SPC Harlock 36: Theology of Harlock

The Advanced Mazone Force is in Mars orbit, with the Main Force hovering outside the Solar System.  The Arcadia races to Mars with Shizuka Namino on board.

Miime knows Shizuka is an alien, we know she’s an alien, and I can assure you Harlock knows she’s an alien.  Look at how quickly he silences Miime when she mentions the newcomer’s name at the bridge.  Look at how he grins and smiles when she conveys her suspicions.  Harlock knows.  Well, of course he knows.  Harlock knows everything.

cool

Harlock won’t do anything about it because he has promised Kiruta that he’ll return her to him [to get shot, probably, once he finds out what she is].  He doesn’t want Miime to talk about this to the others because soon enough Namino will have Daiba running about trying to kill her.

What’s even more interesting is the words Harlock uses to cap this outrageous “let the secret agent loose on our ship, it’s cool” strategy.  Harlock says: “It’s fine.  We don’t have anything to hide from the likes of her,” then he comes near her and adds: “Right?”  Allow me to suggest that this is innuendo in relation to a secret Harlock and Miime might share…

Moving on, I must now confess that when I saw Namino patting Mii-kun I was worried she was going to kidnap it and take it to god knows what nebula, thus adding 4 or 5 more episodes to the story…then they could kidnap Tori and Wawa etc.  Before you know it we could have a 100 + episode series!  Instead, though, what happened was Namino pretended to fall down in the shower and then called for the Captain to help her.  And here we got some amazing fan service.  No, I’m not talking about Namino’s nude body [we’ve seen enough naked Mazone!], I’m talking about Harlock’s lovely neck.  Yes, when he takes off his cape and puts it over Namino we are introduced to a fine, graceful cygnean* neck.

And what a scene follows!  Namino tries to figure out Harlock’s motivation in fighting the Mazone.  There is no way I could do justice to what he gives as a response, because even if I wrote it all down verbatim, you would still miss the tones of the voice and the actions that go with it.  Suffice it to say it’s awesome and you should watch it yourself.  This is vintage Harlock right here, and I dare say this little speech might just be the locus classicus and starting point from which all discussion on the space pirate’s psychology and his relationship to other heroes in history and fiction must begin.

Swanlock

EXCURSUS: THE SHINKAKU SEIGEN???

Let me focus on the last point of his speech.  Harlock calls Lafresia pathetic, and says that she, the leader of her entire race, has set herself against him of all people.  Moreover, she doesn’t even have the right to choose how to die.

The obvious interpretation of this statement is this: Harlock is just a space pirate, he’s a nobody and yet the leader of an entire race is obsessed with annihilating him.  This is the opposition: queen and pirate.  She is “pathetic” because she has failed to eliminate the Arcadia despite her overwhelming superiority in prestige and (apparent) power.  As a pirate, Harlock can come and go, live and die as he pleases.  Lafresia doesn’t have that freedom due to her enormous sociopolitical responsibilities, and so here we have the second reason why in Harlock’s eyes she is “pathetic”.  I can tell you as a person who has spent most of his life evading the standard social structures (corporate and otherwise) I think I know where Harlock is coming from.

However, this is not at all how I interpreted Harlock’s speech when I first heard it.  The reason is the huge amount of “Leijirature” I’ve absorbed in the last 5 years which affects everything new I watch.  The Leijiverse is a huge spiderweb, and after you’re trapped in it you find it impossible to enjoy one show without sensing its place in the web and feeling the vibration of all the other threads (echoes of all the other shows) on it and viceversa.

So let me tell you what I thought in all innocence.  Instead of queen (great) and pirate (small), I imagined the opposition in terms of a puny mortal (small) and an existence of a higher order (great).  And by puny mortal I mean Queen Lafresia herself.  Any casual observer of the Leijiverse knows of the awesome might of Captain Harlock and the Arcadia, so you don’t need to be a hardcore fan to at least get a sense for this opposition…isn’t Lafresia pathetic in trying to confront Harlock?  Isn’t this LIKE DEFYING A GOD?

Harlock sets himself apart (“me of all people”) which can simply mean he is putting himself lower than most, but it could also mean he’s putting himself higher.  His claim that she did not have the right to choose her death I interpreted as a claim that he would not give her that right.  By the way, the original Japanese sentence is in the passive, “she will not be allowed to choose…” or “she is not allowed to choose…”  Sometimes the greatest threats are made in the passive voice, right?  Let me just bring up other shows on other threads and how they might resonate with this crazy interpretation.

There’s the case of episode 6 of Endless Odyssey.  In this series Harlock is fighting an arcane evil called the Noo, whose modus operandi consists of making human zombies and then using them to scare the rest of mankind into submission.  In the episode, one of the Noo “zombies” is trying to make Harlock succumb to fear.  He is such a powerful opponent that not only does he withstand her terror but he communicates his fearlessness to the other crew members so that none will betray him.  Once the zombie begins to get desperate, Harlock’s eye glows an unearthly blue.  The Noo zombie is shocked and says, “this is not human” [the Japanese has no subject here, so “he is not human” or “you are not human” or even “they are not human”, referring to the crew, are all possible].  Then she expresses disbelief that such an existence could exist in the universe.   She becomes terrified and screams at the entire crew.

I wouldn't if I were you

This sequence raises some serious questions regarding Harlock’s ontological status.  It’d be reasonable to suppose that the the Noo zombie is being shocked by human pride and valor.  That would be a fine though somewhat cheesy lesson for the anime to teach children about humanity etc.  But when you consider that a) the Noo have taken over human bodies without any problems before and this creature is actually a zombified human and b) she doesn’t say “are humans like this?” but “this is not human” the picture grows more complicated. Not to mention that human  eyes don’t start glowing an eerie blue all of a sudden!  The Noo zombie cannot comprehend this…it surpasses her understanding.

A fan asked about Harlock’s ontological status (with particular reference to this same scene) on a French Leijiverse forum [here] but didn’t get much in the way of an answer…

Do we have more evidence of Harlock’s supernatural or even divine status?

Fellow Leijiverse student iskra has been researching links between Harlock and the Germanic god Odin/Woden/Wotan.  The list is impressive.

a) Harlock’s counselor is called Miime.  Odin’s counselor is the god Mimir (German form: Mime).

b) Harlock always has a black bird at his side.  Odin always has two ravens by his side.

c) Harlock is a cloaked wanderer.  Odin is a cloaked wanderer.

d) Harlock means “gray-haired”.  One of Odin’s nicknames is “gray-beared”.

e) Harlock advises and observes brave people on the way to their deaths.  Odin is always on the lookout for courageous warriors and sets things up so they will die quickly and join his ranks in Valhalla to train for Ragnarok.

He vanquishes Alberich and takes the Ring

Then there are connections brought up by the Harlock Saga series, which is based on Germanic legend.  The struggle in this series is between Wotan and the Harlock clan, seemingly excluding a direct Wotan/Odin = Harlock identity, but still, there’s a huge fact that cannot be denied: Great Harlock (SPC Harlock’s father) is explicitly equated with Siegried of the legends and Wagner’s opera.  This means that:

a) Harlock can be thought of as Odin’s (or Wotan’s, it’s the same thing) great-grandson, because his father was Siegfried, who was Siegmund’s son, who was in his stead sired by the god.

Not only that, but:

b) Harlock can be thought of as Odin’s son.  Why?  In the old sagas a disguised Odin plunges a sword into a tree and proclaims it will belong to whoever can take it out (just like in the Arthurian tales).  The man who pulls it out is Volsung’s son Siegmund.  In the Harlock Saga manga, Great Harlock sticks a sword into the desk of Earth’s top leader, and it is his son Harlock who retrieves it.  Instantly we get the identity Great Harlock = Odin.

From here it follows that Harlock in Space Pirate Captain Harlock is Odin’s son.  Before you criticize Leiji for making the two actors in this story father and son (whereas in the sagas Siegmund is not Odin’s son but Volsung’s) let me tell you that in Wagner’s version Siegmund is in actuality Odin’s son!  Even in older texts, Volsung is Odin’s great-grandson so anyway you look at it there’s a divine connection.

c) Another point iskra makes is this: in Harlock Saga the person who takes the Ring from Alberich is Harlock.  In Wagner’s opera Alberich’s Ring is seized by Wotan/Odin!  Things get complicated in the opera as the Ring passes through the hands of various characters afterwards, including Siegfried.  That said, I don’t doubt that there is a latent link between Wotan and Harlock here.  Leiji’s Wotan is weak and ineffective from the beginning…therefore this last scene of Harlock taking the Ring can be seen as his legitimate appropriation of the divine power of the so-called Wotan that never really was.  Leiji might be telling us: look here, THIS is the god, not that fool.

So Harlock is potentially son, great-grandson, even great-great-great-great-grandson (through Volsung) of Odin, and he is Odin himself.  And he wanders about with an eyepatch, Miime/Mimir and a black bird.  Besides that his eye glows, superhuman beings like the Noo fear him and he is practically invincible in battle.  Hmmm….

BTW, “shinkaku seigen” (神格誓言) means “a declaration of divinity”.  Is this an appropriate way to describe Harlock’s speech in episode 36?!  I will say in all honesty that I think the answer is “no”, by which I mean neither Leiji Matsumoto nor his staff were intending to convey this particular message at this juncture.  But if we step back and look at the bigger picture the situation is much, much more problematic.

END OF EXCURSUS

The episode ends with a great battle.  The Arcadia, damaged due to Namino’s explosives, rams into the Advanced Force flagship.  Commander Adolf goes the way of her predecessor Cassandra and succumbs to the raw power of what is in the end one of the four greatest ships in the entire Leijiverse.  But Namino and Lafresia have discovered that the central computer is somehow alive.  Yes, the Mazone now know who the 42nd crew member is!!!

Advanced Forced Commander Adolf

*  – re: cygnean, this is the first time in my life I have used this word, and I am glad I waited so long.  It’s a dream come true.

~ by Haloed Bane on September 30, 2010.

15 Responses to “SPC Harlock 36: Theology of Harlock”

  1. I thought it was just Mii-kun fanservice. That cat is a little Mary Sue and keeps getting little scenes here and there in this segment of the show.

    It does seem at times that this version of Harlock has some sort of supernatural powers.

  2. […] goes in depth about Harlock’s connection to religion and […]

  3. Breathtaking! Since I have nothing to add on the subject of Harlock’s divinity at the moment, I’ll just thank you for mentioning the captain’s lovely neck. It is appreciated🙂

  4. Yes I’m still alive. Just. Less than one month to yr 12 exams …

    Anyway!

    I thoroughly skeptical of your claims of Harlock being some sort of superior being because of lack of evidence.

    First I shall start with your first point:

    1) Okay I was pretty sure that in EO that:

    a) That Harlock did not give his will to the crew members. If I remember correctly, the crew members were strong enough to fight them off – in fact it was to show Daiba was weak.

    All of them were scared. Yattaran comes out and says that Harlock’s members of the crew were “muttering something about being scared” ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gT353HcooBg&feature=related around 6:00) but none of them screamed like Daiba did. He was weak and if it wasn’t for Harlock, he would have been consumed. THAT is what happened – no translation was passed on, the crew members were fine on their own. Daiba was the subject there.

    Also the blue eye thing – I got the idea that it was the homage to Harlock’s infamous twinkle eye. I saw several times throughout it, homages to the 1970s series. For heaven sake they use SWIPE cuts (when they translate from one scene to another – very common in the 1970s). Now if you are going with the whole “dark story” idea – then to homage the twinkle you … substitute. And it appears that they substitute with a blue flash.

    Now all crew members defied her. All. So by saying “You are not human” – she also says to the rest of the crew “aren’t they human?” this is a statement towards the entire crew.

    So I hate to say it to you but no. Harlock is not inhuman in this scene. Harlock is just being manly again.

    And what happens is that she gets upset and scared because these people aren’t reacting the way they should. So “there must be something wrong with them” and so she calls them inhuman for not being the typical humans that she knows.

    And this whole “I can’t believe that there is an existence in the universe like you” thing is just her freaking out and over reacting. I know that when I have freaked out in front of a group, I have turned to the leader and insult him. Only because he represents the group – so it is the way to target the entire group.

    Plus the noo chick even called Harlock human before hand. “No matter how calm you may appear on the outside, your genes reveal something different on the inside.” (Aka – Harlock you may look manly and very good looking with that … oh yeah – but still you’re human.)

    She picked up he was human. She was just name calling X3

    On the other points:

    2) Harlock name came from the newspaper after someone died in a car crash. Leiji has said that several times so this whole “grey haired” thing is busted.

    Apparently he came up with the name “Harroku” and was going to use it for an “open sesame” – you know to open a cave or something – then found out a few years later from a newspaper article that a German man had been killed and he realized it was a real name. So he used it.

    So when you wrote it, I kinda laughed. Sorry but no. (I think I saw in on the Herlock extras on the DVD. So you might want to watch it)

    3) Harlock has not always been a cloaked warrior. That was added on later. Plus I’m pretty sure by now that you have found what the cloak means.

    The cloak is a sign of superiority (I believe). That is why Harlock has one and Queen Emeraldas. That is why Kei Yuki has something very similar on when she is Captain of the pink ship. Then once she is onboard, she takes it off.

    And to be completely honest – who in Leiji’s world doesn’t wear a cape in superiority? Deslock does. Queen Promethium has something similar. Submarine Super 99. Interstella 5555. Even when Maetel takes the throne in Space Maetel, she is wearing a cape.

    Anyway that is my take.

    4) Harlock hasn’t always had a black bird at his side. It was a later addition. Plus I’m pretty sure it is meant to be like Harlock’s parrot. And Leiji always loves to draw those birds (in fact I’m pretty sure it is the only birds that he can draw)

    5) Actually Harlock doesn’t so much guide brave people to their death. Maetel fits better for that position so … More like Harlock creates men.

    6) Maybe Miime names comes from the fact that she doesn’t have a mouth. So hence => Mime. Come on that was simple.

    7) Do not bring Harlock Saga with the divinity Harlock argument. Leiji did that in the 90s so it significance to Harlock in previous incarnations is useless.

    Btw, it hasn’t been the first time since Leiji has used other stories to inspire his manga. Night on the Galactic Railroad inspired GE 999. He has used ideas from Go Nagi and Tezuka to create stories from. Just because he adpated Saga into a manga – does not mean he means Harlock to be Odin. I mean he has even adapted West side story … which was weird.

    So while I LOVE that you are comparing Harlock to Odin, (hey I love Myths and religion – seriously I’m addicted to this stuff), I hate to be negative but your arguments are paper thin and I can’t see how you could have jump to those conclusions.

    That being said – I won’t rule out that Harlock might be Odin and his sons or whatever. Just I think you need a bit more Leiji-ing to do to pull up some really GREAT evidence. Then I might agree😉

    • Whoa! Fallen is back!!!

    • Well, it was all iskra’s idea anyway.
      .
      ..

      ….
      …..
      Nah, I’m kidding. OK, you make great points. One thing you have to understand is that I very much belong to the school of those who say that “often an author’s conscious intentions are irrelevant to the associations that a reader makes” and I’m also a card-carrying member of the “take coincidences and run with them”.

      To the extent that Leiji worships all things German, the Germanic is something we must investigate throughout his career. Yes, Harlock Saga comes very late, but that project was the culmination of a passion that informs him from the very beginning.

      More specifically, I don’t see (get it? see!) the blue eye = twinkle. People in SPCH didn’t lose their wits over a twinkle!! If it’s not a sign of divinity then maybe it’s a sign of a robotic nature, but I just don’t see it as a plain twinkle.

      I’ve read the account on Harlock’s name origin, and I believe it, sure. I don’t believe that Leiji sat down and said “let me come up with a reference to Odin, but kind of obliquely, and see what people do with it”. But the resonance is there and I think it’s very, very interesting. He was probably interested in Germanic sounding names. That he happened to hit on this one is very fortunate…

      As to Miime, mime in Japanese is “maimu”, so that’s hmmm…and anyway, she talks fine and she never pretends she’s wiping windows like mimes do!

      And Harlock doesn’t create men! Daiba maybe, sort of! Everyone else he just sends to their doom!

      So to sum up, I’d say while your arguments are strong, what needs disproving is not so much the theory that Leiji sits reading through Old Norse texts to make Harlock up (I don’t think he does) but the fact of a fundamental affinity between the characters of Harlock and Odin that is echoed in all of these links iskra and I have pointed out (whether they have come about consciously, unconsciously or purely as coincidences).

      • Ha ha back kinda X3 I still need to respond to the “weak woman” debate. Don’t worry. Give me a month :3

        Well of course likes the Germans. I think you forget that he was raised with his father fighting the war with the Germans … seems only natural that he would have some sort of respect for them.

        Well in the original series, Harlock’s eye use to twinkle as a sign of something mysterious. Now I’m deadly serious about this, I honestly believe this is their version of an eye twinkle.

        Like I said – if you want to do an eye twinkle in a serious series without making it look cheesy, I would do something similar.

        Plus she didn’t lose wits over an eye twinkle. She is losing wits as she realizes that she can not handle this situation any more. He is glaring at her with intent – that isn’t suppose to happen.

        Yeah the Harlock name was just lucky it was similar to Odin’s. I mean he “claims” he had it beforehand but he also claims that his genetics gave him the image of maetel and starsha from an ancestors lover. Which I go, “Eh?” to.

        I just figured it was translation. Leiji does speak English so … and plus. Mime’s and Miime do have a link. Pale, lack of mouth/ talking and alcohol.🙂

        Harlock just is searching for a place to die … I covered that in my Psychology essay. You know what? I think if he just settled down on a nice planet with a fake mustache and dyed his hair black, he wouldn’t be sending people to their doom.

        Heck I could compare Jesus Christ to Tochiro too – doesn’t mean it is right. Just hilarious :3

        I still think it is just coincidence. Like I said, there isn’t enough evidence for it. But like you said – you are still searching and that is a good thing.

        But just don’t turn into Leiji and claim that Harlock is related to Odin because Odin wiped his ass with the pages of SPCH – which then transferred the memories into all volumes of Harlock – which Leiji then sniffed and then the idea came into his head that Harlock is Odin.

        • Tochiro would be Baldr then…

          And it was “strong women”, Fallen😉 Come back to the forum soon, I miss you and am keeping my fingers crossed for you! Best luck with your exams!

          • Find me a mistletoe and I’ll get into that theory as well!

            Also, let me chime in:

            Good luck with the tests, Fallen!

        • I thought turning into Leiji was a good thing😉

          Tochiro as Jesus Christ…hmmm…hmmmm…hmmmm.

          Are mimes usually alcoholics? I didn’t know that!

  5. […] Exhibit One – SPC Harlock 36: Theology of Harlock […]

  6. […] SPC Harlock 36: Theology of Harlock […]

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