In the future, tensions are rising between Japan and China. The jewel of humankind is the new Ocean Techno Polis, a man-made city which floats above the sea. One day, a mysterious catastrophe destroys a Taiwanese submarine followed by the entire city of Ocean Techno Polis. One of the engineers of Ocean Techno Polis, Kurase, must race to rescue his family. Along the way, he must deal with a Japanese navy trying to keep their own secrets under wraps, and discover why Ocean Techno Polis sank to the bottom of the sea.
Throughout centuries, China and Japan have maintained a conflictual relationship. The Middle Kingdom particularly resented for the Wokou pirating on their coast around the 16th century, at a time when it was relatively flimsy as a political entity. Later on, the World War 2 massacre of Nankin cemented this mistrust in a national scale. It partly explains how the leaders of Maoist China feel the need to establish a one-lap lead ahead of their insular neighbors. The manifestations of this mindset are, among other things, the man-made agglomerations of uninhabited islets at the coast of the Spratley. These Chinese polders are a costly, but efficient
strategy to push further the boundaries of the country towards new energetic resources. Territorial contestations are one of the main reasons for geopolitical frictions, nowadays.
It definitely makes for an intriguing context, utilized by an anime...
Do you get the big picture? Fine, because now you may forget about it, reader. What do you think Soliton no Akuma is? An art-house animated movie rising up against the imperialistic ambitions of a communist dictature? It'd be to misevaluate its true aim. First of all, the source is a novel written by Umehara Katsufumi... In essence, the adaptation is closer to a Kaiju-Eiga, a highly fun but politically removed genre revolving around giant monsters duking it out. Do you love utter destruction of lovingly crafted maquettes? Rejoice, as you witness a lavishly designed oceanic Technopolis getting torn apart in a gruesome roar of crushed iron and helpless cries! This marvelous futuristic infrastructure is indeed a mere Mcguffin to capture your attention. Not that it is a bad thing... By the way, the ones among you sensitive to retro mechanical-design are going to have a field! Between the submarine outposts used to monitor petrol extraction, the pods of the subordinates of Kurase, the telesurveillance system positioned at strategic places or the concept-design behind the depressurization cabin of Kit's place, the care for realistic depictions is commendable. Of course, these elements hinge tp be immediately disposed off plot devices but one gotta acknowledge it constitutes fine garnishing. There is also the recourse to CGIs. By today's standards, they look rather primitive but are still serviceable nonetheless. Triangle Staff's touch behind the virtually rendered sonar graphics is flagrant... After all, they're the animators who brought us Serial Experiment Lain. In short, you get the idea... Art-wise, SnA is a movie which benefited from a decent budget, at the heydays of an innovative studio.
Sound department? Tanikawa Kensaku's score is fair, if you like rhythmic orchestral music. Voice acting is alright as well. Not that they are a particularly memorable facet as the artistical focus is all on the background art. Let us move on forward and talk about the plot, instead. In this instance, it is all over the place. To the point the characters look like they are written by Production I.G., in their typical robotic trademark.
Indeed, they are mostly defined by functions. Kurase take on himself to neutralize the monster, putting forth his responsibility as a chief of project for Helios Petrol in Okinawa. His ex-wife is the acoustics engineer in addition of the love interest of the hero. His daughter is the innocent caution of the tale. Not even the two navy army men at the head of the surveying submarine (Yamada and Nishii) experience significant character development, after being forsaken by their hierarchy. They freak out, but not for long. Even as they are surrounded by a scary cryptid with unknown intentions, they take time to sip on a cup of (bad) coffee... Talking about the armies, it is also rather humorous to see how stubborn they are to settle things straight with torpedos, missiles and various artillery. After realizing how it is worthless, you think they would report the situation to Military Staff, focus on evacuating the survivors and withdraw to define a new strategy, but no! By the power of Sharur, there sure is appetite for war and honor sputtering within these chests! They do live for the scent of cordite!
Overall, the cast fits the Kaiju-Eiga standards; it is taken to the back seats as it is victim of a disaster more than it addresses it in synergy.
The true star of the show remains the monster of the show, of which I will not spoil the nature. While the core concept behind it is going to raise some eyebrows, it's still executed competently enough to stay compelling throughout. Only the punctual sequences of infodump are eventually going to throw off the less courageous ones. However, dreary storytelling is an inherent setback of Scifi. Keep it in mind and nothing else is going to get in the way of appreciating the highlights of an otherwise unpretentious little piece of entertainment. Praise be unto Sacred Geometry~
..| Colophon |..
This section is dedicated to content indication in order to inform audience in a practical way. On the next paragraph, the buzzwords offer hints about the title's strong suits and drawbacks.
Ketchup meter: For something which has a body count akin to Barefoot Gen, graphic violence is toned to a minimal amount. The most shocking thing you will see is drowned corpses from afar and Yamada aiming at Kurase with his gun before being tossed back and wounded. The thrill of action is mostly composed of wreckage, pulverization and smoking ruins.
xXx meter: There is no time for it, captain! And no, the monster is not a tentacled pervert either.
Fishing scene(s): If anything the fish are immediately feasting on the ones who could have caught them...
+ The Triangle Staff's touch. Innovation and care
+ Great Art Direction
+ Under represented genre (i.e. disaster movie)
- Some pace issues related to infodumping
- Robotic characterization
- Apparent lack of dramatization as a whole (no change of perspective, no geopolitical frictions as red herring to hide the real stakes...)