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

A Pirate and his Ship....
Just how many Arcadias does a guy need anyway...?


When Space Pirate Captain Harlock debuted, Harlock was captain of an attractive blue, sharp-snouted Arcadia.

The ship's origins were mysterious, and even stranger was the later revelation that its central computer was inhabited by the spirit or psyche of Harlock's long-dead friend Tochirō, in effect making it a living creature, almost a cyborg of sorts. This makes Arcadia an integral piece of the Captain Harlock story — it has a mind, a consciousness, and a central role to play.

Spaceworthy, seaworthy, capable of flying in atmosphere and landing on (or in) hard surfaces, this ship is equally as cool as its captain, taking on a distinct personality of its own. Fans of Captain Harlock will attest that Arcadia is equally as important to the Harlock story as any of the characters.

The design and style of Arcadia is compelling, the detail of the exterior surpassed only by the dimly lit internal corridors and control panels that invite the eye with hints of high technology.

Arcadia is beautiful inside and out, detailed and compelling. Nothing has been left out of the design, with Arcadia able to perform untold functions. And with the combined strength of both its master and maker, Arcadia is nigh-invincible.

Arcadia is not reliant upon a crew and can pilot itself, as well as apparently responding to Harlock’s voice commands. This is no doubt the result of Tochirō’s uploaded personality… or possibly it is that Tochirō himself now dwells inside the main computer. In Endless Odyssey we see the ultimate development of the Tochirō/Arcadia factor, since Arcadia seems to call the shots, deciding where to go and when, and turning itself off when it has had enough (or simply wishes to make a point. Harlock’s solution to this shutdown is to be ‘alone’ with his ship, and he orders everybody off — shades of Space Pirate — in order to communicate with Arcadia. This does seem to be whatArcadia was waiting for, as it then powers up and takes off immediately. Willful creature.)

While Arcadia is the most modern deep space vessel imaginable, it does have some unexpected and antiquated features incorporated into its design. For example, Harlock steers with a traditional wooden ship’s wheel that is positioned on the bridge directly in front of the captain’s chair. While Harlock can and does take the helm and steer in moments of crisis, on all other occasions the crew is responsible for Arcadia’s movements (apart from those instances when Arcadia decides to steer itself), and steering is done from the main bridge console. In some incarnations Arcadia can also be helmed externally, from a top-deck mounted ship’s wheel. As Harlock is seen atop his ship doing exactly that, it must be surmised that Arcadia is capable of generating an atmosphere/gravity bubble over its exterior.

Another interesting feature is the sterncastle section that is mounted on the rear of all Arcadia’s incarnations, seemingly made of wood and glass, and which houses Harlock’s personal living quarters (the traditional captain's cabin).

This galleon-like accoutrement is surely a romantic nod to the history of sea faring and conflict on the high seas, and it is primarily this addition (along with the skull and crossbone insignias emblazoned all over the ship) that lends Arcadia its piratical and old-world air, despite the ultra-modernism of its mechanics. Similarly, all versions of Arcadia (indeed, almost all of Matsumoto's ship designs) feature conning towers, a-la WW2 battleship designs.

Dependent upon which Harlock series you are watching, Arcadia takes on as many different appearances as her captain. Arcadia’s original version, in Space Pirate Captain Harlock, was a sleek blue craft, yet its next appearance, in My Youth in Arcadia, brought a green and blunt-nosed ship. In Cosmowarrior, the Deathshadow appears incredibly similar to the blue Arcadia, but is painted green. In Endless Odyssey, Arcadia is again green and blunt-nosed, although Harlock has a very clear flashback to the time when he first left Earth, in a sleek and tapered Arcadia… or could that have been the Deathshadow? And then, just to confuse things even further, a smooth grey-coloured Arcadia appears in Harlock Saga.

What is seemingly the same in every incarnation is Arcadia’s origin. Constructed by Tochirō in each version, always in complete secrecy and either underground or on the abandoned wastelands of Heavy Melder, Arcadia’s maker utilised the latest in technology, and in many cases invented and manufactured new and innovative components to lend Arcadia her unholy strength and capabilities.

Consequently, Arcadia is equipped with many unique and enviable features, such as a giant switchblade-type affair that emerges from the prow when Harlock wishes to ram an object — which he does regularly. Arcadia seems virtually invincible in these instances, never losing any of its external fittings, or even any paint during ram-raids, or even when it is sliding heavily across the ground making planet-fall.

Harlock has intimated that Arcadia is indestructible, which while impossible, does seem to be true. One of Harlock's favoured battle strategies is to ram his enemies (which is likely why some versions of Arcadia have a retractable switchblade in the nose). Further, Arcadia ‘births’ itself in many of its incarnations, emerging from underground construction sites and hiding places by ripping through rock and earth, breaking free of gravity in what is surely a symbolic visual metaphor for Harlock breaking free of his societal bonds. The extreme physicality of these moments certainly point to Arcadia being as tough as bloody nails.


Apart from being christened the coolest name imaginable for a pirate ship, Deathshadow was Harlock’s first ship (or.. it could have been his second, see below), and assumedly his first (or second) command. Like Arcadia, Deathshadow has more than one guise dependent upon what you are watching, and just as many demises. In one version, Harlock crash lands Deathshadow on Earth, purposely rendering it useless. In another it ends up derelict on Heavy Melder. In yet another version he bequeaths it to a fellow pirate, and in Cosmowarrior Zero, he’s still got it (though by now it's looking spookily like the Arcadia).

'Standard' in appearance and accoutrements, Deathshadow has neither the indestructibleness nor personality of Arcadia, nor any of the unique 'extra features,' though it does seem to have a cloaking device in Cosmowarrior.

While Harlock no doubt would have some emotional attachment to Deathshadow, he doesn’t quite have the depth of feeling for it that he does for Arcadia. Where Harlock generally takes a backseat to the running of the Arcadia, with the Deathshadow he's very much a hands-on commander. No doubt this is due to the Arcadia possessing sentience, whereas Deathshadow is a far more mechanical beast, requiring all hands.

That Deathshadow is dispensable is indicative of Harlock's non-attachment to it. Harlock would die to protect Arcadia, which is imbued with untold meaning, symbolism and emotion, not to mention being the repository of Harlock’s deceased friend Tochirō. Arcadia is also Tochirō’s last great work, worthy of sacrifice. Deathshadow, by comparison, is a beat-up piece of metal. A tool of Harlock’s crusade and nothing more.

{Note: The Great Harlock Gotterdammerung manga series of 1998 states unequivocally that there exists a Deathshadow I, a Deathshadow II, an Arcadia and a Great Arcadia.]

Queen Emeraldas

Unconventional in appearance, the Queen Emeraldas is a dirigible-like contraption with a mini-galleon in suspension beneath its enormous bulk. The Queen Emeraldas is of mysterious alien origin, supposedly found floating in space by Tochirō and Emeraldas. It is also supposedly indestructible, which it does appear to be — in Hunt for Young Harlock, Emeraldas unconcernedly folds underwear planetside, while high above some narky pirates unsuccessfully try to blow the crap out of it.

Although its physical appearance in the Ginga Tetsudō series was markedly different (a sleek black and white hulk with a red dokuro, and minus the suspended galleon), and with the exception of an angular Queen Emeraldas in the Space Pirate manga, in most of its incarnations the Queen Emeraldas appears generally the same, with only minor alterations.

Apart from Emeraldas herself, and Tochirō when he’s in residence, the Queen Emeraldas appears to be uncrewed. It also possesses a range of sophisticated armaments, the capabilities of which put even the Arcadia to shame. In the 1998 Queen Emeraldas series it gained a cloaking device, superior shielding and an androgynous voice that converses occasionally with Emeraldas, therefore making the Queen Emeraldas a sentient (though alien) being, similar to the Arcadia after it receives Tochirō's psyche. Since we never seem to hear Emeraldas give a voice command or any other indication of intention or desire to the ship, it must be surmised that either the craft responds to Emeraldas' thoughts, or is making all decisions on its own. Emeraldas also seems to have made a promise or a pact with the ship, telling it cryptically that 'I am you, and you are me.' Weird.

Death Herlock

And weirder still, Harlock himself possessed at some stage a dirigible-type craft similar in appearance to the Queen Emeraldas, curiously named the Death Herlock. This one didn't last long. Wonder why... (Though it occurs to me that perhaps Harlock and Emeraldas, in the folly and enthusiasm of their youth, were experimenting with corporate branding, possibly leading to a range of t-shirts and mobile phone accessories. Yes. That must have been what was happening.)

Pirate Island

In case you were wondering where all this shipbuilding and maintenance was being carried out, there is an answer: Kaizoku Tō, or Pirate Island. First introduced in the Space Pirate Captain Harlock manga (the manga also included an additional Deathshadow Island that filled much the same purpose) and television series in the late 1970s, Pirate Island is an unassuming hollow asteroid floating in space that contains, variously, heavy equipment, living quarters, an internal light source and a tropical beach complete with palm trees, ocean and sea creatures. (these 'islands' are also where you'll see the Arcadia crew getting their uniforms off and their swimming gear on, if you're interested in that sort of thing...) In some versions, vessels must anchor on the exterior of the asteroid, and in others the 'island' is so large that craft can enter it via large portals, and there is room for the berthing of a number of Arcadia-size ships inside.

Who initially constructed or set up Pirate Island is as mutable as most things in the Matsumoto universe, but what is always the same is the sacrosanctity of this place. Apart from providing a safe and neutral haven for our pirates, it must also contain great treasures or secrets, since its location is jealously guarded and protected and uninvited intruders are summarily executed. Harlock, Tochiro and Emeraldas all use Pirate Island, but in their later years only rarely, or if they're desperate. Pirate Island doesn't appear in all versions of Captain Harlock (though it appears most recently as a major component of the 1999 Ginga Tetsudō and Götterdämmerung mangas), but it occurs (or recurs) frequently enough to rate a mention. Plus, it solves a lot of logistics.


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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