Space Symphony Maetel 04: Monkey Show
Promethium, or the clone or robot or whatever it is that calls herself Promethium at the moment, commands the Space Panzers to hunt down Captain Harlock and his Death Shadow. Harlock and crew evade destruction just barely as Tochiro Oyama manages to sneak the ship into a wormhole.
Commander Leopard has an audience with Promethium where he dares to ask why this interest in the pirate all of a sudden. Promethium shuts that line of questioning. Leopard walks off, punches the wall, and (with images of Oliver’s execution in his head) declares everything a “monkey show”.
Let us unpack this.
From what I know, monkey shows in Japan have a long tradition. The monkeys do amazing acts, and they are delightful to see as long as you can keep your mind away from thoughts of how awful it is for the poor little things to be forced so. Sadly, today we have to steer our minds in precisely this direction. Leopard feels like a monkey in a show, forced to do the most horrible things against his will. It’s interesting that Burnbarrel advises sparing Captain Harlock because he is “human”, and yet this plea for humanity is crushed by Leopard in his nervous state. Why spare the life of an unknown pirate when he has just killed a beloved associate with his own hands?! Despair.
As an idiomatic expression, to call something a “monkey show” in Japan means to dub a ploy or an act easy to see through. It is apt for political conditions in LaMetal right now when Maetel, Leopard and “Promethium” all seem to know so much about each other and yet keep carrying out this sham of a show.
There is still another layer to all of this. LaMetal is being transformed into the Machine Empire, where flesh and blood humans are third-class citizens, even animals, when compared to the Mechanoids. The abuse term “monkey” is bound to be thrown at them, and in the Leijiverse as a whole there are various instances of non-human beings calling humans “monkeys”. Leopard’s mechanization is very partial and he still fully identifies with the human race, so his employment at the hands of a woman who forsook her humanity (though she claims to have reclaimed it) is a monkey show in this sense too. [Let us remember again that both Earthlings and the original LaMetalians are humans, though it is not clear which one of the two is the parent race or whether their origins lie elsewhere altogether.]
SPOILER SECTION FOR SPACE PIRATE CAPTAIN HARLOCK
In episode 41 of SPCH, we find the Mazone Queen Lafresia making a portentous claim: “Watashi wa saru”. The meaning of this statement becomes clear later on, and the best translation seems to be “I (at least) will leave” or “For my part I will leave”, where the Queen insinuates to Harlock that she will not call off the Mazone forces dormant on Earth but pledges only to make herself absent.
I speculated in my post on the episode [here] that the word “saru” (which can mean “leave” and “monkey” in Japanese) was being used in the latter sense. I thought maybe Lafresia was admitting that she was not of vegetable origin like her subjects but a mammal, perhaps even a human just like her enemies on Earth.
Back when I originally wrote that post, I hadn’t seen anyone else commenting on this possibility, but now I’ve found just such an article in Japanese [here]. Upon watching episode 41, the viewer debated whether Lafresia meant “monkey” or “leave”. The viewer had an interesting interpretation in favor of “monkey”: maybe Lafresia was declaring that she was an ancestor of the human race, since of course in our evolutionary discourse we tend to call our ancestors “monkeys”…
END OF SPOILER SECTION
The Death Shadow is rescued by the Queen Emeraldas and makes a force landing in a planet of gold. Tochiro trades the crew’s boxer shorts for the precious metals. The “extra mushrooms” are a fanservicey reference to Otoko Oidon 🙂
As Nazca and Maetel put 2 and 2 together and figure out that the real Promethium has a veritable army of clones to play with, one of them steps out on the planet of gold and tries to lure Emeraldas to come back to her “mother”. Emeraldas will have none of it and shoots her to death. The scene seems random at first but it probably ties in to the persecution of Harlock earlier. Leopard wondered why on LaMetal (tee-hee) would Queen Promethium go after the pirate all of a sudden. Here is the answer: Harlock’s companion Tochiro is romantically involved with Emeraldas. Emeraldas, Maetel’s sister and Promethium’s daughter, is violently opposed to the latter. If the Queen is to secure the Empire she must not only have a compliant Maetel succeed her but also neutralize (terminate?) her most recalcitrant child. Chasing Harlock is a way of getting to Emeraldas.
But Promethium might be worrying to much about the rebellious redhead and not enough about the blonde in her own palace!