Hakugei: Legend of the Moby Dick Vol. #1 - Mania.com

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  • Audio Rating: N/A
  • Video Rating: N/A
  • Packaging Rating: N/A
  • Menus Rating: N/A
  • Extras Rating: N/A
  • Age Rating: TV PG
  • Region: 1 - North America
  • Released By: ADV Films
  • MSRP: 29.98
  • 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

Hakugei: Legend of the Moby Dick Vol. #1

By brettbarkley     November 02, 2005
Release Date: November 29, 2005

The Review!
The obsessive quest for a whale that is not a whale.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain
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.

Set in the year 4699, the story focuses on a subculture of space-faring scavengers known as "whale hunters" at the outer edges of the galaxy near a place called the Nantucket Nebula. It seems at the climax of the race to explore and colonize space (roughly 4100, called "The Era of the Space Bubble") Earth was producing so many ships and space stations that they were said to "crowd the edge of the universe." When the bubble burst there was no longer any need for all these ships, so they were simply set adrift in space. These ships, referred to as "whales" are the main source of income for the whale hunters. Due to the strength of the Nantucket Nebula, many of the whales have found their way here over time. It is in this place, on an abandoned--and subsequently reclaimed by the whale hunters-resort and vacation satellite that the story takes place.

Lucky Luck, the optimistically-named fourteen year old lead character and narrator (with probably the most uninspired name I can recall in recent memory) has come to this scavenger haven looking for the man called Captain Ahab. Ahab, a giant peg-legged man, is among the most famous of the whale hunters. Lucky wishes to join his uniquely small and elite crew of men to become a whale hunter himself.

The first episode opens with a prologue to Lucky's story and introduces Dew, an android and future crewmember of Ahab's ship, The Lady Whisker. On a cold and lifeless world, an android named Dew performs his daily routine scouring the snow-covered surface of the world for life. Just as he completes his mission duration, an extraordinarily large white and strangely-shaped space ship fires upon his vehicle and eventually captures him. Once onboard, Dew is subject to a number of tests. Finally, the ship performs some sort of procedure on his chest, telling him the two are now linked. He is subsequently encased in a cryogenic tube of sorts and set adrift in space.

The rest of the episode features Lucky and his search for Ahab. Upon finding the elusive captain and crew, he is given a series of tests, a sort of hazing process to determine his usefulness to the crew. When he risks his life to perform a childish test, Ahab sees his worth and Lucky joins the crew.

Episode two features the first "whale hunt" Lucky has an opportunity to watch. In fulfilling a request for antiquated guns, the crew of the Lady Whisker hunts and captures a drifting ship. However, the crew also finds something else. It seems the containment chamber Dew was locked in, has become lodged along the side of the ship and they mistake it for a coffin. In order to stay true to the laws of space, which suggest one finding a coffin adrift in space must give the body a second funeral, or risk suffering bad luck, the crew retrieves Dew's body.

Episode three begins as the crew brings Dew's body aboard the Lady Whisker. Once on board, it doesn't take them long to realize Dew is neither dead nor human. Realizing what Dew truly is, Ahab offers to him a position on the ship, but completely out of sorts, Dew attacks the captain and flees. Showing the obsession inspired by Ahab's character from the novel, the captain goes off in search of Dew to bring him back.

I feel the first three episodes of this series, as featured on the review disk, are a bit too conflicted to give a genuine feel for the series plot. As it stands, the first episode felt much too light in tone to truly fit with the premise of the source material. As anyone familiar with Moby Dick can likely attest, the novel is not light-hearted. I believe this issue is largely due to the use of a fourteen year old as the lead character and narrator. Much of the second and third episodes began to develop a hint of the darkness from the novel, but I didn't feel it truly escaped the light-heartedness established in the first. It was great to see Ahab's trademark obsession, but it didn't come off as much more than simple stubbornness and an unwillingness to let Dew walk away from serving aboard the Lady Whisker. I'm hopeful future episodes build on Ahab's damning obsession and internal darkness.

For the most part, the characters in the small crew haven't really begun to stand out. Aside from Lucky and Ahab, there is Atre, the eleven year old tough-talker, Barba the mysterious tattooed giant, Academias the crew's resident genius, and a handful of others. While each of the primary characters has his own special introduction and, in some cases, brief back story, none of the other crew members really seems to stand out, but I'm hopeful this will change as the story progresses. It's likely another issue with the story's progression so closely with Lucky Luck's narration. If he doesn't yet know the characters, the viewer likely won't either.

Speaking of Lucky Luck, I was extremely impressed with Kara Vincent-Davies' work in this role. While the voice acting is solid throughout (Stephanie Nadolny as Atre, for instance), Ms. Vincent-Davies proves her incredible range with her deft portrayal of Lucky Luck. Her ability to emote a naïve and optimistic fourteen year old boy is astounding. However, while certainly not an indictment of Ms. Vincent-Davies' work, the copious amounts of narrative monologue grew tiring very quickly. I didn't find the series needed so many voice-overs which eventually seemed to do little more than reinforce what the viewer has already seen.

Artistically, the series features a completely hand-drawn feel, not employing any CGI that I could note in the first three episodes. One point that truly impressed me was the background work. The backgrounds featured throughout are nearly all intricate and beautifully painted. While the colors tend to be rooted in the blue range, there is a fair amount of brighter contrast. The space scenes viewed were deep and also vibrant. In all, the backgrounds give a truly nice science fiction deep space feel to the piece.

However, on the other hand, the character designs seemed a bit less inspired. Ahab is little more than the traditional pirate captain, but with a metal peg leg. Further, in establishing such prominent eyelashes (That is, on his good eye; the other is covered by a patch) makes him appear a bit effeminate, but this is really a minor complaint. Academias appears much like the stereotypical computer genius, having wild, unkempt hair and what amounts to a lab coat. Dew also has wild hair and looks a bit like a fantasy character in shorts. I would have liked to have seen a bit more in terms of inspired design, something a bit more forward-thinking.

The animation for Hakugei-Legend of the Moby Dick is simpler, recycling art in a number of places, though I didn't find it to detract from my enjoyment of the show. However, the series does have an interesting habit of presenting scene climaxes in very sketchy still images. I found this to be slightly distracting, particularly considering the large number of times the technique is employed during the course of an episode.

In Summary:
As a fan of classic literature, I'm intrigued by the potential for this series. However, after viewing only the first three episodes I'm a little concerned about the light-heartedness I've detected, as I'm seriously concerned the series won't be able to effectively straddle the line between the darkness of the source material and the lighter tone established at this point.

The art and animation for Hakugei-Legend of the Moby Dick are definitely acceptable, and I'm particularly fond of the nicely painted background work. I was a little disappointed with the character designs in general, but don't feel it truly detracts from the piece. Voice-acting is great and truly showcases some fantastic range on the part of the actors.

When I learned the "whales" featured in the series were little more than drifting starships, I was a bit disappointed. The concept of referring to them as "whales" and the scavengers as "whale hunters" seemed a bit of a stretch for what amounts to a space adventure set in the year 4699. However, the concept is slowly growing on me. At this point, though, having seen only three episodes, I would recommend waiting a bit to purchase. I'd like to get a better idea of the overall mood and series direction before giving a more definite recommendation.

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