Blu-ray Review: Harlock – Space Pirate

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I take a trip into space with a well-known space pirate but was it a great voyage or did i walk the plank? Well find out, and more, in our latest Manga Entertainment UK review for Harlock: Space Pirate.

Synopsis:

As humanity’s space empire collapses, 500 billion colonists pour back to re-settle their mother planet. With Earth unable to support such vast numbers, the devastating Homecoming War is fought over who has the right to return. The conflict leads to the rise of the authoritarian Gaia Coalition, who declare the Earth a sacred place that must not be repopulated …only to break their own rule by allowing the galactic elite to take over the planet.

This hypocrisy enrages Captain Harlock, however, and the immortal space pirate goes to tragic lengths to thwart the Gaia Coalition’s plans. Now the renegade captain and his crew, including ethereal alien Miime, loyal lieutenant Kei and the boisterous Yullian, are on a mission to set things right – by resetting the so-called ‘Genesis Clock’. But Gaia Coalition admiral Ezra has sent his brother Logan to infiltrate Harlock’s ghost ship Arcadia and put an end to the Captain once and for all…

Our View:

What do you get when you combine the space fights of Star Wars with uncanny elemnts found within the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise; the answer, in my eyes at least, is of course Harlock: Space Pirate. Truth be told if you weren’t watching the film then you wouldn’t immiedately come to this conclusion; but it’s a thought that kept propping-up in my head. Interestingly despite this seemingly positive attitude towards the film, and lets not forget the impressive CGI animation sequences, the film itself can be a pretty long-winded and potentially boring.

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So was having no experience with the Harlock franchise the reason I found this film rather dull? No; in actual fact it’s a pretty good stand-a-lone story, with characters and their true agenders steadily being introduced and worked-upon throughout the film. The reason I found this film long-winded and rather dull was that the story just does not want to end; for example at least three times during the two-hour runtime I expected the film to come to its conclusion but it instead shifts to a flashback of past events within a characters timeline or alters the goalposts of the ojective in question. Basically from the hour mark the films progression doesn’t seem to progress any further and just stops on a stale-mate – its as if the director wanted the films runtime to last longer and decided to throw in unneeded extensions that never really effect the outcome of the film.

Mind you the biggest disappointment, for me at least, comes in the fact that Logon, or Yama in the Japanese version, is considered as the films main protagonist and not Harlock himself. Confused? So was I but there is a valid point – it introduces viewers to the world of Harlock through a set of new eyes, as opposed to thinking you already know who he is, and it allows us to experience Logan’s adventure with Harlock wher he grows from ally to enemy. Interestingly this is not the only story being told; and actuality there are three stories being told within this film; There is the story of Harlock’s quest to reset the universe to when Earth wasn’t inhabitable, there is also the story of the Gaia sanction trying to stop him by any means necessary and then more importantly there is the story of Logan which sees him evolve from a potential puppet of Gaia to an independent crew member of the Arcadia and loyal servant to Harlock. There are other sub-plots as well, such as Isola’s secret hatred for Logan, but despite being momentarily brought-up its not really acted upon.

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On paper these varying different stories sound all quite interesting, and in reality it should be; but the progression of how the story is presented – with its constant flashbacks and long-winded scenarios – makes it for a relatively mediocre viewing experience. Fortunately there are some great moments within the film; such as the battles that take place, both in and out of the giant starships, as well as the various plot-twists that occur throughout the film; but if you are looking for a constant space-battle between two rivaling factions then you won’t necessarily find it here – instead you’ll find plenty of dialogue, character development and some deception on both sides.

Extras:

The only bonus feature of Harlock: Space Pirate is on the DVD Disc; and it’s a 22 minute “making-of” documentary which takes a look at the history of the franchise and inspirations used to make this CGI film.

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While the documentary is only 22 minutes it does feature interviews with various figureheads that were involved with the production of the film; such as directors, artists and voice actors. More interestingly is that a selection of scenes from the film are also looked into; whereby further details about whats happening and why are revealed. If you enjoyed watching the film then it’s worth checking out the documentary as it is an insightful watch.

Despite saying “Includes Extended Japanese Version on DVD” on the front of the retail packaging, and as far as I can work out, both Japanese and English versions of the film are exactly the same and, more importantly, they are both uncut. The difference between to two versions of the film is that the English audio is only available on the Blu-ray and Japanese audio is only available on the DVD; I’m guessing this is due to license restrictions set in place by Toei Animation – as the Australian and American releases are also being treated in a similar fashion.

Of course what puzzles me is that the promotion surrounding this film suggests that over 40 minutes of bonus features are included; so I’m guessing that the Japanese version of the film (with removable English subtitles) is considered as a ‘bonus’ as there is nothing else on the disc; no trailers, no tv promos; nothing – just the film and this documentary.

Specs:

Since this Blu-ray release of Harlock: Space Pirate contains the ‘international’ English release of the film on Blu-ray and the Japanese subtitled version on DVD I’ve opted to list both specifications for each disc below.

Blu-ray Disc:

Media: BD50
Region: B
Running Time: 1:51:19
Video: MPEG-4 AVC
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 (English)
Subtitles: N/A
Resolution: 1920×1080 (1080p)
Aspect Ratio: 16:9 Widescreen
Frame Rate: 23.000 fps

DVD Disc:

Media: DVD 9
Region: 2
Running Time: 1:50:24
Video: MPEG-2
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1 (Japanese)
Subtitles: English (White)
Resolution: 720 x 576 (576i)
Aspect Ratio: 16:9 Widescreen
Frame Rate: 25 fps

Overall:

Harlock: Space Pirate is a feature-length-CGI Animation film based upon characters of the seventies Harlock TV Animation which sees the consant battle between the crew of the arcdia with the Gaia sanction. This feature-length instalment meanwhile introduces Logan, a new character within the Harlock Universe, attempting to infiltrate the crew of the arcadia so that he can uncover what Harlock is up to for the Gaia Sanction. It’s all abit mysterious but as time progresses things are set in motion and as a result Logan begins to trust Harlock and starts to help him achieve his goals of activating the Genesis clock so that the universe can be reset.With Logan now working with Harlock to achieve his objectives Isola, who is a member of the Gaia sanction, begins a full-scale war against the ship of Arcadia in an attempt to stop Harlocks plans.

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In reality the film is mediocre; the CGI is impressive – and is on par with CGI seen in Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children, and the stories taking place within the film are pretty decent; but the overall pacing, and its progression, are what ultimately drag it down as by the one hour mark I was eagerly awaiting for the film to end. Mind you there is an incentive to watch this film; the film is available in stereoscopic 3D – as well as 2D – so if you have a 3D Compatible TV you can watch it in FULL HD 3D and it actually works pretty well. Let’s be clear here the 3D effect used is “depth 3D” so you won’t see things flying out of the screen, like in Despicable Me, but it does add that extra layer of realism in some scenes – especially in the earlier stages of the film.

When it comes to this Blu-ray, and bonus DVD, then its business as usual – with complications galore. The Blu-ray disc features no bonus content and only contains the English Audio, on the film presumably due to a license restriction set in place by Toei Animation; the good news is that both the Audio and Visual quality are on-par with what you’d expect. The Bonus DVD on the otherhand features a 20 minute documentary and the film itself; all of which are subtitled in English with audio in Japanese. As with all Manga Releases the audio chapters are every 10 to 15 minutes and, potentially, appear at odd moments – but with this being a film then it doesn’t really matter. In short the discs are still minimalistic but at least the visual and subtitle quality are better, and actually in working order, then compared to other Manga releases of the past six months.

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In my eyes Harlock: Space Pirate is a mediocre film; it doesn’t really do anything different or attempt to stand-out from other sci-fi styled films and the constant extensions to the story do more harm than good. This release by Manga Entertainment can also be considered mediocre, sure it doesn’t have the problems plagued by past releases but the fact that the Blu-ray disc has no bonus material what-so-ever and that the Japanese version is included on DVD (presumably due to license restrictions) is all a bit disappointing. So is this a release worth owning; that’s hard to say, but it is a film worth watching if you don’t expect much from it.

Score: review-stars-3

Harlock: Space Pirate will be available on DVD and Collectors Edition Blu-ray (which is 2D and 3D Compatible) with Bonus DVD from the 27th April 2015.

About Scott Emsen
Scott is the Founder and Executive Editor of AnimeBlurayUK but in the past he has worked on ZOMGPlay and was once a Community Moderator for the Nokia N-Gage forums. Based in the UK, he loves anything related to Games & Anime and in In his spare time you'll mostly find him playing on one of his many gaming consoles; namely the PS Vita or Xbox One.

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