Harlock and Maetel: Franconian Origins

The influence of Germany on anime is as strong as could be expected from the historical relationship between Japan and that country.  From about 1800 on the Kingdom of Prussia was the most fearsome German state, and it was under Prussian “pressure” that Germany became one nation in 1871 (excluding its rivals the Austrians in the process).   Over 60% of all German land and population was Prussian at some point or another.  And the first German entity to establish relations with Japan was Prussia, a decade before Germany was unified.

Shiraishi in gakuran, with Akira (by ubizo, see below)

Shiraishi in gakuran, with Akira (by ubizo, see below)

And so specific Prussian elements in anime are around if you look for them.  For example, chances are pretty good the show you’re watching features students wearing the classic gakuran boys’ uniforms, which were patterned after those of the Prussian Army.  I’ll be really cheeky and toss in Legend of the Galactic Heroes, which I haven’t seen but in which the main power is apparently inspired by Prussia.

Of course, general German influence such as the use of the language (in Evangelion and ef, for example) is far more common.  Still, the stereotype of the German in Japan as well as in the rest of the world is probably closer to the Prussian character than to any other.  Which makes sense, historically speaking.

What’s really peculiar is that Leiji Matsumoto’s Germanophilia leads, not to Prussia, but to a smaller and lesser known German land: Franconia.

First, where the heck is Franconia?  Well, here’s my sloppily modified map of Germany.

Franconia (red stripes)

Franconia (red stripes)

As you can see, Franconia today is not even its own state, but only the northernmost part of Bavaria (Bayern in German), although from what I gather some Franconians today refuse to call themselves Bavarians.  And just in case you’re wondering, Prussia in 1871 covered pretty much all of that map north of Bavaria and Baden-Württemberg (with a few wimpy exceptions), plus a big chunk of today’s Poland.

Franconia’s past was much more glorious than its present, as you can guess from the fact this land was a base for the Franks (thus Franconia), who founded a little country called France (!) and held the city of Frankfurt (=Frank fort), seat of the Holy Roman Empire, etc.  If you really want to know how Franconia went from there to here, go here.  In fact, for any historical and many philosophical questions, I wholeheartedly recommend http://www.friesian.com.

Modern-day Franconia (courtesy of

Modern-day Franconia (courtesy of mikmaq, wikipedia commons)

Anyway, let’s start with Harlock.  According to the film Arcadia of my Youth, the Harlock clan’s ancestral estate was located in Heiligenstadt.  There are several Heiligenstadt in the German-speaking areas of Europe, but we know exactly which one Harlock hails from.  This is simply because we know that Leiji Matsumoto was fascinated in his youth by a film called Marianne of my Youth (like Arcadia of my Youth, get it?) starring a young actress named Marianne Hold.


The film has the male protagonist meet Marianne in the idyllic northern Bavarian town of Heiligenstadt.  Heiligenstadt is pretty small so it’s not on the map but it’s roughly halfway between Bamberg and Bayreuth, which are on the map.  Incidentally, there is a large estate complete with castle in Heiligenstadt, and it belongs to the Stauffenbergs, whose most famous member Claus Schenk Graff von Stauffenberg tried to assassinate Hitler.  Yup, the role played by Tom Cruise in Valkyrie.  So if there’s any real-life equivalent to the Harlocks it might be the Stauffenbergs!

I mentioned Bayreuth.  Of course this city is famous as the HQ of Richard Wagner’s new musical movement, his capital of art.  And Matsumoto did a whole manga series (partly animated as Harlock Saga) based on Wagner’s Ring Cycle.

As for Maetel, the connections to Franconia are just as deep. According to Leiji, the inspiration for his beautiful female characters came primarily from two women.  The first one is none other than the blond Marianne Hold, which he saw romping about Heiligenstadt.  The other one is Takako Mise.

Takako Mise with her husband

Takako Mise with her husband

The odd thing is that Matsumoto only ran across Mise’s picture ten years ago.  So how could he claim her as an inspiration for Maetel and others??  Well, way back in the 19th century Takako Mise’s husband was a partner of Matsumoto’s ancestor.  Matsumoto reckons his ancestor had a crush on Takako and that he himself inherited that desire and reproduced it in Maetel’s face!  I know it sounds odd, but Arcadia of my Youth and the Miraizer Ban manga deal with similar “ancestral links” (for more info on Mise and Matsumoto, go here).


Takako Mise was Japanese, to be sure.  But if you think you detect a hint of the exotic about her countenance, you’re not mistaken.  Mise’s grandfather was Philipp Franz von Siebold, a German doctor who became a revered figure in Japan.  He worked for the Dutch so he’s sometimes called Dutch, but the truth is he was a native of Würzburg.  And if you look to at the map you will find Würzburg to the west, easily within the bounds of Franconia.  Takako, BTW, has left us a record of her life and work with her grandfather in which she gives ample proof of her intellect.

Heiligenstadt, Würzburg, Bayreuth.  All within the narrow confines of Franconia.  It’s funny how these things work…


The first pic is from an artist called “ubizo”.  S/he is on pixiv but has his/her own website as well, here.  ubizo’s self-appointed role in universal history seems to be fleshing out and developing the Akira x Shiraishi tension on the Lucky Channel segment from Lucky Star.  And ubizo does a great job.  Just one more ubizo pic before I go:


shopping...(god I know that feeling)

~ by Haloed Bane on March 27, 2009.

10 Responses to “Harlock and Maetel: Franconian Origins”

  1. Man, I clicked that ubizo link at the wrong place with the wrong people.

  2. oops! you mean, like at your grandparents? or what?

  3. Babysitting kids. Closed it before anyone saw, so no one was the wiser.

  4. honestly, proph, you should be teaching the kids how to read and making waffles, not surfing the net!!

  5. what kind of medium does “Ubizo” use??? It looks fantastic!!

    • I went to Ubizo’s website and checked but I couldn’t find any info on that. Fantastic art, though totally obsessed with this one relationship!

  6. And I just now realized Gun Frontier’s Harlock’s first name is Franklin, Frank. I’m sure it’s absolutely irrelevant and if I go deeper I’ll most likely find another tank or fighter or something, but, as you say, it’s funny how these things work…

    • Good catch. The Frank in Franklin comes from the Frankish people just as Franconia does, so the connection is definitely there 🙂

  7. […] It’s a map of Germany in German (Deutschland, duh).  And old at that.  The only reason for it to be there is that it has some importance to the captain.  Since her character is squarely in the tradition of Harlock, it makes sense that she would come from Germany, which would explain the map.  For an in-depth look at Harlock and Germany see my post [here]. […]

  8. […] réalité beaucoup plus au nord, en Haute-Franconie (Oberfranken). De nombreux indices réunis par Animekritik suggèrent qu’il s’agirait bien, dans l’esprit de Matsumoto, de la ville […]

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