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Saturday, July 6, 2013

'Marine Boy' S1: The Wesley Crusher of the Undersea World

Marine Boy: The Complete First Season
Warner Archive's recent release of the first season of the 1966 syndicated Japanese anime series "Marine Boy" is an even bigger treat than Archive's releases of "Goober and the Ghost Chasers" and other '60s and '70s Hanna-Barbera Saturday morning classics.

It is amazing that "Marine Boy" came in above my sonar in an era in which fellow Japanese anime series "Speed Racer" and "Kimba the White Lion" were absolutely faves. This is especially so considering that "Marine Boy's" theme song is every bit as "Speed Racer's" rockin' tune.

"Marine Boy's" titular character is a roughly 10 year-old lad who, along with his father Dr. Mariner, lives and works in the undersea headquarters of Ocean Patrol, which protects and explores the final frontier on earth. Like teen Wesley Crusher on "Star Trek: The Next Generation," Marine Boy effectively is a full-fledged member of the crew. Unlike "Wes," Marine Boy is always the one who saves the day and has the same bravado as young Jonny Quest from the same era.

Marine Boy casually telling his father that he is going off on a dangerous quest and Dr. Mariner making sure that his offspring is properly equipped with a bomb, a powerful gun, or another weapon of mass destruction adds unintentional humor to this already enormously entertaining quirky series.

Unlike Aquaman and "Man From Atlantis'" Mark Harris, Marine  Boy is an ordinary human boy who achieves his heroics through technology. His jet-propelled boots allow navigating through water at high speeds; chewing oxygum allows breathing underwater, and his pet dolphin Splasher and a friendly mermaid who is much more like Ariel than like Darryl Hannah's Madison or even the half-woman half-fish in the thoroughly awesome one episode 1978 sitcom "Danny and the Mermaid." (No joke, folks.)

A typical "Marine Boy" episode has an appropriately named land-based villain seeking to commit an ocean-based crime only to have Ocean Patrol thwart the evil-doer. The pilot episode revolves around Slime kidnapping Dr. Mariner and holding him hostage. The obstacles that Ocean Patrol faces in rescuing their colleague include Slime's radio-controlled robotic sting rays and his amorphous green sea creature.

The second episode involves a plot to seize an underground oil well via subjecting the Ocean Patrol crew to mind control. A particularly psychodelic offering involves siren-like hallucinations trying to lure its victims, including Marine Boy, to their doom at the behest of Professor Doomsday.

One of the more bizarre  episodes has Marine Boy and his posse discovering an incredibly odd ancient xenophobic tribe that inhabits an underwater cave at the bottom of the sea. The mere presence of the Ocean Patrol folks is enough to initiate attacks.

The  bottom line is that the appeal of "Marine Boy" casts a very wide net. Fans of classic Japanese anime, cult series, Sealabs 2020 and 2021, "Seaquest DSV," timeless scifi, the aforementioned"Quest" and its Adult Swim tribute series "The Venture Brothers," and simply lesser-known animation will love it.

Anyone with questions or comments regarding "Marine Boy" is welcome to email me.