For this week’s review, we’re going to move on to one of the few Harlock series to have ever been licensed for a US release and to reach DVD – Leiji Masumoto’s amalgamation of one of his more popular characters (Captain Harlock), and Wagner’s “Ring Cycle”. Do they mix like chocolate and peanut butter… or chocolate and zucchini?

Cast, Crew, and Other Info

Kouichi Yamadera as Captain Harlock
Emi Shinohara as Freya
Kazuko Yanaga as Meeme
Kouichi Yamadera as Tochiro Ohyama
Masako Ikeda as Maetel
Masako Katsuki as Emeraldas
Shigeru Chiba as Yattran
Tarô Ishida as Wotan
Toshihiko Seki as Tadashi Daiba
Koichi Sakaguchi as Arcadia’s Computer
Miyuki Ueda as Fricka
Shinichiro Miki as Fafner
Takehito Koyasu as Fasolt
Yoshito Yasuhara as Alberich

Director: Yoshio Takeuchi
Script: Megumi Hiyoshi
Story: Leiji Matsumoto
Animation: Song Sun Planning, Studio Lighthouse, Studio March, Studio Z5

Premise

After the Rhine Gold (from planet Rhine), which grants great power to the one to possess it (and is best used in the form of a ring), is stolen by Alberich of the Nibelung clan, the Space Pirate, Captain Harlock must retrieve the ring before Alberich uses it to overthrow Wotan, and destroy the universe.

High Point

Just about all of the score of the OVA is taken from the Ring cycle (as is the plot, though Matsumoto changes it almost to the point of unrecognizability to make it fit the setting and characters), however, the show really feels like was put together to fit the music, and say what you will about Wagner, and The Ring Cycle in particular (and all the baggage associated with it), it’s excellent music, and the animation and the music just fit.

Low Point

The plot is weak. It’s short, and the showdown that’s set up in the OP never actually happens. Maetel doesn’t get much screen time, and seems to be there to solidly fit Maetel in the Harlock Mythos, and to a certain degree, pass the torch to Harlock (as Harlock got another series after this, Maetel didn’t get anything until the as yet unlicensed Galaxy Express 999 prequel Space Symphony Maetel). Also, the back-door pilot ending is a little disappointing. Particularly since Harlock’s next outing (Captain Harlock: Endless Odyssey) hits the reset button yet again, so this series essentially closes the book on this universe.

Nudity and Violence

Detail-less nudity for The Rhine Maidens. When Fasolt and Fafner touch Freya, they play it like a rape even though the dialog says it’s “just touching,” (to everyone’s credit, it’s not played to be a “fun” scene, and only lasts a second – which makes it less disgusting, and more unnecessary.)

The Scores

Originality: It takes a lot from almost all of the Masumoto-verse (except for Space Battleship Yamato, whose presence in the ‘verse is tricky due to rights reasons) and a bunch from The Ring Cycle, throws it in a blender and hits frappe. 2 out of 6

Animation: The CGI version of the Arcadia is horrible, the CG versions of computer displays are okay, and the conventional animation from the rest is good. 3 out of 6

Story: The story is really bleh. But, if you’re watching this, it’s because you like Harlock, or you like Leiji Mastsumoto, and you like Wagner’s music. 2 out of 6

Voice Acting: The voice acting is pretty good, and I particularly have to give credit to Kouichi Yamadera for doing an excellent job as both Harlock and Tochiro. The two characters are very different, but he pulls both of them of very well, and they’ve got a lot of chemistry for two characters played by the same guy. 4 out of 6

Emotional Response: The thing with Harlock series, particularly anymore, is that Harlock is a Gary Stu. It’s not so bad in this show, but you in general know that Harlock will come out unscathed. The only character who is in any peril is Tochiro, and that’s because in the Harlock Mythos, in all the other series with the character (the franchise has had more resets than the DC universe has had Crises) Tochiro is “Harlock’s Friend Who Died” (he usually doesn’t get referred to at first, just “His Friend Who Died” and we eventually find the details about him), he’s alive in this reset, but as with all the other versions of the universe, could die in the course of the show. 4 out of 6

Production: The animation, as mentioned, is alright. The sound design is pretty good. I’ve already sung the praises of Wagner’s compositions, so next I sing the praises of Konstantin D. Krimets and the Moscow Philharmonic Orchestra, who performed the music for the show. They did an excellent job. 4 out of 6

Overall: If you’re a Harlock fan or a Leiji Masumoto fan, give it a shot (rental, unless you can find it for cheap). If you’re new to the franchise, go with the original 1978 series, which is currently streaming legally on Crunchyroll. 3 out of 6

In total, Harlock Saga receives a 22 out of 42.