SPC Harlock 42
Are they Reasons or Excuses?
The episode begins with the Captain informing his crew that they will be disbanded. We can tell that Miime knows already about Harlock’s decision, and I get the feeling that the doctor knows too. Yattaran asks angrily if he’s lost his “will” after defeating the Mazone.
Harlock says “yes” and then adds that it’s not time to play pirates and Earth needs the crew of the Arcadia to help rebuild and reform. When Yattaran suggests that the young people remain and the old ones stay on board, Harlock says that the ship (Tochiro) needs a rest.
These are decent reasons, but we can’t help feeling they’re excuses as well. It’s not clear whether Harlock losing his will is due to his realization that the crew is needed on Earth or if there’s an entirely different reason (which he leaves unexplained). I see 3 possible reasons for disbanding:
a) Harlock loses his will because he has vanquished his enemy and there’s nothing left for him to prove.
b) The crew should help Earth.
c) The Arcadia needs a break.
If you take Endless Odyssey into account, then (b) went horribly wrong: instead of helping humanity, Yuki becomes leader of the pirate crew, while Daiba gets lobotomized and has to meet Harlock all over again (this time in a substantially less effective role!). a) could be it, but isn’t it just a matter of looking for another enemy out there?
Or could it actually just be that Harlock’s tired??? I don’t know.
Zero vs. Yattaran
Their personalities really come into sharp opposition in this final episode. Yattaran is truly a young at heart, happy go lucky fellow. He really believes in the possibility that Earth Federation will be grateful for the Arcadia’s efforts, just as much as he cannot believe that Harlock wants to disband.
Zero seems to quietly accept what’s going on…a sense of fatalistic realism… These two might be around the same age but they are so different!! I guess the important point is that both are awesome people in their own ways and the Arcadia wouldn’t have made it without either of them. [I’m still in awe of Dr. Zero’s powers, I honestly thought half of the crew had died during the Mazone penetration a few episodes before!]
The Pennant Strikes Back
The meaning of Lafresia’s last words to Harlock are revealed when the pennant summons the Mazone Occupation Force which has been waiting ALL THIS TIME UNDERGROUND SOMEWHERE! What awful timing for an attack!!! It doesn’t really bear discussion.
We find Lafresia still puzzled about her failure. It’s not that she isn’t aware of the cause of her failure (the Arcadia, duh!) but that she doesn’t get how the Arcadia could do this. I can’t blame her. The Arcadia took a ridiculous amount of punishment, on top of which it was able to track Mayu when she was hostage. Tochiro has such a huge role in this series!
Make your own History
This is Harlock’s parting command/advice/plea to Tadashi Daiba. Daiba seems confident, but as I wrote above somehow Endless Odyssey has him starting from scratch.
Maybe we should look at this as Leiji Matsumoto and Rintaro’s admission/confession/condemnation regarding the flow of history in the 25 years between Space Pirate Captain Harlock and the new series (2002). Things haven’t changed, instead they’ve gotten worse: consumerism is rampant and if mechanization went on the market everyone would be buying into it. Clearly, the heroism that Leiji wanted to impart to the 70s generation didn’t take hold, so maybe he feels he’s got to teach us through Daiba again…
[I use the words “clearly”, “obviously” and “of course” way too often. For every one you see on my post, there’s at least 3 more that I consciously erased!]
Harlock looks remarkably happy once he’s sailed off on the Arcadia with Miime. The narrator tells us that the Captain is as ignorant as Lafresia as to how he was able to defeat her [the narrator is exaggerating a bit here, I think!] but that the writer [Leiji?] believes it was the unity of the crew fighting for freedom over the myriads of Mazone led to fight by the power of Queen Lafresia. The analogous case in the Western canon is the Spartan “victory” (actually a local defeat, but instrumental to the war effort) over the Persian armies at Thermopylae, which has always been interpreted in exactly the same way as Matsumoto frames the Arcadia and the Mazone here. There’s a question as to whether we could take the analogy further and say that just as the Spartans ultimately died to the last soldier then so will the pirates..??
I’m a big fan of Osamu Dazai and I was shocked to see a quote from one of his books at the end of this great anime [Dazai was left-leaning in his politics and very decadent in his personal life, facts which in my mind rules out the possibility that Leiji was involved in the decision to borrow from this specific author].
The context of the poem, from what I’ve gathered, can be summarized as follows:
For decades the Taira clan and the Minamoto clan had been struggling for control of Japan. Kiyomori Taira was able to give his daughter in marriage to the Emperor, and secured the accession of his grandson as new Emperor. A great battle ensued and the Minamoto won out (the child Emperor drowning in the event). The Minamoto established their own headquarters in Kamakura away from the Imperial seat in Kyoto. Here comes the interesting part: the first Minamoto shogun married a woman of the Hojo clan, and the Hojo were in fact a branch of the Taira! Within three generations the Hojo branch of the Taira was controlling the Minamoto behind the scenes. So in a way the Taira had won the war after all.
The Dazai book quoted at the end of the episode deals with the third Minamoto shogun, who is keenly aware of how his kin on the maternal side are swiftly taking over the Minamoto clan’s power. He visits Kyoto and remarks on how bright and happy it is, then later reflects on the political situation, realizes the shining ones of the day are the Taira, and declares this poem.
One interpretation is that it would have been better for Japan to continue in darkness (=struggle) rather than this brightness (=peace, prosperity) because now that it is unguarded the Taira will take it over. By analogy in Space Pirate Captain Harlock, maybe there’s a feeling that having the Mazone around was potentially good for humanity, and that with the threat gone they will continue on their path to destruction.
This would be a terribly dark way to end the show…any other thoughts??
Thanks for reading so far!!!