People of Earth, do NOT be alarmed! Vehicles using a state of the art G-reaction engine are being picked off mysteriously. Our greatest technologies are vanishing in the blink of an eye. Could the culprits behind these devilish disasters be space men from beyond the Moon? Is the fate of our future truly in the hands of kids that measure about six apples high? Tune in next week to find out, and remember, kiddies, drink your Ovaltine!
Project Blue Earth SOS burns into the atmosphere with this very threat, give or take a couple glasses of cocoa-water. An alien menace veiled in mystery kicks off an invasion of Earth that leaves our blue planet in the hands of a couple of kids and the adults that believe in their capabilities. Billy Kimura is a tech whiz, one whose genius skill set is only properly matched by Penny Carter, a boy dragged into the ordeal with his ever-vigilant dog, Washington.
Naturally, there are more experienced folks around to pull off some of the heavy lifting necessary in staving off the extra-terrestrials—the fatherly Captain Clayton and the brash ace pilot James being the most crucial—but this isn’t really their story. Billy and Penny are the key to outsmarting their cleverly camouflaged opponents, and they do so under the great duress of cataclysmic time constraints and the looming possibility that these aliens could zap them all into dust at the snap of a finger.
Their adventure starts off with a bang, but quickly settles into its own pace, jumping into action at irregular intervals before retreating back into tense plotting and problem solving just as suddenly. Right off the bat, I have to acknowledge that some viewers will be turned off by this aspect. In my opinion, SOS just wouldn’t work any other way, but so many anime fans will find themselves checking their watch, or wishing it could all be condensed into three 30-minute OAV episodes with breakneck storytelling.
It’s too bad that it could be an issue for some, because the balance SOS strikes between a relaxed narrative and one of intense immediacy is a standout feature.
What I appreciate most about the series, though, is the tone. SOS is fun, and kind of campy, but it works because it plays everything straight rather than elbowing the audience with a bunch of dippy, ironic sci-fi riffs. There are countless opportunities to stray from this, too; even the cover art—boldly shouting that “ALIENS ATTACK!” directly below a character-based cast list—reeks of something that’s in it for the laughs.
The betrayal of that tone is infrequent at best. I can’t help but feel let down, for instance, when a character named Lotta Brest does not in fact have “a lot of breast.” Then again, maybe that’s keeping in the spirit of things by shooting down expectations with the fact that it’s nothing more than a name, not a clever play on words jumping out from a sun-faded Roger Corman VHS box.
Tensai Okamura (probably best known as the director of Cowboy Bebop: The Movie and Wolf’s Rain) and his staff do an admirable job of keeping the outlandish events grounded enough, relatively speaking. An equal amount of credit goes to Ryota Yamaguchi, whose previous writing credits, from Ranma 1/2 to Bebop to One Piece, are impressive enough on their own. His work presents a special formula of subtlety mixed with the grandiose nature expected of throwback sci-fi that’s difficult to nail.
The 45-minute format is suited to the style of SOS, with the mid-point of each episode punctuated by a screen-stopping splash that sets up anticipation for the second half. The end of an episode, and in some cases the middle as well, tease the audience like an old radio show at the height of a particularly scintillating space cadet story arc:
“Our extra-special grandiose sci-fi adventure, that many will imitate but none will be able to duplicate, will continue!”
Project Blue Earth SOS is a series that I would love to expound on in further detail if I thought anyone would listen. There’s a hefty cast of characters to explore, genuine suspense from a time of storytelling that’s lost on a lot of people today, and the occasional moment that may or may not be intentionally referential. Take some time to mull over the gentrified gents going Space Cowboys on a very important mission with an old rocket, or Billy’s wowie-zowie glasses that let you pick impostors out of a crowd like Rowdy Roddy Piper in They Live.
When all of these components come together over the course of six episodes, you have something that’s less tongue-in-cheek and more like a lost Toho science-fiction film from the late 50’s. If that sounds fun to anyone reading this, I definitely recommend picking up FUNimation’s complete collection. It went under a lot of radars (including my own) when it was originally owned by ADV, and there isn’t a better time than now to make up for missing out on such a well-produced series.