A long while back in my high school English class, we were assigned to read the classic novella Heart of Darkness, by Joseph Conrad, which itself was the basis of Francis Ford Coppola's classic film Apocalypse Now. While reading the novella and later watching the film, there seemed to be something oddly familiar with the themes and characters. Around the same time, I was watching Blue Submarine No. 6, the revolutionary anime from Mahiro Maeda and GONZO, and that was when things began to click. Many of the traits that resided inside the two works were present in the OVA/movie, almost as if I were watching a reimagined version of the story.
Reading up on the anime, there is nothing that I have seen so far that actually suggests that it is an adaptation in part of the book or film (though it is loosely based off a manga by Satoru Ozawa). The comparisons across the works, however, are there and striking if you ever had the chance to view or read all of them. Below is a collection of these similarities, which I originally posted on an anime forum site a few years ago, though I cleaned and enhanced it for this blog. A bit of caution ahead: the Blue Submarine No. 6 in reference comes from the Toonami Edition DVD, which is a complied version of the four-part OVA with some of the more inappropriate material removed or censored (much of the story is still intact, so the uncut version may have additional content that may be applicable here), as well as the uncut Part 1 VHS. Also, be warned that there are spoilers to all of the stories listed, so unknowing readers beware...
***SPOILERS*** ***SPOILERS*** ***SPOILERS***
-Blue Submarine No. 6 begins with the Blue Fleet, a navel fleet of super-submarines, requesting the aid of former ace submariner Tetsuo Hayami in locating the base of renegade scientist Dr. Jung Zorndike, who plans to drastically alter the Earth's atmosphere and raise the sea level.
-Heart of Darkness begins with the deployment of Charlie Marlow in locating and "rescuing" renegade government ivory merchant Stanley Kurtz from "the savages."
-Apocalypse Now begins with Army Capt. Benjamin Willard being given orders to "terminate" the renegade Colonel Walter E. Kurtz, who is waging a war of his own against US agents in Vietnam War-torn Cambodia.
--The Mysterious Woman--
-HoD: Kurtz's mistress
-AN: Did not appear
The two females mentioned are viewed as mysterious, beautiful, and enigmatic. Nothing much is known about either.
--The Motley Character--
-BS6: Verg (his clothes are a big hint)
-HoD: The motley Russian trader
-AN: The photojournalist at Kurtz's camp
All three characters are obsessed with Zordike/Kurtz, and will do anything for them. Although the HoD & AN Motleys are kind and bit on the delusional side, Verg is violent, cruel, and sadistic in his actions. All seem to display a wild behavior, fitting of their garments.
--The "Kurtz" Character--
-BS6: Dr. Jung Zorndike
-HoD: Stanley Kurtz
-AN: Col. Walter E. Kurtz
The characters mentioned above are hunted down for disobeying orders and for mass murder. The two Kurtzes have killed those who did not agree with them, while Zorndike was responsible for the deaths of 10 billion people, whom he thought did not agree with or fit his view of the world. They also have an air of arrogance about them and exhibit selfish behavior and ideology. They feel no remorse for the acts they committed; rather, they have full justification for them. In addition, each one created their own bizzare "civilization" in a remote part of the set area (Kurtz & the jungle, Zordike & a jungle-like Antarctica). Both Kurtzes attracted people with their charisma, whereas Zorndike "created" his "children," all of whom care deeply for their "father." Very intelligent and gifted, the "Kurtz" Character was once highly respected before their apparent downfall.
--The Main Character--
-BS6: Tetsuo Hayami
-HoD: Charlie Marlow
-AN: Capt. Benjamin Willard
All three main characters, with the slight exception of Marlow, are lost, depressed, temperamental, drug-using military personnel. Both Hayami and Willard are especially similar in this aspect (including their living conditions in the beginning and the scenes involving the officers' visit). Jilted by their past circumstances, they still retain the notable skills from that time, one of the leading reasons for their employment in the mission. Personality-wise, they are cynical, unbelievers, and in some ways, "realists." They find fault with the world around them, much like the person they are seeking.
-BS6: Hayami ends Zorndike's life.
-HoD: Kurtz dies while being "rescued."
-AN: Willard kills Kurtz.
After the death of the "Kurtz" character, already as broken-down and poor as their situation may entail, the life of the Main Character is changed in the process due to their encounter with him. He becomes a far cry from the person they were introduced as from the beginning of the story and has learned much from the man they had sought to extinguish.
All three deal with "darkness" in various ways. HoD showed it in the human mind, AN did so in terms of warfare, and BS6 displayed it through the environmental and warring aspects of the story. In the end, it comes down to what HoD alludes to: the darkness and depths of the mind of man.
Excuse if any of the information given above is off in any way, due to the length of time I had since last reading Heart of Darkness or seeing Apocalypse Now. The similarities, even on a basic level, can still be seen between them and Blue Submarine No. 6. Personally, I always find it interesting how one single story can be retold and re-visualized in a new fashion.