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Super Atragon Anime Review

Super Atragon Box Art

Super Atragon

3.5 stars / OVA / Sci-fi / 15-up

Bottom Line

Some shaky bits, but an attractive and enjoyable yarn.

It’s Like...

...Neon Genesis Evangelion takes its meds and does WWII meets Journey to the Center of the Earth, with submarines.

Vital Stats

Original Title


Romanized Title

Shin Kaitei Gunkan

Literal Translation

New Undersea Battleship

Animation Studio

Star Child

US Release By

ADV Films


Epic Sci-Fi Action

Series Type



2 episodes, 50 and 47 minutes

Production Date

1995-12-21 - 1996-08-01

What's In It


Look For

  • Dogfights
  • Naval Battles
  • Super Technology (neat stuff)
  • Super Submarines

Objectionable Content

  • Violence: 3 (significant)
  • Nudity: 2 (moderate)
  • Sex: 0 (none)
  • Language: 1 (mild)

full details

See Also


  • None

You Might Also Like

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Plot Synopsis

In World War II, Japan possessed a secret weapon: the quarter-mile-long undersea battleship Ra. Powered by a mysterious material found in a meteor crater in Manchuria and overseen by an equally mysterious young woman, the ship was to revitalize the war effort. However, the Ra encountered a nearly identical American warship on its maiden voyage, and both were destroyed in the conflict and lost to history.

Fifty years later, young Go, grandson of the Ra's captain, and his longtime friend Ann join an ill-fated UN mission to investigate a mysterious phenomenon in antarctica. They soon find themselves caught up in a whirlwind adventure: The Ra has been rebuilt to stop the plans of a race of beings living within the Earth... plans meant to bring about the destruction of all life on the surface!

Quick Review

Switch to Full Review

Super Atragon is an interesting and reasonably engaging modern-day science fiction action adventure tale with spiffy visuals and a lot of creative (if occasionally questionable) tie-ins to the past. If you don't try to read too much into the way Japan's position in WWII is cast in an ambiguous light (a side effect of the much older story this is based on), it's really a lot more like Evangelion with more submarines and less crazy--a number of the themes, at least, are similar. The story is decent heroic sci-fi stuff: Plenty of twists and historical tie-ins, and the colorful characters have enough interconnections for a soap opera. The best part, though, is the visual treat: Spiffy mechanical designs, creative alien technology, and very pretty action. The classic film-themed soundtrack is also quality stuff performed by the Warsaw Philharmonic.

Overall, Super Atragon is attractively animated heroic sci-fi on an grand scale featuring a solid mix of story, characters, and action. If you don't read too much into the history or science and take it for what it is, it's interesting and entertaining.

Read the full-length review...

Full Review

Switch to Quick Review

Super Atragon is an interesting and reasonably engaging modern-day sci-fi action adventure tale with spiffy visuals and a lot of creative tie-ins to the past.

I'll mention that viewers with some connection to WWII might be bothered by the way Japan's position in the war is cast in an ambiguous light. This comes from the series' heritage as a classic action film about the power and pitfalls of nationalistic pride, itself based on an even older allegorical novel written half a century prior to WWII. With the story adjusted to fit a setting 30 years after the original, it comes across somewhat differently, and with more muddled intent. Personally, I just kept in mind that it's a piece of science fiction written two generations on and didn't bother trying to read too much into it.

On the same note, the U.S. has almost no part in the movie--the military power of the "rest of the world" is, as usual in anime, represented by the UN. Making a movie where a WWII-era Japanese ship saves the world is perhaps somewhat awkward, but a mildly amusing turnabout in the face of the large number of "America Saves The World" action movies (ID4, Armageddon, etc.).

Unlike its war-allegory film predecessor, Super Atragon is rather more like a modern-day Evangelion without the crazy. Submarines and historical tie-ins replace the giant robots and Biblical references, of course, but it features a strikingly similar combination of mysterious, very alien foes, secret projects with ill-understood technology, analysis of the human condition, plus a boy and his absentee dad. Even more interesting, Super Atragon was released just after Evangelion started airing, so the similarities more or less have to be a coincidence.

On the whole, Super Atragon is much more straightforward sci-fi action, but the similarities are interesting and Eva fans may well find something to enjoy here.

As for the series' own merits, the sci-fi end of the story is well done--there are creative twists and turns, and the connections to the past are interesting, if somewhat biased. The science isn't totally solid, but is believable enough to get the job done. You'll have to watch with a healthy dose of "if you say so," but if you don't go overboard with the analysis it's an enjoyable yarn.

On the down side, the story is a little heavy on heroics, and sacrifices realism to that end. For example, the UN (not the US, somewhat ironically) is portrayed as an incompetent group of military nuts, leaving (of course) the fate of the world in the hands of a single ship--the Ra--and her crew.

The characters have plenty of good stuff going on. There are a number of interesting personalities and a fair supply of depth, along with enough convoluted interconnections for a soap opera. And, of course, there is one of those insufferably cool anime captains that we all love. You know the type--cool hat and a nifty scar.

The one big problem Super Atragon has is that it ends very abruptly. One presumes the series (like nearly all good OVAs) was cut short after two episodes. On the plus side, it definitely ends at a stopping point. On the minus, it seems to be set up for a Journey to the Center of the Earth before it just stops, with no real conclusion or answer to many of the questions raised, and a slightly more satisfying conclusion wouldn't have been difficult to manage.

If you overlook that, though, the story holds up, at least by heroic sci-fi standards: Not too deep, but not entirely devoid of plot and characterization, either.

The visuals are Super Atragon's strongest point--it isn't a movie, but it could sure pass for one. The mechanical designs are very well done, with lots of realistic ships and the stylized and attractive Ra. Even more impressive is some simple but cool alien technology that is... well, alien. For example, they use nifty gravity lens rings as weapons. The character designs aren't bad either (although I couldn't get it out of my head that Ann looked like Cutey Honey, and it doesn't help that the hero's name is Go). The action is almost perfect; it's fast, realistic, and fluidly animated, but suffers from that ancient foe of animated action, animation reuse. On the bright side, it isn't too blatant, and the stuff that gets reused still fits well and looks great.

Masamichi Amano's musical score is exceptional; performed by the Warsaw Philharmonic orchestra, it has a classic movie music feel that fits the story perfectly.

Overall, Super Atragon is attractively animated heroic sci-fi on an grand scale featuring a solid mix of story, characters, and action. If you don't read too much into the history or science and take it for what it is, it's interesting and entertaining.

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Related Recommendations

Thematically has a surprising amount in common with the early parts of Evangelion and pretty much all of Yukikaze, but with a much more concrete foundation. Also bears a vague similarity to the Wings of Honneamise.

Notes and Trivia

Although originally sold as "Super Atragon: The Movie" in the US by ADV, that's a rather inaccurate title, as it's actually two OAVs. I'll get to where the inexplicable "Atragon" comes from in a bit.

This series has a rather interesting heritage; the "New" in the original title "New Undersea Battleship" refers to the fact that these OAVs are a remake of the 1963 live-action special effects film "Kaitei Gunkan" ("Undersea Battleship"). That film was, in turn, based on a 1899 novel by Shunrou Oshikawa. The movie version has much more direct themes of Japanese nationalism and patriotism, though the story is something of an allegory for what happens when these principles run amok. This movie version is currently available on DVD from Tokyo Shock under the title "Atragon."

There is, further, a 3-volume comic adaptation of the anime version by Yuusuke Iijima, published in 1996-7 under the title "New Undersea Battleship - The Great Steel Dragon Force."

As for where the "Atragon" comes from, when the original film version saw international release, it was renamed "Atragon" after the submersible central to the plot. Atragon is, apparently, shorthand for "Atlantic Dragon," though the ship was named Gouten-go ("Roaring Heaven") in the original Japanese version. It's somewhat ironic, then, that the anime version retains the title, since the name of the ship in the OAV is the Ra. The super-submarine with its prominent drill front end has appeared in a few other films, including the 1977 The War In Space and a 2004 Godzilla flick.

On a completely unrelated note, the soundtrack CD was available from ADV, although it's long out of print and hard to find now.

Physics major notes for those wondering about the scientific accuracy: Those gravity rings could (in theory) work the way they do in the movie, and the microwave stuff isn't totally out there, either. The hollow planet idea, on the other hand, is rather iffy.

US DVD Review

ADV has two DVD versions, neither of which claims much in the way of extras. The newer "Anime Essentials" release does boast a remastered 5.1 soundtrack on the English dub and a clean version of the opening animation.

Parental Guide

Moderate amounts of violence and some nudity account for ADV's 15-up rating.

Violence: 3 - A lot of death and destruction, but not a whole lot of gore.

Nudity: 2 - One swimming scene.

Sex/Mature Themes: 0 - Not much to mention.

Language: 1 - Nothing noteworthy.


Previously available in the US from ADV on a hybrid "anime essentials" DVD; prior to that there was a similar DVD edition, and before that a single subtitled or dubbed VHS volume; all of the above label it "Super Atragon: The Motion Picture," even though it's not. Going back farther it was originally released on two individual subtitled or dubbed VHS volumes. Note that the VHS versions incorrectly list 120 and 60 minute runtimes, respectively.

All of the above are out of print as of this writing. Both DVD versions are easy enough to find used on Amazon, but the older edition is much cheaper: Super Atragon (original edition), Super Atragon (Essential Anime edition).

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