Review of Flying Phantom Ship (1969)

Moving picture, 61 minutes

Miyazaki Hayao (animator).

A happy family on its way back from a fishing trip rescues an industrialist and his wife from a traffic accident, despite condemnation by a terrifying creature. Later, the son and father are stuck in traffic which doesn’t seem to move at all. The reason is tanks, crushing civilian vehicles without warning, in order to fire at a giant machine that’s tearing through buildings downtown. The boy and his Great Dane (a connection to Scooby Doo of the same year?) are the family’s only survivors after that attack. They move in with the industrialist they helped save, but he is friends with the Secretary of Defence and seems connected to the weird tripartite war between the sinister machine, the callous military and the battered ghost ship itself.

A fascinating little hybrid of naval supernatural horror, mecha/kaijū action and political commentary on the dangers of a reckless military-industrial complex employing TV propaganda. All this and more in an hour’s time; it really piles on the father figures of varying moral fibre. Miyazaki did key animation and some mechanical and scene design, most significantly in the street scene where Golem is introduced.

The young hero is utterly generic. The closest thing he has to a personality is a tendency to cause trouble by accidentally striking large buttons. A girl he meets in the last fifteen minutes, on the other hand, is the first of Miyazaki’s line of independent-minded young women with red hair. Very bad lip syncing. Based on the short shōnen manga Yuureisen (“Ghost Ship”).

References here: Ghibli movie titles, “Aloha, Lupin” (1980), Nadia of the Mysterious Seas (1990).

moving picture Japanese production animation fiction