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Undersea Super Train: Marine Express

Entry updated 3 May 2021. Tagged: Film.

Japanese animated tv film (1979). Original title Kaitei Chōtokkyū Marin Ekusupuresu; vt Marine Express. Tezuka Productions. Directed by Satoshi Dezaki. Written by Osamu Tezuka. Voice cast includes Hisashi Katsuta, Kaneta Kimotsuki, Mami Koyama, Yoshiko Ōta, Chikao Ōtsuka, Mari Shimizu, Junichi Takeoka and Kōsei Tomita. 91 minutes. Colour.

Shown during Nippon Television Network's 1979 annual charity broadcast, the film stars many of Tezuka's beloved creations, playing either themselves – though sometimes out of character – or another role: this might thus be considered an Alternate History in relation to their respective canons.

In 2002 (see Near Future) Japanese private eye Ban Shunsaku (Tomita) boards the Marine Express, pursuing the murderer of Scrooge Shylock, President of the Undersea Train Corporation, as part of his investigation into arms smuggling. The train, a joint Japanese-American project, will travel along the Pacific seabed (see Under the Sea). This being a test run, most of the seats are taken by dummies; actual passengers include the train's inventor, Nobel Prize winner Professor Nasenkopf (Katsuta), accompanied by his Robot son Adam (Shimizu) – played by Astro Boy – and his adopted son Rock (Takeoka). When studying in Germany and the USA the Professor, a Polynesian Maori, had suffered racial prejudice (see Race in SF); one bullying classmate was the "white supremacist" Credit (Ōtsuka), now US Secretary of State and also a passenger along with his daughter Milly (Koyama). Nasenkopf orders Adam to destroy the train, having concluded it will eventually despoil Polynesia by bringing development and Pollution. Meanwhile, Rock has a vision of the Queen of Mu (Ōta), who explains that 10,000 years ago her land, sited in Polynesia, was conquered by Aliens and that history is about to repeat itself.

Adam enters the train's Computer room but Milly – revealed to be a Cyborg – temporarily dissuades him from destroying it. There follows a brief burst of psychedelic imagery; the train ends up in Mu. They meet its new king, Prince Sharaku (Kimotsuki) "prophet and divine child of civilization" from the planet Kryptrypton: the passengers have traversed Dimensions to arrive 10,000 years in the past – as to how, Sharaku explains, "We have a machine for it." He wants to use the Marine Express to exploit the sea floor's resources. The passengers are imprisoned, but the Queen of Mu, riding a flying white lion, enters through a window. She reveals how Sharaku had appeared offering culture and Technology to the people of Mu, resulting in their enslavement: parallels to the situation in 2002 are readily drawn.

Adam destroys the Marine Express – killing himself, Nasenkopf and Sharaku. The Queen returns to the throne, with Rock as her consort and Milly adopted; Ban returns to the present day. As for the plot's McGuffin – Ban discovered Credit was using the dummy passengers to smuggle American Disintegrator guns into Asia; the murderer being one of his henchmen: both died.

Though the plot does not bear close examination – Sharaku has Spaceships and Time Travel but apparently cannot build his own underwater train – the addressing of racism, cultural Imperialism, capitalism and environmental destruction (see Ecology) is admirable, though – as names like Credit and Scrooge Shylock show – not done with subtlety. Unfortunately, when wishing to lighten the mood, the story resorts to unfunny slapstick; Sharaku's flippancy is more amusing. [SP]


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