Space Symphony Maetel 11: The Soil and the Sun
Maetel’s opening words this time around are the same we heard back in episode 03: “I am Maetel. I will not forget the indomitable warriors who confront their own destinies and fight.”
As a commenter suggested in an earlier post, and in complete contrast to my own speculations on the man, Leopard reveals to Burnbarrel that he’s been ill at ease as a political ruler these past few months and now feels very much relieved to be out in space fighting Promethium’s balls [she has lots of them, and they're rather powerful!].
The Commander rouses his men with a nice little speech, and the culminating phrase is subtitled by Live-eviL as follows: “The future of humankind depends on this battle.” It’s a wonderful little translation, which seems to deliberately echo the famous line by Admiral Togo during the 1904-5 Russo-Japanese War, just before the Battle of Tsushima. Here are three translations of Togo’s line from the first page of a Google search:
“The Empire’s fate depends on the result of this battle.”
“The existence of the Empire depends on this battle.”
“The Empire’s fate depends on the outcome of this battle.”
Admiral Yamamoto paraphrased the line at the start of the Pearl Harbor strike, and I think that the subtitle readers with good knowledge of Japanese history will not fail to make the connection. But Live-eviL‘s rendering is not at all passive where this connection is concerned. In fact, the Japanese in both lines is very different, even accounting for the obvious stylistic differences in two lines set apart by a hundred years. Togo’s original line was “Kôkoku no kôhai kono issen ni ari” or, “The prosperity or decline (i,.e. the future welfare, thus the fate) of the Empire lies in this one battle.” Leopard’s words are: “Warera ningen no mirai o kimeru tatakai da” or, “This battle decides the future of us humans.” There are just too many differences in nuance to really associate the two closely, though I guess I’d have to quiz a Japanese person on whether s/he made a connection or not. But the English subtitles encourage if not actually create this connection, and of course we could spend a lot of time debating what to make of the History of LaMetal in the light of Imperial Japan. I’ll leave that to you though
Next we learn that the 999 which got in trouble and was boarded by Emeraldas was in fact a fake. Leiji Matsumoto is rather prone to using fakes: fake 999, fake Harlock, even fake Emeraldas. It’s definitely one of those quirks of sensei that will turn off some people. I guess it’s easier for fans to accept them because they know (or at least, believe!) that Matsumoto is not desperately resorting to gimmicks to wrap up a story (like the “fake” is often used), but actively using these techniques..simply because he fancies them.
The Space Panzers run into trouble against Promethium’s balls, and a mercenary force from Heavy Melder comes to the rescue (not very effectively, as it turns out). Once again we get this motif of Man vs Machine that’s so starkly and yet ambivalently posed in the Leijiverse. The Heavy Melder guys say they’re helping out because the LaMetalians are humans and fighting machines, and frankly, there doesn’t seem to be any other explanation for their actions.
It’s crazy, though, when you think about it!! The LaMetalians have come rushing in from god knows where into the Euphrates System, bringing a freaking planet along with them. Heavy Melder accepts to take them in as a moon. It sounds rather altruistic for a commercially-minded planet but whatever. Now it turns out that the LaMetalians have brought in an enemy, a great and evil mechanical fleet, and not only does Heavy Melder not kick them out from the neighborhood but it actually offers to help them!? Wow. The bonds of humanity are super-strong, and yet…not that long ago we had a whole episode devoted to the message that mechanized people were quite human too, and there should be amity between the two. Hmmm…
There’s also the very interesting conversation between two mechanized soldiers in Promethium’s fleet during this battle. One of them insists on retreating, scared we imagine by the appearance of the mercenaries as well as Harlock and crew, but the second one insists on punishing the LaMetalians for having ruined their wonderful mechanized existence. Hold on, we immediately want to scream out. Aren’t these mechanized soldiers LaMetalians too?? Aren’t they in their own mind the best that LaMetal has to offer even? Then why have they already surrendered the title of LaMetal?! It’s almost as if Matsumoto wants us to believe that in renouncing their flesh they have somehow surrendered all ties to everything and anything that is not mechanical (even the name of their own people) for the sake of their leader Promethium (and I guess I can add here, ultimately for the sake of the Darqueen).
In sharp contrast, the New LaMetalians are literally new. From the very beginning of Space Symphony Maetel, we have been fed a very sympathetic of the remaining flesh-and-blood LaMetalians on the planet. My sense is that the classic LaMetalians (e.g. Millennial Queen) are mostly rather arrogant. But we really end up wondering whether, when Promethium began mechanizing the citizenry, she somehow managed to split the good, positive elements from the bad, negative ones in the LaMetalian character and fill her mechanized people with the bad while leaving the flesh-and-blood ones with only the good.
Another way to look at things, I guess a more satisfying way, is to bring in the concept of socio-economic classes into the mix. Perhaps most of the mechanized LaMetalians used to belong to a corrupt upper class, whereas the flesh-and-blood ones were the poorer, more honest (if somewhat boorish and uncouth) citizens. I must admit though, this analysis flies in the face of everything we know about Promethium’s project. She was very democratic in her implementation of mechanization. Even more, I feel as if the first people to get mechanized were precisely the lower classes. But if this is the case, then what are we to make of Space Symphony Maetel and the LaMetalians there?? Watch the spring picnic scene in this episode, and compare it to the LaMetalian spring depicted at the beginning of Millennial Queen. If you can explain to me how and why that change in the LaMetalian people took place I’d much appreciate it!!
The climax of the episode has got to be Commander Leopard’s death scene. In true Matsumoto fashion, this death had been foreshadowed earlier, Harlock and Leopard himself both showing signs that they knew it was coming. I wrote about this unreal idealism on my last post so I won’t rehash the topic again here… I call it “unreal” but I should note that one reads plenty of stories of soldiers who go into combat one day and say or do something that others, later on when the man gets killed, interpret as revealing some sort of intuition of impending death. I just read one such account earlier this month.
Call me weird, but the very last bit of Leopard’s death experience reminds me of Danga’s death in OZMA. They’re mirror opposites of each other, don’t you agree? Or am I really that insane But if I’m insane then let me go all the way. During that last battle which, indirectly by way of a wounded mechanized soldier, deprives Leopard of his life, Burnbarrel loses (we can presume) his right eye. The incident piratifies (my coinage LOL) Burnbarrel, right at the very moment that he is set to take over Leopard’s mantle. Now, Leopard was a quintessential anti-pirate, though he seemed to realize his dependence on the pirates (Harlock and co.) at the very end. Burnbarrel’s wound is thus not at all accidental, but maybe signifies that the New LaMetal, if it is to survive against Promethium, must abandon its imperial past and go down the pirate road
I really like the way this episode ended BTW. It was touching.