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Captain Herlock, Space Pirate Complete Collection Anime DVD Review

6 min read
"If you want to become a real man, come aboard my ship..."

“If you want to become a real man, come aboard my ship…”

What They Say
To save the human race from total annihilation, anime’s famous space pirate returns from retirement to battle a demonic alien force.

The Review:
This release comes with the original Japanese language in stereo along with the English dub, both of which are encoded at 192kbps. We viewed this DVD with both English and Japanese soundtracks. The English voice acting, typical for most Geneon releases, is spot-on, and even improves on the Japanese version in some areas, such as when the aliens from Noo speak. We had no problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.

Originally released in 2002, the transfer for this project is in its original full-frame aspect ratio. This OVA is a great piece of animation for its time. The transfer is solid throughout containing rich colors and a wide variety of dark colors and blacks. This caused some details to be lost in the shadows, and in dark rooms. There appeared to be no aliasing nor any cross coloration thus giving the show a very smooth feel. We noticed that a few color banding problems with the transfer occurred when there were scenes that contained a lot of red or orange areas. Occasionally, it was noticed that some scenes appeared to be too dark.

The case that houses the collection has a silhouette of the good captain in front of the moon while the backside has a skull and crossbones. The top of the box shows Captain Herlock’s weapons of choice while the spine features three rectangular poses of Herlock, Kei Yuki, and Tadashi Daiba. The dark colors and images shown on the cover portray the energy level and seriousness of this series. This collection is definitely not a thin pack in that it is more of a complete collection where the cases are almost spitting images of the original releases right down to the cover art as well. One would think that Geneon would have chosen to go with a thin pack design on this to save production costs. The choice of cases is a bit odd in that the last case holds two discs while the other three cases contain just one. It would also make more sense to put five episodes per disc, rather than three, for this collection to make a thinner and less space-consuming package.

As with the single release versions, a four-piece, dual-sided pencil board is included that has a really cool shot of the Arcadia and cast on one side. The other side contains close-up stills of the main characters in the OVA. This a definite keepsake for the Herlock fan.

The menus for the DVD’s seemed to really capture the Herlock theme well. The use of the parchment blowing in the breeze, the lettering style, the smoke, and the instrumental music really does a good job of setting the overall tone of this epic adventure. The menus are very detailed and transition quite smoothly. The menus are done so well that that one could leave this looping as a screensaver on their PC monitor or TV.

The best extras in this collection are bundled on the last disc in the special two-disc set. The main extras included on the second disc are the two episodes worth of storyboarded angles, complete with both Japanese and English 5.1. A series of art galleries is also included on this disc that contains nearly three hundred stills, production sketches, and items like full-color backgrounds. A variety of CG clips that were created for the show in various stages of completion are also available for viewing.

The interviews with Rin Taro and Leiji Matsumoto provide an in-depth perspective on the creation of this OVA. Matsumoto’s interview covers the origins of the Herlock name to the newest of his properties. These interviews are a real treat for fans of Taro and Matsumoto, who are legendary anime producers from the ’70s.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers).
Captain Herlock is a space pirate who has become a legend, due to being out of the limelight for a while. As a new threat to humanity emerges, Captain Herlock steps to the center of the stage once again. The human race has extended their reach into space too far, thus stirring an old evil that is hell-bent on crushing the entire human existence. Previously, Herlock and his crew were a few of the original ‘prospectors’ of space. They benefited from the riches and opportunities of the stars when others said it was impossible. Coming again to the present, Captain Herlock will lead the human race in a fight against this new alien nemesis. Taking the boy of a deceased friend under his wing, and breaking his crew out of prison, Herlock boldly pursues the force that desires the destruction of the human race.

The setup for this story seems very reminiscent of Captain Kirk reuniting the crew of the Enterprise for one more last hurrah to save earth despite the bureaucracy of Starfleet command. Herlock is supposed to be a man among men, but he often appears to come off as swaggering and arrogant desperado. He often seems to be more like a man with something to prove than a man with a strong conviction, even though he talks about his desire for mankind to live free. Perhaps to fully appreciate Herlock’s plight and character development one needs more of the back-story, but I just didn’t get it.

There were some really good moments in this adventure that even the newbie can savor, but the rest felt somewhat choppy, a little uninspired, and a bit boring. The characters seemed to be introduced way too slow, and before I knew it, quickly whisked away. The same character then was put into a completely new situation that left me with little time to connect or identify with them. Speaking of character development, seeing Kei Yuki naked in the first episode really didn’t help me identify with her or understand her better. Even with Herlock, I never got the sense of what made this guy tick.

Despite my struggling with the characters, I liked the basic story. I didn’t find anything terribly new or inventive, but I’m a sucker for space dramas. Going back to my Star Trek reference, in some ways this series also reminded me of the search for God, as found in Star Trek V. Like Herlock, Kirk and crew take on a mystical and powerful alien being. Without giving away too much of the story, aspects of this familiar theme flow from the first episode through the rest of the series. The team that developed this OVA was made this a stand-alone production, in an attempt to give anime fans that are not familiar with the Herlock universe the chance to pick up and enjoy the story.

Disclaimer: This reviewer has a full appreciation of the lens that nostalgia and ‘classics’ create. With this being this reviewer’s first exposure to this ‘classic’, I viewed this anime without the benefit of that lens. My scoring of this product may, therefore, seem too harsh to some as I am not familiar with the history of Captain Herlock. This OVA series comes highly recommended for the Herlock fan. At the same time, for those that are new to the storyline, they may find this OVA to be less enjoyable. If you plan on watching this series it is highly recommended that you do a little homework by watching some of Matsumoto’s earlier works of the Captain Herlock saga.

Japanese 2.0 Language, English 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Original Japanese Opening, Textless Ending for Episode 13, Multi-Angle storyboards for episode one and thirteen, Interview with Rin Taro, Interview with Leiji Matsumoto, Art Galleries, CG Clips

Content Grade: C+
Audio Grade: A
Video Grade: A-
Packaging Grade: A-
Menu Grade: A
Extras Grade: B+

Released By: Geneon Entertainment
Release Date: July 18th, 2006
MSRP: $44.98
Running Time: 405 Minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1

Review Equipment
Hitachi 62VS69 62″ UltraVision LCD Projection HDTV, XBOX 360 DVD player, XBOX 360 Component HDAV Cable with Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound.

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