Space Pirate Captain Herlock Vol. 1: The Legend Returns

by Patrick King

Before watching this, I'd not yet had a chance to experience any of the works of legendary writer Leiji Matsumoto. After watching the first volume of this new story in the Captain Herlock saga, I suddenly have a serious desire to become better acquainted with Matsumoto's projects.

In a bid to win the award for longest title of the year, Space Pirate Captain Herlock - The Endless Odyssey: Outside Legend is a work of incredible depth. The level of detail in Matsumoto's world is as impressive as the imaginative storyline.

This is the kind of series that reminds me why I love anime.

From the moment Takayuki Hattori's richly orchestrated opening theme begins to play in glorious surround sound, it becomes apparent that Captain Herlock is an epic tale.

It is unfortunate that a summary of the events leading up to this point in Herlock's life was not provided someplace on this DVD, for I'm sure that it would help viewers new to the story, such as myself. As a newbie to the Herlock mythos, I'll do my best to explain what's going on in this new series.

The age of space piracy is over. The first volume of this series begins with the capture of Kei Yuki and her crew. They're the last free-roaming former members of the infamous Captain Herlock's ship, the Arcadia. Once, long ago, they left the Earth in search of freedom from the corrupt politics of the home of mankind.

Now, moving like a plague of locusts across the land, other people have followed Herlock into space, colonizing various planets and their satellites throughout the solar system. Those in power, feeling threatened by everything that Herlock stands for, have made an effort to stamp out him along with anyone who shares his philosophy of individualism and freedom for all.

However, Herlock's ongoing conflict with the interplanetary government quickly pales in severity when a threat as old as time is awakened by an intrepid group of scientists.

The Noo is a mysterious force that has commandeered the corpses of the explorers responsible for its escape, intent upon returning the universe back to the primal state in which it began. Once the ruling force of reality, chaos was forced into submission by the emergence of order, but now, it's attempting to reduce everything back to madness - and the human race is only helping it along.

Herlock's story is more science-fiction than fantasy, though intuition, fate, and luck have as much to do with events in this universe as the hard science that built the Arcadia.

The animation is smooth and clean, and while the style of the show is undeniably dated, it is unique and appealing. Some viewers may be put off by the cartoonish character designs sported by some of the players in the tale, but no matter how unrealistic the appearance a character may present, the story and voice acting really fills out every person in Matsumoto's world.

Even if the look of the show does deter a person from wanting to see this, any serious fan of science fiction owes it to him or herself to see this series. It is a worthy follow-up to a fundamental building block of the modern anime industry. The themes here are important and current, regardless of a person's personal affection for science fiction.

One potential drawback to this show is its relatively slow pacing. It doesn't offer much background information for the complex setting in which it occurs. However, I tend to prefer discovering the details of a show on my own, so this is not a problem for me. Also, the tone of the series is dramatic and rather serious, and while comedy is not altogether lacking, it is not the driving force of this story. If you're looking for a light series to take your mind off of something complex, then you should look for something else.

If, however, you truly like science fiction, then this show is a must buy. It's not too often that I come across something that reminds me of the glory days of science fiction, and Leiji Matsumoto compares favorably to greats such as Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke, Robert Heinlein, and Larry Niven. If you aren't fond of the genre, perhaps you should try Captain Herlock. It might just change your mind.

With excellent in-show and end credit music performed by one of my favorite vocalists, Tia, high quality animation from Madhouse, and surround sound in both English and Japanese, the technical aspects of the show are every bit as laudable as the content.

There are only four episodes on the first disc, but aside from the low episode count and scant number of extras, there's not much else to complain about here. With a show this good, I don't need a slideshow featuring character designs.

But next time, maybe Geneon could give us a little more than the Japanese opening.

Even if they don't, count on me to be out there picking up the subsequent volumes of this excellent series. It's a great source of inspiration to contradict the yucky feeling when I accidentally see the show formerly known as Detective Conan on TV. What the heck were they thinking? Well, as the bad guys say in volume one of Captain Herlock, "There can be no order in society without regulation of information." If only people who changed titles and names and whatnot realized who they sound like. This is why freedom of speech is so incredibly important, and in a less serious way, why it bothers me when the original content of a work in another language has been changed to suit the needs of an executive committee, rather than convey the true intent of its creator.

At least I now have Captain Herlock, and you should too.

About This Item

  • Space Pirate Captain Herlock Vol. 1: The Legend Returns

  • Format:
    bilingual DVD / 100 min. / 4 eps
  • Production:
    Leiji Matsumoto / Taro Rin / Madhouse / Geneon
  • Rating:

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