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Manga / The Silent Service

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A secret joint programme between the United States Navy and Japan's Self-Defense Forces leads to the development of Japan's first nuclear submarine Sea Bat, but things go wrong on its maiden voyage when its captain, Kaieda Shirou goes rogue and declares the submarine a sovereign nation, Yamato. Hot Sub-on-Sub Action ensues as the rogue crew attempts to evade the U.S. Navy's efforts to recapture or destroy them.

The manga, created by Kaiji Kawaguchi, who's also known for Zipang and A Spirit of the Sun, was published in the Weekly Morning (Shūkan Mōningu) Seinen manga anthology magazine in 1988, and concluded in 1996 with 32 volumes published. Three long Original Video Animation adaptations were released in 1996 - 1998. During its serialization the manga had generated considerable attention and controversy in Japan. Its provocative stance questioned Japan's security relations with the United States. Politicians on both sides of the spectrum commented on the manga in newspapers and Diet sessions. Although often seen as a right wing tract, The Silent Service is actually a combination of rightist (standing up against the U.S.) and leftist (Yamato as a vanguard for nuclear disarmament and world government) nationalisms.

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See also the 2012 television series Last Resort, which also features a nuclear submarine going rogue.

The Silent Service contains examples of the following tropes:

  • Ain't Too Proud to Beg: Takegami gets on his knees and begs Bennett not to continue attacking Yamato during the UN negotiations sequence.
  • Alphabet News Network: There is the U.S. news network ACN, which plays a major role in proliferating Kaieda's motives by the story's second half.
  • Awesomeness by Analysis: Tatsunami's passive sonar catches Yamanami's implosion during the Victor collision incident. Fukamachi's sonar chief Nanba takes a recording to an acoustic research center to analyze it further. He discovers that the crew escaped before the sinking by uncovering escape hatch sounds in the data.
  • The Captain: There are several in this manga.
    • Kaieda Shirou of Sea Bat/Yamato.
    • Fukamachi Hiroshi of the diesel-electric submarine Tatsunami.
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    • Andrei Robukov of the Alfa-class submarine Red Scorpion.
    • John Bates of the Seawolf-class submarine USS Alexander.
    • Norman Bates of the Seawolf-class submarine USS King.
    • Alex Nagabuchi of USS John F. Kennedy.
  • Cool Boat:
    • Sea Bat/Yamato, with her 55 knot speed and advanced Japanese technology. She also has eight torpedo tubes like a Seawolf.
    • The Alfa-class submarine Red Scorpion, which uses a communications wire to snag enemy submarine screws.
    • The Seawolf-class submarines Alexander and King, appearing during the Arctic Ocean sequence.
  • Chummy Commies: President Bennett proposes to Soviet president Malenkov to mutually withdraw their SSBNs from the Arctic. The Americans need the area clear for their next anti-Yamato operation using Seawolf SSNs. Malenkov cordially accepts the proposal.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: Yamato wipes the floor with the 3rd Fleet's Midway battle group after using a chaff-armed Harpoon to disrupt the American sensors.
  • Deadly Dodging: This is one Kaieda's techniques against American vessels. During one engagement, he makes a pursuing torpedo hit an American ship by sailing under that ship's keel.
  • Dirty Communists: The Soviet Navy considers Yamato to be an imperialist threat to the USSR. After a submarine duel and an anti-U.S. alliance proposal to Kaieda (which he declines), the Soviets send out a task force to sink Yamato near Okinawa.
  • Eagleland: Most of the U.S. Navy characters in the story are Type 2; unprofessional, arrogant, and call Yamato the "yellow Seabat". Captain Nagabuchi is a Type 1 and is considerably more professional in his attitude and analysis of Yamato.
  • Election Day Episode: The manga has an entire story arc dedicated to a Japanese national election during the midst of the Yamato crisis. Prime Minister Takegami leaves the Liberal Democratic party to form a new one supporting Yamato.
  • Empty Quiver: Upon declaring his rebellion, Kaieda adds that Yamato contains nuclear warheads for its weapons. This puts the U.S. military leadership into double-down mode to capture the sub.
  • Exactly What I Aimed At: Used by Kaieda during the Okinawa Sea engagement. He launches a pair of torpedoes against a Soviet ship, making it collide with a nearby destroyer out of negligent evasion. The torpedoes travel under the first ship's keel and continue on to hit their real target: the destroyer Provorny.
  • Faking the Dead: Sea Bat is supposed to be a top secret project. In the manga's beginning, Kaieda and his crew deliberately sink their old submarine Yamanami to fake their deaths before transferring over. Yamanami's collision with a Victor II boat before imploding also increases anti-Soviet paranoia and generates support for the Self-Defense Force's sea lane strategy.
  • The Great Politics Mess-Up: The Silent Service was originally written when the Soviet military threat, sea lane security to the Persian Gulf, and nuclear weapons were important Japanese security concerns. When the Cold War ended and the Soviet Union imploded, Kaieda's rebellion and motivations of world government was no longer credible.
  • Hell Is That Noise: Kaieda deliberately uses Mozart's Symphony No. 41 as a signature of his presence to passive sonars.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: Terence Carver—captain of USS Vella Gulf—devises a tactic after detecting Yamato right under his ship. After firing a salvo of ASROCs, the cruiser would immediately run at flank speed to escape the blast radius. Kaieda torpedoes Vella Gulf's screws and foils Carver's plan. The ASROCs explode on both sides of the cruiser and fatally damage her.
  • Hotline: Bennett uses one to contact the Soviet president concerning a temporary suspension of SSBN patrols in the Arctic.
  • Impeded Messenger: Yamato and the U.S. forces in New York Harbor enter into a temporary standoff after a few engagements. Nagabuchi recommends attacking Yamato ASAP to take advantage of surprise. He receives a message from the president to cease attacking...moments after he gives the order.
  • Improbable Weapon User: Robukov's Red Scorpion uses communications wire (normally used to receive radio transmissions while submerged) to entangle U.S. submarines. After dragging them about, he cuts the wire and sends them off careening out of control. Kaieda nicknames this technique The Scorpion's Tail.
  • Macross Missile Massacre: A typical American attack against Yamato involves the liberal launching of many ASROC missiles. The Soviets also do this with their antisubmarine missiles during the Okinawa Sea engagement sequence. Kaieda also launches multiple "eight-torpedo salutes" against the Midway battle group.
  • Meaningful Rename: Kaieda carves "Yamato" in hiragana on Sea Bat's hull before the boat is put out to sea.
  • Mêlée à Trois: Kaieda wants his sovereignty to be recognized. The Americans want to punish Kaieda for his rebellion. The Japanese government also wants to recapture Sea Bat because they don't want to lose her technology. Later on, Kaieda proposes a defensive alliance with Japan.
  • Multinational Team: The submarines that appear in New York Harbor to form Kaieda's Silent Security Service from the Sea come from countries that poesess both nuclear weapons and SSNs; Britain, France, India, China, and Russia.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Hendrick Dole resembles Norman Schwarzkopf. ACN head Cecil DeMille is based off of CNN founder Ted Turner while reporter Bob McCay is modeled after Bernard Shaw. Prime Minister Takegami is modeled after Takeshita Noboru, the Japanese prime minister from 1987-89.
  • One World Order: Kaieda's ultimate goal.
  • Outside-the-Box Tactic: During the Arctic Ocean sequence, the Bates brothers place one of their subs directly on Yamato's bow. The baffles of the first American sub drown out Yamato's passive sonar and reduce her detection ability.
  • Plausible Deniability: An MSDF admiral explains to Fukamachi that the nuclear-powered research ship Mutsu is actually a test bed for technologies used in Sea Bat.
  • The Political Officer: The political officer of a Typhoon-class submarine insists on attacking Yamato after she is detected on sonar. The captain disagrees and both boats pass by without fighting.
  • Ramming Always Works: The Americans attempt a last-ditch attack on Yamato by ramming it with an F-14 just before it dives during the battle in New York Harbor. A later chapter reveals that the collision left a large scar on the boat's hull.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: UN Secretary-General Adams. He is willing to take the Japanese government's and Kaieda's propsals with an open mind, compared to most American politicians in the story.
    • Secretary of State Harold Baker is one in the American political establishment. Seeing the folly of wasting away U.S. naval power to no effect against Kaieda, he is willing to accommodate him in negotiations.
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni: Fukamachi's impulsive attitude and conventional worldview contrasts to Kaieda's calculating personality and extremist goals. The fact that Fukamachi was the MSDF's second choice to command Sea Bat drives his motivation to track down Kaieda before the Americans do.
  • Sentry Gun: CIWS are used multiple times throughout the story. The JMSDF fleet assigned to protect Yamato near Okinawa use Phalanx and naval gunfire to destroy some of the Soviet antisubmarine missiles.
  • Setting Update: The OVAs rectify The Great Politics Mess-Up by removing all references to the USSR, cutting Yamato's fights against the Soviet fleet, and mentioning the end of the Cold War in dialogue. The message changes from anti-Cold War to a criticism of American unilateralism.
  • Sliding Scale of Idealism vs. Cynicism: The manga takes an idealistic view of global disarmament and the UN's ability to solve international disputes.
  • Sonic Stunner: Yamato's first war shot is a "sound torpedo" that's used to stun the sonar operators on the opposing U.S. subs.
  • Taking the Bullet: Kaieda takes a bullet for Bennett when the U.S. military-industrial complex attempt to sabotage the peace negotiations. Kaieda survives the shot but ends up in a coma.
  • There Is No Kill Like Overkill: During the New York Harbor sequence, the U.S. Navy attempts to sink Yamato with several dozen helicopter-dropped torpedoes. It doesn't work.
  • War for Fun and Profit: The heads of the American military-industrial complex are concerned when President Bennett grudglingly accepts Kaieda's disarmament plan. They scheme to assassinate the president to continue the status quo.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: For Kaieda, his rebellion is not so much sticking the middle finger to U.S. military power as it is to forcibly create a nuclear-armed third way to the Cold War power struggle. He believes that world peace can happen by having the UN assume control of all military power on the globe.
  • What a Piece of Junk: The U.S. captains attacking Southern Cross dismiss Fukamachi's diesel-electric submarine when compared to their Los Angeles-class SSNs. They are astonished when Fukamachi's tactical skill enables him to sink a number of their own boats.
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