SPC Harlock 17-18: Maji’s Magical Family
Viewed on the scale of the series as a whole, episode 17’s purpose is to reveal to Harlock and the Arcadia where the frontline base of the Mazone lies. But this all-important information comes wrapped up in the backstory of one of the ship’s crewmen: Chief Engineer Maji.
Leiji’s interested in fleshing out as many characters as possible, and we’ve seen backstory upon backstory: Tadashi Daiba and his dead parents, Kei Yuki and her dead parents (plus evil ex-boyfriend), not to mention glimpses of old lives, such as Kiruta’s childhood in Egypt and Mimay’s exile from her home planet.
The telling of Maji’s story is triggered by a message in a bottle drifting in space. It’s from his former captain Yamanaka and it’s asking for help from the Arcadia in battling the Mazone. The tale is complicated (it plays out like a mini-opera of sorts), and you really have to see it to get all of the nuances, so I will just comment on a couple of things.
First off, it’s hilarious that Maji never figures out that he’s married an alien, what with the green hair and blue skin. And when his green-haired daughter is born he names her Midori (=green)! I guess the animators wanted to convey to us that this Aki lady was a Mazone from the start, and we must assume that she disguised herself as a regular human female and so Maji must have seen her that way (with dark hair and normal skin). The alien look is thus only for our own benefit.
Maji’s former boss Captain Yamanaka of the Braves is a great character. He represents the path that Captain Harlock left behind when he decided to become a pirate: staying loyal to the flag (of Earth). If you’ve seen the Arcadia of my Youth film, you will remember that Harlock’s ancestor in World War II held to the same loyalist road that Yamanaka embarked on (except in that case of course the loyalty was to the German nation under the Nazis). The fact that Yamanaka ends up dead at ship bridge while Captain Harlock is on course to defeat the Mazone says something of Matsumoto’s own ideas and ideals.
Maji meets up again with long lost Midori in episode 18; his long lost daughter is firmly in the Mazone camp. Blinded as he is by love, Maji won’t see that since the Mazone are essentially an asexual race he cannot in fact have contributed anything to Midori’s genetic material. There is no betrayal here: Midori is a Mazone, to her Maji is 100% alien.
The tension rises when Midori, Maji and Harlock find themselves in the same location in the ship. There is a broken repetition of what happened years ago between Midori’s mother Aki, Maji and Yamanaka. Then, Yamanaka killed Aki while barely avoiding being killed by her first. Now, Harlock barely avoids being killed by Midori but he shows more compassion for his chief engineer than Yamanaka did and refrains from shooting his daughter. We can be sure that Maji’s loyalty toward Captain Harlock will be ever so stronger after this. What’s even more amazing is that Harlock actually lets himself be wounded by Midori in an attempt to wake Maji up to the reality that Midori is a foe and nothing more. Alas, it doesn’t work.
Harlock’s carefully aimed shot at Maji deserves some comment. My sense right now is that Harlock’s ethical system works something like this:
There are two kinds of people in the world: people I respect and people I don’t.
I will not be opposed by people I don’t respect.
I will not oppose people I respect, unless the only alternative is to lose respect for myself.
Chief Engineer Maji qualifies as someone worthy of respect. We know this because it is practically a requirement for becoming a crew member of the Arcadia. If the Captain doesn’t respect you, you’re out [be careful Daiba!!] So Harlock’s ethical instinct will be to allow Maji to resolve issues with his daughter as he wishes. If Maji doesn’t want anyone else to be involved then so be it. But here’s the rub: Harlock can’t let a Mazone agent run around the Arcadia as if it were her own playground. Since the captain doesn’t want to lecture Maji on the situation he tries to set up things so that Midori herself will reveal her hostile intentions.
Midori wounds Harlock and flees. Now we have another ethical conundrum: Harlock doesn’t want to hurt his friend by killing (or even injuring) the woman he perceives as his daughter, but at the same time he cannot let an enemy just go unpunished (especially in front of a spectator i.e. Maji!). The solution here is to injure Maji instead. This is neat because it serves a double purpose: a) the “eye for an eye”, so to speak, implicitly links Maji and Midori in a family bond [we all know ancient and not so ancient societies believe revenge is valid across generations of a single family]; it’s almost as if Harlock is telling Maji “I can see you believe that this is your daughter, and I respect that belief” and b) it works as another wake-up call for Maji: you know there’s something wrong when your ship captain shoots at you!
Kei’s evil ex-boyfriend Kazuya was trying to extract for her information as to how the Arcadia could operate on its own. Kei was able to keep the secret [or maybe she didn’t know?] In this episode the Mazone penetration into the Arcadia has as its goal figuring out just how many crew members the Arcadia have. Daiba is bewildered as he thinks the answer is plain to see: 40 plus the captain. Harlock smiles. I love how the thread of this particular plot is spun episode after episode. It’s so subtle. I honestly wish I didn’t have a clue regarding that elusive 42nd crew member!!
Ultimately, Maji’s ordeal with Midori/Daughter becomes very similar Daiba’s with Lola/Mother. Except this case is much sadder. At least Tadashi had a real mother once…the daughter Maji thought he knew never really was.
My favorite scene in the episode is Mimay annihilating a Mazone spy with a flying ace of spades, then announcing in her best monotone that the enemy has arrived. It’s a beautiful, nonsensical moment.
Re: Mimay again, my eyes have been opened! I hadn’t noticed she had eyelids?!