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

Captain Herlock Endless Odyssey: Outside Legend
Kobusha | VAP | NTV
Original airdate: October 2003 - November 2003
13x30 minute episodes

Presented as director Rin Taro's version of Captain Harlock, the most recent addition to the Harlock legend, Endless Odyssey, surprises with its apparent acknowledgement that this story takes place some time after the close of the original Space Pirate Captain Harlock television series (which Rin Taro did indeed direct). Characters are introduced as former members of the Arcadia crew, causing the viewer to wistfully remember the closing moments of Space Pirate, when Harlock effectively abandoned the entire crew (with the exception of Miimé and Tori-san) to whatever fate awaited them, and took off in the Arcadia for parts unknown. Endless Odyssey does not explain where Harlock went and what he has been doing since that time, nor how the Arcadia changed from blue to green but it (kind of) explains what some of the other main players have been up to in that time.

But… wait a minute. While the majority of characters from the Space Pirate Captain Harlock television series have lived and grown beyond their first voyage on the Arcadia, Tadashi Daiba is back to square one again. Tadashi must watch his father die again, must meet Harlock for the first time again, must board the Arcadia for the first time... again. So… forget what is written above. This is not really a continuation. It is another universe, another sphere of time, another chance for Harlock to take Tadashi under his piratical wing and teach him how to be a man. (Please refer to Universal Predestiny if you're utterly confused.)

Endless Odyssey has a multitude of plots woven throughout:

-- Dr Daiba (Tadashi’s father, alive again) has previously had a frightening brush with both death and forces beyond the imagining of man. While teetering on the edge of the abyss he is rescued by Harlock, and Dr Daiba extracts a promise from him that when he, Daiba, should die, Harlock will take on the rearing of young Tadashi and turn him into a man. While Harlock apparently can never refuse the dying wishes of a noble man, he must in this case surely have prayed that Dr Daiba might never actually die…

-- Further, Dr Daiba’s earlier researches have led he and his companions to unwittingly open a portal between this space-time and another, where a being called Nuu has been trapped since the universe was first created. Now that this being has escaped and plans to turn our universe into ‘hell’, Harlock is called upon to respond to the threat…

-- In the meantime, during the five years since Harlock abandoned them on Earth, almost all the earlier members of the Arcadia crew have been rounded up by authorities, imprisoned and slated for execution. If Harlock wants to re-crew the ship and save the universe, he first has to save them…

-- And, a certain Captain Irita seems hell-bent on destroying Captain Harlock, by hook or by crook.

Familiar Matsumoto themes re-emerge: the nature of man; promises that must be kept; secrets of the universe concealed within ancient ruins; pyramids rising from the dust of ages; mountains with monsters in them; supernatural elements, and the forces of good and evil.

On a humanistic level, we are shown again through Tadashi Daiba that people aren’t what they seem, that you don’t have to live by rules and regulations, that there are ways and there are ways to becoming a man. Tadashi’s eternal lament in almost all his incarnations is that the crew of the Arcadia is lacking in discipline. Harlock, however, leads by example and not by military tenets, and Tadashi will have to learn to accept that. To his infuriation, the Harlock of Endless Odyssey states, when questioned about this perceived lack of order onboard the Arcadia: ‘At times I’ll give an order, but people don’t have to obey.’ Tadashi’s eyebrows can only crawl into his hairline at moments like these. After all, isn’t that what captains are for? The giving of orders?

Harlock in this incarnation seems to be in a slow spiral of disassociation. He doesn’t much care where he’s going or why. If he had not been forced to fulfill his promise to Dr Daiba, he would not have been caught up in the events surrounding Nuu and all that entails. Harlock has always maintained that his ultimate goal in life is to ‘find a place to die,’ which I have always taken to mean that when he finds the right cause for which to lay down his life, he will. However it does throw open the question: ‘Is Harlock that noble or is he merely bored with living?’ When beseeched by Nuu’s feminine antithesis to save the universe, Harlock's response is in the negative, claiming that the entire situation has nothing to do with him and that the outcome won’t alter his life either way. Of course he does end up saving the universe, but for his own reasons — and ultimately because his 'dead' friend Tochirō wants him to.

That the Arcadia has a personality — that being the personality and consciousness of Harlock's friend Tochirō — is far more obvious in this series than it has ever been. In Endless Odyssey the Arcadia is exceedingly willful, deciding where it wants to go and when, and turning itself off when it's had enough. Perversely, Harlock seems to find these moments pleasurable; reassurance, perhaps, that his old friend is alive and still kicking. In Endless Odyssey Harlock spends far more time in communion with the Arcadia’s central computer than ever before, and in fact the ‘bad guys’ eventually realise that the Arcadia is the true threat to their plans for universal domination, and not Harlock himself.

In the early episodes of Endless Odyssey we find the ship has embedded itself into a mound of ruined and ancient artefacts. When questioned as to why the Arcadia rests here, Harlock replies musingly that the Arcadia ‘seems to like it here.’ He doesn’t question it, he doesn’t try to change it. And it seems the Arcadia was set on saving the universe from the beginning and has taken Harlock everywhere it wanted him to go. More importantly, at the end of the series we find Tochirō himself awaiting Harlock, preparing to do what is necessary to send Nuu back where it belongs.

The quiet surreality of that final episode, which begins with Tadashi’s sad ‘Father, I had a dream…’ is an entrée into worlds within worlds, and a crash course on theories of time and space might be in order before viewing. Harlock is not even slightly perturbed to enter a surrealistic landscape where he finds his dead friend seemingly alive again and preparing to destroy Nuu. Said dead friend, Tochirō, apparently knows he is dead, and has made his home in a place where the dead can meet the living. In this same continuum Tadashi meets his dead father, and is confused enough (or wistful enough) to imagine his entire life aboard the Arcadia was the dream. The surprising culmination of the series comes in the closing scenes: learning that Harlock had made not one promise to Dr Daiba but two… and the final scene, when the audience realises that they really are not going to find out what happens next. (Although the closing credits at least give some kind of outcome to chew on, they really don’t help much and it is left to the audience to decide what exactly did happen on the bridge between Tadashi and Harlock.)

Endless Odyssey does feel like a return to the Harlock we fell in love with. The animation is strongly reminiscent of the original television series; Harlock himself is a physical morph between the Harlock of the Space Pirate series and the Harlock of My Youth in Arcadia. He appears both older and harder, yet he hasn’t changed a bit. There are beautiful and startling moments contained throughout: the dark empty corridors of the great pirate ship filled with the haunting music of Miimé’s harp; the Arcadia drifting slowly through the aftermath of a battle, surrounded by weightless corpses and the debris of war; the unexpectedly harsh moment when Harlock smilingly salutes an enemy as he tumbles towards death.

Matsumoto’s spherical universes concurrently contain the highest science and the most ancient of spiritual powers. But at the core of this particular story is the strength of friendship, the bonds that form from a common cause, the price of freedom and the nature of reality. And, of course, choosing the right flag to live beneath.

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
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