Well, this series didn’t go quite where I was expecting it to. It unfortunately also didn’t exactly go anywhere.
The first two or three episodes started all kinds of strong—you’ve got a pleasant post-apocalyptic town getting blasted to pieces by a nuclear submarine planning on a “peace through military superiority” campaign, a girl giving birth in the middle of the chaos, twin boys of exactly opposite demeanor and goals both trying to help, politics, gambling, Lupin III-esque action scenes, and a semi-antropomorphized ostrich. Ok, the ostrich was just unnecessary, but everything else was great.
After that it settles into a two-pronged plot, with the quiet, competent one of the two brothers, Teen, following around the stern-but-caring head of the New UN as she tries to cobble together a peace treaty among the remaining nations, and the dumb, headstrong one, Keel, trying to help the new mother, Isla, while making trouble for the enemy—the crew of the super-submarine and it’s scarred (of course) captain as they work toward the same goal from the exact opposite angle.
This is all rather interesting, and in general came at things from an angle slightly different from the norm with such series. For one thing, Keel really is incompetent—his good points consist of bravery, daring, and absolutely nothing else. He really succeeds at almost nothing through the entire series except realizing he’s a wastrel and pointing out the obvious—that it’s messed up to have two groups with the same goal trying actively to kill each other. The older-than-14 characters get a lot more action and screen time than normal shounen-fodder, the battles are messy and more cat-and-mouse than in-your-face, the morals are murky, and the eventual conclusion is neither tidy nor clear who, exactly, was in the right.
My complaint is that it sort of meanders, and when the end does happen it’s conceptually dramatic but in practice not exactly edge-of-your-seat, then sort of trails off with quite a bit left wide open. That’s part of the point, admittedly—handing things off to the younger generation, for better or worse—but felt neither as punchy nor satisfying as the series set itself up for in the early episodes. Not bad, just never got to the level of great, and never quite lived up to those first few action/drama-dense episodes.
The major plus, by far, is the characters. Aside from Keel—who’s annoying and incompetent, but very pointedly so—and Teen, who’s stock but somewhat more competent than even the norm for his mold—everyone else is uncharacteristically mature. Isla is the best of the lot; young yet mature—she’s caring for her baby throughout—and while she’s uneducated and not, apparently, all that smart, she’s very competent, and consistently cheerful without seeming ditzy. She’s obliquely set up as the romantic interest for the younger Keel, but it’s pretty one sided, a bit of a disappointment since they had the opportunity to do something with the surrogate father/thrust into maturity angle, not to mention an unusual romance. She’s also weirdly short on backstory—everybody else gets between a few and a lot of flashbacks, but we never even hear mention of what happened to the father. Dead? Skipped out on her? Who knows, and it’s not even obliquely inferred from her personality. They also blew her personality from a realism standpoint when she willingly gets back on a nuclear submarine heading into battle. Alone, that’s reasonable, if for nothing other than to stay with Keel. With her baby, it’s just illogical—no mother is going to drag their child into a potentially deadly situation, particularly one as competent as she’s portrayed.
Aoi, head of the New UN, is also good—greying and an appealing mix of stern and really upset about how badly things have gone with the world, she gets far more screen time and drama than your average 50- or 60-something—she really is a main character, doing more than Keel in most cases. Then there’s Josie, sub captain Gould’s second in command, who is fun for her mix of very competent action and ongoing exasperation with Keel’s incompetence and slacker attitude. Gould, for his part, is interesting in that he’s basically the stock “cool, gruff-yet-kind captain, with scars”, but it really is somewhat unclear whether he’s the good guy or the bad guy, if either—he may be doing more harm than good, and he’s certainly not averse to some casualties, but his goals, at least, are honorable. Rounding out the main cast is the less-frequently shown UN fleet commander, a young, intelligent man who hates, if respects, Gould and has been tasked with sinking his sub at all costs; likable, if underdeveloped. (Gould and Josie, for that matter, get a minimum of backstory past an eventual revelation of why their tactics ended up that way.)
The character animation is also great—has the exaggerated flair of a Lupin III movie with all kinds of life and fun facial expressions (particularly the many forms of Josie-rage). The rest looks good as well, and the sub and underwater stuff, while not quite Blue Sub 6 quality, is punchy and exciting. (They also built a fully functional 1/100 scale model of the sub that is shown cruising on the surface of and underneath a pool, so obviously the unusual design is at least basically seaworthy.) The science isn’t too bad, in that it does the “Superweapon-induced Waterworld” thing, but with few enough specifics to keep science-major annoyance away. The general functioning of the very wet—but not entirely submerged—post-apocalypse is nice, too—there are bickering countries and a lot of strife and hardship, but it’s still well-lit, and life for the average person isn’t all that bad—life goes on, basically.
In the end I enjoyed it, but it seemed to have the potential to be a lot more than it was.