Harlock Space Pirate (2013)
Director: Shinji Aramaki
The universe of science fiction anime films is vast and wondrous, I’ve been exploring it as of late, I hope you guys are enjoying my exploration of anime films. But anyways, within anime science fiction, there’s a small niche reserved for films about space pirates. For example, today I’ll be talking about Harlock Space Pirate, but there’s Space Adventure Cobra (1982), also about a space pirate. There’s a bunch of other anime sci-fi films worth mentioning in case you feel the need to explore this type of film more, for example there’s Space Battleship Yamato (1979), Final Yamato (1983), and yet another one we could mention is one of my all time favorite anime science fiction films: Lensman: The Secret of the Lens (1984) a film that I’ll be reviewing here soon, so keep your eyes peeled. But what concerns me today is this super cool animated film called Harlock Space Pirate (2013). I’d never seen the series or read the manga that it is based on, but there was something about the concept of a space pirate driving a gigantic spaceship that looks like a skull, that just grabbed me. There’s just something cool about the idea…add to that the James Cameron quote on the cover that reads: “This is truly an unprecedented movie. This movie is already legendary, with its overflowing imagination and magnificent visuals; this movie is one that the world has never seen before. Harlock leads the way to a world of new ideas!” and I was sold. I’m ultra happy I decided to buy this one; it’s an amazing science fiction film! Epic in every sense of the word!
Harlock Space Pirate (2013) is a computer animated film based on the manga written and illustrated by Leiji Matsumoto. I have never read the manga or seen the television series that followed, so I went into Harlock Space Pirate without any previous knowledge of the character or its mythos. I don’t know if this is even considered a good adaptation, but if the positive reviews are any indication, then it is. So what was my impression? I was blown away! That’s my official impression! Totally blown away. Personally, I’m not a huge fan of computer animated films, because sometimes the result can be cold and mechanical because sometimes the filmmakers focus so much on the visuals that they forget that story is equally important for a movie to work, which is why we get films like Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within (2001), big on visuals, not so big on creating characters and stories we can identify with. Which is one of the many things I loved about Harlock Space Pirate (2013), it has a story that grabs you and characters you can care about. It has a heart!
The story concerns Captain Harlock, a pirate that’s going around the universe placing these bombs in specific points in the universe. When he blows up all 100 bombs, the explosion is supposed to trigger some sort of cataclysmic event that would send the universe back in time, to a time when there wasn’t an over population of planet earth, to a time when humans hadn’t destroyed the earth beyond recognition. Of course, not everybody wants this to happen. The powers that be want the status quo to remain as is, so of course, it’s the government chasing Captain Harlock through the universe, trying to stop him from detonating the bombs. Will the corrupt Gaia Coalition stop Harlock and his crew of space pirates from blowing up the galaxy and restarting humanity?
So like I was saying, it’s the characters that pulled me in first because they are all a bunch of rebels who fly through the cosmos with one concept on their minds: freedom! Freedom is what drives their ship; it’s the reason why you become part of the crew, because you believe in freedom. The filmmakers managed to make Captain Harlock a truly intriguing and fascinating character, at first they don’t show him much to keep you in anticipation, but once Captain Harlock takes over the film, let’s just say he has an intriguing and magnetic personality, he’s a very fleshed out character. I’m sure that has a lot to do with all the back story the character has, what with the manga and various television series to back him up, well, of course Captain Harlock didn’t end up being a cardboard cutout of a character. This is a character with a well established personality and solid motivations. He is a man who will stop at nothing until things are set right for the human race! But this is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the story behind this film, there’s a lot of intrigue, there’s revenge and plots within plots. In other words, even though this film has tons of style and coolness to it, it doesn’t forget to back that up with decent story and characters.
When a film has awesome story and characters, and is accompanied by amazing effects and visuals, well, it makes it a perfect package for me. And boy did this movie blow me away with its concepts and visuals! I mean, here’s a film that puts a lot of effort into making things look cool, this movie just oozes coolness from every pore! I loved the numerous space battles! Captain Harlock’s ship looks like something H.R. Giger might have designed, with this giant skull on the front, which at some points smashes into other spaceships! What’s so cool about Harlock's ship is that besides the skull in the front, it also looks like an old pirate ship…and get this, the spaceship has a healing factor! It repairs itself! From what I gather, on the cartoon show the spaceship looks even more like a pirate ship, with these awesome laser cannons on the side, which made it onto the movie as well. It’s just an awesome visual, a pirate ship shooting lasers in space, in fact, the characters in this movie are so well developed that even Captain Harlock’s spaceship (called The Arcadia) has a shroud of mystery about it, even the ship is a character on its own! There are scenes with hundreds of spaceships shooting lasers at each other! Suddenly it feels like a pirate movie, but instead of cannonballs, the spaceships shoot lasers, the result is pure eye candy!
Final word is I loved this movie and the character of Captain Harlock so much that I will be purchasing some of the old television series to explore this character further; this is no easy task because this character has had many incarnations throughout the years. This 2013 film was directed by Shinki Aramaki, the director behind most of the Appleseed computer animated films like Appleseed (2004), Appleseed Ex Machina (2007) and most recently Appleseed: Alpha (2014). But for those of you interested in exploring the character past, there’s been a couple of different Captain Harlock series. They are: Space Pirate Captain Harlock (1978), The Mystery of the Arcadia (1978), Arcadia of My Youth (1982), which by the way was a feature film. It was followed by a series called Albator or Orbit Road/SSX (1982). Then came Harlock Saga (1999) and Space Pirate Captain Harlock: The Endless Odyssey (2002). I’m really looking forward to seeing all of these and catching up with this excellent character and the universe that surrounds him. But as far this new 2013 movie goes, I highly recommend it to lovers of epic science fiction with an emphasis on cool.
Rating: 5 out of 5