Another Japanese movie I have fond memories watching as a youngster is ‘Atragon’, which features that fantastic flying submarine.
I’m not sure how many of you are familiar with the film. My first memory of watching it was at a kid’s Saturday morning matinée during the late sixties. I know the film has a cult status judging by the amount of Japanese produced models that have been released over the past few years.
So for anyone not familiar with it, here’s a brief rundown of the premise.
In the film, the submarine, Goten-go or, as it’s better known Atragon is a formidable undersea warship, created and built by Japanese engineer and submariner, Captain Hachiro Jinguji. (played by Jun Tazaki)
He’s a highly patriotic man who can’t accept the 1945 Japanese surrender. Jinguji and his crew disappear, and are consequently presumed dead. However, in the intervening years, he and his fellow submariners have been building the legendary submarine, Atragon with the intention of using it to launch an attack on the allies and restore the Imperial Japanese Empire.
Meanwhile, the world faces a new threat from the undersea kingdom of MU, a race of people ruled by an imperial Empress, and an empire that ruled the world thousands of years ago, but had unfortunately, suffered the same fate as the legendary Atlantis, and was swallowed up by the Pacific Ocean. However, somehow the race survived, developing advanced technologies and creating vast power turbines.
Now the MU wants to rule the world again, and send their submarines to attack shipping. The world is powerless to fight back, as the MU kingdom is much too deep for any conventional submarine.
But the agents of MU know of Atragon and its advanced design. They know that it’s capable of reaching their kingdom and possibly destroying it.
The powers that be know it too, and eventually persuade Captain Jinguji to come to terms with Japan’s modern situation and to use the Atragon against the MU threat.
However, one of the agents of MU has planted a bomb in the Atragon’s secret island dock, and it’s about to explode!
Is this the end of Atragon ?
Of course not, but hopefully you get the gist of the story, and re- watching this film, that was produced by Toho in 1963, and released in the U.S. in 1965; I reckon it stands up well.
The effects and model work are fine for its time. The flying submarine looks very effective.
The stop motion, Manda, a kaiju sea serpent, which was included for marketing purposes, looks a bit too cute for my liking, but I guess you can’t have a Japanese Tocusatsu film without a strange creature.
The themes of nationalism and patriotism apply to both Captain Jinguji and the MU Empress. Both are fiercely loyal to their nations, however, in defeat Jinguji retreats and plans a powerful comeback, while the Empress effectively commits hara-kiri.
There are also comparisons between Jules Verne’s Captain Nemo and Jinguji. However while Nemo uses his submarine, Nautilus to wage war on war, Jinguji’s plan is to use his submarine to just continue to wage war.
But for me, the submarine is what it’s all about. It might be stretching credibility to have a single Japanese supersub wading in and sorting out an entire empire, but if I’m ever invaded by an ancient undersea race, I hope there’s an Atragon ready to save the day.