Captain Harlock is a fictional character created by manga artist Leiji Matsumoto and the protagonist of the Space Pirate Captain Harlock manga series.
Harlock is the archetypical Romantic hero, a space pirate with an individualist philosophy of life. He is as noble as he is taciturn, rebellious, stoically fighting against totalitarian regimes, whether they be earth-born or alien. In his own words, he “fight[s] for no one’s sake… only for something deep in [his] heart.” He does not fear death, and is sometimes seen wearing clothing with the number 42 on it. In Japanese culture, the number 42 is associated with death (the numbers, pronounced separately as “four two,” sound like the word “shini”—meaning “dying/death”).
The character was created by Leiji Matsumoto in 1977 and popularized in the 1978 television series Space Pirate Captain Harlock. Since then, the character has appeared in numerous animated television series and films, the latest of which is 2013’s Space Pirate Captain Harlock.
Though there are slight variations in each telling of Harlock’s story, the essentials remain the same. Matsumoto presents a future (2977 AD) in which the Earth has achieved a vast starfaring civilization, but is slowly and steadily succumbing to ennui or despair, often due to defeat and subjugation by a foreign invader. Rising against the general apathy, Harlock denies defeat and leads an outlaw crew aboard his starship Arcadia to undertake daring raids against Earth’s oppressors. Even though they have defeated Earth and devastated its peoples, the invaders are often presented in a sympathetic light, being shown as having some justification for their actions.
Space Pirate Captain Harlock (1978 TV series)
In Space Pirate Captain Harlock, the Captain’s crew included the mysterious, alcohol-imbibing alien woman Miime, a robot, and a drunken doctor. The series presented a story arc in which a huge black metal sphere strikes Tokyo and ancient Mayan legends appear to be walking the Earth again. The invaders turn out to be the Mazone, a race of plant-based women who explored Earth in the mythic past and are now back to reclaim it. Only Harlock and his mismatched crew are brave and capable enough to face the enemy.
Captain Harlock – Mystery of the Arcadia
This 1978 short film is ostensibly a retelling of Episode 13 of the 1978 series, ‘The Witch’s Ocean Castle of Death.’ It consists primarily of recycled footage taken from this same episode, but presented in widescreen format. Some new alternate footage is added at the beginning of the story, and some soundtrack adjustments were made throughout.
Arcadia of My Youth
The Arcadia of My Youth feature film was released on July 28, 1982. The film, set in a different continuity from the original TV series, chronicles Harlock’s beginnings as a space pirate and his acquisition of the spaceship Arcadia. The movie also includes flashback material dealing with two of his 20th-century ancestors.
Endless Orbit SSX
Arcadia of My Youth was followed by 22 episodes of the TV series Endless Orbit SSX starting in October 1982. Its official French title is simply Albator, although it early became popular among French speakers as Albator 84 since it was first aired in France as of 1984 and the 1978 series had been formerly named in French exactly the same: Albator. The series dealt with Harlock and company’s continuing struggle against the Illumidas occupying force, who still retained control of Earth at the end of the theatrical feature. Both film (Arcadia of My Youth) and second series (Endless Orbit SSX) feature a newly designed starship and lack most of the crew from the Space Pirate series, but are noteworthy for the presence of Emeraldas, a female counterpart to Harlock who originally appeared in a series of Matsumoto-penned graphic novels.
In the 1990s, Matsumoto released Harlock Saga, a mini-series based on Das Rheingold. The series recasts the Captain and his crew in roles with analogues in The Ring Cycle and pits them against a race of “gods” set on redesigning the universe to their liking.
On March 28, 2002 Gun Frontier, a buddy comedy set in the American Old West, began broadcasting in TV Tokyo. The series follows Franklin Harlock Jr. and Tochiro Ōyama as they search for a lost clan of Japanese immigrants. In contrast to other works, Harlock appears here as Tochiro’s sidekick.
December 2002 saw the release of Space Pirate Captain Harlock: The Endless Odyssey, directed by Rintaro.
The story is set after the original TV series, with Harlock on a self-imposed exile and his crew either in jail or flying under the Jolly Roger. The series details Harlock’s return and his round-up of the Arcadia crew for a fight against the Noo, a mysterious and ancient evil which has caused the Earth to disappear, and who use fear to conquer their foes. As nearly every part of this series is geared to be a sequel to the original Captain Harlock TV series, Endless Odyssey reintroduces Tadashi Daiba to the Arcadia.
Space Pirate Captain Harlock (2013 movie)
On March 24, 2010, Toei Animation announced the release of the new Harlock movie, they announced a completed pilot for its planned computer-graphics remake of Leiji Matsumoto and Toei’s Space Pirate Captain Harlock manga and anime franchise, and it has revealed a preliminary image and the project’s staff. Mobile Suit Gundam UC author Harutoshi Fukui, Appleseed director Shinji Aramaki, Appleseed mechanical designer Atsushi Takeuchi, and Ninja Scroll character designer Yutaka Minowa worked on the new Space Pirate Captain Harlock pilot with Marza Animation Planet (formerly known as Sega Sammy Visual Entertainment).
The official trailer/pilot was aired at the Kawaii-Kon Anime festival in Hawaii on April 17, 2010, as a special presentation courtesy of Director Shinji Aramaki. This is the first time it has been seen/aired in the United States. The CG animated film is tentatively schedule for international release in 2012.
On January 31, 2013 during the presentation of its upcoming film lineup, Toei announced that the anime will be out in Fall 2013. According to the news source Oricon, this film has Toei Animation’s highest production budget ever at the equivalent of over 30 million U.S. dollars.
The film premiered in Japan on September 7, 2013. It also film premiered on Netflix under the title Harlock: Space Pirate with Japanese, Portuguese and Spanish audio and with English, Portuguese and Spanish subtitles.
Captain Harlock: Dimensional Voyage
On August 2014, to celebrate the 60th anniversary of his debut, Matsumoto launched the manga Captain Harlock: Dimensional Voyage, illustrated by Kōichi Shimahoshi, in the pages of Akita Shoten’s Champion Red magazine. Dimensional Voyage is a retelling of the original 1978 Space Pirate Captain Harlock manga.