Good to see all you lunatics again. We were going to run this piece, the last installment of my all-time favorite anime characters list, last week. But then, Skynet took over and we had to repel the waves and waves of Terminators and Hunter-Killers. Either way, here are the final three favorites whose ranks include a space pirate, a space girl (no relation?) and a dragon rider with aggressively ambiguous sexuality. If you need to catch up, check out parts One, Two and Three, then brace yourself for the finale below.
Captain Harlock from SPACE PIRATE CAPTAIN HARLOCK (clearly)
Along with DORAEMON, I have very early memories of watching this space pirate’s adventures on idle evenings when I was growing up in Asia. “Space opera” is a term that gets thrown a lot, but few heroes embody its connotations as fully as this impassioned, often romantic captain with his oh-so-handsome scar. An old school fan who’s a friend of mine broke it down to me that Harlock’s basically anime’s equivalent of Clint Eastwood. While I could never picture “ol’ squinty” in a get-up like that, the lankiness and laconism certainly evoke the Man With No Name better than other character in this arena - - even the one who don’t have names, either!
I used to amusedly comment on the frequency of “I can’t believe he’s a guy” pretty boys in anime and, without spoiling the tragic twist, I can’t help thinking that creators of ESCAFLOWNE intended this maniac to be a sly parody of all that. Touching on another observation I’ve had about adventure fiction (in general,) I’ve always preferred stories that’re comfortable enough in their own skin to the let their villain be off-the-rails evil. And when it comes to bat shit crazy, the baddies don’t come that much battier than this frenzied dragon rider’s who got a tendency to pyromania and to losing it without much provocation.
Of course, Dilandau has that fierce, nigh-familial loyalty to his subordinates and he does through a bit of (somewhat gross) redemption later on to add that third dimension discriminating fans covet so much in their villains. Even then, I was enjoying crazy eyes for what he/she was up until that point.
Haruko Haruhara from FLCL
Lately, there’s been an odd bit of backlash against this kind of character - - the scorned “magical pixie dream girl” - - but I can’t get behind any of that. Yeah, Haruko pops out of nowhere to more-or-less shove young master Naota into adolescence with a manic brew of hormones, adrenaline 'n rock-ano-roll. Yeah, she’s a none-too-subtle walking metaphor for the fleeting nature of his coming-of-age. But she makes it so fun along the way: what with her electric guitar and the magic it unleashes whenever she clubs somebody on the head with it (she makes El Kabong look so simple by comparison.) As I said when I got to the end of FLCL, I’m still befuddled as to how, in the decade or so since the conclusion of that series, that we haven’t seen any further adventures starring this spitfire free-spirit. Just imagine how many hijinks she could get all up into in outer space?