Leiji Matsumoto’s Götterdämmerung (1 of 2)
Here are my thoughts on the last arc of the Ring of the Nibelung manga, titled Götterdämmerung after the fourth and final opera of Wagner’s Ring Cycle. What we have of this unfinished arc runs to around 380 pages and it’s only been released as a webcomic. Through the kindness of friends I’ve finally been able to read this. Thank you.
If you’ve read the first 3 arcs, the 4th will be simultaneously comforting and confusing. Some plot threads continue and end in a very coherent manner. But all sorts of confusing things happen as well. The arc can be divided into two parts: the first part shows what happened immediately after the end of the third arc (called Siegfried). Then around page 220 there’s a jump in time and Little Harlock and Little Tochiro become the heroes we know and love. In this post I will discuss the first part.
Alberich and the Rhinegold
Let me start with the really confusing. Quick recap: the first arc of the manga, Das Rheingold, deals with Alberich’s theft of the gold. This is the part that was animated as Harlock Saga. As could be expected, the theft here is against Wotan’s wishes. Alberich steals the gold, goes to Earth and gets the Ring forged. Important to note: Harlock and Tochiro are adults at this point.
Fast-forward to the third arc, Siegfried, where Alberich steals the gold again. Now, this arc is actually in the past of the first one. Harlock and Tochiro are youths and their fathers are still alive. Alberich steals the gold on Wotan’s command (!) not realizing that the god has actually set things up so Alberich’s theft will fail (!!). Needless to say, no Ring is forged at this point.
Now, as far as we can tell the first part of the fourth arc (named Götterdämmerung) takes place after Siegfried but before Das Rheingold. The evidence is clear:
First Arc: Harlock and Tochiro are adults.
Third Arc: Harlock and Tochiro are children, their parents are alive.
Fourth Arc (first part): Harlock and Tochiro are still children, but their parents are dead.
In this part of the manga Wotan commands Alberich to steal the gold and forge a Ring, but he really means for Alberich to succeed this time! What’s utterly troubling to us readers is that Alberich seems not to remember or know about a prior attempt to steal the gold under Wotan’s orders. Since he was badly duped in the third arc, you’d expect him to complain at this point!
Interestingly, Alberich ends up returning the gold this time around. In talking with the Rhinemaidens he says that Harlock has uprooted the Metanoids and the time is not right. This seems to mean that he’s scared he’ll get killed on Earth while hunting for the man who can forge the Ring (since Earthlings have just wrested control of the planets from the Metanoids and Valhalla). The only explanation I can come up with as to why he doesn’t just keep the gold with him while the situation clears up on Earth is that he knows the stability of the universe is threatened by his theft and he is just as much in danger as everyone else as long as he doesn’t have the Ring to protect him. And yet he cannot get the ring forged (by Prof. Daiba presumably) until he’s sure of his safety on Earth.
Clearly, there are all sorts of time travel shenanigans going on which can potentially explain why people seem to be aware of certain events and not others, but Leiji doesn’t give us any clues or tools with which to determine who knows what and why, what has been rebooted and what hasn’t… Ultimately, the evidence for establishing a timeline in this manga underdetermines any theories we might have. We just cannot do it 😦
Dagger on the Desk
In the second arc, Die Valküre, Great Harlock leaves Earth after plunging his frightful dagger on the desk of the head of the Earth Metanoid occupation forces. [The dagger is so frightful I actually thought it was a sword, but I digress…] Great Harlock says only his son will be able to take the dagger out.
The triumphant entry of Little Harlock happens in the final arc, and it’s a good (and rare) example of a plot line that gets treated rationally and satisfactorily by Leiji! Two things happen to make the pulling out of the dagger particularly sweet. The first is that Little Harlock and Little Tochiro pull the dagger out together. The scene highlights the equality and camaraderie of the two friends. The second is the Metanoid response, which is swift and clear: they flee to the skies en masse.
This arc states explicitly that it is Metanoids who control Earth. It is also implied that this is a covert occupation: most Earthlings do not realize that their world rulers are actually Metanoid. In any case, the Metanoids are so scared of our heroes that they leave Earth. Everything in the timing indicates that this event occurs soon after Siegfried, so presumably 2964 or 2965.
I find this history very satisfying, because I know what happens next. After Valhalla is destroyed and ceases to be a factor in Leijiversal politics, the Metanoids go from being Wotan’s pawns to being agents for their own ruler the Darqueen. Still, the Darqueen’s methods are oblique: she sends agents to twist rulers’ minds in various planets and then rule by proxy. One of these planets is LaMetal. The queen there becomes an unwitting Metanoid pawn, establishes a Mechanization Planet and eventually invades Earth. The invasion is repelled by Maetel and co. Soon afterwards, the Metanoids take over Earth directly. And explode it. End of Earth.