Captain Herlock, Space Pirate Vol. #1 (of 4) (Mania.com)
Review Date: Thursday, December 25, 2003
Release Date: Tuesday, February 03, 2004
What They Say
Tadashi enjoyed living like a punk on the Planet of Wastes, but then he came home to find his father dead and four possessed corpses standing over his body. As they attack Tadashi, the fearless Captain Herlock, one of the last Space Pirates, saves Tadashi's life and says "If you want to become a real man, board my ship." Seizing the opportunity to avenge his father, Tadashi joins the crew of the space battleship Arcadia as it pursues their strange enemy in an attempt to rescue the promised land- Earth!!
Herlock returns to the scene in the latest 13 part OVA series that goes to recapture the true epic feel of what it means to truly be a Man.
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, which makes me even happier that I recently got my first subwoofer. That’s changed the impact of the audio dramatically since adding it to my setup. 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.
Using the same artwork from the Japanese first volume, we get the solid traditional image of Herlock in full uniform with the wheel in his hand and his cloak billowing behind him against the skull and bones flag. This is the first release I’ve seen with the dual logos for Geneon as well, with both of them in the upper left corner in white with the Geneon logo next to it. 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 very small box 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. Due to this being an advance copy, no insert was included nor were the dual sided pencil boards (one side of which will form a four piece panorama shot of the Arcadia when collected).
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.
The only extra included is the original Japanese opening sequence to the first episode, which I don’t believe was used in the Japanese video release either which went for the opening sequence used in the rest of the series. The inclusion here is good since there likely wasn’t a clean version of it (and the masters likely had just the series opening instead of this one), but since it’s horrendously dull as well… well, I’m glad it’s included but it’s not the way to open an epic series.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
The past year or two have been fantastic times for fans of Leiji Matsumoto and of Herlock. While we’ve seen a number of side series that take place throughout the Matsumoto universe (a universe that is typically not continuity based though at times adopting pieces of different series as seen fit) we haven’t had all that much with Herlock himself. We’ve seen some of the classic material and the newer material, but Matsumoto hasn’t sat down to really recapture the man himself.
Endless Odyssey, a 13 part OVA series that completed in December of 2003, brings Matsumoto back with the storyline by him and a script by Sadayuki Murai (known for work on both Perfect Blue and Millennium Actress, which you can see the influence of at times here). What’s very noteworthy is that this series has brought Rin Taro back to the fold and it’s the first time he and Matsumoto have worked together since the original Herlock series almost twenty five years ago. With both of them on this project, there’s a feel to it that’s not been since really in any of the other recent shows, but rather feels more in tune with the Arcadia of My Youth film.
The timeline for this storyline is interesting. In the present, the outlaws that used to roam space have almost all been caught. The series opens to the pirate Kei Yuki being trapped by the Space Sheriff’s forces in fact. With her arrest, the news spreads across the human inhabited systems that the days of the outlaws are now over and that everything is better. That’s not true of course; we learn how it was the outlaws who first took to space when the rest of humanity wondered why they would go at all. Since then, humanity has become turned in on itself in a way as they now focus just on power and status as they’ve expanded across multiple systems. Earth has been left behind with only the elderly and the sick there.
But even as Kei is captured and her crew brought to Panoptic where the Space Sheriff forces are headquartered, there continue to be persistent rumors of the infamous Herlock, a pirate captain not seen for many years and simply presumed to be dead. With the series being named after him, we know he’s still very much alive and see him early on conversing briefly with an older man named Professor Daiba. As we follow Daiba where he lives on the Rubbish Heap planet, we learn how he’s the sole survivor of a scientific expedition some five years earlier that Herlock rescued. The professor has spent the years trying to understand some artifacts he has, and events have forced him to make a change in his life.
Daiba’s also got a (teenage?) son named Tadashi who lives as something of a gangbanger on the planet, but has a similar look and feel to that of Herlock himself, just in a much rougher form. He doesn’t feel much for his life nor really cares for his father that much since he hasn’t been much of a parent to him for so long now. So when his father tries to tell him what it means to be a man and how you have to live by those ideals, he shrugs him off. A bit of a coincidence pulls Tadashi from the house as he goes to deal with a threat by another gang, a coincidence that sets the stage for tragedy.
Tadashi’s father has learned that in humanities expansion across space, they’ve touched upon a sacred place that they should not have. It’s taken a few years for it to take effect, but these dark lords of space from the past that were once imprisoned are now free and are set to bring back their brand of evil and fear to the universe, but by starting with destroying those that set them free again first. Using the corpses of Daiba’s fellow scientists from the missing expedition, they set across known space spreading their fear and causing destruction – as well as sending the entire Earth into a warp phase so it’s no longer in known space.
The Space Sheriff’s forces and all those in power are in shock and don’t know what to do. But this is something that Herlock has been expecting and begins to draw the elements to him that will allow the Arcadia to rise again, a crew to come willingly to it and the people that will be needed to fight against this dark evil. This is the bulk of the first four episodes as all the pieces are laid about and the connections drawn to them. The storyline has a similar feel to the late 90’s flick The Fifth Element (which I use as a compliment as that is one of my favorite space opera’s) in how humanity has awoken something ancient and evil in the universe and it’s now spreading about.
Almost from the beginning of this disc I was in love with this show. While presentation won’t make a bad show great, it will make a good show fantastic and a fantastic show amazing. The mix of the visuals, some of the great trademark pieces of Matsumoto and Rin Taro are here, combined with a lush and truly epic feeling score, elevate this show up quite a lot. One of the basic themes of Matsumoto is again present here with Herlock continuing the struggle for freedom for Man in space, to do what he feels he needs to whenever and wherever. He’s a touch more talkative than normal, but all the pieces that make Herlock so absolutely cool is very much here and portrayed beautifully.
Herlock is still very much the anti-hero from a bygone day, even in the anime medium. While he’s violent when needed and does what has to be done, he doesn’t revel in it nor is he repulsed by it. He’s a man who has made himself into what he is and makes no bones over it, doesn’t get angsty over things from his past and has no remorse over killing someone who does things of their own will. In one particular sequence, after ensuring that his opponent has come of his own free will to try and capture him, the accepts the challenge to fight but then simply fires before his opponent can even blink, killing him instantly. With simplicity he says, “If you came of your own will, you knew this was a risk.” Herlock and those like him play the role of Men rarely seen anymore, the kind not afraid to be like this but without being psychotic about it or the ultra good guy.
Another aspect that I was really intrigued to see was that Nobuteru Yuuki took on the role of the character designer and director. Between his work on Geneshaft and then Heat Guy J as well as Escaflowne, I was really interested to see how his style would work in trying to bring the Matsumoto designs to life. There are definitely hints to his style within them, but they are most definitely Matsumoto designs. The characters throughout are great, from the tall stoic types like Herlock to the pint sized crew with huge foreheads and protruding bellies. Even more fun is his take on the female characters, avoiding some of the curviness seen in Gun Frontier with Sinonura and going more for the lanky but full chested (and nippled) style that we see with Kei Yuki (who also shows off all her assets within the first few minutes of the first episode). With the designs looking as great as they do and the lush color palette applied, these characters truly stand out among a sea of carbon copy shows that populate a lot of the shelves these days.
With every new bit of material that Matsumoto gets involved with, I adore his work more and more. The only shame is that his original series are not available properly here. But works like this help lessen that quite a bit as he’s had many years to rework and redefine what he wants to say with these characters and settings. Endless Odyssey looks to set the stage for a great space opera romp filled with all the things that make Herlock such an appealing piece of work to me. Very Highly Recommended.
Japanese Language,English Language,English Subtitles,Original Japanese Opening (episode 1)
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.
Mania Grade: A
Audio Rating: A
Video Rating: A
Packaging Rating: B+
Menus Rating: A
Extras Rating: C+
Age Rating: 13 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: Geneon Entertainment (USA), Inc.
Running time: 100
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Captain Herlock, Space Pirate