P-A-R-T-Y T-I-M-E (with Harlock & co.)
It’s good to be old. I mean, it’s not like you have a choice whether to age or not, so you might as well convince yourself it’s a good thing. I got myself all sorts of stuff for my birthday: pre-ordered the Harlock film novelization (on the way as we speak), the second volume of the Mahoroba novel (out next month) and just now pre-ordered the Harlock film concept art book, which will come out in September. On top of that, I got myself a few random 3d models (a cheetah, Wolverine-like hand blades and rocks with faces on them, you know, the usual stuff) and a booklet with Thomas Taylor’s timeless 70-page introduction to the writings of Plato, which I was totally expecting not to get at all, and which so far (5 pages in) I’m totally grasping…this last fact probably the best proof that it is good to get old. Also, by my calculation next year I’ll be exactly half as old as Leiji. Wow~
Anyway, I’m going to comment on a few things from the Harlock film preview. I should warn you that if you want balanced criticism of the film (or, me genoito, a negative take on it) you’d better head elsewhere. Go ahead and check out what the rest of the aniblogosphere is saying about the film… <checks animenano> Oops, nobody else is talking about it. Oh well, I guess you’re stuck with me.
So the action begins at a frontier planet called MX-910. Yes, this is definitely a shout out to the planet Heavy Melder, but the nondescript name puts the hellhole in its proper place: a world in decay which has seen its better days. It reminds me of Mars in Galaxy Express 999. Anyway, this fellow interests me:
Is he the narrator?? What is his story?
The fact that humans haven’t found any aliens, as the narrator clearly implies, makes me very interested in finding out what the status of Miime is. I mean, is she hidden from view? We definitely don’t see her in the fighting sequence… Or maybe the human elites do know of aliens, and keep it from the rest of the human race.
The costume designs in these 12 minutes are amazing. They totally “remember love,” taking inspiration from Leiji’s work, and then bringing them alive. Leiji is known for his gears/gauges, and one of the things that I was looking for the most in this film was seeing the bright things pop up. But I didn’t expect them to show up on the helmets of the Arcadia crew!
Everyone is dressed so nicely, but we have yet to see the classic Leiji arrow motif. I hope they do show it!
The setup with the new recruits works off of a classic storytelling trope (when I was growing up, all the jokes revolved around three or four guys being asked a question, with the fourth invariably providing the right, though quirky, answer; of course, I’m old enough so that there was always a Soviet guy in the mix, along with the American, etc.).
The way Yattaran/Yulian saunters over to Yama (with the little bow at 4:05), after the third guy has fallen off, is just brilliant. It’s like a really condescending and heartless doctor going to look over a patient he’s not expecting to survive.
Another thing that is totally awesome is how we can hardly see Tori’s (the pet bird’s) eyes. I mean, on the face of it this creature is just laughably ridiculous, and yet they actually manage to make it look darn scary and menacing while still holding on to Leiji’s design. This, in a nutshell, is why I think the guys working on this film have been so amazingly successful: bridging the divide between your usual manga/anime and a more realistic medium like this CG stuff, without betraying the original, in other words, neither scrapping the original altogether nor copying it blindly, but actually recreating the original in this new medium.
It’s just not a visual thing: case in point Yulian. Make no mistake, Yattaran in the original works is badass and he has a mean streak (if and when he can be bothered to jump into action). I remember scenes where it’s Yattaran who just wants to blast everyone to pieces. But think about the dilemma this brings for the filmmakers: how can you bring a badass to the big screen (which is less permissive in terms of character design) and be faithful to Yattaran’s look, without making people just laugh at him and dismiss him as a cute chibi? Well, I honestly don’t how you do it, but they went ahead and got it done with Yulian!! I so want to wear that fashion! It’d actually fit me!!
It’s interesting that they did away with Yattaran’s Osaka dialect. I’m definitely looking forward to hear why the decision was made and how un/happy Leiji is with it. (I mean, the original character is a tribute to a friend of his from the region so…)
How come the recruits survived?!
OK, on to the battle scene. There is a real heavy historical presence, and yes, you know I’m compelled to talk about it: Yamato. Not the space battleship per se, but the original. Let’s analyze the situation. The Arcadia is detected as it leaves MX-910 by a patrol ship armed to the teeth
(patrol ship my ass). The ship sends out a bunch of space planes. The word I used when I subbed it was “fighters”, but the original Japanese word is kansaiki, which means ship-based planes. And in fact, these particular planes are not fighters, they’re bombers, specifically dive-bombers (a type of bomber which reached perfection during WWII). When the assault begins, one of the bombers scoffs at the fact that the Arcadia doesn’t have a single ship-based plane to respond. And of course seconds later all of the dive-bombers get butt-munched (one of the things that happens is that the divers are supposed to dive really fast, release their bombs, then pull out, but the Arcadia is so freaking quick that they literally run into its path).
When Yamato sailed off of Kure harbor on its last mission in 1945, it did not have a single plane with it. There was not enough fuel for them, other planes were being used in kamikaze attacks at Okinawa, etc. I imagine when the first American dive-bombers began their assault, they must have marveled at this utter lack of air cover. The result? Yamato never reached its destination. Of course, things turn out differently with the Arcadia. And if you’re wondering whether this means that Leiji had a hand in the plot at this point, remember that the script work was handled by Harutoshi Fukui. Fukui is totally in his element here.
And in the midst of all of this we get to hear Harlock for the first time (and his lovely cape, which is almost a character of her own). Wow, the actor Oguri goes for the super deep voice here. It’s fitting that the ship has a dark matter engine, as Harlock here is pure dark matter himself (his voice, his clothes, his facade). I’m pleased with the voice acting in these 12 minutes by the way (I told you I would be super biased!)
When the dude with the skull face tattoo says that the patrol ship has turned around and is going to escape, Tori just erupts with indignation. That’s just awesome. Harlock is of course still looking too cool for school, but maybe the bird channels his emotions in some way.
Then the carnage begins in earnest. Kei leads the way, which is totally awesome and makes perfect sense. Kei has always been the Arcadia’s battle commander, though it’s easy to forget sometimes. The pirates are in full control here and the enemy never stands a chance. This is of course typical of the first 10-15 minutes of most action movies (you usually see the hero kicking ass UNTIL one day when blah blah blah). I’ll be curious to see how they handle the Arcadia’s superiority throughout the film. I mean, Leiji’s Arcadia is quite invincible, and the fact has turned off a lot of people from the anime etc.
The retina injection scene is fabulous, Harlock’s hand flourish when he announces they will go by “In-Skip” (whatever that is) is divine, and I could go on and on. By the way, the publisher of the novelization has the first two pages on their website. I read them today, and it’s extremely close to the beginning of the film. The dialogue is actually identical in those two pages. There are of course descriptions and some background stuff, but all of it has already surfaced in the various trailers and on the website so I don’t have any scoops.