Thursday, June 10, 2010

Space Pirate Captain Harlock: Endless Odyssey

Back in the days of yore (1979–1980-something), I was a knocked-out, die-hard fan of Japanese animation, particularly the work of Leiji Matsumoto (Space Cruiser Yamato, Galaxy Express 999, Queen Millennium, and—above all else—Space Pirate Captain Harlock). I still enjoy the stuff, though I really haven't been much into anime over the last couple of decades. Still, figuring I could put a free trial membership to Netflix to good use, I checked out part 1 of Matsumoto's 2002 series, Space Pirate Captain Harlock: Endless Odyssey, and dang if it wasn't a good bit of fun. The Harlock series has always been among the grimmest of Matumoto's stories, and this one is no exception. It features a rather Lovecraftian slant, which I must say I appreciate, and the visuals are, as always for a Matsumoto production, quite striking. By all appearances, by the end of episode 3, the earth itself has bought the big one, which even the Great Ugly Azathoth hasn't yet succeeded in doing.

During my college days in the late 70s, it was actually the musical score for Space Cruiser Yamato by Hiroshi Miyagawa that drew me to giving the series a try, and after all these years, I still love those Yamato scores and the original Space Pirate Captain Harlock score by Seiji Yokoyama. The soundtrack music for Endless Odyssey is by Takayuki Hattori (Godzilla vs. Space Godzilla, Godzilla 2000), and it's very different from both earlier Matsumoto anime scores and anything else I've ever heard by the composer. Much of it is rather bluesy, quite a departure from the grand, orchestral scores of the original series and the Harlock film, My Youth in Arcadia (as well as its follow-up TV series, Endless Road SSX). It's not my favorite, by any stretch, but it does complement the action pretty well and is overall rather enjoyable.

Continuity between the various Captain Harlock series is at best spotty, and at worst nonexistent. Endless Odyssey is ostensibly a sequel to the original 1978 Harlock series (which is essentially a different continuity from My Youth in Arcadia, Endless Road SSX, Galaxy Express, and the others), and for the most part it works in this capacity, although the young protagonist, Tadashi Daiba, is by all indications meant to be the same character (with a few variations in personality) from the original series. Why Matsumoto does this is anyone's guess, but as someone who does enjoy at least some slim binding threads between various related series, I find my teeth gnashing pretty furiously when things don't fit together...really at all.

Regardless, I've got a good many more episodes of the show to watch—once they're available—and I've no doubt that the viewing will make for happy times. Yay for me.


shonokin said...

I've just been watching this mini-series myself.

Most Lovecraft movie adaptations aren't this Lovecraftian! When people confuse tentacles and reciting an endless litany of GOO names and tomes for being "Lovecraftian" I will point them to things such as John Carpenter's PRINCE OF DARKNESS and now this series. This is all about cosmic horror, elder space faring races and fear of the unknown.

Stephen Mark Rainey said...

Very much agreed. I haven't seen all of this Harlock series yet, though I'm looking forward to it. Oftentimes the best Lovecraftian horror isn't labeled as such. It's a lot more about emotion, atmosphere, and "other-worldliness". I'd go so far as to say the majority of contemporary Lovecraftian fiction fails because it goes for the trappings, rather than the heart of the matter.