This story opens in the early part of the twentieth century,
with Phantom F. Harlock the First flying his biplane Arcadia across New Guinea. It’s a stormy flight, and cold, as evidenced by the frost
icing PF Harlock’s plane, and he has only limited fuel left.
Yet as he passes the Owen Stanley Ranges, the Witch of Stanley Mountain reveals herself, and
laughingly mocks the great aviator…
It’s an eerie opening to a film about a space pirate, but it sets a
melancholy scene for what is to follow. It hints at the supernatural (a recurrent Harlock theme), shows us that indomitability is an inherited
Harlock trait, and it introduces the concept of Harlock and the Arcadia as a single unit. As it has been, so shall it ever be.
forward 1000 years to the future, and the Captain Harlock we know and love is steering a battered Deathshadow loaded with refugees towards
Irumidas-occupied Earth. Harlock and the Deathshadow seem to have been in the employ of the Earth forces, and to return now to an occupied Earth signifies, for Harlock, surrender.
‘The dream is over,’ he muses as Earth hoves into view, just before he crashes the Deathshadow upon landing so that she
can’t be used by the enemy.
The Harlock of My Youth in Arcadia is young, but he is already grim-faced and angry. Without
truly knowing what he has seen and done in his military position, we can only assume that it hasn’t sat well with him.
To compound matters, the blonde and winsome Maya, who appears to be in a relationship with Harlock, has gone underground as the voice of the Free
Arcadia movement, and she isn’t making catching up easy for Harlock
My Youth in Arcadia is a lengthy movie (2 hours 10) that shoots back and forth in time as it
introduces the Matsumoto-concepts of destiny and
predestiny. This young Harlock has yet to meet Tochirō but, as My Youth in Arcadia
seems to suggest, they were destined to meet as their ancestors had been destined to meet. A 1000-year flashback to World War Two
details an earlier such meeting — although more are intimated — over Germany when Phantom F. Harlock II (presumably son to PF
Harlock I), as a German ME fighter pilot, attempts to flee with Tochirō to the safety of Switzerland.
Tochirō does survive, thanks to PF Harlock II's efforts, but PF Harlock II himself is not so lucky.
This segment introduces the Revi C12D sighting system that PF Harlock
II maintains is his heart and eyes, as well as the Harlock obsession with the rolling green hills of home — which, after
all, is exactly what our current Space Pirate also lusts after.
Fast forward to the future again and Harlock
(his first name has never been quoted nor hinted at as ‘Phantom’, and this author is valiantly hoping that that
particular Harlock tradition died 1000 years ago) and Tochirō
are suitably overwhelmed by the revelation that some destinies
cannot be escaped. Shortly after this point Harlock (no doubt
addled by his psychic trips through time) attempts to locate Maya and is unfortunately ambushed on the way. He is shot more
than once and loses his right eye in the process. For those who
have always been curious how Harlock lost his eye, remember this
is but one possible version (please see
Universal Predestiny) but it is so far the only animated depiction of the event and it is certainly
rather graphic. Blood flies, Harlock grimaces, and there’s a godawful moment when, with blood
dripping from between Harlock’s clenched fingers, you realise there’s no going back this time,
that this loss has profound meaning. In the celluloid world of glorified violence and meaningless
spilling of blood, this animated feature presents, in one horrible moment, the enormity and finality of such an injury.
this is happening, Tochirō and Emeraldas are meeting for the
first time (this time) in a forest, and the Tokargans, the grunt squad of
the occupying Irumidas, learn that their home planet is to be
destroyed by the elite that they serve. Without taking up pages
of text (which a thorough explanation of this film would
entail), Tochirō presents Harlock with the Arcadia, which he has
been building in a secret underground hangar; Harlock joins forces with the Tokargans to save their planet (they don’t succeed, a failure of
devastating proportions); Harlock acquires Tori-san; Emeraldas and Maya are captured by the
Illumidas and held ransom to the renegading Harlock; Harlock saves Emeraldas
and Maya, although Maya dies in his arms (well, she’d been sick
for a while, maybe that's why she didn't want to kiss him); some bad guys are
dispatched the Harlock way (right between the eyes); and Harlock and Tochirō
take off for space and a free life aboard the Arcadia.
My Youth in Arcadia depicts an epic moment in the life of an epic hero. No single
story arc is given prominence, all characters are equal, and equally diverting. It is a story involving a number of diverse
personalities with conflicting allegiances, an overrun Earth and the struggle to free her. The characters introduced in the film
may at first seem familiar to us: Harlock is Harlock, Tochirō is Tochirō, and Emeraldas is, of course, Emeraldas. Ra-Miimé is
not, however, the saké-swilling Miimé of Space Pirate Captain Harlock, Zoru is not the Zoru of Space Pirate. Even the Arcadia
introduced in this film is not the same Arcadia.
Nothing is black and white, and nobody’s motives are
entirely pure and noble. It’s a grand adventure told in a
grand style and, although for twenty years it has been the only
Harlock history available, it isn’t necessarily the right history.
Matsumoto and his spherical universes have struck again, except
that twenty years ago his audiences were still naïve and
unsuspecting. Now, I suppose, we should know better.