Space Pirate Captain Herlock Volume 1: The Legend Returns
Don't mess with a man with an eyepatch
Cynthia Ward · April 4, 2004 | I suppose a space pirate in an eyepatch and 1970s bellbottoms must be pretty dorky, but I think Captain Harlock looks cool. Maybe I'm just a sucker for men with long hair. On the other hand, most people don't share my taste, yet anime's laconic, scar-faced Captain Harlock (now Herlock) is indeed the legend he is proclaimed by a new DVD's unwieldy title. (The full series title: Space Pirate Captain Herlock: The Endless Odyssey: Outside Legend.)

I hadn't seen a Leiji Matsumoto anime in years, but I remembered that his stoic, bishonen-esque hero symbolized Real Manhood. So maybe I shouldn't have been surprised to discover, while watching Space Pirate Captain Herlock Volume 1: The Legend Returns, that Herlock is a jerk. Maybe I shouldn't have been shocked that Herlock responds to a young man's near-murder and loss of his father by slapping the freaked-out, grief-stricken stranger across the face and saying, "If you want to become a real man, then come aboard my ship." But I'm not cynical enough to believe a manly man is necessarily a jerk. And I think heroism requires more than a tedious brutality and a poker face. Besides, this jerk just isn't the heroic Harlock I remember from Adieu Galaxy Express and Arcadia of My Youth. Maybe Herlock is somebody else?

Space Pirate Captain Herlock Volume 1: The Legend Returns
Geneon Entertainment, 2004
Originally released in 2003
Directed by Rin Taro
100 minutes

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Space Pirate Captain Herlock: The Legend Returns is the first collaboration between anime superstars Leiji Matsumoto (Star Blazers, Galaxy Express 999) and Rin Taro (Metropolis, X/1999) since the original Captain Harlock TV series of the 1970s. The new series features scripts by Sadoyuki Murai (Perfect Blue, Millennium Actress); character design by Nobuteru Yuuki (Escaflowne, Heat Guy J); and production by Madhouse (Chobits, Patlabor WXIII). With such a pedigree, you'd expect an interesting story and great artwork. You'd be disappointed. Their storyline is almost as weak as their Herlock's compassion—the four glacially paced half-hour episodes should have been one. The animation, though strong, blatantly recycles cels, an embarrassment in what's supposed to be a landmark anime event.

What's Good: Excellent art.

What's Bad: Excessive recycled cels; weak writing; flimsy excuse for a hero.

DVD Features: Bilingual 5.1 audio (English & Japanese); two streams of English subtitles (dialogue/signs & signs only); original Japanese opening; Geneon previews; DVD credits; limited edition locking pencilboard.
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