Captain Harlock: Revenge of the space Pirate
THE STORY: When I was in college I had a Japanese roommate for awhile. I don't mean he was a Japanese-American...this guy was right off the [unwrite]ing boat. He barely spoke English when I first met him. (But he was pretty cool...we had a falling out years later and I regret it. I'm sure he does too, wherever he is) Anyway, one day he was reading a magazine his family had sent him from home. In it there was an illustration of a man with a black suit on holding a futuristic looking weapon. The man had an eyepatch and big skull and crossbones on his chest. I asked my roomie who he was supposed to be. My Japanese friend smiled broadly and said "That's Captain Harlock!"
That was the first time I had ever heard of Captain Harlock. Another friend that I had back then had some Japanese cartoons on tape. They were episodes of a Captain Harlock TV show. In it Captain Harlock, the space pirate was trying to stop an invasion of Earth by some kind of plant women. I can't remember too much about it, but I remember that they were damn good. I was upset that my friend only had a few episodes, as I never got to see the whole thing. Back in the early eighties, Japanese animation, or anime as its known was hard to get unless you had a lot of money. Seriously. At comic book conventions I'd see tapes but they were stupid-expensive. Nowadays you can order them or find them for reasonable prices. Heck, I rented this movie from Blockbuster two years ago! ( and copied it...shhhhh)
To my understanding, Captain Harlock has had different incarnations over the years. I don't know too much about them and I haven't found any other movies or tapes with him (except for his appearance in Galaxy Express 999.) Still, I love science fiction space stories and I like pirates so I, by default, have to like Captain Harlock. I don't know if this movie is considered a defining origin for Harlock by hard core fans or not, but its what I watched so I can only deal with it.
About a thousand years in the future, the green skinned but otherwise human looking Illumidas have conquered the Earth. Earth put up a fight but lost. Captain Harlock, commander of the earth ship DeathShadow returns to a defeat planet. Upon arrival he is greeted by Zole and a platoon of guards. The guards aren't Illumidas soldiers. They came from a planet called Tokarga. Tokarga was conquered by the Illumidas and now its people are forced to work for them. Harlock is instructed to meet with the head of the Illumidas occupation on Earth, Commander Zayda.
Zayda offers Harlock work, but Harlock refuses to work for the conquerors. With that Zayda's aide, Morgeson tosses Harlock out on the streets. He receives food coupons to eat with for awhile from Le Mime (pronounced "La-Mee-May") a blond alien from another world the Illumidas have conquered.
Harlock is bitter. The earthmen he sees are utterly defeated and have no will to fight for their own freedom. They've become puppets for the Illumidas. The only bright spot in Harlock's life now is the hope that he'll find Maya, his girlfriend. He hears Maya on the radio...she's the voice of "radio free earth" so he knows she's still alive.
Harlock goes to a tavern of some sort to eat. Its full of earth people and Illumidas soldiers. There he spots Tochiro eating alone and dressed like a beggar. But under his cloak, Harlock sees the insignia of an Earth fleet engineer. He knowingly gives Tochiro a glance. both men are soldiers and pretty much in the same boat. But some Illumidas soldiers decide to pick on Tochiro, so Harlock intervenes. A fight ensues where Harlock beats a few guys up and Tochiro, who while small, holds his own. Both men leave the tavern while the whole place is in an uproar, but are caught shortly after by Zole.
Zole has them examined and finds that they both share a certain memory from their ancestors, encoded in their DNA. I really, really, found this part stupid so I'll try and just give you the short version....the memory is that during WWII both men had ancestors that met. Tochiro's was an engineer working on a better gunf-sight for fighter planes and Harlock's was a mercenary pilot. They both get caught up in a skirmish in Germany and become friends. Before they part, Harlock's ancestor gives Tochiro's ancestor the gun sight from his fighter plane to remember him by. Yeesh....If you ever rent this I'd suggest forwarding past this part, but the gun sight comes up again and you may be confused if you don't watch it.
After this the men are released. Zayda once again asks Harlock to work for the Illumidas. This time he wants Harlock to captain an invading force to Tokarga. It seems those uppity tokargans have decided to revolt and the Illumidas have decided to respond with lethal force. Harlock refuses asking why earthmen should fight for the Illumidas. During this discussion, Tochiro sees a spaceship in an emergency landing and goes to it. The ship, which looks like a huge blimp, belongs to Emereldas, a free space trader. She's human, if you're wondering. Her ship was damaged badly when she got to close to some kind of fire nebula called "The Owen-Stanley Witch of Space". The nebula drags in ships by their life energy. Tochiro is infatuated with Emereldas and repairs her ship. (by himself....I think maybe Scotty was his real ancestor!)
Well, more talky scenes go on and finally Harlock locates his lost love Maya...but she's under assualt by Illumidas soldiers. Harlock helps her escape but is wounded. He loses an eye for his trouble. Maya gets away, but is captured later. Harlock is still free, but knows he must leave the Earth. He can't stay here anymore. Sooner or later he'll go nuts by the apathy of Earthlings or get himself killed opposing the Illumidas. He asks Emereldas for her ship. She responds that if Tochiro hadn't fixed it, it would have to be abandoned and begins to give it to him when Zole and some other Tokargans show up. They want the ship!
Le Mime, who has all the time been a spy for the resistance has informed Zole that the Illumidas plan on utterly destroying planet Tokarga! Zole and his compatriots only want to return to their home planet and die with their families. Tochiro has an answer though...they don't need Emereldas ship. He has a ship!
At this point I said to myself "If he has freaking spaceship why is he still on Earth living like a broke-dick dog?". Well, Tochiro explains that he's been waiting for the right man to captain his ship (...if it was MY spaceship I think I'd be the Captain! But then a man has to know his limitations!) Harlock is that man! Harlock, Tochiro and Le Mime go to the underground complex where the ship is hidden. Its a big space battleship! Maya, learning of Harlock's plans sends him a package containing a pirate flag and a pirate suit for him. Emeraldas uses her ship to run interference for Harlock and the others but is captured. Come to think of it, how'd Maya send this stuff...oh, its not that important....I may have missed a scene. (Or rather a scene is missing from my english version)
Zole remains on Earth, but the other Tokargans go with Harlock hoping to somehow avert the destruction of their world. As soon as Harlock takes off in the new ship, the Arcadia, Emereldas is captured and so is Maya. If Harlock doesn't return to Earth by dawn they'll be executed. Harlock won't return but is in orbit. This makes sense. If he does they'll probably all be executed. But it doesn't go that easily for the Illumidas. The troops in the firing squad are earthmen hired by the Illumidas. The earth people witnessing this are appalled that earthlings would kill other earthlings at the orders of their oppressors. Zole and some other tokargans suddenly appear and attack, freeing Maya and Emereldas. But Morgeson shoots Maya in the back as she escapes mortally wounding her. Seeing that his friends are for the moment safe, Harlock and his crew go to Tokarga.
There's no luck for Tokarga. When the Arcadia arrives the planet has already been blasted to ashes by the Illumidas. The search for survivors only reveals one....Zole's little sister. and she's mortally wounded! Tochiro discovers that a "planet demolition bomb" is on Tokarga so the Arcadia must leave immediately! Once in space again, Harlock and Tochiro decide that in order to get past the Illumidas fleet they must fly through the Owen-Stanley Witch of Space nebula. They attempt it but are being dragged into the fire streams. The nebula is pulling on the life energy of those on board the Arcadia. The tokargan soldiers on board sacrifice themselves by jumping overboard. Zole's sister died while on board and their planet is gone. They figured their race is dead anyway and Harlock did try to help them...the honorable thing to do is jump ship and allow Harlock and his friends to return to earth.
Harlock and Tochiro are stunned to learn this and upset. But when they get to Earth they request permission to land. Zayda grants this. Morgeson is against it, but Zayda tells him that Harlock and his friends are brave people fighting for what they believe in so they deserve some respect. Zole is dead anyway. The only reason Harlock returned was to tell Zole what happened to Tokarga. He promised him that when he left. The puppet earth governor that works for the Illumidas and Morgeson inform Harlock that he is not welcome on Earth anymore. He and his friends are banished! Harlock takes this in good spirits, He agrees to leave. Just then Emereldas shows up carrying the almost dead Maya. She tells the crowd of earth soldiers (that work for the Illumidas) and the Illumidas there (including Zayda and Morgeson) that Morgeson shot Maya in the back and that Zole was killed for trying to protect basic freedom. Then everyone has a [unwrite]ing speech to make about freedom. This leads to Maya dying in Harlock's arms, and Harlock telling all of the earthlings present that if they want to leave with him and fight for freedom among the stars to get on the ship. People join him and board the Arcadia.
Commander Zayda admires Harlock and tells him that he can't leave unless he agrees to a duel. Harlock agrees but Morgeson tries to shoot him in the back. Harlock pulls his saber-rifle and blows Morgeson a new asshole in his forehead. Then he lifts off with his crew in the Arcadia to face Zayda in space. Zayda's ship and the Arcadia broadside each other a few times while a fleet of Illumidas reinforcements close in on them. After the second volley Tochiro informs Harlock that the firing sight on the Arcadia is damaged. But Tochiro has a replacement. A manual gun sight. In fact its the same gun sight that Harlock's ancestor had given to Tochiro's ancestor. Using it they defeat Zayda. Zayda's ship is badly damaged and about to blow up when Zayda contacts Harlock and tells him basically that he respects him and to keep fighting for freedom. Then Zayda rams the Arcadia. The Arcadia survives the explosion, but the Illumidas fleet is upon them. Emereldas, who in her ship contacts Harlock and tells him its time to get the hell outta there is amazed when Harlock and Tochiro decide to take on the fleet.The Illumidas fire on the Arcadia but miss. That's when Tochiro discovers that the explosion of Zayda's ship has somehow warped space around the Arcadia. Weapons can't lock onto it! With this information Harlock goes right for the Illumidas flagship. Using a boarding tube he personally goes onto it and blasts its captain, warning the other troops on it that when they see his ship they'd better back off. Then he leaves, and when the Arcadia pulls out (for some reason) the Illumidas ships all explode and collide.
This victory is bitter sweet for the space pirates though. Tokarga is gone. Zole who ended up being on their side is dead. And Maya is dead. The movie ends with Harlock swearing that he and his crew will always fight oppression and defend freedom even if they are banished to "the sea of stars"
Its not easy for me to review a cartoon movie...excuse me anime movie...because while I like them I'm aware of the silliness in them sometimes. (Not all of them, but this one, wellll....) Captain Harlock is an interesting character but the few other versions of him I've seen were more interesting than this movie. first off, Harlock is too low-key. He doesn't actually do anything that heroic or daring 'til the last half hour of the movie! But other characters respect him like he's a real bad-ass and stand up guy....but Harlock doesn't really SAY anything important. Yeah, he talks about how earthmen have lost their sense of bravery and freedom, but its dialogue I could come up with while drunk and giving a speech on the constitution! Anyone can say that stuff! I know the thought behind this was to make Harlock look like a brooding, deep, intellectual and brave hero, but he came off as a guy that won't act unless he has an advantage. (i.e., when he found that the Illumidas fleet couldn't target the Arcadia.) Well, I prefer to think of Harlock from the few episodes that my old friend showed me 15 years ago. I liked him better in those.
A side note- Whatever Harlock Timeline this took place in, if not all of the versions I've heard about, Tochiro dies at some point and his mind is somehow loaded into the Arcadia's computer. I'm not sure of the story in that or anything, but in the anime movie Galaxy Express 999, Tochiro makes an appearance and does die and Harlock does appear looking for his old friend. Emereldas appears in that movie too. Its a good anime movie and I suggest you see it if you go for Japanese animation. (How couldn't you? Its really good and its mostly made for adults!)
Best Lines: "Harlock, you fought very well! When we meet in Hell, lets have a drink together! Until then, Guard your life, and keep living and fighting to accomplish that long cherished dream of yours...now farewell!"Commander Zayda after Harlock defeats him in their duel. You know I had no idea there were bars in hell.
"The explosion of Zayda's ship must have done it! when his high powered engines blew up they must have warped space over a large area...and I'll bet he did it intentionally just to protect us! Alright! Frontal attack! We'll board their flagship!!"- Harlock when he discovers that Commander Zayda sacrificed himself to allow the Arcadia a way to defeat the Illumidas fleet.
"It isn't in the rule book? Too bad! Because this is a pirate's way to fight!"
"This is a lesson to teach you to shear off when you see my flag!"- Captain Harlock says these two things when he boards the flagship of the Illumidas fleet and kills the captain.
ARE YOU KIDDING ME?:
1.) The Illumidas have a strange way of controlling the Earth once they conquer it. They let Harlock stroll around free after he first returns even though they obviously consider him dangerous. Wouldn't it be better to have just executed him? For that matter if they confined or executed most of the defeated military officers they'd have less to fear from an organized assault.
2.) The whole DNA memory scene is really silly, even for a cartoon. Its only relevant because of the part the gun-sight from WWII plays at the end...but even though that may sound a little cool, that's a little silly too. Would a gun sight for a plane built in WWII be any good on a fighter plane today? I don't know for sure but I sure as hell doubt it! So I really don't think a gun-sight from a WWII fighter plane would be of any use on spaceship built about a thousand years later!
3.) This movie is just too damn preachy! Maya is constantly babbling about "Have hope" etc and when she dies Tochiro has to give a damn speech too. Everyone has a freakin' speech at one point and it gets tiresome!
4.) So the Illumidas took over the Earth and didn't find this huge [unwrite]ing spaceship under a base that either they built or was there before? Why didn't they search the place if it was an Earth Fleet base? Even Commander Zayda says "Where did that thing come from!?" When he sees the Arcadia lifting off! These idiots took over the planet?
NUDITY AND SEX: None.
HUH?: Tochiro couldn't have built the Arcadia by himself. He may have been the one who designed it, but he couldn't have built it by himself. If it was supposed to be a warship in the Earth Fleet why then does it have a big freaking "Jolly Roger" on the front of it? why does the aft section look like an old sailing ship? Don't get me wrong....it looks pretty cool, but I have to wonder why. (I know, I know...its just an animated movie....)
Twice. Twice, the Illumidas allow Harlock to go free. The first time its right after he returns to Earth after its defeat. Okay, I'll let that slide. But the second time is after he comes back just to give a message to Zole...who at that time is dead...and Harlock is in command of the formidable spaceship Arcadia. They just tell him he's exiled from earth. Um, these Illumidas guys have conquered planets with this kind of brain power? How'd they decide this course of action? "Yeah, he's a proficient spaceship commander and deadly foe! We don't want him mucking up our plans for his home planet so lets just exile him in his armed-to-the-teeth space battleship!"
When Harlock and his friends first leave earth in the Arcadia the Illumidas occupational government orders him to return or they'll execute Maya and Emeraldas at dawn. The thing is Harlock and his friends are in orbit! If they want him so bad why don't they just go up there and get him! The Arcadia isn't moving. I say again...these guys beat us?
THE TALLY: If you're an anime fan or a Captain Harlock fan you may want to check this one out, just for the sake of it...but then you've probably seen it already. If you don't like anime don't bother and if you're just mildly interested in anime I'd suggest trying something else first to whet your appetite, like 8thMan After, Fight: Iczer One! or Akira. (Especially Akira! Thats a [unwrite]ing good movie and the animation is fantastic!) Still, even though I found this one slow, it may appeal to some folks!