In the inky blackness of space there are those that seek freedom and adventure far from the control and laws of governments. They wish for the peace and simpler times among the goodness of nature. That is the call of the utopia of nature called by the Greeks as "Arcadia" and serves as a powerful concept for artists, thinkers, dreamers, and creators. This concept was applied to one of the most famous science fiction anime/manga character of all time: Captain Harlock. Brainchild of anime founding fathers Leiji Matsumoto, this character has been kicking around the anime/manga scene on both shores since the 1970's and it was in the 1982 animated film "The Arcadia of My Youth", that Harlock finally got a story that was worthy of his eye patch and laser-sword. In this installment of Future War Stories from the East, we will be examining one of my favorite anime films of all time and trying to support why I believe it is the finest work that Harlock as ever been a part of.
Who is this "Captain Harlock" and What the Hell is "Arcadia"?
Who is Captain Phantom F. Harlock The short answer? A badass space pirate and one of the most awesome early anime anti-heroes of all time. For many early Western fans of anime, he (and maybe GoGo 13
) was the symbol of the uber-cool anime characters. Many of my friends that were into early anime, loved Harlock...but, we knew little about him and his adventures in the seas of stars at the helm of the Arcadia
. When asked about the origins of Harlock, his creator Leiji Matsumoto said that he was based on his cool friend from school that did everything right, and Leiji said he felt like Tochiro. Harlock was first developed by Leiji back in junior high as a classic English pirate and went by the name of "Captain Kingston". He would first appear in 1956 and then in other manga until finally making the jump into anime in 1978 with his own series.
But, what the hell is “Arcadia” anyways? The term is very popular and has been for centuries. In the strict terms, Arcadia is an utopia of nature, where man lives within it, and yet it is unspoiled and virgin, like the mythical Garden of Eden. This terms was applied to a beautiful region in central Peloponnese Greece. In the context of the show, Arcadia is idea of a peaceful place after the horrors of war and occupation. It is also is the title of a book written by the World War One-era Phantom F. Harlock and serves as a framing device for the film.
What is "The Arcadia of my Youth"?
While Harlock was seen in other titles, it was this 1982 animated film that came out into theaters in Japan during that summer under the Japanese name of “Waga Seishun no Arcadia (わが青春のアルカディア)
” or “Arcadia of my Youth (AOMY)” and established an new continuity and backstory for the iconic space pirate Leiji Matsumoto created decades before and gave him a more compact and realistic universe to inhabit. Director by a well-respected anime veteran, Tomoharu Katsumata and with animation handled by Iwamitsu Ito and the story by Yōichi Onaka. Toei oversaw the production and release (of course) wtih Studio Nue handled the mechanical designs as well. These are good hands for Harlock to be and it showed on the final product as AOMY is finest Harlock-centered work ever. Some of things that make AOMY standout among the other works by Leiji Matsumoto for his “Leijiverse” is that is a story that tells the story of Harlock more completely and how he lost his eye. This film has been released several times in the US market with three different titles and for many US anime fans, this was our exposure to the wonder that is the space pirate Captain Harlock! Portions of the story that was seen in AOMY were explored in the manga "Stanley's Witch" from 1974 and 1976's Waga Seishun no Arcadia
. Those elements were combined into the story of Earth losing a war with aliens and being occupied.
The Plot and Setting of AOMY
In the 2960’s, the Earth-founded “Solar Federation” finally lost their hard-fought war against the Illumidas Empire, a vast green-skinned alien race bent on conquest and enslavement. Once a world has been subjugated, the occupation forces take over, force the women into sex slavery, the men into pressed military serve fighting other races, and the world is stripped of its resources. However, it seems that the Solar Federation acted to late to stop Illumidas Empire. During the war against the Solar Federation, the Illumidas Empire used their subjugated Tokargans as the shocktroops to take Earth with Zoll as commander.
During the opening of the film, the Solar Federation Admiral class battlecruiser Deathshadow
comes limping home to Earth. Damaged and running mostly automated from her last battle, Captain Harlock has been tasked by the new Earth occupation government (think Vichy France) to bring Terrans back the homeworld, because Earth is the only place where Earthmen can live, as explained in the opening of the OVA. Harlock crashes the Deathshadow
and turns down an offer of commanding an Illumidas ship and is told to go away with some food coupons. Things look beak on Earth with everyone depressed. In darkness, there is the voice of Free Arcadia, who Maya, Harlock’s old flame.
During his misadventures, Harlock meets an former Solar Federation engineer name Tochiro and reunites with free-space trader Emeraldas. It seems that Tochiro and Harlock had a history calling back nearly 1,000 years to the 2nd World War when their ancestors met at the closing days of the war in Germany. With this information, Tochiro tells Harlock that has constructed an pirate-themed warship named “Acardia” in honor of their ancestors and this can be their escape off the Occupied Earth. During this time, it is learned that the Illumidas forces are done with Tokarga and they plan on destroying it. The Tokargans on Earth ask Harlock and Emeraldas for a ship to go to Tokarga and attempt to rescue what is left of their race. This is when Harlock realizes that Earth will be a second Tokarga and time was running out for humanity.
They launch a desperate mission to Tokarga via the Arcadia
and finds that Tokarga is a wasteland that will be destroyed by the empire due to its lack of usefulness being fulfilled. While Harlock is away, Maya, and Emeraldas are captured and the Occupation forces are threating that they will be killed unless Harlock returns. Zoll leads a rescue mission and pays for it with his life. When Harlock returns, he uses the new power of the Arcadia
to deal a bloody blow to the Illumidas, but not before being exiled by the Occupied Earth government. At the end, Harlock and company take to the sea of stars to seek out their own destiny.
The Historical Context of AOMY
At the time that The Arcadia of my Youth
came to the theaters on July 28th,1982, the world of anime was changing and at the heart of the change centered around works that featured mecha and not darkly romantic space pirates. 1982 was a pivotal year in anime when we look at the title released: Space Cobra, Future War 198X, The Mysterious Cities of Gold,
and Space Runaway Ideon
. Then came the extinction-level event: in October of 1982, Super Dimension Fortress Macross
premiered. With this and with the continued releases of Gundam
, the die was cast and the reign of Leiji Matsumoto was over by the time of Final Yamato
The Twin Ships of AOMY: The Arcadia and the Deathshadow
Two ships have dominated the works associated with Harlock: the Arcadia
and the Deathshadow
. Throughout the titles featuring Harlock, the Arcadia
has been his pirate-themed vessel and it does not look the same from title to title, with AOMY featuring the familiar green-painted, skull-and-crossbones themed Terran warship with enough skulls to make any Space Marine of the Imperium be right at home. It has been more blue-themed without the heavily reinforced bow complete with Skull-and-Crossbones as in Space Pirate
. Some titles have that there are several Arcadias
, but all say that Tochiro constructed this warship and at times, downloaded his consciences into it. During some of the works, the Arcadia
has a mind of its own and will take control, much like the TARDIS. Some sites have called the two Arcadias
: the shapenose and the skullnose.
The first warship used by Harlock in AOMY was the Admiral
class battleship Deathshadow
that one of the primary heavy warships used by the Solar Federation against the invading Illumidas forces. Designed with an iconic horned forward section and a powerful DE cannon in the nose, the Deathshadow
could have been a powerful compact 286 meter long warship. It is hinted in the comic that the Solar Federation had been asleep at the wheel when Illumidas showed up and they had only older or even badly designed warship to field against the invaders. Harlock helmed the Deathshadow
and fought in the key battle of the Castlemain Star Cluster Sector where Harlock’s ship damaged Zoll’s warship. Some of this concept is hinted at in the SSX
show with the character of Mr. Zone and the in the American Eternity Comics with the revenge-driven character of Alexander Nevich. Both had a backstory of being involved with Solar Federation ship designed and have a vendetta against Harlock for destroying their career. In the American comic, Nevich uses a refitted and rearmed Deathshadow
to purse Harlock. During the OVA, the Deathshadow
end comes when Harlock rams the battlecruiser into the runaway to damage it in a way that prevents the aliens from using it after his milk run mission. Some sources claim that Tochiro took parts off of the Deathshadow
to finish off the skull-nose Arcadia
The "Captain Harlock Problem"
When examining the various works that the most badass space pirate ever appeared in, we start to see a common issue that plagues most of the titles associated with Harlock and his creator: Leiji Matsumoto and what makes My Youth in Arcadia
so special. To sum it up simply, Captain Harlock is a legendary darkly romantic character that lived through war and sacrificed much. Nearly every title containing Harlock basically collapsed under the weight of such a character. Or, in the case of some of the stories penned by Matsumoto, the stories are just not good enough for the character of Captain Harlock. A times during the 1978 Space Pirate Captain Harlock, it seems his ship, the Arcadia
, is run by children and the story is just lacking any sense of reality.
Then in the Harlock Saga, it is heavily based on the Der Ring des Nibelungen
by Wagner and it is heavily boring. Once again, cool character, bad setting and story. He does appear in the Galaxy Express 999
, but in appearances that only serve to say, “hey, here’s Captain Harlock, bitches!”. However, in the case of the subject of this article, Arcadia of my Youth
, Captain Harlock works within the world established by the OVA and it was, in the minds of most fans and reviewers, the most successful Harlock-centered title in his history. Another major issue is the chaos of the so-called “Leijiverse”. Galaxy Express 999
and Captain Harlock are, in some ways, tied together with maybe some of the Space Cruiser Yamato
series thrown as well…or maybe not. That is the issue, sometimes the series are linked, sometimes there not, and most of the time; there are plot-holes the size of Texas because the Leijiverse spans from the 1970’s onward and AOMY does not fit well into the other Harlock titles, screwing up the Leijiverse events more. Sigh.
Why is AOMY considered Military Sci-Fi?
When the film opens, Harlock is a captain in the service of the Solar Federation fleet and fought during the Earth's war with the Illumidas Empire. After completing his last duty, transporting civilians from the colonies to occupied Earth, Harlock turns down the offer to work for Illumidas and is sent out into the ruins of occupied Earth. It is here that Harlock transforms into a guerrilla/freedom fighter, and then later, the space pirate we all know and love. There is more than the just the journey of Harlock in AOMY that show its military science fiction roots. There is also the Illumidas Empire and its use of subjugated soldiers, the Free Arcadia freedom fighters, and the Tokargan soldiers.
The Arcadia of my Youth TV Series: Endless Orbit SSX
With the success of AOMY, the was a move to center a TV series based on the events and characters set up in the feature film with the Illumidas Empire in control of Earth and her colonies, Harlock and company exiled to the sea of stars, adventures await. This was titled “Arcadia of My Youth: Endless Orbit SSX” and aired on Tokyo Broadcast System (TBS) from October 13, 1982 to March 30, 1983, running for just 22 episodes, which was half than what was planned. The series’ odd name “SSX” comes from the Illumidas Imperial identification code for the three main characters: Harlock (S-00999), Tochiro (S-00998), and Emeraldas (X-00001). This seems like a win-win with the series set the universe founded by the successfully AOMY OVA and more or less separate from the chaos of the Leijiverse. However, with tastes changing in Japan towards mecha-based anime/manga, the series ended early with a rushed ending to tie-up the series and the Illumidas storyline. This series has been released in the west on various formats and was not aired on US airwaves.
The American Comicbook
From October of 1989 through August of 1993, Eternity Comics, an imprint of Malibu Comics published an interesting variant to the Leijiverse. Eternity Comics had secured the rights to the basically unproduced sequel to ROBOTECH, the Sentinels, and it turned it sights on our favorite space pirate. During the rise of the popularity of anime/manga in America during the 2nd Wave of Anime into the West, some American comic book comics jumped on translating established manga titles and bringing them to the American reader. Some titles were published by specialty publishers like Epic, First Comics, Comico, and of course, Viz. Eternity Comics did something different when it came to this trend. It took the world established by AOMY, ignored most of Endless Orbit SSX
, and forged new stories that were better than the TV series. These were collected by one of my best childhood friends, and it was actually good from what I remember. The publishing history of the title was very interesting, veteran writer and anime expert Robert W. Gibson helmed the stories. He was one of the key figures in the early days of Anime being imported into the West as he had lived in Japan for many years. The original Captain Harlock
would run for 13 issues with an limited Queen Emeraldas
centered comic series running concurrently in the winter of 1990.
Then in May of 1991, Eternity switched to the Deathshadow Rising
story-arch that is often cited as the best of the Eternity Captain Harlock
series. That would run until October of 1991…and then…the series would take a massive break until July of 1992 when the “Fall of the Empire” story-arch arrived to wrap up the AOMY storyline. After this, only four more issues would come out, centered on the Machine People from The Galaxy Express 999
side of the Leijiverse. What ended the Eternity Comics run centered around our favorite space pirate? It seemed that Eternity Comics never had the rights to the Captain Harlock
character and others in his orbit. Once that was established, Eternity Comics had to end their Harlock comics. Why the mix-up? Well, it seems that the people that Eternity paid for the license were shady and misrepresented themselves and took their money…likely thousands of dollars were scammed from Eternity. It is uncertain if the holders of the Harlock
license made any legal moves against Eternity to recover any money they were owed. This was the end of Eternity Comics and Harlock. Just one year after the end of the Captain Harlock
series, Eternity was folded by Malibu just before the company was sold to Marvel. Sadly, the writer of the series, Robert W. Gibson died in 2015 at just the age of 55.
The Arcadia of My Youth in the West
And now we come to the confusing tale of the misadventures of the 1982 anime film in the west…and I was on the frontlines of this one. Anime being exported to the west has been an uneven process that begun in 1963 with Fred Ladd importing Astro Boy
to the western airwaves, thus began the 1st Wave of Anime. During the 2nd Wave, (from the mid-1970’s-1990’s), the American market grew hungry for programming for children and they turned to vast buffet of the Japanese animation (called “Japanimation” during these times) that seemingly was just needing translation and boom!...it was ready for syndication. However, it was more complex than that and there was the matter of the OVA titles. Some western companies took on the film for the LaserDisc and VHS specialty market. Some titles that were associated with an known property, like Space Cruiser Yamato
had an easier time with sales. Some had to rely on a known character or buzz…like Akira
and Ghost in the Shell
. For our favorite space pirate here, he was known to some in the west via a limited TV airing of the 1978 Space Pirate Captain Harlock
TV series during the 1980’s. For example, I found an old scan of a July 05-11, 1988 TV Guide from the San Francisco area that Captain Harlock Space Pirate
was airing every weekday morning at 8am on Channel 36 KTVU. Some would see the character in the various Galaxy Express 999
works that were imported.
With the rise in popularity of anime in the 1980’s, publications like Starlog and FanFare would write stories about anime titles along with the back-pages being filled with sellers of Japanese model kits, toys, and anime on VHS and LD. Over the course of two issues, Starlog Magazine would write very interesting early article on anime in the April & May of 1986 issues. These were the wild west days of anime-in-the-west and unlike today with quality anime available at the click of a button, it was expensive, exciting, difficult, uneven in quality, and may or may not be in English. For me, I learned of Captain Harlock from the back section of ROBOTECH ART 1, published by Starblaze Graphics in 1986 (I bought one back in 1986 and still own it to this day!) that discussed the history of anime. There were several images of Harlock in all of his pirate glory and to me, that had barely seen Harlock, the mere image of him was enough to forge me as a fan. In the USA, Captain Harlock Space Pirate
TV show was being aired in limited markets and our old friends Harmony Gold were involved in ramming two Harlock
shows together: Captain Harlock
and Queen Millennia
to fulfill the required 65-epsiode quota for syndication under the title: “Captain Harlock and the Queen of a Thousand Years”. This ran in limited markets in 1985-1986, around the same time as ROBOTECH, and was nowhere near as successful as the juggernaut that ROBOTECH was. During this time-period, OVA were brought over to American shores, dubbed to various degrees, repackaged, and shipped out. This is what happed to AOMY in 1987 due to Tokyo-based American importer of anime to the west, Frontier Enterprises. Founded by William Ross in 1964, it was one of the earliest companies’ setup for importing Japanese media titles to the American market. They imported and dubbed some of the Godzilla
movies, Lupin the 3rd
, and Arcadia of my Youth
Many of the titles exported to the West by Frontier Enterprises that were Japanese animation titles were released by Celebrity Home Entertainment under their “Just for Kids” label. They also released American cartoon productions on VHS like Ghostbusters, Lazer Tag, Bravestarr,
and the G.I. Joe
animated movie. It was the CHE: Just for Kids label that would surgically alter AOMY into “Vengeance of the Space Pirate and Macross: Do You Remember Love
into “ Clash of the Bionoids”. Vengeance of the Space Pirate
is a 1987 dubbed copy of the 1982 AOMY with about 30-40 minutes cut out for length and violence, clocking in at 101 minutes. Most notably is the death of Zoll, the abuse of women, and the opening with Phantom F. Harlock’s flight over the Owen Stanley Mountains. What set CHE’s Vengeance of the Space Pirate
VHS tape apart back in 1987 was that it sold for less than most anime VHS titles. Mine was $9.99 at Suncoast verse the normal $19.99 to $29.99 for most OVAs/films back in the day. In addition, this title could be rented from BlockBusters…which is how I discovered it back in 1992. I rented Vengeance of the Space Pirate
from the Ponca City BlockBuster (formerly at 2129 N 14th St, which is now a PetSense Store) one dateless weekend in 1992. I rented because I recognized Captain Harlock and ignored the kiddy packaging. I was deeply impressed by the title and would later buy from the SunCoast in Wichita.
For me, this was the Captain Harlock
title that I loved most and nothing sense has replaced that since. This is also how it was with others of my generation. They discovered the excellent AOMY smeared by the “Just For Kids: label and terrible edit. For years, that was only AOMY dubbed copy in the mainstream market. Original copies of the Japanese AOMY were being sold by importers that was often in the original Japanese. There was a second release in 1995 on VHS that was fully restored to the original 130-minute film that was titled “My Youth in Arcadia” by Best Film and Video company. This title was of MYIA instead of AOMY would be an alternate title used by fans, including myself, for years. There is much debate about which title is the correct one. However, most sources use the “Arcadia of my Youth”. It would not be until April of 1995 that AnimEigo would release a proper 130-minute version of AOMY on LaserDisc and would sell for $59.99 originally. Much like the VHS releases, the DVD would run the gambit. The best DVD for years was the AnimEigo DVD from 2003 that was titled Arcadia of My Youth.
There is a 2005 pirated DVD copy sold in the dark corners of the internet and stores by East West Entertainment LLC with the worse cover-art ever. After the license lapsed, Discotek Media would release the most current copies of AOMY in May of 2017 in both DVD and Blu-Ray formats.
The Impact and Legacy of AOMY
The character of Captain Harlock was one of the most popular in anime/manga during the 1970’s and onward. He served as the face of Leijiverse and this launched entire series of toys, and other merchandise. However, by the time of the Great Robot Crazy apexed in the early 1980’s with Gundam
, older works like Captain Harlock
and Space Cruiser Yamato
were out of fashion. During this time, AOMY would come to theaters in Japan in the summer of 1982. Which was successful enough to drive the creation of a TV show, Endless Orbit SSX
, the series would end after just 22 episodes out of planned 44 due to low ratings, but was given an ending.
This somewhat limited the impact and legacy of AOMY in Japan for a time. In the west, the oddball history of releases with major edits and different names along with the conditions of the market created less of an impact among western audiences. However, the true legacy of AOMY became clearer as the internet came into being and fans in America began to share their Harlock experiences. Many like myself had the botched AOMY dubbed released of Vengeance of the Space Pirate
be their formal introduction to Captain Harlock and some of the core characters that populate the Leijiverse. When they think of Harlock, they think of this 1982 animated film and that frames their perspective when viewing other titles within the Leijiverse as well.
Some Trivia Associated with AOMY
• The “99” seen on Harlock’s collar of his Solar Federation military uniform is a reference to an older Leiji Matsumoto manga story of Submarine Super 99.
• At the opening of the film there is a quotation from Johann Wolfgang von Goethe that serves as a center to the film and its use of the word “Arcadia”. When others researched were the quote comes from, they cannot connect to Goethe.
• Sigma Enterprises released a terrible arcade game based on their own “New York, New York” game with the basic artistic elements laid over to connect it to AOMY.
• While this 1982 film has a great deal of the characters and machinery from other older Captain Harlock centered works, it plays around with their previous relationships. Now, Harlock and the free-space trader Emeraldas are old friends and Harlock just meets Tochiro for the first time in the bar.
• During the opening of the film, we see a flashback to Phantom F. Harlock attempting to pilot a bi-plane over the Owen Stanley Range in Papua New Guinea just after the First World War. During this, the ghost witch of the mountains blocks his path. The mountains in the film are nothing like the real Owen Stanley mountain range and there is no witch of these mountains. There is a ghost mountain that was so named in World War II, but not for those reasons and there is some glowing due to some phosphorescent moss.
• During the controversial portion of the film that shows, Phantom F. Harlock II flying for the fucking Nazis in a ME-109 fighter (“just to pay the bills”) has a bonding moment with the WWII-Tochiro about the Revi C-12D gunsight. Leiji Matsumoto actually owns the gunsight used as an animation reference.
• For many of us old-school fans of anime, this film has three titles: Vengeance of the Space Pirate, My Youth in Arcadia, and The Arcadia of my Youth.
Next Time on FWS...
One of the most climatic and seemingly cool weapons is the machine pistol. Spraying hot 9mm rounds and seeing hot brass shooting out as our hero dual-wields his hand-sized death dealers is how popular media frames the abilities and power of the machine pistol...but what is the truth and how sci-fi chose to show these little terrors. Join us next time when FWS will be covering the machine pistol and its oddball brother: the assault pistol.