published in Empire No.79, Sydney
Based on one of Japanese manga’s most famous and still-running serializations, Captain Herlock bears a tone reverent towards its origins. Reiji Matsumoto’s various manga have created an ethos tightly moulded by the post-war era. In some respects, the maverick pirate figure of Captain Herlock cruising the universe with crew in tow and valiantly fighting for personal compassion and vowed responsibility is a projection of Matsumoto’s own heroic and social contract with Japanese nationalism. Nonetheless his stories – well adapted in this contracted TV series – disperse emotional and psychological arcs normally withheld in heroic sagas.
As befits the core otherness of the superhero, Captain Herlock is a darkly troubled soul whose pure conviction aligns him with cosmological powers. Psychically linked to the spiritual energy core that guides his ship – the Arcadia – and its super computer, he eschews physical prowess for contemplative precision, making him a captain well-respected by his motley crew. As per the manga, the series paints Herlock as a hyper-romantic Byronic statue, hair always covering one eyes, cheek scar always dynamically visible. The crew are rendered in more of a buffoon style, yet their navigational skills and respect for the captain block any dismissal of their integrity. The women who accompany Herlock are alluring and captivating – especially the mysterious Mimeh: a ghostly waif whose form is but the remaining energy of a woman who has committed to stand by Herlock’s side forever.
This TV version of Captain Herlock follows numerous series, OVAs and feature films made from the manga since the 70s. It centres on young Tadashi, son of Professor Daiba who survived from a team of scientists investigating the origins of the cosmos in an outer galaxy. With his father now dead, fate directs Tadashi to side with Herlock aboard the Arcadia. Their journey starts off in standard adventure mode but graciously unfolds into dizzying narrative patterns befitting true universal investigation.