Thousands of years in the future, Ahab’s whaling company is about to meet its match with Moby Dick.
What They Say
Ahab's deadly obsession lives!
The year 4699. A young adventurer on a desperate mission 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: Moby Dick. But first he will need to locate the fugitive Captain and his elusive crew. And if he finds them, will he pass muster to join the toughest crew of whale hunters in the galaxy? And will Ahab agree to risk it all for one more shot at the Great White? Riveting Sci-Fi action in the distant future as Captain Ahab continues his legendary pursuit of MOBY DICK!
The bilingual presentation for this series is relatively straightforward for what ADV Films typically does in that we get the original Japanese audio in its stereo mix at 224kbps. In addition to that, the English language version gets a 5.1 mix created for it which is done at 448kbps. The Japanese mix is pretty solid but is for the most part what you’d expect from a series of this nature done back in 1997. It serves the material well but there’s not much to it that stands out. The English mix doesn’t really have all that much to work with but it does come across a bit clearer and louder with a bit more placement for the dialogue. Both sound good and are problem free throughout.
Originally airing in 1997 (and then suspended for awhile, causing it to finish out in 1999), this TV series is presented in its original full frame aspect ratio. Hakugei isn’t a series that will win massive awards or notice for its visual design but it’s all Dezaki all the way. The source material looks to be in pretty good shape here with very little in the way of noticeable problems. The authoring for it comes across solid across the board with nothing that’s terribly striking across the set. At most, there’s some noise in various backgrounds which is to be expected with a traditionally animated show on film and there are moments with some very mild cross coloration. Across the twenty six episodes however, this is pretty mild. Blacks maintain a good solid feel throughout and colors in general work well with no bleeding or noticeable blocking.
During the middle of 2008, ADV Films had a fair number of problems going on and that led to some interesting releases in the collections area. Interesting in that it was curious to see a company that generally has had very solid thinpak sets put out end up putting out some very cheap and almost tacky looking collections. Hakugei is one of those sets as it’s a big oversized keepcase with the hinges inside that hold a DVD on each side. This requires a whole lot less work than what has been done on other collections and less material overall, but it’s very reminiscent of some of those “spindle keepcases” you get from Asian releases that have a ten disc TV series on them.
Very little of the actual artwork within the show is going to sell this series to most current fans, but the cover for this likely would be a hard sell even for them. The central image is that of the Moby Dick itself moving across space and the design for it is, well, amusing as it can’t be taken seriously. The background has some good classic detail SF structure designs to it and there’s a small strip of character headshots along the bottom. The back cover has a lot more of these small shots from the show itself along with the wraparound of the background artwork which gives it a good dark feeling. The summary runs through the basics of what to expect but in a way that’s not exactly accurate and gives you a different idea than what it’s really about. It’s sort of accurate but really stretching things a bit. There’s a good listing of what’s in the set itself for the amount of content and discs as well as the extras. The remainder is given over to the production credits and the technical grid. No inserts are included nor is there a reversible cover.
With the discs being identical to the original releases, the menus are the only places to get the original cover artwork in this set. Each menu, which has a brief bit of music associated with it, is a static piece that has the original cover artwork framed in the center. The navigation strip along the right is laid out the same across the volumes as well with top level episode access and quick and easy load times to get through everything. The menus that ADV Films puts together may not be the flashiest but they’re very functional and they’re the only company that seems to get it right when it comes to reading player presets on a regular basis. These menus are decent and having the original cover artwork with its illustrations makes them worth checking out a bit more than the norm.
Hakugei has a pretty solid set of extras present across all the volumes, though there are plenty of similar pieces to be found on them. The clean opening and closings are presented on each volume and unfortunately the series doesn’t change them at all throughout so it’s the same thing for each one, but definitely good to have there. A lot of what makes up the extras here is production artwork, either done up through actual sketch sections or concept artwork galleries or through the pilot storyboards section. Another regular feature across the volumes that does change is the Space Whaler’s Lexicon which is a series of liner notes about the show and some of its terms. Some are more interesting than others but I was appreciative of the translated lyrics from the songs that get sung throughout the show.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
With its origins in the novel by Herman Melville, Hakugei: Legend of the Moby Dick is a twenty-sex episode series that takes some of the names and themes from the book and transplants them into space. We’ve seen this done numerous times over the years and some are more faithful than others which is only natural. Hakugei, as we’ll refer to it from here on it, really just uses a few of the character names and some basic ideas about whales in order to tell this particular story. Anyone looking for anything more accurate will likely come away very disappointed as there isn’t even a “Call me Ishmael!” line in the series. In fact, the character of Ahab is known as Ahab Ishmael Ali.
Set in the year 4699, the story is one where humanity has spread far and wide and that leads to a variety of stories that can be told. The galaxies as they are in this are ruled by the Federation Government out of Earth. The government is a cold and cruel one that has little use for things that are of no value. One of those things that no longer has any value is the planet Moad, an oil and mining rich place several hundred years earlier that has now been stripped to the bone. With that having happened, they’ve been forcing emigration off-planet for awhile now and are intending to use the planet for military experiments. Or really, just one single experiment as they have in their possession a new weapon. That weapon is a giant whale shaped spaceship called Moby Dick that is designed to destroy planets. With this weapon, if proven successful, the Federation Government can prove itself as the ultimate master of known space and all other systems not affiliated with them will fall into line.
Of course, not everyone wants to leave Moad as it’s been their home for quite some time. Many have left or been forced to leave, but there’s a strong contingent still there fighting back against the Garrison that’s stationed there. With news that the Moby Dick will be arriving on January 1st, 4701 and it will destroy the planet then, Lucky Luck decides to head out into space to find the best whale hunter out there to bring him to Moad to help take down Moby Dick. That whaler of course is the well known Captain Ahab who runs his own whaling company. Whaling companies in this time period however are a bit different as the “whales” are actually derelict spaceships that float about space. A lot of them tend to float towards a particular nebula because of the gravity well there and a motley community has built up on the place known as King Kuron. It’s there that Lucky Luck meets Ahab and joins his crew in an effort to convince him to come to Moad to help save his home world.
Hakugei as a whole is something that is quickly familiar to anyone who has seen some of Dezaki’s works in the past. Hakugei really does feel like it could have been done in the late 70’s, never mind the late 90’s, with its look and the kind of stylistic tricks that are employed for scene changes and so forth. That’s not a negative criticism however, as Dezaki pioneered a lot of this and it’s really simply a part of his style and direction. There is a certain kind of comfort in watching one of his shows because of it, but also because of the unpredictability. Much of Hakugei early on feels like it’s fairly “safe” in who can view it, but as it progresses on and the situations get worse and worse, it turns decidedly more violent at times. It’s not a show that’s explicit the sexuality but it has a lot of implied material to it and it doesn’t shy away from what some men on a long voyage would be like with women in general.
What’s prevalent in most shows that Dezaki works on is the characters themselves in that they’re a lot of fun to watch and so filled with emotion. Occasionally it does go over the top, but again, it’s more style than anything else with how it’s framed, especially when it goes to using the illustration still to linger on the moment. What I like about the characters here is that Dezaki doesn’t run through the usual pattern of spending an episode or two on each of them to flesh out their back stories. The cast is a decent size to start with and more are brought on as time goes on, but most don’t have a lot of development time spent with them. The time is spent focusing on them bonding as a group and becoming closer to each other as a “whaling family” of sorts. Ahab is the one that gets his history told, which is important because of how it all relates back to Moby Dick.
As a whole, Hakugei is something of a fun series to watch if you like something that feels classic. Much of what’s here really comes across as many of his older series do with the character designs, layouts and the way the action plays out. It has a certain charm and charisma to it that works for me but it isn’t all that accessible to the way newer fans are used to their series looking. Then again, with a title that has Moby Dick in it, newer fans aren’t going to flock to this anyway. Hakugei was likely a “friend of” title when it was picked up but it’s one that I’m glad that came over. It’s not as compelling as Nobody’s Boy Remi or as twisted and fun as Black Jack is, but there are plenty of things to like about it if you’ve got the right mindset about it. Plowing through this set in about three days, the narrative is certainly more enjoyable even though the actual progression of time within the show isn’t gotten across clearly.
After coming off of Nobody’s Boy Remi last year, I’ve been admittedly very keen on seeing what all Dezaki has worked on over the years. His particular style and direction is one that I find appealing. There’s a warmth and flow to all of it that is very appealing to me. The characters are strong and manly throughout, and they certainly act like it, but the softer side is visible through all the harsh exterior moments. The comedy is a bit forced at times, but it could be partly translation as well as cultural differences in humor. Hakugei spends a lot of time going through events as the crew is gathered and Lucky Luck begins the tale to entice Ahab, but once it gets rolling and moves forward, it’s a good bit of travel-fun with a much darker edge in the last third of the series.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Clean Opening Animation, Clean Closing Animation, Character Sketches, Character Bios, Production Artwork, The Space Whalers' Lexicon
Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70" LCoS 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.