Review- Harlock Space Pirate (2013)

Anime Reporter takes to the high skies for Harlock: Space Pirate. Space Pirate Captain Harlock, to use the full translation of its Japanese title, is a 2013 CGI feature film based on the manga and anime series of the same name. With the original series’ original run in the late seventies, you can be sure that there are more than a few stylistic changes around this film.

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“Far, far in the future… Or perhaps the distant past… the human race spread across the galaxy, establishing colonies on distant planets.” Unfortunately, humanity didn’t find an abundantly stocked universe, overflowing with advanced, helpful life forms and with limited resources, things are looking pretty grim for us. Making things even more complicated, when everyone realised that outer space didn’t have a whole lot to offer and tried to return to Earth, there was a little awkward moment when they realised that the human population had grown out of control while they were out and Earth definitely couldn’t accommodate them all.

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This led to Earth being designated as officially off limits, for the good of the planet, and humanity returned to its distant colonies to pretty much just run out the clock. One hundred years go by and humanity has gotten used to worshipping the Earth from afar and otherwise lazes around, getting drunk. Except for…

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Captain Harlock and the crew of the Arcadia, space pirates with their own mission in mind and not much concern for the rules of others. With Captain Harlock himself rumoured to be an immortal, and with the Arcadia being the only dark matter ship in the universe, running on unlimited power and surrounded by a deep, dark cloud, this ship and its crew have a little bit of a reputation. Harlock is cold, ruthless and a very dangerous person to get on the wrong side of, while the majority of his crew simply seem to be a bit mad.

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So why exactly Yama, (or Logan, according to the English subtitles), wants to join up with the crew, is a total mystery, at first anyway. This film has more twists and turns than an anti-gravity bottle opener so it’s worth keeping a very close eye on all concerned. Suspense and action are the main selling points for the film with relatively little in the way of humour or even a tremendous amount of development for the vast majority of characters.

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Harlock: Space Captain is a beautiful piece of CGI animation, heads above the vast majority of computer-generated films. Characters are rendered in superb detail, and some are even given just the slightest hint of their seventies hairstyles. The design of the characters is so fantastic, that the animators obviously felt very proud when they decided to include a thirty second, slow-motion scene of a female character doing a backwards somersault in the shower. Seriously. This happens, and is then never again referenced for the rest of the film. But it is very well animated.

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Environments are beautifully rendered and, as with quite a lot of space travel films, there are a variety of environments on display. The film seems to draw a lot of visual and design influences from Star Wars, Star Trek and Battlestar galactic, but also quite naturally with a swashbuckling motif thrown in for good measure. Action is plentiful, but in terms of shiny, explosion-filled, spaceship laser-glory and in hand to hand combat. While the characters personalities aren’t as well developed as their appearances, the sheer minimum of leading characters undergo enough growth to move the story forward and the narrative generally keeps a healthy distance from boredom.

Fans of the original series may find one or two key differences from the good old days but should certainly look at this as a step down memory lane. Newcomers to Harlock should find it to be a pretty enjoyable experience, particularly fans of the sci-fi genre.

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Harlock Space Pirate is coming to UK cinemas on Wednesday April 22nd 2015 and it will be available on DVD and Blu-ray Steelbook Collector’s edition from Monday April 27th 2015. (Psssst, this is one film that definitely deserves to be seen on Blu-ray if you have the option.)

Animation:                   9.5

Action:                         8

Characters:                  6

Plot:                             6.5

Entertainment:             7.5

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75% – Worth Plundering!– Harlock Space Pirate is an absolutely stunning piece of animation, boasting beautifully rendered characters and backgrounds. Characters could perhaps benefit from a little bit more in the way of personality but its nonetheless an enjoyable twist on the sci-fi epic.

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