BR: Harlock Space Pirate 3D / Space Captain Harlock / Kyaputen Hârokku (2013)

April 2, 2016 | By

HarlockSpacePirate3D_BRFilm: Excellent

Transfer: Excellent

Extras: Very Good

Label:  Twilight Time

Region: All

Released: January 19, 2016

Genre:  Anime

Synopsis: The Gaia Communion sends a fleet to stop Captain Harlock from launching a series of interlinked mines that may reset time and restore Earth’s natural splendor, or end the universe.

Special Features: Disc1 (Japanese 115 min. edit): Isolated Stereo Music Track / Discs 1 and 2: The Making of “Harlock Space Pirate” (26:05) / 4 Interviews: director Shinji Aramaki & co-screenwriter Harutoshi Fukui (6:18) + “Harlock” creator Leiji Matsumoto (14:00) + director Aramaki (4:18) + co-screenwriter Fukui (3:34) / 3 Venice Film Festival World Premiere Highlights: Press Conference Intro (4:09) + Red Carpet (4:36) + Standing Ovation (4:07) / 5 TV Spots / 4 Theatrical Trailers / 10 Storyboard Galleries / 24-page colour booklet with liner notes by film historian Julie Kirgo / Available exclusively from Screen Archives Entertainment and / Limited to 3000 copies.




Beginning as a serialized manga that ran from 1977 to 1979, Leiji Matsumoto’s tale of an interstellar pirate ship helmed by Captain Harlock became an anime TV series in 1978, and was followed by a variety of TV and feature film installments, each shifting aspects of the futuristic narrative involving colonized planets, aliens, and the fight against a restrictive regime.

Toei’s 2013 film offers another variant on Matsumoto’s mythos, and to the filmmakers’ credit, it’s also an accessible space drama for newcomers to the popular and prolific franchise that originated in Japan and gained huge international popularity, especially in France.

Director Shinji Aramaki (Appleseed) and screenwriters Harutoshi Fukui (Lorelei: The Witch of the Pacific Ocean) and Kiyoto Takeuchi (Appleseed Saga: Ex Machina) reworked what they plainly describe as a ‘reboot’ into something much darker, transforming anti-hero Harlock into a gloomier leader akin to Batman’s The Dark Knight, although Harlock’s demons are tied directly to a reactive measure that contributed to the mess of Earth’s current state.

Guilt is ultimately at the root of everyone’s barbed psyche, and there are few characters unaffected by betrayals, reckless actions, jealousies, and deliberate efforts to obfuscate the truth. The core story, without offering any spoilers, has Captain Harlock being hunted down by a government fleet as he tries to set and arm the last two explosive devices which will in theory reset time and fold humanity back to a period when all was good.

That’s a massive oversimplification of the plot, as there are complex relationships between Harlock and the alien (Mimay) who helps power his dynamic and deadly ship, the newcomer (Yama / Logan) whose mission changes after a daring rescue, the fleet’s leader (Ezra) and his peculiar spousal relationship, and the Gaia Communion, which seeks to prevent Earth’s degeneration by restricting access to all but an elite social class to ensure it can maintain its pristine state.

The Blu-ray’s extras contain a multitude of English-subtitled interviews with the Japanese talent discussing the characters, the franchise’s changes, and director Aramaki’s own modifications which gave the story some classical pirate underpinnings.

Perhaps the most clever – if not most visually dynamic – is what he terms the ‘head-butting’ capabilities of Harlock’s ship, the Arcadia, although it’s arguably more of a Romanesque battering ram: outfitted with a giant, indestructible skull head, the Arcadia repeatedly barrels its way through government armadas by literally smashing into its doomed obstacles, resulting in many spectacular moments of absolute carnage. The ship’s head-butting is also a literal metaphor of Harlock’s determination to see his highly specious plan to the end, aided by two valuable first mates and a loyal crew.

The pirates’ boarding of government ships is similarly rooted in pirate lore – a mass ejection of hooked cables and clamped tunnel-ramps enabling the pirates to secure and pillage a wrecked craft – as are the turret guns which fire salvos that immobilize and disable rather than incinerate through explosions.

Aramaki’s direction is never overly kinetic, and the action edits allow for elegant visuals which avoid the pitfalls of fast-swooping videogame renderings typical of Hollywood live-action equivalents. There’s a lot of fine details in the design of ships, planets, armaments, and various transformations, and the 3D effects are less about flinging objects at audiences, and more enhancements to the spatial relationships of characters and crafts.

Reportedly costing over $30 million, Toei’s gamble certainly paid off in developing and executing a handsome production with neatly arranged characters and conflicts, making Harlock a classic pirate epic as well. Much is packed into its nearly 2 hour running time, but it never lags nor has moments where information feels compressed (although the lengthy text intro is actually unnecessary, as it doesn’t take long for viewers to grasp the rival factions in Matsumoto’s drama).

Harlock may seem like an odd choice for Twilight Time, but the label has dipped into some classic and contemporary Japanese films, and buried way in the credits is company co-founder Brian Jamieson, listed as a member of the film’s international sales and marketing team, so there’s a pre-existing interest within TT to bring this epic to North America in a lovely Blu-ray special edition.

TT’s set features the original 115 min. Japanese 3D and 2D versions with Japanese dialogue, English subtitles, and an isolated stereo track featuring Tetsuya Takahashi’s vibrant orchestral score. Disc 2 sports the 111 min. 3D and 2D international edit with an English dub track.

I’m not sure what may have been edited out of the longer version, but because the dialogue is spoken in measured if not moody intonations, it doesn’t take long to acclimatize to watching the film in 3D and following the medium-sized English subtitles for the Japanese edit. If it’s too trying for some viewers, the International Cut offers an easier alternative.

Extras also include storyboards, EPK interviews with the two leading voice actors for Harlock and Yama, perfunctory red carpet and audience applause footage from Harlock’s world premiere in Venice, TV spots and trailers. Julie Kirgo’s liner notes are a bit more sparse for this release, but her overview is supported by a mass of artwork. The making-of featurette seems to be a series of web chapters that actually summarize characters, conflicts, and relationships rather than detail the film’s animation and 3D effects.

James Cameron’s sleeve quotation is a little amusing, because director Aramaki and the animation team clearly patterned a specific near-death moment after Titanic (1997) in which two characters are similarly poised to ‘ride’ a doomed vessel into oblivion; and there are some battle shots that recall effects from Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979), namely the ‘in-skip’ effect of the fleet’s vessel’s linearly disappearing and re-emerging in a new locale.



© 2016 Mark R. Hasan



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Category: Blu-ray / DVD Film Review

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