Even these tapes cost something

1988 | Video Gems
battle for moon station Dallos celebrity just for kids

Joining the ranks of Voltron, Macron 1 and Spaceketeers ThunderSub is yet another case of an American TV series being dumped onto video shelves in the UK without any attempt to establish it on television. But was it worth a rent? Find out..... now!

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From Yoshinobu Nishizaki, one of the creators of the wildly popular Space Battleship Yamato, Uchu Kubo Buru Noa (Space Carrier Blue Noah) was created in an attempt to replicate the success of this previous TV hit. Following much the same template as Yamato it tells the story of the crew of a hi-tech submarine, Blue Noa, capable of intergalactic flight as it battles the invading Godom aliens. This alien menace has managed to wipe out much of Earth's population in an attempt to make the planet hospitable for themselves as their own home world has been swallowed by a black hole.

The rigid template also calls for a team of young raw recruits, including Makoto Kusaka son of the Blue Noa's creator and love interest Kei Tsuchikado daughter of the vessels Captain. Giving the orders is typically seasoned sea veteran Satoshi Tsuchikado. The main gimmick to set Noa apart from it's famous fore bearer is that the series' title vessel is not only capable of diving, sailing and space flight but it also has a smaller companion craft, manned by Shin's team, which can dock with it giving you two ships for the price of one.

The animation of Blue Noah was handled by many of the same crew as Yamato including the animation studio Office Academy who would later create, under the new name of West Cape, the similarly theme 'boats in space' movie Odin.

First shown on the Japanese TV network Yomiuri TV, the show premiered in October 1979 and ran for a total of only 27 episodes, ending in March 1980. Though the series was short lived and never managed anything like the huge success of it's inspiration it still produced it's fair share of merchandise!

The western version of Space Carrier Blue Noa actually manages to be more obscure than it's origin. Bought and dubbed by the American company Western-World Television the retitled ThunderSub received a short US TV run of 24 episodes in 1985. This was possibly a move to cash in on the success of the similarly Japanese originated show Robotech that had also premiered that same year.

The first four episodes of the Japanese series were edited into a single feature length 86 minute episode to open the series. This feature was the only part of Thunder Sub that ever made it to video and received a much wider release than the TV show which went on to be moderately successful in other parts of the globe including the anime loving countries of Spain and Italy but, interestingly, no attempt was made to air it in other English speaking parts of the world.

None of the American cast or crew are credited on Thunder Sub and while some of the voice cast are recognisable from other cartoons, their exact identities remain a mystery.

Blue Noa LP  
The Japanese soundtrack LP
Blue Noa featured in Cosmo Fantasy

The video begins with a narrator setting the scene. It's a set up you should all know by now- it's the distant future, 2052 to be exact, and at some point mankind decided that war wasn't getting us anywhere so stopped and instead all nations of the world have been working together for sometime. As usual this gobal truce has allowed scientists the spare time to create incredible new inventions such as Hover Cars, Tube Roads, colonies on all the major planets and the founding of nine research centres across the globe each specialising in a different field of study. But unfortunately this peaceful coexistence is about to be rudely interrupted by an invading alien race, who look a lot like the characters of Southern Cross. In a precursor to invasion the aliens send surveillance cameras hidden in a meteorite shower, just to make sure Earth was worth the effort. They decide the planet is their best bet for a new home but will take some fixing up.

On Earth people have become suspicious of the meteor shower. A group of three generic scientist investigate one of the recovered space rocks and after a number of tests discover it's just as they feared- it's a phony! Their superior intellect allows them to immediately work out it's purpose as a transmitter sent by a powerful alien race to spy on us! News of this security threat travels fast and soon all of the heads of the nine research posts, plus all the world leaders and any other important minds, meet up at the N1 base in Hawaii. I'm sure it's location had nothing to do with their choosing it for their meeting although it does seem a little suspicious that they head to the tropical paradise of Hawaii when the map shows N1 to be located in Japan but who am I to question these brilliant minds? One of these scientists taking the trip is Dr Cauldwell Collins head of Oceanographic research and he meets up with his son Colin, that's right- Colin Collins great name huh?- on arrival.

  Thundersub aka Blue Noa  

Colin is one of the students of the Academy of science and, after a brief reunion with his father, he leaves to meet up with his fellow class mates the equally imaginatively named Jamie and Chris. The three are on there way to an important exam when, from out of the sky, the aliens launch a surprise attack. It seems putting all of Earth's most important people all in one place wasn't such a great idea after all as the conference centre is the first thing to be destroyed in the devastating assault. Being as world peace has been reached the world is without weapons with which to fight back and it's not long before city is in ruins. Colin and his chums search the wreckage for survivors and before you can say anime cliche he finds his father crushed beneath the rubble. The scientist has very little time left in this world which he uses to hand his son a mysterious pendant and tells him to to take it to the N1 research base and to remember the name Thunder Sub. That last part is very important.
For the future of humanity. Thunder Sub.

Shortly after Chris finds his father too but, if he too had an intriguing gift of his own to pass on, it's too late cause he's already kicked the bucket. On their flight to N1 the gang stop to pick up the remainder of their class mates, each one wearing the Academy uniform flares, and for gender balance a mysterious female stranger. In only a single hour, so the narrator tells us, the alien attack force has laid waste to the majority of the globe. Terrifying but impressively efficient! Known as the 'Death Squad' they return to the mothership, which they chose to name the Terror Star, and bring it into Earth's orbit causing horrific ecological disasters to simultaneously occur. Tornados wreck Hover Cars in Paris! Giant tidal waves ravage the Statue of Liberty in New York! Volcanoes erupt in someplace that has volcanoes! On Terror Star the aliens meet for an address from their leader General Z.

The bastards are already talking of Earth as if they own it and General Z commends their genocide as 'heroic'! What galactic scum they are! Moving on he retells the tale of how, 30 years ago, their own planet Gotham, home to Batman and sister planet to Metropolis, was swallowed up by a black hole. The General had learned of this fate early and instructed the entire population of 200,000,000 people to set about creating a vessel to evacuate the planet in. Only with the entire population of the planet working together would they be able to finish the Terror Star in time. Now, I'm thinking that forcing that many unskilled labourers to build something as advanced as a spaceship in such a tight time limit isn't going to provide the most reliable craftsmanship, the kind you'd be comfortable with entrusting your safety in while traveling several light years across the galaxy but I guess it's the only option he had. And why did they choose to name it Terror Star? Why not the SS Gotham or the Forced Migration? I mean, at that time they were, by the admittance of the narrator, an ordinary race of people simply trying to find a solution to their impending extinction. At what point did they decide that the best way of finding a new home was through intimidation rather than peaceful methods? Maybe they were to proud a people to be comfortable with begging. Anyway...

Days later the Gothomites have managed to design and build a fully operational water treatment plant which converts the waters of the Earth's oceans into heavy water, their principle fuel source. Meanwhile Colin, Chris and the gang are still making their way to N1 in Hawaii which makes me wonder if mankind deserves to be saved. After all, not only has this alien race managed to build a galaxy crossing space craft, but they also wiped out most of humanity in just over an hour and had a water converting facility created from scratch and up and running in a couple of days in which time mankind's representatives haven't even got to where they need to be yet. And when they finally do arrive at there destination the first thing the gang do is not set to work finding a way to stop the aliens but muck about in the sea for an hour! Maybe all this is just a case of intergalactic natural selection. Fortunately fate interrupts their playtime and Colin & co are sucked under water into a secret base. After a short investigation Colin finds the mysterious Pendant opens the door to what seems to be a deserted space ship. Chris locates what he recognises to be a Vocal Command Input and with a quick mention of Thunder Sub the control centre comes to life and the titular vessel forces it's way through layers of rock to the surface. Captain Noah just happens to be passing with his crew in a smaller submarine and spots the ship's emergence. Concerned that the Gothoms are trying to steal Thunder Sub they dock with it and come aboard. A quick bit of explaining later and the misunderstanding is straightened out and the young students make their introductions and Colin learns that this vessel is in fact all his fathers own work.

There's little time to get settled before Thunder Sub comes under attack. Descending beneath the waves they make their getaway but only because the Gothoms don't consider them a serious threat. Over the next few days the team go through training to become the crew of Thunder Sub's smaller sister vessel Junior Tempest. Along the way they meet several racial stereotypes the opera singing Italian/French chief and the burly German staff nurse. During a routine training run Junior Tempest rescues a lone man floating at sea. He too turns out to have a dodgy accent, something like Cuban or South American, and he warns the crew of an emergency at N9 in Bermuda but can say little else as he's in very bad shape. Disregarding this information Captain Noah instead puts together a battle strategy to destroy the Water Conversion plant which, it turns out, is also the base for the whole alien air force. With duties divided between Junior Tempest and Thunder Sub the battle is very slow and tedious. Several obstacles are thrown in their way but with careful planning the crew eventually overcome them and use the 'Anti-Proton Gun' (think Wave Motion Cannon) to shatter the treatment plant and throw a real spanner in the alien's plans. Returning from battle Captain Noah learns that the N9 centre in Bermuda wasn't destroyed as previously thought and the man they picked up was trying to inform them of the completion of the Aero Conversion Engine- a powerful system that will enable Thunder Sub to blast into outer space. With this news the crew set sail for Bermuda and the story comes to a close.

Missing videos
Missing videos

This review predates video clips
I'll try to make some soon.

This review predates video clips
I'll try to make some soon.

Reasoable dubbing
Fun, old fashioned story
Plain character designs
Ropy animation
  Slow moving, dull action

Thunder Sub starts out like it's gonna be an enjoyable, by-the-numbers, 'Ships in space' caper but soon it starts to drag taking forever to get to the point. Maybe it's due to the compression of four episodes worth of plot into one but things really plod along at a snails pace.

The climactic battle is played out at languid speed- the action packed fights of Space Battleship Yamato are exchanged for drawn out conflicts paying far too much attention to faux-neutical detail rather than explosions and excitement. The uninspired character designs and cheap, wobbly animation do nothing to improve matters. The English dub is adequate- the only laugh coming from Colin's determination at keeping Anna on in the crew by insisting "She's willing to cook... she's a good cook!" Ahh, simpler times!