SPACE PIRATE CAPTAIN HARLOCK
HARLOCK: SPACE PIRATE
Shinji Aramaki is a director who emerged first as a mechanical designer on various anime tv series of the 1980s and 90s. He made his directorial debut with the breathtaking feature film Appleseed (2004), another manga and anime adapted work. Aramaki went on create a sequel with Appleseed Ex Machina (2007) and a prequel Appleseed Alpha (2014). In between these, he also directed one of the episodes of the anthology Halo Legends (2010) and the full-length Starship Troopers: Invasion (2012). Aramakis films come with dazzling detail lavished on the military hardware and technology and a hand with science-fiction action that makes him at the forefront of modern anime directors.
Shinji Aramakis Space Pirate Captain Harlock has quite a different tone to the original tv series. This is most notable in the substantial backstory about Harlocks origins, the creation of the milieu of the Gaia Sanctions and the pursuing nemesis Isola and his brother Yama, which has all been invented for the film. The original anime series was fairly typical for the 1970s. It is a much lighter show with characters being drawn in limited lines Yattaran, for instance, is usually portrayed as a comic relief character but here is altogether more serious. The original series is typical of Japanese science-fiction of the 70s/80s, filled with fanciful imagery where sailing ships or old battlecruisers would take to the stars. This seems at odds with Shinji Aramaki, a director who specialises in hard military science-fiction and exactingly detailed machines. Indeed, in Aramakis hands it leads to an incongruous mix where we have densely detailed fleets of ships combined with the more comic-bookish image of The Arcadia with a skull-shaped prow, always surrounded by a black cloud and sailing the Jolly Roger. Or images that improbably play on pirate imagery such as a laser gun that has been built to resemble a cutlass or of Harlock piloting the ship with an old-fashioned ships steering wheel.
However, the virtue of any Shinji Aramaki film is the incredible detail and texture he places into the designs of the spacecraft, weaponry and the combat sequences. The spaceships here all feel as though they could fly and have some function. Aramaki creates space battles and images of fleets in combat on an epic scale like no other director the sort that would cause E.E. Doc Smith to cream in his longjohns. It is the space war as art. It is this that transforms Space Pirate Captain Harlock into something altogether unique and frequently beautiful.