#219 : Space Pirate Captain Harlock: Mystery of the Arcadia

What is it about this beautiful cosmic sailing vessel? Captain Harlock’s ship the Arcadia is more than just a space battleship, it is a symbolic representation of many things. It is a call for freedom, a freedom that is beyond what we believe that definitive concept is. It is also an oasis for those who don’t belong in greater society. It is a symbol of pure moral compassion that is disconnected from profit or power mongering disguised as a fighting machine that stands up for truth, the exact equal to Captain Harlock himself. Yet the Arcadia is also the soul of a man who put his blood, sweat and genius, as well as love, into creating this piece of art, Harlock’s friend and sidekick Tochiro Oyama. All this and more is on display in a miniature feature film released during the original 1978 TV series and four years before the epic Arcadia of My Youth known simply as Space Pirate Captain Harlock: Mystery of the Arcadia.

… that’s a long title? …

H_MotA_1Rather than tell a new story, Mystery of the Arcadia would base its plot on an adaptation of the 13th episode of Space Pirate Captain Harlock known as Witch Castle in the Sea of Death, or The Castle of Evil in the Sea of Death (whichever translation you prefer). This is stated over many areas of the internet and I did check to see if this was true by pulling the TV series DVD set off of my shelf… yes, it is a variation for sure. Harlock is very pensive, unsure what course of action to take next until the distant echoes of an ocarina can be heard from the Earth all the way out in space. I love the imagination of Leiji Matsumoto in how it breaks the so called reality of our universe. The Arcadia seems to know for sure that this ocarina is from young Mayu and alters course immediately on its own accord. Just what is this ship doing? Eventually we meet up with little Mayu on Earth where the appearance of her guardian, Harlock, brings a welcome smile to her face.

H_MotA_2Temporarily Mayu boards the Arcadia bringing a sense of comfort to the great space battleship. Just what is going on with this ship? It’s as if it is tied to Mayu in some way and has a mind of it’s own… a real… mystery. She returns to Earth which leads to the crew of the Arcadia picking up a transmission that looks similar to other Mazone signals that Harlock and crew have been chasing. The Mazone by the way is the alien antagonist regime in the TV series, in case you did not know.. Located in the Sargasso Sea, Bermuda Triangle territory in the Atlantic Ocean, the Arcadia heads out to investigate. During a run in with Commander Kiruta’s forces (main Earth antagonist) the Arcadia comes into contact with a ghost ship as well that fires on both Kiruta and the Arcadia. Now we have another mystery, a third wheel in the equation… ghost ships… WWII battleships in fact (typical of Matsumoto)… this calls for even more investigation in the area.

H_MotA_3Consider this movie as filler if you have already seen the 1978 TV series as this really tells nothing new, but as a die hard Harlock fan I consider it essential watching, though you may disagree. I love the animation style that Toei and director Rintaro created for this rendition of Harlock (both the 1978 TV series and this movie) so I am a little partial towards it. If you have never seen the original TV series this movie would be a good minor introduction, though it does slightly spoil a plot element later revealed in the series (if you can figure it out). Toei used to make many short films based on TV franchises during the 1970s and show these ‘specials’ in theaters, usually in a cornucopia styled grouping. This was of course well before OVAs (home video was in its infancy during this time) and even the internet, so this was an alternative to watching your favorite shows again, except on the BIG screen. Oh how times have changed, but the legacy of Captain Harlock, then or now, stands as eternal.

#192 : Farewell Space Battleship Yamato: In the Name of Love / Arrivederci Yamato

Certain anime we all fall in love with instantaneously and many titles leave us with an emotional bind that we will never forget. We jump for joy and many times shed tears watching those we love on screen go through hardship. Years ago when I was on my Space Battleship Yamato fix I would eventually come across the films of the original epic franchise that was perhaps the first otakufest of obsession in the world of anime. Their was a certain idealism in the late 1970 and 1980s and it is written all over Yamato, but at one time that idealism almost died and actually was planned as the finality. The initial sequel, Farewell Space Battleship Yamato: In the Name of Love (Arrivederci Yamato), is a large epic that defines space opera tragedy and is one of the most beautiful movies in the genre that also leaves you in tears.

FSBY_1After the success of the 1977 rebooted film version of the first Yamato series the combined power of Yoshinobu Nishizaki and Leiji Matsumoto would strike out again to create a followup that was bigger than the first and for the time a finality. Seamless would be the transition as we followup one year after Earth’s victory against the Gamilas Empire, which also cooresponds with Farewell Space Battleship Yamato’s release dat of 1978. The artwork is a little more polished this second time around and Matusmoto’s character designs and deep emotional idealism injected into the story are ever present again. Fandom was high for Yamato in the late 1970s, how would they respond to this followup film?

FSBY_2This new story of Farewell Space Battleship Yamato is a lot of redo from before, but in many ways it does not matter. A peaceful Earth that is under the threat of alien invasion to destroy humanity, the meeting of an angelic feminine goddess archetype who has a message for the people of Earth and the trials and tribulations of a converted WWII battleship that can navigate the openness of outer space is all familiar territory from the first Yamato story. Familiar faces like Godai, Yuki and the rest of the Yamato crew are back this time with a new captain, Hijikata, and a group of space Marines led by the likable Saito. And let us not forget our new enemy this time round, the Comet Empire, or the Gatlantis Empire, who also have in their service a familiar face. Remember Dessler, Yamato I’s chief villain? He’s alive and has one of the best redemption moments I have ever seen in all of anime. Dessler was in the end an honorable man.

FSBY_3Massively long, two and a half hours of clock time span this is a behemoth of a film and yet it’s the climactic last half hour where the epic of tragedy of watching our beloved friends, the crew of the Yamato, one by one fall to save humanity from the Comet Empire’s invasion. Personal sacrifices of those who give all that they have and give their lives for something greater than what is expected from society are true heroes. My eyes are never dry through this whole time and while some of the crew does survive, it does come at the expense of the beautiful Yamato herself. Many of us are told who to look up to in regards for the heroic, but real heroes are usually never recognized except by our own experience. I will never forget the crew of the Yamato.

FSBY_4Often I question which is my favorite story in the original Yamato franchise? This film is often at the top of the listing along with the alternate TV series retelling, Yamato II. Yamato I also ranks very high, but this film’s epic tragedy, which can be compared to other great films like Grave of the Fireflies and my beloved Windaria, are moments in time that have stuck with me like no other. Farewell Space Battleship Yamato: In the Name of Love is not considered proper canon anymore since the retelling as Yamato II, yet I consider this film one of the prize jewels of what Yamato once was and one of the best anime of the 1970s. … “Free at last, they took you life, they could not take your pride. In the Name of Love…”

#184 : Lupin III: The Mystery of Mamo

Where does one begin with The Mystery of Mamo? Lupin III’s first animated cinematic adventure (a live action version came out previously) is a fun, wild ride traversing the entire globe. So many recent adaptations of Lupin III pay homage to the past, or retro fit a more rough sketchy line drawing to the production. Why not see the real honest analog version while it was in an appropriate period instead? I prefer the green jacket look of Lupin, but this time let’s go red with Lupin III: The Mystery of Mamo, or is it Lupin III: The Secret of Mamo. … or maybe even just plain old Lupin III, which was the original title when released in Japan?

LIII_MoM_1Lupin III’s rise to success was a long one. The initial manga from the late 1960s evolved towards a failed pilot film, which gave way to a shortened TV series in 1971 (awesome!). Then all was quiet until 1977 with a relaunch of the manga and a new TV series that would run for several years. Hot on the success of this second wave a film would be released, namely The Mystery of Mamo. Of course the rest is history as Lupin III is one of the longest running and most successful franchises of all time in the world of Japanese animation. The Mystery of Mamo may be a good starting spot for those who are new to anime in general, or just new to older titles. This assumes one has achieved a little maturity. The usual gags of the quartet of Lupin, Jigen, Goemon and Fujiko are ever present, but this film is geared towards an adult audience because certain scenes and dialogue. A more general audience option would be the Hayao Miyazaki directed The Castle of Cagliostro.

LIII_MoM_2International is a great word to describe The Mystery of Mamo. Traversing Europe, Egypt and the Caribbean while escaping faked deaths, finding lost treasures, avoiding attack helicopters, out running giant semi trucks and meeting once dead historical figures from history sounds like a fun ride to be on. Add to that the main plot which revolves around a mysterious figure named Mamo, who has a preoccupation with eternal life, a fascination with obtaining the philosopher’s stone and also has the hots for Fujiko. Lupin is in his usual goofy sly mood, Jigen is always a crackshot, Goemon is stoic and always dishonoring his precious sword and Fujiko plays both sides between Lupin and Mamo to get what she wants… who else thinks Fujiko is the best character? And let’s not forget Inspector Zenigata, who is comedically always one step behind Lupin.

LIII_MoM_3Lupin III’s initial manga influence stemmed from inspiration from the satirical comic book Mad magazine. This humor is on full display in this movie as well as another influence, namely Pop Art. While not high art, The Mystery of Mamo creates a statement with popular culture and a style that may not be so much be Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein or Richard Hamilton, but a combination of three? Or that may be my observation as an art nerd. Again, this film is very international. And let’s not forget, The Mystery of Mamo, much like many titles of Lupin III also play up the fun of the James Bond experience with it’s own brand of wit.

LIII_MoM_4For those who are diehard original language track watchers with optional subtitles this may not apply, but for those of us who speak English we have a choice of dubbed versions. For real, like two? No. Really, three then? No. Well what then, FOUR!? Exactly! Very unprecedented, but a real treat as if four artists covered a popular song in their own way. From the start this film was meant for export by bringing the exploits of Lupin to a broader audience. The initial dub, with several character renames, originated from the film’s original release of 1978 making The Mystery of Mamo very accessible and again, very international. Pick your poison between these four, but I like both the ‘Streamline’ and ‘Geneon’ dubs.

The Mystery of Mamo is a nice tight package that encapsulates what Lupin III is all about. With that in mind this film was made during the heyday of the original Lupin III popularity wave and with Lupin III being a timeless design and concept, The Mystery of Mamo is forever unspoiled and is just as beautiful as ever. Also remember that The Mystery of Mamo is very international and speaks to all of us no matter where we come from. … I love that green jacket, but after this movie I think I want a red one now!