Hakugei: Legend of the Moby Dick Vol. #2 (of 6) (Mania.com)
Review Date: Friday, February 24, 2006
Release Date: Tuesday, January 31, 2006
What They Say
The year is 4699. A young adventurer sets off to find Captain Ahab and his crew of outlaw whale hunters. Only Ahab can save his home planet from the most horrific beast known throughout the universe-The Moby Dick.
The journey to Moad is long and features plenty of filler, but by the final episode in this volume, the series really begins to move.
Hakugei—Legend of the Moby Dick is presented in Dolby 5.1 in English and Dolby 2.0 in Japanese with English subtitles. The English track is very nicely done, utilizing the rear speakers for a strong ambient feel. The music and sound effects really come across much bolder, and the slight echo effect used with the dialogue gives the genuine impression of conversation within the cold metal hull of a space ship. I was very pleased with the strength of the sound on the English language track.
Understandably, the Japanese Dolby 2.0 comes across flatter in comparison. But while it doesn’t have the same underlying rumbling bass that has almost become synonymous with ambient noise inside space ships, or convey the subtle echo effect quite as nicely, the Japanese language track has a very moody feel I really enjoyed. Perhaps this had more to do with the voice acting, but I thought the darker, more somber tone on this track suited the series’ cold environments very nicely.
I found no genuine issues or distortions on either track and feel both have their strong suits. While I favor the ambient noise and general sound quality of the English track, the dialogue and mood of the original Japanese audio would be difficult to beat.
Originally airing in Japan through 1997 to 1999, Hakugei-Legend of the Moby Dick is presented in it original standard Full Screen aspect ratio of 4:3. I thought the transfer looked great and no issues of aliasing or blurriness. I also found the colors were reproduced nicely in most cases. However, on the second volume I did note some scenes featured color that was very oversaturated and much darker, but these were relatively few in number. In this series, the depths of space are not presented in flat blacks, but rather a dazzling range of blues. The various surfaces used throughout the series are presented in fuchsias and oranges, all of which are clean and well done. In the episodes throughout this disk, I was very impressed with the range and subtleties of the colors, particularly in lieu of the series’ age.
The Hakugei-Legend of the Moby Dick Vol. 2 disk has a very nice sense of design. Blending elements that pay homage to the source material, the bulk of the disk cover consists of a sketchy, water colored image of Ahab and crew. Immediately, I was reminded of older mariner etching work traditionally done on whale bones, which I felt was a very nice touch for the cover art (additionally, this style, to a slightly varying degree, is reflected throughout the series, most notably in the opening and closing animations). This art is placed against a solid white background with the title along the top. Along the right side of the cover, as a design element juxtaposing the more traditional with the futuristic aspect of this series, is a hand-painted rendering of the shadowed Moby Dick gliding effortlessly through the depths of space, the cold metallic tones of a futuristic space station are found just below. All in all, I absolutely loved this cover and felt it will truly draw attention. I do have one concern with these covers, though, as it is VERY difficult to distinguish between the volumes at a glance.
The disk spine features a sample of the art from the cover, again set against a white background. The series title and disk number are bold and very clearly legible along the upper half. The disk reverse is much darker in color, featuring a primarily black background with some subtle blue design work throughout. A larger image of the Moby Dick as taken from the series itself is place in the upper right hand side of the reverse cover, with a brief summary of the series, as well as disk extras occupying the space below. Along the left hand side of the cover is an image of Ahab as well as seven screen captures below that. Additionally, this disk features an insert with a repeat of the front cover on one side, and some series background as well as the continuation of the interview with director and series creator Osamu Desaki. I really like the feel of this disk design in general. Not only is it well designed in an aesthetic sense, but it is functional as well.
Borrowing a design sense from the front cover, the menu features a cropped version of that art, with the bar along the right side serving to hold the menu options. The menu clearly displays the disk’s five episodes by number, with a Preview of Volume 3, Languages options, and Extras listed below in descending order. A clip from the series’ opening song is looped throughout. I was pleased with the menu’s clarity and ease of use.
Hakugei-Legend of the Moby Dick Vol. 2 offers some of the more common extras, but there are also some stand-outs. The disk features Clean Opening Animation, Clean Closing Animation, Character Sketches, Character Bios, Concept Artwork, The Space Whalers’ Lexicon, Previews, and Credits. Of these, I found the Concept Artwork and Character Sketches to be the most interesting. I was particularly pleased with the Concept Artwork, as it showcases some of the beautiful hand-painted backgrounds featured throughout the series though I feel the Concept Art was the more value-added respectively with some truly beautiful renderings of the scenery and various series backgrounds. The character sketches are nice, but I would have liked to have been able to scroll through them at my own pace, though this is only a slight complaint and some may prefer the disk’s pace. The Space Whaler’s Lexicon could be useful to those new to the series.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Originally airing on Japanese television from April 1997 to May 1999, Hakugei—Legend of the Moby Dick is based very loosely on Herman Melville’s famous novel. While taking huge liberties with the source material, Hakugei does retain some of the original’s essence beyond the shared titular and character names, namely a giant white whale. Except, it’s not really a whale.
This volume picks up directly after the revelations on the last disk, as the crew have decided to travel to the planet Moad to aid Lucky’s people. The first episode of the disk, episode six, opens as the crew prepares to depart on the very long journey for Moad. In order to do so, however, they must first gather a large amount of food and fuel. But as just as they’re beginning, the Federation police stage their Field Day, or annual raid on King Kuron. The Field Day introduces White Hat, at police detective out to capture Ahab. As the police forces cover the station, rounding up various petty criminals to meet their quota, White Hat decides to ignore everything else in order to track down Ahab based on a tip he got from an arms dealer. Proving himself to be quite formidable, White Hat actually manages to track down and capture the Captain. Apparently, Ahab and White Hat have a history. White Hat was a prison guard during the period in which Abah was in custody after his first meeting with the Moby Dick. During that time, White Hat was one of the prison’s harsher jailers, notorious for severely whipping prisoners, having been particularly sadistic in his treatment of Ahab, as evidenced by the number of scars covering the Captain’s body. However, after Ahab managed to escape, White Hat was severely docked in pay, subsequently losing his home, his wife and child, and most of his hair. Bearing Ahab a tremendous grudge, blaming him for all he has suffered, White Hat left the prison system to become a detective in order to bring Ahab in. Unwilling to allow Ahab’s arrest to stand, the crew stage a daring break-out, during the course of which Ahab manages to rescue White Hat, and brings him along.
This episode offers a number of insights in to the Captain’s background, as well as establishing the history behind the androids (in which the souls of society’s greatest offenders are ripped from their bodies, their memories stripped, and are reprogrammed to serve society for all eternity), which raises a number of questions regarding Dew and his past. However, aside from these tidbits of information, the episode in general felt a little inconsistent throughout, particularly regarding the way in which Ahab reacted so positively toward the man responsible for his numerous savage beatings. The reasons for the Captain’s jovial attitude toward White Hat go unexplained and actually make the Captain’s choice of asking White Hat to join very counter-intuitive.
Episode seven opens with the crew, well on their way to Moad and having inexplicably brought White Hat along, and in great need of the fuel and food supplies they left behind in their hasty departure from King Kuron. The crew soon runs afoul of a legendary ghost ship, the Mortician. The subject of much superstition among whale hunters, the crew thinks it best to simply leave the giant, beastly-looking ship alone. However, despite some inexplicable offers on the part of the Captain for White Hat to join the crew, White Hat manages to flee. Catching site of the hideous Mortician, but unaware of what it is, he makes his way to this ship, hoping to flee the crew of the Lady Whisker. When he no longer answers the crew’s hailings from the Lady Whisker, again inexplicably, the crew decides to go after him. Once on board, the crew soon discovers an almost possessed-looking White Hat who does his best to capture the crew. The Captain, however, soon discovers the Mortician is not entirely what it seems.
As with the first episode, this episode raises a number of questions, not the least of which is why Ahab feels compelled to continually treat White Hat like his kid brother. Furthermore, the inclusion of White Hat as a crew member just feels really strained. Aside from these issues, the episode is really quite fun, offering a number of humorous scenes, particularly those in which the crew, scared silly, attempts to explore the ship to retrieve White Hat.
In episode eight, the crew of the Lady Whisker makes yet another detour from the trip to Moad, stopping by the port of Cape God to restock supplies. It seems Cape God is yet another place with which the Captain is intimately acquainted. Having some business to attend to while there, the Captain takes Atre and a giant treasure chest to a placed called, Café Irene. Ahab and Atre are to meet with Irene, the owner of the establishment. Before he died, the Chief Engineer, Atre’s father, was engaged to Irene. She was to have become Atre’s mother. The treasure chest belonged the Chief Engineer. It was his dying wish to have the contents of the treasure chest delivered to Irene. If she truly loved him, if she truly felt he was the one, then she would be entitled to what was inside. Otherwise the box and the key were to be tossed in to the Cape God canal. Before she has an opportunity to open the box, Irene is called away on business. The three wait for Irene to return from her duties at her other job, in a money-lending business, and are entertained by Marie, the waitress and manager at Café Irene. When Irene’s business deal goes awry, she is kidnapped, and Ahab’s help is enlisted. Soon, the entire crew goes to bring her back. The episode ends with Irene’s decision on opening the treasure chest. While this episode presented the viewer with some details on the pasts of both Ahab and Atre, and featured a nice fight scene at the end, it truly felt like filler. Most of the plotlines felt a little too telegraphed, as the viewer will almost certainly know the ending halfway through the episode.
If episode eight only seemed like filler, then episode nine is filler without question. Marie, the girl from the café, having decided she is in love with the Captain, has stowed away on the Lady Whisker. As she spends the entire episode chasing after the Captain’s affections, the crew chases after hers, while the Captain simply tries to avoid it all. All of this is conveniently resolved when the Lady Whisker makes yet another detour to aid a ship in trouble, one that, when repaired, will be able to return Marie to Cape God. While this episode could offer a few moments of humor, it was generally disappointing and seemingly completely detached from the larger plotline.
Episode ten, the final episode on this disk is genuinely a breath of fresh air, as the series feels as if it gets a genuine start here. A number of what look to be major characters are introduced in this episode, including Lucky’s brother, Shiro Tokisada, who appears to possess psychic abilities; Sara, the singing android who is waiting for her true love (Dew?) to arrive; Lisa, the freedom fighter and her child; and Murato, who looks to be the major android villain representing the forces in charge of removing the people of Moad from their planet. The heart of the episode opens as Lisa, her child, and a few other resistance fighters are fleeing across the wastes of Moad, as a giant Federation ship bears down on them. After a brief altercation, from which only Lisa escapes, she and her daughter are given refuge by Sara. Departing after nightfall, Lisa and her daughter again set out, trying to make it to the rest of the resistance. However, they are intercepted by Murato and just before they are captured, Shiro manages a tremendous psychic blast over the distance between them that buys Lisa and her daughter enough time to escape. As the Lady Whisker enters the Moad atmosphere, the characters are all beginning to fall in to place for the conflict that looms just ahead.
I like a number of things about Hakugei—The Legend of Moby Dick. I think this perspective on the source material is very fresh and interesting, and I also like the fact each volume is packaged with five episodes. While the character design is a little flat, the backgrounds are highly detailed and wonderfully rendered. I’ve also enjoyed character development to this point, which has been subtle, but successful. However, this volume often felt like it was really dragging, with a couple of the episodes appearing to be little more than filler. While this was likely designed to give an idea of the length of the trip to Moad, it comes across very flat. However, with the final episode on this disk, the series does appear to be taking off in to a more positive direction with the introduction of major characters and threats. I’m truly looking forward to future volumes and the exploration of this extended cast list and the planet Moad.
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles,Character sketches, Character Bios, Concept Artwork, Space Whalers Lexicon, Clean Opening Animation, Clean Closing Animation
34” Sony FD Trinitron Wega HDTV KD-34XBR910 and Sony Dav-FR9 progressive scan Home Theatre System with 114 watts per channel to each speaker and 115 watts to each of the subwoofer's two woofers.
Mania Grade: B-
Audio Rating: A-
Video Rating: B+
Packaging Rating: A
Menus Rating: B
Extras Rating: B
Age Rating: TV PG
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: ADV Films
Running time: 125
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Hakugei: Legend of the Moby Dick