© 1982 Toei Company Ltd. & The Tokyu Agency Ltd.
Arcadia of My Youth
Having recently gotten a glimpse of Leiji Matsumoto's world through Galaxy Express 999, I was eager to sample more of his work. The now-classic Arcadia of My Youth seemed a perfect anime to do so, chronicling Captain Harlock's rise to become anime's most famous space pirate.
Arcadia of My Youth opens with a flashback set shortly after World War I. We are introduced to one of Captain Harlock's great ancestors, Phantom F. Harlock, as he flies his single-prop plane over New Guinea. The highest peak, the Owen Stanely Mountains, presents a challenge he wishes to conquer, but gives up after realizing his plane doesn't have the power for the task. As he turns away, however, the sound of laughter fills his ears. Believing the mountain itself is taunting him, he jettisons most of his fuel in an effort to lighten the plane and makes one last attempt to circumvent the peak.
Flashforward a thousand years into the future and we meet a young Captain Harlock, following his defeat at the hands of the Illumidus Empire. Landing on Earth, Harlock is faced with the grim realization of his loss. He is not alone, for he soon meets Tochiro, both of whose ancestors crossed paths once. When Harlock is approached with the task of annihilating the planet Tokarga, he finds new resolve to battle against the oppression of the Illumidus Empire. Together with Tochiro, Emeraldas, and others sharing his view of freedom, Harlock embarks on a mission to save Tokarga.
Released theatrically in Japan back in 1982, Arcadia of My Youth is the origin story of Captain Harlock. The movie is primarily touches on romantic ideals such as duty, honor, and sacrifice on the field of battle. Virtually every scene is accompanied by a rousing orchestral score to heighten the already high melodrama. Do not expect any levity to break up the tension. Angst, pathos, and grim drama is the order of the day. Many characters make the ultimate sacrifice in this film, with appropriately tearful death scenes. While the glimmer of hope always seems to be fading, characters cling to their ideals and face up to the challenges with steely resolve. At times it can be a little tough to swallow, whether you're caught up in the melodrama or not. But the characters, script, and action are executed well enough that any flaws this movie may have seem irrelevant in comparison.
Production qualities for Arcadia of My Youth tend to suffer when compared to modern theatrical anime. For its time, the artwork and animation are quite good, with some beautifully rendered depictions of various space vessels being some of the highlights. The audio portion is a bit mixed. Sound effects tended to be somewhat cheesy, much akin to 60's science fiction flicks. Music, on the other hand, is top-notch, with a blend of orchestral pieces and some vocal pop.
I can safely say I enjoyed Arcadia of My Youth, despite not being caught up in the sheer melodrama this movie exudes. The story of how Harlock came to be is well told, with solid pacing and execution. Fans of Leiji Matsumoto's other tales of Harlock are likely to find more to enjoy in this feature, but it's a safe recommendation for both new and seasoned fans.
The Verdict: * * * * (good)
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