What They Say:
It’s Harlock! Renowned Manga author Matsumoto Leiji’s greatest creation, Captain Harlock, comes to the big screen in this magnificent film.
When aliens conquer earth and enslave the human race, all hope for freedom is abandoned. But one man will not give up. Captain Harlock, a brave space pilot, leads the resistance and vows to oust the aliens and restore freedom to his planet.
Harlock and his rebel band adopt the fighting strategy of ancient marauders and become known as the Space Pirates? with a skull and crossbones on their atomic powered spaceship! But the revolution is not without a price and The Space Pirate must make a difficult choice.
The audio presentation for this film brings us the original Japanese audio only for this edition and it’s one that works about as you’d expect for its age. The show does feel essentially like a mono mix with the bulk of the audio coming nicely through the center channel. Dialogue is slightly muffled in some areas but otherwise sounds decent. We didn’t notice any dropouts or distortions during regular playback.
Originally released to theaters back in 1982, the film is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.33:1. According to the opening credits, this is the 20th-anniversary production of it though I cannot find any indication that it was released in Japan for its 20th-anniversary in any form. Perhaps just a new theatrical print? Regardless, the film has managed to hold up quite well over the years. The film is extremely heavy on the dark and drab colors and generally feels almost oppressive in its layout and design. This translates well here with the only real problem being that the grain is much more noticeable throughout due to all the heavy black layers. Some sections, such as various cruisers and exteriors that are heavy on dark greens, exhibit some color banding but nothing that I found to be too out of the ordinary for shows of this vintage.
The packaging for this release comes in a standard-sized DVD case where with the front cover, red is the order of the day with a heavy amount throughout the backdrop of flames and to the interior of Harlock’s cloak. The main visual inside of all of this is his ship and Harlock himself, each with a heavy glow of red to them. The cover looks good though some definition and detail are lost in the solid lines (but may be attributable to the scanned copy I have for a screener). The back cover goes more for dark colors and provides a cast shot mixed with other images next to the summary paragraphs. The discs features and extras are clearly listed though those unfamiliar with AnimEigo releases may have some difficulty in determining the language features. With this being a screener, the planned liner notes were not available to be included.
The main menu is a really nice little animated piece that takes the image of Harlock in front of the wheel of his ship while his cloak blows behind him and the symbol of the jolly roger behind that moves as well, both in an interesting and very clean CG style. Submenus load nice and fast and access times are quick, allowing for easy navigation throughout the disc.
There are a surprisingly good amount of small extras included here, especially since I didn’t expect any considering the age. The first is the inclusion of some of the original Arcadia trailers (mixed in with the other AnimEigo title trailers). These are always neat to see since I like watching how films were presented to audiences of a different time and place. The filmographies section takes you on a listing tour of what Harlock has appeared in as well as the titles that Matsumoto has been involved with. There’s also a substantial submenu that goes into the titles of most of the main actors have been involved with over the years, a fun section to play with to see who has ended up working together in what other shows over the course of their careers. There’s also an ‘unusual facts’ section that details information about other series and plain interesting facts about the Matsumoto universe. The included image gallery contains a number of rather nice shots from the show, some of the best ones to be sure.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Up until the initial release of Arcadia of My Youth in the US, the fate of Harlock hadn’t been one that was doing too well. Series combined together and various edits and cuts made at the time of its airing, there was little in the way of ‘pure’ Harlock. The TV version had come before my time though, so while I knew of the character due to the striking imagery, I had no real concept of the show itself.
With Arcadia of My Youth, we were introduced to a very compelling albeit slow-moving film. While most of what was coming onto the market at the time was loud and fast and quite pretty, Arcadia took its time, spoke its inner monologue at its own pace and examined what makes a man a man. Arcadia is a movie that screams maleness but not in such a way that it degenerates or disrespects women, but rather takes a look at what makes a man a man at a time when people such as Matsumoto had grown up watching the unconquerable heroes of westerns and samurais across the film and TV worlds. The cardboard heroes that would stride up and save the day.
Matsumoto went the opposite direction with Harlock. A good deal of the premise has to do with parallels to Japan after World War II. We’re shown the Earth as being ruled by the Illumidus Empire – a cold and almost barren place where humanity is clinging to whatever scraps it can get. The Illumidus military rules handily here and through much of known space at this time, even to the point where previous conquests have been incorporated into their ranks and are used in the occupation of Earth. It’s to this devastating reality that Harlock returns home in his battle cruiser filled with refugees.
His return is not welcomed by the general populace. Most of those who are willing to say it will place the blame on these vaunted commanders of the spaceways as the reason their planet is in ruins and overrun by the aliens. The highly skilled warriors that were supposed to protect them have failed and the populace will take whatever it can to feel better about itself. The humans who have collaborated with the Illumidus are the worst though, as they advocate the outright execution of people such as Harlock so as to avoid future problems with them.
Earth isn’t completely given over to the Illumidus though, as there continues to be the Voice of Free Earth, a mysterious feminine voice who talks about the pride of humanity and where they can be if they don’t give up. This broadcast continues to be a major thorn in the side of the Illumidus but also provides hope for Harlock and those likeminded that they’re not entirely alone in wanting to resist the occupation. When Harlock ends up coming across Tochiro, a fellow military man himself but more focused on the engineering side of the world, they end up taking his hidden cruiser back into orbit.
During his time on Earth, Harlock ends up befriending an Illumidus military man whose own planet suffered occupation. While they’re on opposite sides here, they respect each other’s abilities enough to realize how strong their convictions are. Through fate and luck, Zoll sends some of his men with Harlock when they break out from the occupation and head off into space to see if they can rally the resistance there to help their comrades on Earth.
Playing parallel to this, and indeed taking up a significant amount of screen time, are reflections on the past, to a time long before space adventures were really dreamed of. We’re introduced to an ancestor of Harlock’s whose life was built on overcoming the challenges around him, particularly in dealing with crossing over a mountain range in his plane, back when such challenges were abundant in the world and their conquest meant something. There’s also a more recent ancestor to Harlock we meet whose flying planes in combat for Germany that ends up running out of fuel and landing in the hills where he meets a caravan that an ancestor of Tochiro was part of. The two have their first true link here and their destinies become intertwined as we see in the future aboard Tochiro’s battlecruiser. The two men and the long valued eye scope from the era of planes becomes a key part to the storyline as it progresses. Watching the parallels in the adventures, particularly the unconquerable pass, is just one of a number of parallels in the film.
While Harlock generally comes off as a brooding and introspective man in the various shows that have come out in recent years, none have cast him as darkly and single-minded as he is here. His beliefs carry him throughout the film and even as wrong after wrong is committed around him, he never wavers in it. Loved ones are lost and an entire planet is ready to be rendered non-existent, but it doesn’t stop him from believing in what must be done and that he can do it. There are no whiny moments of believing that they’re doomed or fatalistic times of giving up – to men like Harlock and Tochiro, there is always a way to turn everything into victory no matter the cost. With the inner monologues we hear throughout combined with the observations of the women they know and the men that are their enemies, Harlock is defined in the simplest and purest of terms. And it’s truly why the character is envied and idolized among boys and men, to believe that they can be filled with that kind of inner strength.
There’s a lot of symbolism that’s overt and hidden throughout the film and it plays on several layers. Matsumoto’s ways of manipulating his various universes and timelines take a back seat here as you simply watch and enjoy the story as it unfolds. The painful moments are plentiful but well done, those times often given over to a mix of sadness and beauty. Harlock’s own painful moments are plain and he doesn’t hide them, yet another piece that set him apart from the time and place he comes from.
This movie has had a long-lasting effect on me since I first saw it. The visuals of Harlock going against the Stanley Mountain Witch and his rickety craft as he explains things in his mind have been seared into my mind. This is a film of poetic beauty that reaches deep inside me and continues to find a welcome home.
Japanese Language, English Subtitles, Filmographies, Unusual Facts, Original Theatrical Trailers, Image Gallery
Content Grade: A
Audio Grade: B-
Video Grade: B
Packaging Grade: B
Menu Grade: B+
Extras Grade: B
Released By: AnimEigo
Release Date: November 25th, 2003
Running Time: 130 Minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 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.