who is this guy harlock anyway?in the beginning....space pirate captain harlockmy youth in arcadiaendless road ssxcosmowarrior zero | hunt for young harlockharlock saga | the ring of the nibelungenendless odysseyguest appearancescharactersshipstrouserscomms station

Cosmowarrior Zero | Hunt for Young Harlock

Cosmowarrior Zero
AT-X | Taito | Enoki
Original release dates: July 2001 - September 2001

13 x 30 minute episodes

Dependent upon one’s point of view, Harlock is either a freedom fighter or a terrorist (‘terrorist’ not necessarily being a dirty word in this context). Our point of view is usually skewed on Harlock’s side, so we generally see only his nobility and sacrifice. Cosmowarrior Zero, however, skews the point of view towards the beleaguered Earth, and we are shown a new and unexpectedly hard Harlock. So effective is this change in perspective that at times the audience is shocked by some of Harlock’s action, and, on at least one occasion, Harlock manages to shock even himself.

The protagonist of Cosmowarrior, Warrius Zero, is the most compelling and interesting new character to come out of Matsumoto’s imagination in a very long time. Physically he’s a match to the elder Kodai brother from Uchū Senkan Yamato (you know, the one who decided life on Iskandar was rather pleasant), but psychologically he’s by far the most tortured of all Matsumoto’s male characters.

Haunted by nightmare, Zero has returned to a ruined Earth and is searching for his lost wife and infant daughter, who have become casualties of the long war between humankind and machine men (ah, that old chestnut…). Zero is a captain in Earth’s space forces and has been battling in deep space while the Earth was under siege, unable to save his planet or his young family. Their loss is more than he can bear, and he seems about ready to hurl himself into the abyss that was once his home rather than face up to his devastating reality. Zero's crew is sympathetically yet disdainfully aware of his demise into ineffectuality, a fact that makes for some interesting voyage dynamics. Zero is filled with doubt and self-loathing, and since every decision he makes seems to be the wrong decision, these feelings are compounded until he’s consumed by despair. He’s an interesting character with depth, and tortured to the point of ineffectiveness.

Zero is offered captaincy of the Karyū (‘Fire Dragon’), a typical Matsumoto military spacecruiser affair replete with the typical motley crew (and an updated version of the wave-motion cannon from Yamato), and instructed to pursue and apprehend Harlock, who is off making the precarious relations between men and machine men since the end of the war that much more difficult. Zero accepts the task, impossible as it is, as a means of reinventing himself, and to give his emasculated life some purpose. Harlock, in the meantime, is enthusiastically making surprise raids on outposts of machine men, having developed a contempt for them quite at odds with his other incarnations.

The Karyū crew is comprised of both human and mechanical men, a source of considerable friction given the recent war between the opposing sides and its outcome, no doubt harder for Zero since that war was responsible for the loss of his wife and child. Yet Zero is determined to make his crew work as a cohesive whole, and eventually, after much trial and tribulation, the crew does come together.

Cosmowarrior Zero displays a unique perspective of Captain Harlock in his younger days. He’s seen as an uncontrollable renegade who threatens the sanctity and safety of the conquered universe. In the early part of the series we see him only briefly in acts of seemingly random destruction, and it isn’t until midway through the story that the motivations behind his actions are revealed. It’s a unique perspective to view one of Japan’s most loved heroes from, but it demonstrates well that perspective is everything. It also harkens back to the Matsumoto maxim that sides don’t matter, as long as one’s motives are pure.

Harlock’s crew consists of Yattaran as first mate, and the usual selection of mismatched specialists aboard a green and slender Deathshadow, reminiscent in appearance to the blue Arcadia of the Space Pirate Captain Harlock television series (in Cosmowarrior the Arcadia is still under construction, hence Harlock has retained the Deathshadow). Harlock is younger than we have so far seen him, attired in a fetching blue jumpsuit (the colour is perhaps symbolic of his youth) and his face is scarred though he's sporting both eyes. He’s also grumpier and snappier, far less tolerant of Yattaran’s carry-ons than he is in his other incarnations (Harlock’s deadly admonishing of Yattaran to stop pulling faces is an unexpected and unexpectedly amusing moment). Harlock is also unbelievably stubborn and singleminded, intent on his self-appointed mission regardless if he is right or wrong. This is not a new Harlock personality trait, since he has always done what he felt was right with little thought for consequence, it is just that in this incarnation he’s brutal about it. The only time he wavers in his resolve is when he accidentally kills some civilians during an attack on what he believed was a military installation. His dismay is shocking and clearly evident. He’s devastated by his error, and displays a rare moment of weakness and indecision.

But Captain Harlock is only a sub-theme in Cosmowarrior Zero. This story is truly about Warrius Zero and his return to manhood. After accepting the captaincy of the Karyū and taking onboard the mission to bring Harlock to justice, Zero must pass through several episodic lessons on the nature of life, love and redemption that plainly illustrate how hard it is to be human in this new and changing world. Of course Harlock has his part to play in these lessons. While Zero is singleminded in his resolve that Harlock is nothing more than a criminal and a cur, his encounters with the pirate teach him that Harlock is in fact proceeding from a pure motive and only fighting for what he believes is right.

While the majority of Cosmowarrior Zero is concerned with life aboard the Karyū, a series of episodes takes us to Matsumoto’s favourite haunt: the Gun Frontier, a town on the wild west planet of Heavy Melder that we have encountered in other times. In this instance it is populated by the usual selection of desperate and ineffective cowboys, and a sexy but annoying young woman named Sylviana who manages to become a thorn in Harlock and Tochirō’s side in both Cosmowarrior Zero and Hunt for Young Harlock.

On Heavy Melder, Tochirō gets to display both his humour and his unexpectedly expert swordsmanship — and also his wandering eye. Initially alone on the Frontier (Harlock is off renegading, remember), Tochirō has been causing some mayhem of his own and coming close to a lynching. Emeraldas makes a brief appearance, arriving to save Tochirō from the end result of his folly, but when she discovers what he had been up to (some ogling and fondling of the nubile Sylviana) she leaves him for Harlock to save. And Harlock does arrive in time to rescue him (of course). These moments reveal the depth of the Harlock/Tochirō dynamic — how tolerant and patient Harlock is with Tochirō, and how full of life Tochirō actually is. No mere sidekick, Tochirō can hold his own in any situation and is a fully functioning partner in this relationship, despite external appearances. The scenes on Gun Frontier are rather comedic, involving ruined whisky, a ruined town and a giant cow that might be the ruination of everybody. It is also the place where Harlock and Zero come together at last, fittingly in a town where everyone is reduced to the same lawless state.

The most engaging and thought-provoking scene in Cosmowarrior Zero comes after an attempt on Heavy Melder to capture Harlock by using Tochirō as bait fails. Harlock and Zero come together in a truce of sorts, to share some saké. It’s a dark and quiet moment, an introspection for both characters where they are free to question each other and their motives. Neither of them will relinquish the moral high-ground, even when Tochirō points out that Zero shouldn’t despair, that no matter Harlock’s personal resolve, Harlock is happy that men like Zero exist to fight for the Earth. Harlock cherishes life above all else and his greatest desire is to see the Earth restored to its Arcadian purity, and this is ultimately what both Zero and Harlock are fighting for, albeit from different directions. But while Zero and Harlock both want the Earth to be reborn, Harlock wants it to be free as well, since he thinks at the moment that it is not. Harlock feels that the Earth is ultimately helpless, which is why he fights on its behalf, and in his own way, and he unexpectedly reveals to Zero his plans to build an undefeatable ship (the Arcadia) to accomplish this task.

It’s an extremely gentle and touching moment, where Zero and the audience are allowed a glimpse into the melancholy and nostalgic heart of Harlock. The conversation ends with an ideological impasse, a meaningful stare, and a boast from Zero that he will eventually defeat Harlock, to which Harlock counters with a quiet vow to meet Zero in a serious fight when next they cross paths.

After this intimate conversation their relationship returns to its tense self, all male posturing and machismo. Zero and Harlock have ultimately agreed to disagree and end their short truce, returning to the chase — for which Zero has his own sensibilities regarding accomplishing without compromising either integrity or manhood. But the chase is now that much more difficult for Zero, having seen into the heart of Harlock. Harlock though, bastard that he is, continues on his path of destruction without the internal wrestling that Zero now has to contend with. He even has the cheek to demand Zero’s assistance in a final battle between space pirates and a greater threat to freedom in space, a negotiation that Zero bluntly refuses to enter into, and which results in a spectacular outburst from Harlock. Of course Zero eventually does realise that he needs to enter the fray, and ultimately the combined forces of Harlock and Zero save the day. But this cooperation does not cause Zero to waver in his resolve to capture Harlock and bring him to justice, though in the end Zero gives Harlock a bit of a head start before the chase begins again. Which leads nicely into Hunt for Young Harlock.

Cosmowarrior Zero is lovingly animated, with Harlock looking the best we’ve seen him for some time. The animation is clean and the characters well-drawn (both visually and thematically), although some of the later battle scenes seem a bit stilted. While the story is at times intense and full of angst, it is offset by moments of action and the bizarre comedic element provided by Tochirō on the Gun Frontier. With Warrius Zero the hero of the piece Harlock takes a backseat, and the infrequent glimpses of him are both tantalising and satisfying. Emeraldas makes minor appearances, and there is also a brief and unexpected meeting between Zero and Maeter (Ginga Tetsudō 999) on an ice planet. There are no Tadashi Daibas, Yuki Keis or Miimés on this voyage, though there is, of course, a Yattaran. While Cosmowarrior Zero introduces us to yet another new set of characters and a new Matsumoto universe, it is also an extremely enjoyable look at one of Harlock’s possible youths. In another life, Zero and Harlock would have made great partners, although as Harlock dryly notes, Zero would have made a useless pirate.

Yangu Hārokku o Oe [Hunt for Young Harlock]
AT-X | Taito
Release date: May 2002
2 x 30 minute episodes

An unexpected (and unexpectedly strange) addendum to Cosmowarrior Zero is Hunt for Young Harlock. Marketed and sold separately, this two episode (one hour) piece jumps forward in time from the closing of Cosmowarrior Zero.

Young Harlock opens with Zero imprisoned by some space pirates of the unpleasant variety — the sorts of pirates Harlock is disdainful of being associated with, and who don’t like Harlock particularly much either. No mention is made of how Zero came to be captured, how he came to be separated from the Karyū crew, nor what has happened to the Karyū itself. All we know is that Zero is in big trouble.

In the meantime, Tochirō is back aboard the Deathshadow with Harlock, despite having taken off separately with Emeraldas at the end of Cosmowarrior Zero. Tochirō and Harlock are taking the Deathshadow to a mushroom-shaped sanctuary in space where they have a room in a boarding-house-from-hell that seems to be positioned directly over a space-time continuum. Also resident in this boarding house are (Otoko) Oidon (from the manga) with his mushroom crop in his underwear, and Matsumoto-sensei himself, maniacally scribbling away at his manga.

While Harlock and Tochirō are in their room kicking up their heels with Tori-san and Mii-kun, Emeraldas is hard at work sabotaging the bad pirates’ ship and saving Zero from certain death — so far he’s been shot and stabbed so it’s a safe bet these guys aren’t too concerned for his overall well-being.

After Zero escapes and Emeraldas returns with him to Mushroom-world, a duel ensues between he and Harlock when Harlock refuses to let him into the boarding-house-from-hell (the toilets in this place are filthy, by the way…). The duel ends abruptly when it is realised that Zero has previously been wounded (ie. shot and stabbed by nasty pirates), which hardly makes it a fair fight. Our Harlock is nothing if not fair.

Zero proves a lot more feisty and stubborn in Young Harlock than he did in Cosmowarrior Zero. Regardless of Emeraldas’ saving of his life, he insists she’s still his enemy. The sympathy he developed for Harlock in Cosmowarrior seem to have changed also, as Zero is determined more than ever to hunt Harlock down, fight him and defeat him. That he ends up helping Harlock is neither here nor there, for in Matsumoto-world honour comes first, and you can assist your enemy even while hating them. It is a strange relationship that Zero and Harlock have — Harlock finds Zero’s single-mindedness amusing and only faintly threatening; Zero is frustrated by Harlock’s determination to not take him seriously. At the end of the day, however, they are very much alike, and it is plain that were circumstances different they could have been the best of friends.

To say that Hunt for Young Harlock is weird is an understatement. To say the setting (a floating mushroom in space) is surreal even more so. It is a strange little story, but it does provide further insights into the Tochirō/Harlock relationship, the Tochirō/Emeraldas relationship, the Harlock/Zero relationship, and the extended animal family. It also clearly demonstrates Harlock and Tochirō's easy relationship. While lying on the tatami of their room, Harlock wonders why Tori-san and Mii-kun are so attached to Tochirō, and after Tochirō explains facetiously that it is because he is such a kind and wonderful person, Harlock can only agree before laughingly pointing out that he, Harlock, at least wins in the beauty stakes. Harlock and Tochirō are like an old married couple in this incarnation, and Tori-san and Mii-kun have become their extended family. Harlock later risks his life to save their pets when the space-time continuum beneath the boarding house threatens to crack open, and even Zero comes to aid him after Harlock explains that the bird and cat are his and Tochirō’s family.

Two thirty-minute episodes should be relatively basic in terms of story, but an awful lot is crammed into Hunt for Young Harlock. Apart from Zero’s capture and rescue, Harlock and Tochirō kicking back, a pirate war, Harlock and Zero’s own private war and subsequent peace, and Emeraldas and Tochirō’s developing relationship, you also have Tochirō in the process of building a bigger and better Arcadia, Sylviana (from Cosmowarrior) attempting to steal and sell devices from Tochirō’s workshop, a mushroom planet with an unstable core, a time-space rift beneath a boarding house that contains entire universes, Maeter (from Ginga Tetsudō), the entire 999 express train, and a public service announcement on the dangers of ringworm.

Although Hunt for Young Harlock starts darkly, there’s a bizarre comedic element throughout (of which the giant mushroom is just the start), and the Harlock presented here is far more fallible and approachable than we have so far seen him. Although I prefer the melancholy and outcast hero of Space Pirate Captain Harlock, as an insight into how things might have been, Young Harlock is a pleasing diversion.


who is this guy harlock anyway?in the beginning....space pirate captain harlockmy youth in arcadiaendless road ssxcosmowarrior zero | hunt for young harlockharlock saga | the ring of the nibelungenendless odysseyguest appearancescharactersshipstrouserscomms station
navigation: select an icon or click here