Captain Herlock, Space Pirate Vol. #4 (also w/box) -

Anime/Manga Reviews

Mania Grade: A

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  • Audio Rating: A
  • Video Rating: A
  • Packaging Rating: B+
  • Menus Rating: A
  • Extras Rating: A
  • Age Rating: 13 & Up
  • Region: 1 - North America
  • Released By: Geneon Entertainment (USA), Inc.
  • MSRP: 29.98/39.98
  • Running time: 155
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Captain Herlock, Space Pirate

Captain Herlock, Space Pirate Vol. #4 (also w/box)

By Chris Beveridge     July 19, 2004
Release Date: August 03, 2004

Captain Herlock, Space Pirate Vol. #4 (also w/box)
© Geneon Entertainment (USA), Inc.

What They Say
Upon reaching Neo-Terra, Yattaran's invention disables the Fata Morgana's revitalization abilities, but then the planet itself attacks the Arcadia! After the ship barely survives the first attacks, Herlock forces the crew off of the ship and pursues the Noo by himself. Will Herlock be able to prevent a dark future for everyone, or will terrible secrets be revealed?!

A 2-DVD release! This volume of Space Pirate Captain Herlock will be packaged in a 2-DVD case that also contains a second DVD of bonus extras! The bonus DVD will have the full-length multi-angle storyboard version of episodes 1 and 13, subtitled interviews with Leiji Matsumoto (creator) and Taro Rin (director), trailers, computer graphics test clips and a 288 image art gallery! Additionally, this product will also be sold with a limited edition collector's box with room to contain the first three volumes of the series.

The Review!
Though not exactly done in the clearest way possible, the final volume of Herlock brings the short series to its closure in interesting ways.

With the series featuring an original 5.1 mix during its Japanese release, it gets well duplicated for the English track here as well. With several of my favorite actors being in this series on the Japanese track, plus enjoying Yamadera as Herlock as much as I do, we went with that track when we watched this the first time. The mix for this series is one of the best 5.1 mixes I've heard for an anime OVA series yet. The directionality is masterfully used for all aspects, from music to dialogue and to sound effects. There is a lot of directionality and effects thrown to the individual rear speakers but also some great fight sequences that shift across the forward speakers to wonderful effect. There's also a substantial amount of bass to it as well. This is a fantastic mix.

Originally released in 2002 and finishing just before the end of 2003, this series is a very fresh and vibrant looking piece of animation. The transfer is stunning throughout the bulk of it with rich colors and a wide variety of dark colors and blacks that maintain a solid feel. Aliasing is non-existent as well as cross coloration, giving the show a very smooth feel. The only problem we had with the transfer is during a few scenes, usually with a lot of red or orange areas, where some color banding was noticeable. Other than that, this was a real pleasure to watch.

Done in a double sized keepcase to hold the two discs, the overall look of the release is the same as the single sized releases. The cover artwork used goes with the skull and bones look with an obscured shot of Herlock in the background and plenty of bone imagery all around him. The back cover provides a short summary of the shows premise and a number of shots from the episodes as well. The episode titles and numbers are clearly listed as well as the basic features and extras. The more detailed technical information is limited to a small area along the bottom; something that I wish Geneon would move away from and adopt a fuller technical grid. While both the back and front covers are deep in black color, the spine itself is white, and like the front and back covers, does not provide a volume number anywhere. The insert has listing of all the extas on the second disc on one side while the reverse side has a shot from the show and a list of the three episodes and their chapter stops.

Providing a great thematic and atmosphere menu, the folks at Nightjar have captured the Herlock feel perfectly with the mix of parchment blowing in the breeze, the lettering style and the hazy smoke flowing around all while some of the instrumental moody music from the series plays in 5.1 with it. There is something so simply distinctive about the type of menus that they make that you can notice it immediately and then start to take in all the little details that they pay so much attention to. This is a menu that's simply fun to leave looping while doing other things.

On the main disc, the only included extra is a textless version of the final episodes ending sequence.

Two of the big extras included on the second disc is the two episodes worth of storyboarded angles, complete with both Japanese and English 5.1 and full subtitles as well as sign only ones. With the first episode being storyboarded by Rin Taro, there are some highly detailed pieces there and it's fascinating to see just what he comes up with to push the image of what's in his head. There's so much detail in some of these that it's more than the final animation itself ended up with. There is a series of art galleries included as well in the extras, broken down into four pieces. According to the package, there's close to three hundred stills, both production sketches and items like full color backgrounds, included. The backgrounds section was my favorite and I spent a lot of time fishing through there. Another segment included contains a variety of the CG clips that were created for the show in various stages of completion.

For my money, the best extras are the interview segments. The first one is with Rin Taro as he discusses a lot about the show and the reasons behind it. This runs just about twenty minutes and has quite a lot of information in it as Taro definitely likes talking. The second interview is a full video interview with Leiji Matsumoto, something I've not seen much of over the years. His piece covers a lot of ground as well, from the origins of the Herlock name to the newest of his properties. For fans of these two men who pioneered a lot of the classics back in the 70's, getting brand new interviews with them is just a treat and sheer pleasure to read.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
The finale to the Endless Odyssey series goes a bit more into the psychospiritualmystical realm by bringing things right into the realm of the Noo and letting it all play out there with dual storylines of Herlock and Tadashi. Much like the rest of the crew of the Arcadia, we've given an interesting show up until the point at which it disappears and then we can be somewhat fairly confused about how it all gets resolved.

With the concluding episodes to the series, we get some interesting arc closures to some of the characters that were new to the Matsumoto universe here. Herlock himself doesn't exactly have an overall arc other than defending humanity and trying to bring the Earth back into its proper dimension, so there isn't any character growth for him. Herlock is not a character that's mean to have growth. He's older, he's experienced, he's lived a dangerous and rewarding life. He now lives just to do what must be done and what nobody else will do. Much like his jaw, he's set to his task and that's all there is to it.

For the others though, things do get to change. Some of the more interesting material comes from IIita as he spends his time with Tomiko and Ichiro. While he's suffering from some serious nightmare issues related to his survival when nobody else did, he's trying to grapple with what to do next. To his surprise, Tomiko has them on course to a very remote world that's basically called New Earth since it's identical in its nature. What shocks the military man is that the people there aren't exactly adhering to the laws as they're using some loopholes to excavate and then remove some ancient alien ruins. The planet is set to become quite the place to be someday as they build it up, but for now they're a high-tech frontier world that plays things a bit loose. Even the military people there are pretty relaxed.

IIita ends up becoming rather involved with this world when the word comes down that Herlock and the Arcadia are heading there. As it turns out, this planet is within a few hours of the Noo's spatial distortion and will serve as the location of a final duel between Herlock and the remaining humaniform Noo. The word of his arrival sends the military into an abandonment frenzy which only lets IIita get what he wants to do done. His life has gone through a number of changes and he's come to realizations about what it truly means to place your life and serve under a particular flag. With his family history in the military and the sheer amount of time and effort he's spent himself, watching what he does is quite idealistic and almost naïve in some ways but most definitely true to his character after what he's experienced. It's a great moment of exposition for him as he heads off into space.

Herlock and Tadashi both end up going into the Noo territory to deal with the creatures there for the final duel. What's interesting is that they avoid the heavy firepower side of conflict that they were using early on to do something with a bit more exposition and emotion. For Tadashi, it's confronting his father and trying to understand the paths that he took in his life and to be able to view them as an adult and not just a son or a child. Understanding the choices our parents make is difficult at best even as an adult with a number of years of experience but it's even harder as a teen or young adult. Trying to grapple with that while going with all that he's seen and experienced since coming onto the Arcadia provides the two of them with an interesting discussion and some surprising revelations.

Herlock's time spent on Earth in the Noo controlled dimension is just as interesting but for other reasons. With no real growth for him or changes, he instead gets something of a trip down a path of the past, such as the first Arcadia captains and others who used the pirate banner in less than honorable ways in the centuries past. These are interesting little side stories but it's the time spent with the young girl representing the life of the Earth and one of Herlock's oldest friends that gives this final volume some extra special meaning. The stoic nature of these men and how they view life is just a refreshing change from the norm of storytelling, one of the few shows that really plays up some of the tragic angles of Greek mythology and the way men must be in such hard times.

While the ending isn't as clear cut as I had hoped it would be, there's a lot of really good material throughout here. But a good chunk of the cast end up getting the short end of the stick as it all comes to a close. Kei's few scenes don't do her justice and some of the more prominent shipmates really needed a bit more time here. Tadashi, IIita and Herlock all get exactly what's needed though and that does manage to be just enough to make it all work. But there's always something in a series like this that I want more of so I wasn't too surprised.

In Summary:
While much of Matsumoto's properties seemingly languished throughout the late 80's and much of the 90's, they've been given a beautiful rebirth in the 21st century and it still surprises me each time. His very unique art style isn't something that many of today's kids would seem to enjoy but it manages to transition to the digital world with such vibrant colors in a way that new shows can't quite seem to master. This particular series is a really special treat for me in a number of ways. Having Rin Taro work on Herlock again is just exciting as his material seems to just click beautifully. He's got a real handle on the character and what motivates him. What really surprised me was the choice of Yuuki as the character designer since his past works have been so strikingly his own. You knew something was his the minute you saw it. To see him adapt to Matsumoto's style and flesh it out with some state of the art animation proved to be a winning combination in my eyes. From his original designs such as Tadashi and Kei to his portrayal of Herlock and the pint sized guys, his vision of Herlock is one that I'm going to be hard pressed to see surpassed any time soon.

Over the years I keep finding myself rediscovering older shows and the new remakes or continuations that come up. Herlock is one captured me years ago with My Youth in Arcadia but has suffered from the original works not being available easily or with translations. Thankfully there's enough of a market for the new shows to be picked up and brought out. This particular OVA series is to me a stunning piece of work and one that has a lot of areas that resonate with me. The Herlock character has always been a draw for reasons I mentioned throughout the release and continues to be one of the few male characters out there that acts like he does. In the age of the wimpy male lead, Herlock continues to be a beacon to what once was and hopefully what we shall see more of in the future.

Japanese 5.1 Language,English 5.1 Language,English Subtitles,Textless Ending for Episode 13,Multi-Angle storyboards for episode one and thirteen,Interview with Rin Taro,Interview with Leiji Matsumoto,Art Galleries,CG Clips

Review Equipment
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Panasonic RP-82 Progressive Scan codefree DVD player, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Monster component cable and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.


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