Review: Space Pirate Captain Harlock

space pirate captain harlockIt’s the far future and all of the human colonies around the galaxy are failing. Everyone wants to head back to Earth, but there are too many for the planet to sustain and after the Homecoming War, a consortium called the Gaia Sanction declares Earth off limits, leaving humankind to die off in various spots throughout the universe. The only person who doesn’t respect the edict? Captain Harlock, space pirate.

With his band of fellow pirates, they fly through the galaxy placing 100 detonators at various spots to move the “Genesis Clock” and create a time node that restarts everything, also recreating Earth as a paradise along with many other planets. Meanwhile, Gaia fleet commander Ezra gets his younger brother Logan to infiltrate Harlock’s ship and foil his plans. But Harlock might just know all along that Logan is a mole.

Space Pirate Captain Harlock is an interesting, dark storyline based upon a Japanese manga book series written and illustrated by Leiji Matsumoto, which led to a Japanese TV series and then this 2013 cinematic release. It’s the highest budget animated film Toei Animation (Tokyo) has ever created, costing over $30 million to create.

The film is in Japanese but also includes both English subtitles and a completely redone English-language audio track, with David Matranga as the voice of Captain Harlock, Adam Gibbs as Logan, Emily Neves as Mimay, Jessica Boone as Kei, Rob Mungle as Yullian and
Mike Yager as Ezra.

publicity still from Space Pirate Captain Harlock
Gaia complex, from “Space Pirate Captain Harlock”

It’s not the story that makes this interesting, however, it’s the animation. A completely different style of hyper-realism than that produced by US-based studios like Dreamworks or Pixar, the exterior shots are particularly stunning and while the faces are more state-of-the-art video game than anything else, it’s the sheer cinematic sense of the film that’s so noteworthy.

Space Pirate Captain Harlock is well worth watching to appreciate its accomplishments in animation, and it must have looked amazing on a big screen. Even on your TV, it’s quite impressive.

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