BLU-RAY REVIEW: HARLOCK SPACE PIRATE: COLLECTOR’S EDITION / CERT: 12 / DIRECTOR: SHINJI ARAMAKI / SCREENPLAY: HARUTOSHI FUKUI, KIYOTO TAKEUCHI / STARRING: DAVID MATRANGA, JESSICA BOONE, ADAM GIBBS, MIKE YAGER, EMILY NEVES / RELEASE DATE: APRIL 27TH
Released in Japan in 2013, the gothic space opera Space Pirate Captain Harlock marked Toei Animation’s biggest production budget to date, with $30 million behind the film. Based on Leiji Matsumoto’s manga series, which ran from 1977 - 1979, and the subsequent ’78 anime, Harlock is back with a vengeance. He’s the only one who can save mankind, but the bureaucratic Gaia Corporation conspire to stop him.
The opening text and visuals give a swell of context, but with the following voiceover it does seem like information overload. Given that the creators have brought this beast back from the brink, you can understand the enthusiasm, with the 3D option only driving the point home.
There’s a very awkward English dub that seems more like a director’s commentary than dialogue coming out of the characters’ mouths, and several of the characters’ names have also been westernised; Yama became Logan, Isola became Ezra, and so on.
Harlock Space Pirate is loaded with familiar stuff for fans of anime, sci-fi or both, blending a visual aesthetic of cowboys, swashbucklers and steampunk. But it’s the archetypal characters that are difficult to really get behind. Miime is an intriguing elven alien bound to Harlock and his ship, the Arcadia, though tragically underused. Kei Yuki is a fun character, but does come across two-dimensional as your token spunky woman. Harlock himself is all brooding and rugged sexuality, but, like the rest of the players, he’s rather dull and flat.
The animation has a meticulous attention to detail, being the result of a five-year production. The intricate settings have so many flourishes that only repeat viewings can allow you to take them in. Little surprise then, the animation has been courting awards and accolades the world over, and it’s easy to get blindsided by its beauty. Nevertheless, there is a serious shortcoming in the script department.
While much of the dialogue might have got lost in translation and forced to fit, the story isn’t inherently bad, it just lacks the same wanderlust as its visuals. At almost two hours, the animation alone isn’t quite enough to hold audience attention. But for anyone still sore from Star Trek Into Darkness (i.e. everyone) and those counting down the days until The Force Awakens lands, Harlock Space Pirate may be just the film to tide you over.
Special Features: Collector’s booklet / Bonus disc featuring the original Japanese edit
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