The Metanoids (Part I of III)
[This is a huge topic, very much underrepresented on Leijiverse websites, so I will try in this series of posts to get in as much valuable information on these aliens as possible. Forgive me if it is so disorganized!]
On my post on chapters 37 to 39 of Space Pirate Captain Harlock, I inquired:
“[…] the entire universe is Harlock’s Valhalla. But then the next question becomes: what is his Ragnarok?”
The question was prompted by my equation of Harlock with Odin. But it is totally valid, once slightly modified, without having to refer to such arcane theories. So let me rephrase it:
Does Matsumoto have a conception of a Final Battle in his mind?
Initially I think our gut feeling is going to be “No”. At a theoretical level Mr. Matsumoto has consistently supported a cyclical view of Time, while at the practical level he has kept making and remaking his stories, adding heroes and villains along the way. There wouldn’t seem to be a Final Battle on the horizon, just a series of pseudo-final battles that always end up leading to new wars on an ever increasing scale.
But there’s ample evidence that he has, or did have at one point, precisely this event in mind. I’m speaking specifically of his Great Yamato project. There’s a must-read page on this here:
To summarize, Matsumoto and Nishizaki have had their own epic battle over the Yamato franchise for years. In 1998 the courts sided with Leiji and gave him complete freedom to use the franchise. In 2002 the courts took that power away from him. But in those 4 years Leiji set himself to the task of uniting the different threads of the Leijiverse (Harlock, Maetel, Emeraldas, Yamato, etc) and pit them in one great battle against a formidable foe: the Metanoids.
The Metanoids did not just appear out of thin air to become our heroes’ punching bag, oh no. Leiji had been working with them since his Ring of the Nibelungs/Harlock Saga manga in 1990. And they had been popping up in just about every new Matsumoto work: as the main enemy in the Eternal Fantasy arc of Galaxy Express 999, and lurking more or less in the shadows of Harlock Saga (the manga, the anime never got far enough to deal with them), Queen Emeraldas (1996), Maetel Legend (2000) and Cosmo Warrior Zero (2001).
The creator/s of this website [here] has brilliantly described the Metanoids as Leiji’s Heisei enemies, because of how neatly their first appearance matches the beginning of the Heisei Era in Japan (1989-). The critical thing here is that try as you might it’ll be tough to come up with a main foe in the Leijiverse prior to this: Mazone, LaMetalians, Illumidas, Gamilons simply cannot be reduced or assimilated into one group. There are many formidable Showa Era enemies, but there is only one true Heisei enemy in the Leijiverse.
Not only did Leiji introduce these Metanoids everywhere, but he did it so masterfully that the entire telling of the Leijiverse can be seen in a whole new light: it’s not a “tacking on” of a new enemy in order to pull all the threads together, but the invention (or “revelation slash discovery” as he’d probably say) of an underlying power that’s been that main foe from the very beginning. There’s no better way to communicate the awe that I feel at how Leiji has done this than by dealing with precisely those series where the Metanoids are so shadowy they might even be pass unnoticed.
The Queen Emeraldas OVA deals with Emeraldas’ and Hiroshi’s battles with the Afressian Empire. At the end of the second episode (i.e. at the end of the original series, later doubled in size) Emeraldas faces the Afressian Queen Bararuda and during the skirmish the Queen’s right hand woman, Ruda, is hurt in the shoulder. Beneath the fabric one sees machinery of some sort.
Emeraldas comments laconically:
And Ruda replies that whatever she is, it’s irrelevant now because she’s sworn allegiance to the queen.
That’s pretty much all we get here. What’s clear is that the Afressian Empire is not mechanical in any way, but that a person very close to the throne is a Metanoid. As we will soon see, Ruda’s case is atypical as she seems to care for the Afressian Empire and, to put it bluntly, is failing in her duties as a Metanoid agent.
[to be continued]
NOTE: After Maetel whisks Tetsuro from his prison on Earth in the Eternal Fantasy film, she tells him that he will be doomed to travel forever unless he puts a stop to the Metanoid menace. I’d throw this in as an extra bit of proof that Leiji is linking a final battle with the Metanoids…