TV Review: Space Pirate Captain Harlock (1978-1979)

Original Run: March 14th, 1978 – February 13th, 1979
Created by: Leiji Matsumoto
Directed by: Rintaro
Written by: Haruya Yamazaki, Shozo Uehara
Based on: Space Pirate Captain Harlock by Leiji Matsumoto
Music by: Seiji Yokoyama

Toei Animation, 42 Episodes, 22 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

This is probably where I should have started with Space Pirate Captain Harlock but I actually started with the prequel film Arcadia of My Youth. So I guess it’s okay that I watched them in chronological order instead of release order but I do often times find it is best to experience things in the order that they came out in like the Star Wars films or The Chronicles of Narnia books.

Regardless, I loved Arcadia of My Youth and it made me want to delve right into the Harlock show, which I was able to, as it is available to stream for free on Tubi.

Now the animation in the show isn’t as fantastic as the prequel film but it is still fantastic for the late ’70s and it reminds me a lot of another Leiji Matsumoto creation, Space Battleship Yamato a.k.a. Star Blazers.

However, unlike Yamato, this takes the space opera genre and adds in a little swashbuckling. In a lot of ways it is similar to Star Wars or at least the early films. It has space exploration, interesting worlds, an epic quest and the type of action you can only associate with proper sword fighting duels.

What I love most about the Harlock stuff I’ve now seen is the tone of it. It’s often times dark and bleak, giving the universe these characters live in the proper setting: the coldness and emptiness of space. Still, it is lighthearted and hopeful and it doesn’t dwell in darkness, in fact, it brings light to it.

In the end, this is just a damn cool anime television show with cool characters, a sweet spaceship and great character and vehicle design. I love Matsumoto’s ability to world build, especially in a visual and tonal sense.

Rating: 8.5/10
Pairs well with: other Captain Harlock films and shows, as well as Leiji Matsumoto’s other work: Galaxy Express 999 and Space Battleship Yamato a.k.a. Star Blazers.

Film Review: Arcadia of My Youth (1982)

Also known as: Space Pirate Captain Harlock: Arcadia of My Youth (English title), Vengeance of the Space Pirate (US dubbed version)
Release Date: 1982 (Japan)
Directed by: Tomoharu Katsumata
Written by: Leiji Matsumoto, Yoichi Onaka
Based on: Captain Harlock by Leiji Matsumoto
Music by: Toshiyuki Kimori

Toei Animation, 130 Minutes, 101 Minutes (cut version)

Review:

“At the end of their lives, all men look back and think that their youth was Arcadia.” – title card

I never really knew who Leiji Matsumoto was. As a kid, I loved Star Blazers though and I had heard of Captain Harlock but I never knew that they were associated. Had I known that, I probably would’ve watched this film when it came Stateside.

Now, I’m trying to rectify the injustice of not watching Matsumoto’s other work. So I started here, as this was free for Prime members and because I’ve always been intrigued by Captain Harlock, even though I’ve never seen any of his shows or films.

Maybe I should have watched the earlier anime series first but this does serve as a prequel to it, as well as a prequel to one of Matsumoto’s other creations, Galaxy Express 999.

This is a space opera at its core but that was Matsumoto’s modus operandi and he was able to craft fantastic tales within the genre. Arcadia is no different and ultimately, this made me want to watch the earlier Harlock series.

The thing that really works and makes this so compelling is the tone and the atmosphere. Visually, it’s both dark and fantastical.

The opening scene with Harlock in his biplane being confronted by the spirit of a witch that haunts the Owen Stanley Mountains of New Guinea is pretty breathtaking and lures you in like you’re being pulled by a powerful phantom’s grip. And maybe that’s the witch coming through and having an effect on the audience. Point being, the opening is so well crafted that it made me a fan of this picture from the get-go.

Everything that follows is also pretty fascinating. This is a story with a lot of drama but most importantly, high adventure.

The hero is cool, most of the other characters are great but most importantly, the design of the ships, vehicles and the universe they inhabit is imaginative and stunning.

The audio is presented in mono and I’m not sure if a remastered stereo version exists but the mono sound kind of adds to the atmosphere. Granted, that could also be nostalgia triggering in my brain, as it gave me the same experience I had watching old VHS tapes of Star Blazers and Voltron.

If anything, this feature film sold me on the franchise and further strengthened my appreciation for Matsumoto.

I’m not sure where my odyssey through Matsumoto’s oeuvre will take me next but watching the original Captain Harlock series, as well as the Galaxy Express 999 stuff is a must.

Rating: 9/10
Pairs well with: other Captain Harlock films and shows, as well as Leiji Matsumoto’s other work: Galaxy Express 999 and Space Battleship Yamato a.k.a. Star Blazers.