‘The Silent Service’ Premiere Recap & Ending Explained: What Is Project Sea Bat?

Directed by Kohei Yoshino, The Silent Service depicts a gripping story about American bigotry. Kaiji Kawaguchi, the creator of the manga this series is based on, is something of a genius, I must say. I am not surprised that people were genuinely concerned by the idea of Japan he portrayed in the manga. To be fair, the year was 1988 when The Silent Service started publishing, and people were still very uncomfortable with the idea of Japanese remilitarization. While Japan’s stance on moving on from its aggressive past is a debate for another time, I must add that I am fascinated by Kawaguchi’s understanding of global politics. Through its narrative, The Silent Service has addressed the biggest issue in modern-day geopolitics: American hegemony. It serves as a commentary on the Machiavellian attitude of the US government and how it is the greatest deterrent to world peace. The series also sheds light on nuclear armament and Japan’s sentiment towards nuclear warfare, being the only nation to have faced a nuclear attack.

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Spoilers Ahead


What’s The Deal With Project Sea Bat?

The Silent Service‘s central plot revolves around the Sea Bat, a nuclear submarine. Nuclear submarines are considered significantly advanced compared to their diesel-electric counterparts. This class of submarines doesn’t require refueling and is stealthier. In The Silent Service, the Sea Bat is depicted as the most technologically advanced submarine in the world. While conventional submarines typically cannot dive beyond depths of 400 meters, the Sea Bat is shown diving up to 700 meters below sea level. The development of this submarine has been fully funded by Japan and manufactured by the United States military, which is a part of the US Navy. However, it is kept a secret.

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Article 9 of the Japanese constitution prevents Japan from engaging in war as a sovereign right. Despite this, Japan maintains a military force known as the Japanese Self-Defense Force (JSDF). As the name suggests, the JSDF is only permitted to be deployed for self-defense, aiding allies, or humanitarian operations. Following World War II, Japan has been an advocate against nuclear weapons. Additionally, the 2011 nuclear disaster in Fukushima has further solidified public sentiment against the use of nuclear energy in Japan. Because of these factors, the Prime Minister and the Defense Minister kept the existence of the Sea Bat concealed, even from the Japanese Diet. In the series, bureaucrat and special advisor, Daigo Unabara, a man who has been controlling the Japanese government from the shadows, reveals that since the Second World War, Japan had planned to build itself under the American umbrella until it could be independent again. Project Sea Bat was supposed to be a turning point for Japan and its right to be able to protect itself. However, like any other nation, Japan is still afraid of American military prowess.


What Is The Story About?

In the wake of a tragic incident, a Japanese submarine, Tatsunami, detects unusual activity from its sister vessel, Yamanami, which tragically implodes, claiming the lives of its entire crew. This mysterious and devastating event plunges the nation into mourning, yet Tatsunami’s commanding officer, Hiroshi Fukamachi, remains in disbelief. Having served under Yamanami’s esteemed captain, Shiro Kaieda, Hiroshi is unsettled by the circumstances surrounding the disaster. Unbeknownst to him, the deaths of Kaieda and his crew have been orchestrated by both the Japanese and US governments to safeguard the confidentiality of the Sea Bat submarine, which Kaieda and his team were assigned to operate. However, the situation takes a dramatic turn when Kaieda and his comrades hijack Sea Bat, launching an audacious attack on the US fleet in the process. Kaieda then boldly proclaims Sea Bat as an independent nation, renaming it Yamato, after Japan’s ancient name. As tensions escalate, the US government labels Kaieda a terrorist and mobilizes to destroy Sea Bat to protect its secrecy, while the Japanese government scrambles to prevent Sea Bat’s capture by the US forces.

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What Is Shiro Kaieda’s Story?

The main character in The Silent Service, Shiro Kaieda, was previously the captain of the Japanese submarine Yamanami. He is an extremely intelligent and rational commander, and he knows the underwater terrain like the back of his hand. After faking his death, he is assigned to the Sea Bat but has other plans with the submarine. Kaieda’s reputation as a military leader extends beyond just his peers; even Japanese government officials recognize his prowess. This is a key factor driving Japanese support for Kaieda, suggesting there might be a logical motive behind his hijacking of Sea Bat and the declaration of statehood. Kaieda reveals that he wishes for world peace and somehow his actions will unify the world. Though his true plans remain undisclosed, ‘The Silent Sea’ hints at his perspective on US-Japan geopolitics. It’s clear that Kaieda’s actions are motivated by more than just terrorism; the Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary even asserts that Kaieda is not a madman. 

The Silent Service also explores other characters like Fukamachi and his view of Kaieda, who is in disbelief that he has gone rogue. He had previously seen Kaieda’s promptness towards decision-making while serving under Kaieda’s command and looked up to the man. However, after Kaieda’s actions, he resolves to pursue the captain while maintaining the safety of his own crew.

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How Does The Japanese Government View Kaieda’s Actions?

The Silent Service shows the fragile relations between the US and Japan, despite being allies, and comments on the bigotry of the American government. One of the things that caught my attention about this political thriller. As a matter of fact, this tension is very much inspired by real-life scenarios. For instance, back in the 1980s, despite being a trusted ally to Japan, the US was responsible for the ‘Lost Decade,’ a period of economic stagnation after Japan’s postwar economic boom. Throughout its postmodern history, the United States has often regarded Japan as a Vassal state, a theme that resonates in this series. When Kaieda proclaims the submarine as an independent nation, it sparks chaos in the Japanese parliament. Some officials see Kaieda as a terrorist aligning with the American rhetoric but the other half, especially the ones who know Kaieda, view his actions as an opportunity to assert sovereignty rather than perpetuate subservience to the Americans. The very reason Sea Bat was created was because Japan wanted to remilitarise and change its reputation as America’s lapdog. After the turn of events, Advisor Umebara and other members of the Japanese ministry prefer Sea Bat be destroyed instead to protect itself from international Backlash. 


Why Does The Japanese Prime Minister Submit To Kaieda’s Demands?

The Silent Service delves into the personal dilemmas faced by government figures such as Prime Minister Takegami and Chief Cabinet Secretary Umebara. These characters deal with the looming threat of a military conflict with the Leviathan, The United States, a scenario they wish to avoid. However, they are weary of constantly submitting to US dominance and seek to assert Japan’s autonomy on the world stage. Prime Minister Takegami, Secretary Umebara and Defence Minister Sonezaki, despite opposition from other members of the ministry, believe that Kaieda should not be cornered because Yamato as an independent nation has the right to protect itself. Even the United States has not dismissed the possibility that Yamato possesses nuclear weapons and if it were to be true, isolating Yamato may result in a nuclear armageddon. Since the citizens of this new nation were Japanese by ethnicity, it was Japan’s responsibility to support Yamato’s sovereignty to prevent further escalations. As result of this, despite US pressure, Japan decides to acknowledge the independent state of Yamato’s existence. As a result, Prime Minister Takegami decides to deploy the Japanese Navy to protect Yamato and agree to Kaieda’s demands.

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What Happens To Kaieda?

At the Japan-US summit, despite Japan’s emphasis on a peaceful resolution and withdrawal of forces on both sides, the bigoted US president considers Japan’s intention to recognise Yamato’s independence as treason and breaks the US-Japan alliance. Kaieda reaches out to the Japanese Prime Minister to initiate diplomatic relations between their nations, a proposition the Japanese government eventually accepts. Meanwhile, the Prime Minister decides to take a bold step by holding a press conference and disclosing all information regarding Sea Bat and Yamato to the public. However, unbeknownst to them, the US 7th Fleet covertly trails Kaieda’s movements.


What Can We Expect Next?

In the upcoming episode of The Silent Service, viewers can anticipate escalating tensions between Japan and the United States as the fallout from the Sea Bat incident reverberates on the international stage. With diplomatic negotiations underway and secrets exposed to the public, both governments will be forced to confront the consequences of their actions. Meanwhile, Kaieda’s bold declaration of Yamato as an independent nation sets the stage for a high-stakes showdown as both sides maneuver to assert their interests. But, since Kaieda’s real motives are not yet known, we can only wonder. One thing is clear: a war is looming over Tokyo as the 7th US Fleet approaches.

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Shrey Ashley Philip
Shrey Ashley Philip
A teacher, photographer, linguist, and songwriter, Shrey started out as a Biotechnology graduate, but shifted to studying Japanese. Now he talks about movies, advocates for ADHD awareness, and embraces Albert Camus.

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