I’m only vaguely familiar with the character of Captain Harlock. I’ve heard the name and seen screenshots from various anime flicks and series he’s been a part of but I have no working knowledge of who he is. This flick here is the only education I’ve had of him and it was a doozy.
James Cameron has actually seen it and his “Mythic, Epic And Visually Unprecedented, Harlock Will Take You To A Whole New Universe Of Ideas” has been used as a blurb on Ketchup Entertainment’s DVD and on the back of Twilight Time’s blu. Normally I ignore this kind of hype because nine times out of ten my own personal experience generally differs, but in this case I’m going to say Cameron is about 90-95% accurate. I was expecting a good time and got something a lot more.
For one thing the CGI is excellent, secondly the plot went in directions I wasn’t expecting, and thirdly I was surprised by the Event Horizon (1997) vibe. If you’re not familiar with that movie it’s about a one of kind starship that uses a specially designed gravity drive to make journeying vast distances a lot quicker. This drive essentially creates a black hole, a short cut, so to speak, between here and there but on its maiden voyage when the drive was activated the ship vanished. Seven years later it mysteriously reappears and a rescue ship is dispatched to find out what happened. And what did happen? The ship went some place unexpected, some place akin to Hell, and along the way it changed. The ship became sentient, evil.
In Harlock: Space Pirate, Harlock was at the helm of a ship he called the Arcadia whose engine was powered by alien tech; Dark Matter is what they called it. The engine on his ship exploded and the Dark Mater changed the vessel…and Harlock. He became immortal and the ship became something else (see photos below). The ship in this movie, however, is not evil, but it can repair itself and when the dark matter engine activate there’s this “ring” that starts to circulate. It reminded me of how the gravity drive in the Horizon moves when it’s been activated, and in its wake, when it’s coming out of warp, is this massive, ominous, black cloud dotted with lightening like explosions, and effect similar to the wake created by the gravity drive on the Horizon.
There won’t be a lot of detail I’ll be giving about the general plot of this movie for there are some very nice twists and character twists. All you need to know is in the future mankind moved off world and colonized the universe, maybe over colonized it, and at some point huge swaths of them wanted to return, but it was quickly deduced the planet simply could not hold this many humans and war broke out in orbit between the various colonies on who has the right to live on the planet now. This was called the ‘Homecoming War.’ The war ended when the Gaia Sanction was created (basically a bunch of religious fanatics, if you ask me) and declared Earth a scared place, forbidding anyone to re-colonize it.
This was a hundred years ago. Harlock is a space pirate, and normally pirates are the bad guys, but Harlock fights for freedom. Of course this doesn’t mean he won’t kill and plunder, which he does, it’s just he’s not the notorious bad guy the universe has made him out to be, or so we’re led to believe. Harlock has a plan. He wants things back the way they were, when humans lived on Earth, before they moved into space and over populated. He plans to do this by destroying this “Cosmic Clock.” I couldn’t quite grasp the concept of this “clock,” but the vibe I got was that it was a group of planets lined up in the universe, like a clock, and Harlock’s theory posits if he can destroy all these planets time will start over. I assumed he wanted to time travel back, but his real plan is revealed in the final act and it doesn’t involve time travel at all. Does this “revelation” make him a bit of a heavy? On one level, yes, but I guess that depends on how much of a scourge you thinK the human species has become in this movie.
Eventually though other revelations come to light that show people we thought were good are just plain douchebags to the Nth degree, and one of these revelations takes you back to the Homecoming War so you can see what really happened.
Most of the movie is seen through the eyes of Logan, a new addition to Harlock’s crew but Logan has secrets, none of which I can expound upon. This movie is best experienced in full ignorance, or as much ignorance as possible. If you, however, want to know everything just go to Harlock: The Space Pirate’s Wikipedia page. Normally, I don’t mind sharing spoilers, but on occasion I do come upon certain movies where the less you know the better it is for your eventual viewing experience.
Harlock: Space Pirate hit DVD for the first time here in the states in March of last year from Ketchup Entertainment, the 2-disc special edition blu-ray came courtesy of Twilight Time DVD back on January 19th of this year!
Video/Audio/Subtitles (Twilight Time Blu): 1080p 2.39:1 high definition widescreen—5.1 English DTS-HD Master Audio, 5.1 Japanese DTS-HD Master Audio—English subs only.
The Twilight Time blu comes with 2 versions of the film, the original Japanese Cut (in Japanese only) and the International Cut. The Japanese version runs 1:47 and the International Cut runs 1:43. Each is separated on their own disc and both can be viewed in either 3D or 2D.
The customary booklet is thicker than normal for it has more photos in it and the reverse cover art for the disc is a great full length view of the Arcadia!
Extras included . . .
- The Making of Harlock: Space Pirate (26:06)
- Interviews: Director/Screenwriter Discussion (6:18); Harlock Creator Leiji Matsumoto (14:00); Director Shinji Aramaki (4:18); Adaptation/Screenwriter Harutoshi Fukui (3:35)
- Venice Film Festival World Premiere Highlights: Press Conference (4:09); Red Carpet (4:36); Standing Ovation (4:07)
- 5 TV Spots + teaser
- 4 Trailers
- Storyboard Galleries (Director Note: Rough Storyboard, Opening Bar: Test to Board the Ship, First Space Battle Sequence, Kei and Logan: Danger on Planet Tokaga, Harlock Dive to Rescue, Logan Flashback – Harlock Lands to Rescue, Gaia Fleet Launch to Attack, Arcadia vs. Oceanos at Orbit of Saturn, Harlock Redemption and Fight Back, Ending Confrontation)
- Isolated Score
Video/Audio/Subtitles (Ketchup Entertainment DVD): 2.39:1 widescreen—Japanese 5.1 Dolby Digital, English 5.1 Dolby Digital, English 2.0 Dolby Digital—English only subtitles.
There are no extras on the Ketchup DVD.
Twilight Time limits their releases to between 3,000 or 5,000 units depending on the title and this one got a 3,500 limit. As of this review TT’s Harlock is still in print. So, if you want a copy, either hit up their website or Screen Archives Entertainment’s, the only two places that sell Twilight Time blues.