Space Pirate Captain Harlock: Wholes and Parts
I finished the SPCH manga last night.
But the manga itself isn’t finished. Its very last page proclaims an end to the First Part of Space Pirate Captain Harlock, and Matsumoto never wrote, never even started, a second part.
The climax of this First Part is the Arcadia’s visit to Heavy Melder. Three things happen here: 1) we learn a lot about Tochiro; 2) Queen Lafresia meets Captain Harlock face to face; 3) we realize (along with Harlock) that there is dissension in the Mazone ranks.
On Tochiro, the manga differs greatly from the anime because it doesn’t rely on flashbacks. We don’t actually get to see Tochiro, only his hat, and what we get consists of Harlock’s and Miime’s words about the great hero, plus Tori-san crying despondently.
The topic of Mazone dissension features prominently in the anime, and I thought it was one of the most interesting aspects of the show. It really starts off in episode 26, where Lafresia puts down a civilian rebellion under one Tesius. Tesius is nowhere in the manga. Instead, Lafresia comes down to Heavy Melder to meet Harlock face to face and a group of Mazone start attacking the Arcadia against her orders. She puts down this rebellious move and pretty soon the First Part ends.
To me, episode 26 in the anime is definitely a turning point, and a natural halfway point (even though the show is only 42 episodes and not 52 as could be expected). That said, in the anime, the Tochiro/Heavy Melder story comes out in episodes 30 and 31. And as far as I can remember, Harlock only gets to meet Lafresia face to face in episode 41.
I guess what I’m trying to say is that the five volumes of the SPCH manga make complete sense as a First Part. Yes, it’s a pity Matsumoto stopped there and never continued it, but what we have is a whole that makes sense and that adds tons of interesting information and feeling to what we see in the anime.
One thing that everyone who’s seen the anime and read the manga can agree with is that the anime is more kid-oriented (or the manga is darker). There is one long scene in Volume V that really exemplifies this (V, 116-146). The Arcadia lands on one of the Pirate Islands and the crew begins to relax. Two Mazone ships land on the Island as well, though it turns out that the Mazone are not aware of the nature of the island but are simply taking a break. Yattaran is working at a factory while Chief Engineer Maji is away and he messes up, creating a big explosion. The two Mazone hear the explosion and begin to investigate. Captain Harlock becomes aware of the Mazone activity and realizes that they cannot be allowed to leave the Island. Yattaran takes responsibility, he finds the two Mazone, who apparently are sisters, and kills them as they look at him with tears in their eyes.
Is Yattaran guilty of a war crime here? I think the argument can be made that he is. The Mazone offer no resistance, and Yattaran could have at least tried to bring them in as prisoners but he doesn’t (or maybe he does and we just don’t see that part). By comparison, the anime stories of Yattaran’s crush as a young fellow and his making a plastic model of the Arcadia for his Mazone captors are both missing from the manga. The difference in tone is remarkable.
Amid all of the darkness, there is are a couple of hilarious sequences in the last volume of the manga. The first one involves Maji, Zero, Yattaran and Kei. The crew of the Arcadia is coming to grips with news that humanity was somehow sown into Earth by the Mazone long, long ago. The Arcadia men think it’s hilarious because they don’t look at all like the tall willowy women. Yattaran, however, points out that Kei looks somewhat like a Mazone. Kei takes this as an insult and spills his ramen over his head, then walks off. Maji chimes in, wondering why the Mazone all look like ideal Earth women? Yattaran and Zero agree.
What makes this really funny is that Kei does look like a Mazone, if only because Matsumoto loves to picture most of his women in pretty much the same way! Maji’s question just makes the situation more absurd and funnier. It’s as if Leiji is making fun of his own obsession with a particular sort of feminine beauty.
The second funny sequence takes place during the stop at Heavy Melder. While Lafresia meets up with Harlock and the Arcadia men drink at a saloon, the Arcadia women stay on board. The Mazone “rebels” begin to attach the Arcadia but Kei, Miime and Masu are so drunk that they can’t be bothered to prepare a defense, instead they rely on the sentient Arcadia to defend itself! Kei drops dead from the alcohol while Miime hangs out at the bridge shrugging off the danger!!