My good friend Nick Williams reminded me the other day, just after publishing my blog about The Mysterious Cities of Gold and Ulysses 31, of another anime that figured a great deal in my childhood (and I WAS actually a child when I first saw this series) – Marine Boy. This was actually one of the very first anime to be dubbed into English for the US, Australian and UK markets (although I think Astroboy took the distinction of being the first anime to be shown in Britain) and was one of the few anime to be produced in colour.
The history of the 78 episode series, reading the Wikipedia entry (with the usual proviso that Wiki isn’t entirely the most accurate fount of knowledge), is convoluted to say the least. Starting off as Dolphin Prince (3 b&w episodes), then metamorphosing into Hang on! Marine Kid (13 colour episodes) and finally into the Marine Boy (78 colour episodes) that people of my generation know and love, it didn’t really take off until Seven Arts Distribution in the US got hold of it. It was first broadcast in the UK in 1967-68 and, from the very moment I clapped eyes on it, I was hooked.
I was four or five years old when it was shown on BBC TV and it was everything a young boy could possibly want – a boy who, just by chewing special gum, could swim indefinitely underwater and who used an amzing boomerang to destroy ships and underwater craft. Plus a beautiful mermaid creature called Neptina as his companion and a dolphin, Splasher, who appeared to understand his every word.
But the biggest draw for me was the theme tune – it is singularly THE most recognisable theme somg for people of my generation. Every time I hear it, it sends shivers up and down my spine, as well as propelling me back along the years to the time when I was a young lad, trying to cope with being newly diagnosed as a diabetic and facing a lifetime of injections, non-sugary foods and having to test for my bloodsugar levels (which involved testing urine in those days – not the spohisticated blood-glucose monitors we have now). It instantly reminds me of the kindly district nurse who used to come every day to administer my insulin, and who finally taught my mum and dad how to inject me. It was also around that time or just after that I started school – in fact, I can remember my very first day in infant school, which was 43 years ago!
In subsequent years, I’ve made sporadic attempts to locate episodes on VHS or DVD and I have now learnt that a complete set of all 78 episodes is available for $49.99, so, once I am flush, or I find a generous benefactor, I’ll be acquiring this slice of nostalgia. Once more, I’ll be a five year-old boy sitting transfixed in front of the TV and watching the adventures a boy who can breathe underwater, a white dolphin and a girl with a fishtail instead of legs.