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Leiji Matsumoto's tale of space piracy began in Shonen Sunday in 1977, and was set a thousand years in the future. In the year 2977, Captain Phantom F. Harlock leads a crew of outlaws on the starship Arcadia, determined to resist the invasion of Earth by the Mazone, a plant-based race of long-necked women who have fled the imminent destruction of their own homeworld. Harlock assembles a crew that includes Mime, the last of an alien race whose homeworld was destroyed by the Mazones; engineer Tochiro; Yattaran, an obsessed model-maker based on Matsumoto's former assistant and Area 88-creator Kaoru Shintani, and Maji, a man who has somehow become the father of a Mazone child.

Like Osamu Tezuka, Leiji Matsumoto is apt to reuse a set cast of characters from title to title, regardless of whether the shows actually relate to one another. This has led Harlock to develop a complex and contradictory "continuity"-a word we use advisedly, because Matsumoto does not seem to have intended duplicate character images and names to necessarily indicate any relationship. Hence, many anime based on other Matsumoto works allude to Harlock, intentionally or otherwise, although it should be noted that Matsumoto and his collaborators often want to have their cake and eat it-recycling characters with impunity, proclaiming any apparent contradictions to be irrelevant, but often creating situations that are difficult to comprehend without an appreciation of several other works, which the audience has already been told are "unrelated."

Consequently, our account of what happens in the Harlock series is also subject to debate, particularly since it is contradicted by some, but not all, of what happens in later incarnations of the franchise, some of which have been misleadingly billed as sequels when they are in fact remakes.

The first incarnation of the anime Harlock, the TV series, ends with Tochiro's widow Emeraldas leaving to grieve among the stars in her own ship, the titular Queen Emeraldas of the first of many spin-offs. Harlock himself would win a duel against Lafressia, queen of the Mazone, and then head off into the void with just Mime for company, in search of a place to die. This, however, was the beginning of Harlock's long-lasting popularity outside Japan, with the dark, brooding hero finding unexpected fans abroad, particularly after a limited number of episodes were broadcast with English subtitles on American local TV stations for the Japanese community.

After a cameo with Emeraldas' sometime "sister" Maetel in the latter part of Galaxy Express 999 and the movie Adieu Galaxy Express 999, Harlock returned in Tomoharu Katsumata's 130-minute movie My Youth in Arcadia (1982, Waga Seishun no Arcadia), also known by the titles Arcadia of My Youth, and Vengeance of the Space Pirates. Supposedly designed as a prequel to the first series, the story line is actually irreconcilable, since it depicts Earth under alien occupation, this time by the Illumidas race. The story also presents a possible explanation as to how the eye-patched Harlock may have lost his eye-or at least, how this incarnation of him may have lost it, protecting Maya, the woman who may (or may not) have been his wife. My Youth in Arcadia also presented a series of flashbacks detailing another Harlock, quite possibly an ancestor of this one, a 20th-century aviator whose biplane is also, coincidentally, called the Arcadia.

Although its continuity clashed with the original series, the movie does function as a prequel of sorts to Endless Orbit SSX, a TV series that followed later the same year, in which Harlock battles the Illumidas again. The Arcadia in the movie and SSX series is built on Earth, whereas the version in the original series is built on the planet Heavy Meldar, which exploded after the Arcadia's launch, but also appears in several chapters of the Galaxy Express 999 series.

Though the various Harlock serials, the spin-offs starring Emeraldas or Maetel, the distant cousins Queen of a Thousand Years and DNA Sights 999.9, and even look-alikes such as Rheindars in The Cockpit are supposedly related, the discrepancies make this hard to believe. Dates and characters vary wildly (the suicidal Harlock who leaves the original series is maniacally cheerful when he reappears in Galaxy Express), and two of the serials even have a gap of several centuries between them. Paramount among the confusions is the claim that Harlock is really Mamoru Kodai (Alex Wildstar) from Star Blazers, but although Mamoru does indeed disguise himself as a space pirate called Harlock in the manga (not anime) of Space Cruiser Yamato, he is copying a character from a comic book by Leiji Matsumoto.

Harlock in modern times is no less confusing. Twenty-seven episodes of the original TV series were rearranged into feature-length chunks to make an eight-video digest version at the close of the 1990s. For an idea of the mind-boggling complexity, the first tape comprises episodes 1, 4 and 9, the second merely episode 17 with ten minutes of all-new bridging footage. Needless to say, episode 13, which was also shown theatrically in 1978 as the short film Witch Castle in the Sea of Death: Mystery of Arcadia, is absent from the modern rerelease. The series was also reissued in an LD collection under the umbrella title of Leiji Matsumoto Theater, along with Danguard Ace, GE999 and Spaceketeers.

Harlock returned again in 2000 with Nobuo Takagi's six-part video series Harlock Saga: Ring of the Nibelung (also available in the U.S.), discarding much of the previous continuity again in favor of a retelling of Wagner's Ring Cycle. Harlock, Tochiro and Emeraldas are called to planet Rhine to help Mime, the guardian of the planet's gold, prevent her brother Alberich from forging the gold into a ring and becoming the ruler of the universe. With the aid of the goldsmith Tadashi, and despite the opposition of Galaxy Express 999's Maetel, Alberich gets his wish and departs for planet Valhalla to confront the alien oppressor Wotan.

Harlock also appeared in the 2000 "manga video" Herlock, for which see Crusher Joe. Herlock is just one of many alternate transliterations for proper nouns in the series, many of which have become canonical despite their lack of relation to the author's intent. Laffressia, for example, should really be Rafflesia-the queen of the plant people named after the world's largest flower, while Maetel, the surrogate mother of the Galaxy Express, takes her name from the Latin mater. Such transpositions of letters, however, are common in anime, not just from translators ignorant of the sources, but also from those who are all too cognizant but wish to tone down certain creators' embarrassing English puns and in-jokes (see Gundam).

Harlock would next return in Cosmo Warrior Zero (2001), a story that focused not on him, but on the man sent to capture him-Warrius Zero, a servant of the machine people, tasked with hunting him down in the depths of space. The 13-episode Space Pirate Captain Herlock (2002), directed by Rintaro and written by Perfect Blue's Sadayuki Murai, was to feature Harlock attempting to reunite the crew of the Arcadia to defend the Earth from an ancient evil, although production was halted at Matsumoto's own request when he discovered that animators were using a Star of David to represent the "root of all evil"-an anti-Semitic touch with which Matsumoto refused to have any association, and which led to the serial's broadcast being canceled. However, it did make it make it onto video in an edited format, and was released in America as Captain Herlock: Space Pirate.

Series Credits
Person Name Episode Count
Seiji Yokoyama
Leiji Matsumoto
Kazuo Komatsubara
Kim Dae-Jung
Joji Kikuchi
Haruya Yamazaki
Shozo Uehara

To edit the cast, go to an episode page.

Original US Poster Art

General Information Edit
Name Captain Harlock
Name: 宇宙海賊キャプテンハーロック
Romaji: Uchu Kaizoku Captain Harlock
Publisher Toei Animation
Start Year 1978
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Aliases Space Pirate Captain Harlock
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