Degenerate and a shadow of what it once was, humanity now finds itself with only one man to save it – the space pirate Captain Harlock.
What They Say
2977 A.D. Mankind has developed the technology to head into space. They've created robots to cultivate foodstuffs on other planets and live in an age of unprecedented gluttony. Mankind receives all its food from the government and is kept in check by the government's use of hypnotic signals emitted from the television. So even high-ranking government officials have tossed their duties to the road and live a life of horse-racing and other indulgences.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Space Pirate Captain Harlock is a real travesty when it comes to its availability. This is one of those classic series that has defined anime for a lot of fans, mostly because of the way Harmony Gold adapted it and the Queen Queen Millennia series back in the mid 1980’s, and it has not seen a proper release in this country outside of a streaming version available from a few different sources. Similar to other shows that defined a generation of fans like Starblazers, Gatchaman and Robotech, Captain Harlock is one that needs to be properly served to its fans but is unable to for a number of reasons, including a lack of appeal from newer fans.
The series, running forty two episodes, is very nicely set here in the first five episodes but not without some confusion. Taking place in the year 2977, humanity has fallen very far and it appears that there’s only some five million people left on Earth. Those that live there now aren’t exactly lazy, but they’re unconcerned with things in general and spend their time focused on the pleasures of life. During the big meetings of the government, they stop to watch the “horsies” race or they ignore pressing matters to go play golf. When it starts to become apparent that an alien race is planning to invade, the prime minster can’t be bothered to deal with it because he has an important party to get to. Even more damning is when a massive object collides with the capital city, nobody will work to put out the fire because the labor laws on the books say nobody will work during tea time.
Suffice to say, it’s a stifling world for some people who can’t handle those who exist and have nothing to stand for. One of those men is Captain Harlock, a space pirate who sails the seven seas of the galaxy. He’s the classic principled romantic hero who has his own way of life and can’t stand the way mankind has fallen. He’s a pirate in the simplest of senses in that he does attack the government ships, but only to destroy their weak products such as wine and games, toys and other distractions. Harlock won’t even keep the alcohol for the members of his crew, instead just taking necessary food and scuttling the rest of it into the reaches of space. Unless provoked, he doesn’t kill either, which gives him the title of being an anti-hero of the oldest sense. Harlock looks and feels the part perfectly with his design and the actor that stands behind him to provide the rough but warm nature of his personality.
Harlock’s crew gets little focus here, though we do get introduced to them over the course of the first five episodes through a new arrival. Of all the people on Earth, a precious few are aware of what’s really going on with this apparent invasion and are doing their best to figure it all out. What they didn’t expect was that there would be enemy spies among them that are killing them before they can convince anyone. One such man is Dr. Daiba, who gets the closest to figuring things out before being killed. Shot before his son, a young man named Tadashi, Daiba provides the meeting point for him and Harlock. Tadashi’s loss of his father to the aliens is a cruel fate as he lost his mother some years earlier due to the useless human leaders when she was blamed for a tragedy on the moon of Triton. With nothing left to him on Earth and feeling like he needs to find his own way – never mind that the government wants him imprisoned for the things he believes about the aliens – he ends up on Harlock’s beautiful ship, the Arcadia.
Much of these early episodes are about setting up the basics of how everything works, pointing out the way mankind has fallen and how few “real men” there are anymore. Some of it is obviously quite anachronistic as Tadashi is informed that the first officer of the ship, the beautiful Kei, is quite competent even though she’s a woman. As a setup, it does get confusing sometimes as you do have people on various other planets where things are made, agriculture happens and so forth, but then you learn of the five million number and wonder if it really just applies to Earth or humanity as a whole. That mankind has fallen as such in the next thousand years is an interesting avenue to pursue, but the real focus is on how people can work towards becoming the best they can and not falling into the trap of being idle and disinterested in all that life has to offer.
After being curious about the show for the better part of twenty years now and seeing various iterations of it that came later, it’s really neat to finally be able to sit down and watch this series. The show opens fairly well but it’s setting the stage with its props and atmosphere more than anything else right now. Harlock is the lead, but much of these episodes is given over to the larger plot and the secondary players as well as Tadashi. So much so at times that it really is more Tadashi’s story right now. In the end, this is exactly what I expected from the show and from Matsumoto. It’s got me curious to see what the full storyline is, what sacrifices may be made and how much of an epic space opera it can be. It’s rooted in 70’s storytelling and concepts, but it also reaches beyond them for a show that is cool, captivating and fun.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English Subtitles
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.