For those hard-to-please sci-fi fans who additionally crave 3D to go with their fantasy cocktail, I heartily recommend the recent release of 2013’s HARLOCK: SPACE PIRATE, now on limited-edition Blu-Ray from the gang at Twilight Time/Ketchup Entertainment/TOEI.
Admittedly, I’m not an anime expert, although I have often been agog at the exquisite artwork indigenous to the genre. I do recall liking Vampire Hunter D immensely when first exposed to the animated re-animated Japanese lady back in the early 1990s.
A few years prior to that, whilst perusing the quarterly Japanese laserdisc catalogs, I spied the first home-video releases of Captain Harlock, (originally making his debut in a strip, or manga, by Leiji Matsumoto in 1977, the same year as Lucas’s you-know-what). The color illustrations looked sensational; I was thoroughly awed by the imagery; but, being unable to understand the language (plus the then-1980s exorbitant yen/dollar exchange rate) stopped me from taking a chance.
Looking at this recent fantastic full-length feature proves my gut feeling was right. This is truly outstanding stuff. Harlock, the title dude, is a ruthless, seemingly invincible interplanetary warrior, marked as The Most Wanted by a traitorous cartel known as the Gaia Coalition.
Harlock is the ultimate anti-hero, fighting the centuries-old Homecoming War (the goal being to return victorious to a desolate, long-evacuated planet Earth) for nothing less than the future of humanity (it should be noted that he bears a striking resemblance, eyepatch and all, to actor Akihiko Hirata from the original 1954 classic Gojira, whose character also ended up securing the elongation of mankind). It’s a kind of post-Trek intergalactic take on Captain Blood, but on a gargantuan scale. Humanity, is after all, far more relevant than mere booty (no matter what your interpretation of that term is).
HARLOCK has it all: suspense, violence, treachery, adventure, a tincture of lust, drama up the wazoo and (literally) out-of-this-world special effects. And it’s all inventively realized by director Shinji Aramaki , writer/creator Matsumoto, with screenplay assist from Harutoshi Fukui and Kiyoto Takeuchi and a veritable army of animators, dedicated 3D technicians, trained voice thesps (in both Japanese and English interpretations) and, as the hucksters love to say, MORE. In fact, there’s barely a restful minute in either of the two versions presented on this double-disc set (the complete 115-minute Japanese cut w/English subtitles, and the 111-minute English language edition; each is available in either 3D or standard flat 2D).
If you’re one of the throngs of anime addicts, you’ve probably already added this to your collection. If not, what are you waiting for? Furthermore, if anime and/or even sci-fi isn’t your cup of sake, HARLOCK still delivers the goods. How so? Because if you’re a 3D buff (like myself), this outer-space in-your-face odyssey becomes a must-have for your home theater. The dizzying camerawork is roller-coaster gasp-worthy. In 3D, it’s lightning on steroids (among the picture’s many award nods and noms was a well-deserved 2014 Lumiere Award Winner for Best International 3D Feature, Animated).
While there are plenty of coming-at-ya moments, two in particular merit mentioning. Early in the picture, Logan, one of a group of young, green potential inductees, hoping to be recruited by Harlock’s band, perilously climbs to the top of a towering cliff (where the pirate’s spaceship is moored). As the altruistic enlistee hangs on the crags and jagged edges of the mountain, the camera follows his grasping desperation; the resulting stereoscopic effect of depth and vertigo will have your stomach in what is technically referred to as GNNAAAAA-WHOA! mode.
Later on, a master shot of the space fleet in formation is so stunningly achieved that you’ll be engulfed by various-sized craft floating over your head, as well as around the room. I playfully started grabbing at them, then thought better of this guaranteed strait-jacket reaction. Fortunately, I wasn’t alone. I turned to my companion, and breathed a sigh of relief (she was reaching for them as well).
If the 3D wasn’t enough, HARLOCK contains a state-of-the-art 5.1 digital surround track (with the excellent Tetsuya Takahashi music score available as an IST) that perfectly appends the bravura third dimension visuals.
And if THAT wasn’t enough, Twilight Time has further sweetened the pot with some enticing extras, including interviews with Matsumoto, Aramaki and Fukui, a making-of documentary, Venice Film Festival World Premiere highlights, storyboard galleries and TV spots/trailers.
A word of caution. Like all Twilight Time titles, HARLOCK is a limited edition of 3500. LSS, once they’re gone, it’s sayonara. I can’t imagine that these will be around too much longer (or what horrific amounts the out-of-print copies will fetch on eBay), so, if your interest is sufficiently piqued, you should probably zoom this entry to the top of your “to purchase” platter list.
HARLOCK: SPACE PIRATE. Color. Widescreen [2.35:1; 1080p High Definition; 3D Blu-Ray and standard 2D Blu-Ray]; 5.1 DTS-HD M A (English dubbed and Japanese w/English subtitles). Twilight Time/Ketchup EntertainmentTOEI. CAT# TWILIGHT 187-BR; SRP: $34.95.
Limited edition of 3500.