the same role in Bander Book. She also had recurring roles in the Doraemon and Galaxy Express 999 franchises. The late Nozawa Nachi (Black Jack) played the same role in the TV special Bremen 4. He also appeared in Tezuka's ill-fated Cleopatra, as Octavian. The director and composer are also familiar names from Tezuka Productions.

Yogicat transcribed the subtitles, which were professionally done, and M74 timed them. I edited and typeset, and Calyrica, Nemesis, and M74 did QC. M74 encoded from a BDMV graciously provided by Beatrice Raws. This is a joint Orphan-M74 release. The encode has an odd aspect ratio: 1040 x 720 instead of 960 x 720, as one would expect. Comparing against the 640 x 480 DVD release, it's clear that the DVD was clipped horizontally to make it fit in a square frame. Still, I find it hard to believe that the show was animated at a non-standard resolution. Was there a mastering error in the transfer to digital format? Perhaps we'll never know. You can force playback at a 4:3 aspect ratio if it bothers you.

Marine Express was the apotheosis of the Tezuka Osamu star system and also an exemplar of his tendency to let his plots wander seemingly at random. Still, it's entertaining. You can get this release from the usual torrent sites or from IRC bot Orphan|Arutha in channels #nibl or #news on

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