Arcadia of My Youth [VHS]
A Japanese Animation Classic! Set against the conquest of Earth by an alien empire and drawing parallels to the post-WW2 occupation of Japan, Captain Harlock, together with those who will become his life-long friends, battle against tyranny no matter what the cost.
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In the series, set in 2279, Harlock and his crew, aboard the space battleship Arcadia (constructed by Harlock's late friend Tochiro Oyama, whose consciousness lives on within the ship's computer), had sometime ago abandoned the increasingly corrupt and apathetic Earth, now all but barren and dependent on food and material goods shipped from 'robot' farms and factories on distant planets, for a life of freedom in the Sea of Stars (Matsumoto's poetic term for outer space, befitting the nautical styling of the Arcadia and many of his other spacecraft) under their flag, the Jolly Roger, surviving by raiding cargo ships for food (at the same time destroying or jettisoning the fine wines, jewelry and other luxury items destined for the Earth's corrupt elite), but now they're being blamed, with Harlock himself condemned to death, for a string of atrocities actually committed by an alien race of 'plant women' called the Mazone.
In the film, which takes place round 2960, Harlock, captain of the battlecruiser Deathshadow, returns from a losing battle against the vast Illumidus Empire to find the Earth occupied by the enemy and ruled by human quislings, and his lover Maya working with the human underground as the radio Voice of Free Arcadia. Refusing the respectful Illumidas Commander's offer of work, Harlock departs to search for Maya, finding only her trademark white rose at her abandoned radio set, and soon encounters the gnomish Tochiro Oyama, a fellow officer who, sensing that Harlock is 'the one I've been waiting for' (the two carry racial memories--dredged up by an Illumidus scientist intent on finding out why Earthlings are so much more stubborn than the other races they've conquered--of the meeting of their look alike ancestors during the last days of WWII), leads him to an underground hanger where, literally under the feet of the enemy, he has constructed a giant battleship, the Arcadia (named for the memoirs of one of Harlock's ancestors, which Harlock 'reads' from for the film's lengthy pre-title prologue), and later meets the beautiful free-space trader Emeraldas, whose vessel resembles a gigantic dirigible with the gondola replaced by a Spanish galleon, and--
Well, that's enough; this's 'sposed to be a review, not a synopsis.
Originally released by AnimEigo (Anime + Eigo - English) on VHS in 1993, the 40th Anniversary of Mr. Matsumoto's entry into the manga & anime fields (acknowledged on the tape with a heartfelt 'domo arigato goezaimasu'), their 2003 DVD release does full justice to the film and includes two original theatrical trailers, and it's just a pity (can't believe I'm saying this) that there's no dub--for the benefit of those who don't like reading subs I mean.
Toei themselves produced an international dub, with the wooden performances typical of that sort of thing, under the title My Youth in Arcadia (a proper, though contextually dubious, alternate transliteration of the Japanese title, Waga Seishun no Arcadia, the latter rendered phonetically as Arukadeia), released here by Best Films & Video, and Celebrity Home Entertainment issued an edited version, Vengeance of the Space Pirate, under their Just for Kids imprint; the editor cut the film only very slightly for 'content', but totally removed the aforementioned pre-title prologue (Harlock's early 20th century ancestor's attempt to fly over the Stanley Witch, the tallest peak of New Guinea's Stanley Mountain Range, later paralleled by the Arcadia's rough passage through a massive, life energy-absorbing stellar phenomenon known as the Stanley Witch of Space).
Unfortunately, like these videos, the DVD is out of print, but can be had from Amazon.
Amazon also offers the EastWestDVD re-issue of 'Vengeance'; for details, see my review.
Upon checking some of the other customer reviews today (prompted by a notice from Amazon that my own had been helpful to someone), I noticed a couple complaints about the DVD's lack of a widescreen presentation.
This is because there isn't one; prior to the late '80s, widescreen anime films were rare, due to the added production expense.
Ironically, some standard format anime films were released here in faked widescreen (accomplished by vertical cropping), notably U.S. Manga Corps' LD & VHS versions of Project A-Ko (fortunately presented in the original format on DVD) and the theatrical release of Transformers the Movie (Sony/BMG's 20th Anniversary Special Edition DVD includes both versions).
Arcadia of My Youth released in 1981 has the different situation from original TV series aired three years before this work although it was told as the prequel story on how Harlock becomes the space pirate who seeks independence from all sides. The episodes on Harlock ancestors during or before the second world war may confuse the viewers though it will later be found out that it happened more than 1,000 years ago and both Harlock and Tochiro the skilled engineer who repairs the cruiser of his girlfriend known as Queen Emeraldas share the same memory of their ancestors.
While original TV series in 1978 couldn't make Queen Emeraldas appear as Mayu's mother due to copyright issues, the film makes great presence of its female counterpart in this work. The commander Zeda who is in charge or Earth occupation is a man of honor who respects Harlock as his worthy opponent which reminds me of General Lysis(Domel) of Space Cruisers Yamato (Star Blazers) who finally did the suicide attack in the end of the battle.
Verdict; As a stand-alone account of Harlock it is well-made.
Rating: 90 out of 100
Recommeded for: Captain Harlock fans, Leiji Matsumoto fans, fans of classic Japanese animation works during 70s and 80s in general.
Most recent customer reviews
I only have 2 things to say:
1. Good, moving story and very good animation.
2. The music is just phenomenal.
I hope this helps!
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