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.
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.
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.
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.
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!!!
* – 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.