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In the troubled 1930s, the alien inhabitants of the sunken Pacific kingdom of Mu test the people of Earth by giving them a huge power source and waiting to see if they use it for good or evil. This classic case of bad timing leads to the U.S. and Japan each building a supersubmarine. Consumed with grief over his brother's death at Hiroshima (see Barefoot Gen), a gunner on the prototype battlesub Ra disobeys his captain's orders and opens fire on the American sub Liberty. The Ra and the Liberty ram each other and sink, and the Mu experiment is called off for fifty years.
Fast forward to the present, where Mu attack craft are spotted at the north and south poles. The United Nations prepare for battle, unaware that they have no chance of defeating the Mu battleships. Only the Ra itself, lovingly restored in secret by the surviving first mate and his patriotic colleagues, can save the day, captained by the son of the original captain. Go, whose father went missing when he was a small child, is on a UN vessel sent to investigate the Mu weapons and is rescued by the Ra. Needless to say, he is troubled by the thought that the remote, forbidding "captain" may be his missing father, as the Ra takes on its enemy in naval action that recalls both Silent Service and Star Blazers.
Shunro Oshikawa's original novel Kaitei Gunkan (1900) was a militaristic scientific romance, as if Jules Verne's Captain Nemo had decided to wage war on the Western powers in the Pacific. Combined with Undersea Kingdom (Kaitei Okoku), an unrelated "lost civilization" story by Shigeru Komatsuzaki, it was adapted into Ishiro Honda's live-action Atragon (1963, Kaitei Gun-kan, aka Atoragan the Flying Supersub), which featured special effects by Eiji Tsuburaya (see Ultraman) and designs by Komatsuzaki, who was also one of Toho's senior illustrators.
Made in the middle of the retro boom ushered in by Giant Robo, the 1995 anime version keeps WWII, but now has to include three generations of the hero's family in the story in order to establish a link with Japan's martial past. As well as supremely Vernean technology like gravity lenses, SA injects an ambiguous note of 1990s conspiracy, suggesting that the battle between Terrans and Mu-ites is an accident in communication. Annette, exiled from Mu since the 1940s and prepared to help the Terrans, suggests that the entire conflict is a misunderstanding engendered by Avatar, the unbalanced Earth envoy of the Mu Empire. Sadly, however, none of these questions are answered, since SA is left open-ended, with the crew of the Ra preparing to dive beneath the sea and go in search of the Mu Empire itself. This was not in either of the previous versions of the story, and, although a journey to the center of the Earth seems quite fitting, SA never made it beyond episode two. Mu (or Lemuria) is a "lost continent" in the Pacific that was originally suggested as an explanation for the distribution of Polynesians before Thor Heyerdahl's 1947 Kon-Tiki expedition demonstrated that they had probably scattered across the ocean on boats. As Asia's Atlantis, the place appears in many anime, including White Whale of Mu, Submarine 707, Brave Raideen, Marine Express, and Fight! Ospa.