All About Emeraldas
This page will focus on the Leijiversal character of Emeraldas as she appears in the Queen Emeraldas manga series (1978). The Kodansha edition I’ve read is in four tankobon volumes, though half of the last volume is actually 2 sidestories.
What the Series is About
Emeraldas is a mysterious warrior woman, dubbed a witch by many, who travels across the universe in search of something… Hiroshi Umino is a boy in search of freedom. He builds his first ship and leaves Earth only to crash land on Mars. There he meets Emeraldas, and though she leaves him to fend off for himself, her advice and aid are constantly beside him−for Hiroshi is retracing the very same path Emeraldas set off on years ago…and their fates will be intertwined forever.
Emeraldas: the Early Years
Matsumoto is a magpie flying across a universe of his own making. What follows will amply demonstrate this fact.
The first volume of Queen Emeraldas gives us a scoop on the heroine’s early years. Of her birth and childhood all we’re told is that she comes from Earth. The reason she leaves the planet is the same reason all heroes in the Leijiverse do the same: because Earth sucks!
Of course, if you’re a Maetel fan you know that according to the latest stories Emeraldas is Maetel’s sister, which means she’s from the planet LaMetal, so there’s one glaring contradiction there. But what I want to point out here are more obscure, deeper incongruities.
According to the manga she left Earth and crash landed on the planet Jura. That planet was under the control of 100 colonists from elsewhere, although the main city was enormous (its original inhabitants had all mysteriously disappeared before the colonists’ arrival). They made her into a slave but she left them. In the desert she found a ship in the dunes, and an old, dying (and beautiful) pilot named Zonarana told her to take over the ship. Zonarana herself had been an adventurer in earlier days from the planet Mosgalt. Mosgalt, known as the chemical civilization, was literally immersed in alcohol, and people were drunk and fighting and hopeless all the time. So this woman escaped and traveled.
Here’s Leiji the Magpie at his best. Let me quote from The Captain Harlock Archives:
“Mimay is the last survivor of the Juran race in the Antares system. Jura was stripped of all animal life when Mazone infiltrators incited the inhabitants to nuclear combat, in order to create a garden paradise for their queen, Lafresia [...she] subsists entirely on alcohol.”
This would almost make you believe that Emeraldas actually landed on Mimay’s home planet. Mimay was the last survivor of Jura, and she fled the planet with Harlock’s help. Here Jura is devoid of its old inhabitants, although there are ample signs of a great past civilization. However, notice how Mimay’s race’s mode of subsistence (drinking alcohol) shows up in a somewhat mutilated way as the situation in an entirely different planet (Mosgalt) one of whose people ends up crashing on Jura!
While Emeraldas and Zonarana are talking, the colonist who “owned” Emeraldas turns up. They fight a duel and Emeraldas’ face is bloodied before she gets to dispatch the fellow. The old pilot’s buddy (a snake-looking lifeform named Himoness) fixes her face but makes it so that she’ll keep a big scar: this is done on purpose, to remind Emeraldas that in space you must measure your adversary carefully, or not engage him at all. Also worth pointing out is that Himoness is only capable of making sounds like “kun” and “kin” but at one point it calls Zonarana “kuiin” which might be taken to mean “Queen” [which would resonate with the "Queen" in Queen Emeraldas].
The ship is of course the Queen Emeraldas. Fans like to say that Emeraldas is no queen, and this is true, but following Leiji’s newer scenario that Emeraldas and Maetel are sisters (with Emeraldas being the oldest) the fact is that she was destined to be Queen of LaMetal! Her rebellion and quest for freedom might qualify her as Queen of the Free or Queen of Space, a loftier title than the one she was bound (!) to inherit. In any case, in this manga the Queen Emeraldas actually has that name before Emeraldas ever meets it, and the heroine muses as to whether this agreement was luck or prophecy or what.
The first meeting between Emeraldas and her ship of destiny is totally rewritten by Leiji in Harlock Saga. There, the ship was built in the planet Metabloody by an unknown race. As it stands, it is incomplete, but several Metanoid attempts to fix it have failed, and after 1,000 years it is buried in the sands of Metabloody. A 10-year old Emeraldas, accompanied by her sister Maetel, finds the ship etc etc. As different as this version is to the older one, in both instances the Queen Emeraldas is found buried in the sand…
Then there’s the question of the scar. I love this concept of allowing a scar to remain as a warning sign (to others too possibly, not only to herself) but I’m very aware that the Arcadia of my Youth film had a completely different version: there Emeraldas is captured by the Illumidas race (that has occupied Earth) and she is shot in the face by one of the Illumidas, thus the scar. I should add that the setting for this particular scene in Arcadia of my Youth is remarkably similar to a scene in Harlock Saga (with the Illumidas replaced by the Metanoids).
Most shocking event of the entire series
During the course of the first volume, Hiroshi Umino becomes enemies with the spoiled daughter of his boss in Ganymede. The boss understands that ultimately his daughter’s terrible attitude is his own responsibility and he tries to look out for Hiroshi. However, at one point when Hiroshi is working in the mine shaft the daughter shuts it and leaves him to die. The boss finds Hiroshi in the nick of time and…orders the execution of his own daughter!! Complete with coup de grace!!!
Tochiro to Emeraldas, on surveying her ship: “Unlike with people, you can understand a ship with a single glance. That’s because a ship reveals the heart of her creator.”
The Big Question
Emeraldas, a witch wondering throughout space in search of…WHAT? Nobody’s supposed to know but her. In volume 2 she is quoted as saying (or thinking to herself, more properly): “Hiroshi Umino would probably try to kill me if he ever found anything about what it is that I seek”. Would he?? Why??
It doesn’t help that later on in the volume 2 she hands a a little kid a weapon looking suspiciously like the famous Cosmo Dragoon, and tells him that it once belonged to the man that she’s searching for. Immediately my thoughts go to Tochiro…but if this is what she’s looking for, why would that make Umino mad??
Being alone on a ship encourages people to talk to themselves. At one point the pirate queen muses that she wants to tell Umino about that man she is searching for, but that after she’s done telling him she’ll have to kill him!
At the very end of Vol. 2, Emeraldas recalls the first time she met Tochiro. As it turns out, they’re both drinking at the same bar and hardly exchange any words, but we can tell she’s curious about the little guy with the big holey hat. A lad on that planet is hellbent on crossing a solar prominence on his ship, and everyone thinks he’s crazy. Only Emeraldas and Tochiro encourage the lad, who ends up dying in the attempt (oops) but with his ship making it across…
So by the third volume we’re pretty sure Emeraldas is looking for Tochiro, but we have no clue why this is so hard or why Hiroshi Umino would be so upset by the revelation. As we enter the fourth and final volume, Emeraldas confesses to us that she feels she is destined to fight with Hiroshi. Again, the reason is left unsaid.
In another flashback, we learn that Emeraldas’ second (accidental) meeting with Tochiro occurs on a desert planet. Here Tochiro ends up in a duel against a cowboy, but he insists of starting it within touching distance. The reason, he explains, is that he’s a terrible shot. When his opponent begins to draw his gun, Tochiro stabs him with his gravity saber. Tochiro’s weakness (guns) and his strength (swords) are exactly the same as his ancestor’s (?) in Gun Frontier.
Eventually, Harlock (we never see his face, and he refuses to tell Emeraldas his name, but it’s obviously him!) comes and picks Tochiro up and they fly off. Emeraldas goes on her own way, and we get the strong impression that this, her second or third meeting with Tochiro, was the last and that ever since she’s been searching for him. And with that the manga ends.
I’m sure you can get a good feel for how unfinished this series is just from reading what I’ve written here. Hiroshi’s development, his destined struggle with/against Emeraldas, her finding Tochiro for one last time (a happy ending?) all is left in the air…
What’s in a Name? – Hiroshi
Two-thirds of the way into volume 3, Emeraldas reveals to Hiroshi that she’s known all along “Hiroshi Umino” is not his real name—the true name is Zero Banno. Why the alias? Well, Zero’s dad, an explorer by trade, led a rebellion inside a forced labor camp on Mars as an officer in a Rebel Army and was executed. When his mother heard news of the revolt, she tried to go and heroically help her husband but her ship was suppressed by the authorities near the Martian moon of Phobos. Zero/Hiroshi’s status as an orphan from a disgraced family is what pushed him to build his own ship and leave Earth in search for freedom.
These are very interesting names. Hiroshi = wide, open; umi=sea; no = field. So his adopted name could be “the sea is a wide field (of stars?)”. The “no” in “Banno” is the same as that in “Umino” but in fact the very same pair of characters, when read as “ban’ya” instead of “banno” means “a barbarian, savage”. So Zero/Hiroshi is coming from a tough, proud family (=barbarians) who get squashed and now he must start from scratch (=zero) by seeking freedom in outer space (=great sea of stars).
BTW, Umino Hiroshi = 海野広, Banno Zero = 蛮野ゼロ.
The first story begins as Emeraldas approaches Heavy Melder, in search of some happy memories she has from long ago. The planet is almost devoid of human life, but she finds two slaves to an evil race called Zell. She lets these two slaves board her ship and blasts the Zell base for them. Then she drops them off and leaves. The interesting thing here is the suggestion that Emeraldas spent some time on Heavy Melder, because according to the “Emeraldas and Maetel are sisters” scenario, Emeraldas would have grown up on LaMetal at a time when this planet had become a moon of Heavy Melder. Or…it could be that this sidestory is following “Tochiro dies in Heavy Melder” scenario, and that Emeraldas is visiting the grave of her beloved…
The second sidestory is hilarious: Leiji’s own spoof on his heroes Harlock and Emeraldas. The setting is absolutely unreal. Harlock pilots a “Queen Emeraldas” zeppelin clone called the Death Harlock, while Emeraldas has her usual vessel but jam-packed with an all-female crew. The most interesting thing to me about this gag story is how it allows Leiji to portray Emeraldas with emotions other than her 2 usual ones: pensive and defiant. Here we see Emeraldas being cute for the camera!:
and being flat out of control!!!:
What a shoutout to the classic shojo style…