Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Space Promotional Captain Harlock

Let's say it's the mid 1970s and you are Toei Animation Company, a Premiere Animation Company Of The Orient. This means you look like Pero from Puss In Boots, mouth frozen in a perpetual grin. Anyway, you're producing an animated TV series based on the popular Leiji Matsumoto manga SPACE PIRATE CAPTAIN HARLOCK, and you have a sneaking suspicion that it would do well in foreign markets. How best to promote this series? Well, there are many ways. But one way is to print up thousands and thousands of English-language booklets about Captain Harlock!



This A4-sized booklet sported a glossy color cover, black and white interiors, and lots of amusingly translated information about Captain Harlock and his crew. There were so many left over after Toei had made the rounds of TV industry gatherings that an enormous load of the things was dumped into the American market in the early 1980s. I found my copy in a comic shop in Philadelphia in 1982, but you could pick them up at your local Star Trek convention or hometown comic book store for what seemed to me a pittance - after all, this is Captain Harlock, in English!!



And an interesting sort of English it is, what with Harlock being in command of the "M/S ALKADIA" and all. The basic plot of the classic 1978 Harlock TV series is here - a depressed, listless Earth menaced by the Mazone plant-women from Andromeda who have come to take back the planet that was once theirs, with only gothy space pirate Harlock and his 40 crewmembers standing in the way of the Mazone fleet. Most of the illustrations are classy Matsumoto works from a period when he was at the top of his game, accompanied by helpful text.



Daiba in particular is wearing science-fiction fashion that will never go out of style - goggles, light-machine-gun style laser rifle, those giant knobs on the heels of his space boots. As far as I'm concerned, every day I can't dress like this is a day that is wasted. Please note this illustration is from 1976, which means that it's another year before Star Wars brings "space opera" back to the forefront of popular culture.




For years afterwards Kei Yuki could never appear on our television screens without a ritualistic intoning of the phrase "She helps Harlock biologically." Also we meet Doctor Zero, one of the archtypical Matsumoto doctors who drinks a lot but is a super excellent medical doctor. One wonders if Leiji had a traumatic experience with his pediatrician. I believe I will be getting my yearly checkup somewhere else, Doctor Zero. 



And rounding out our look at the cast is the always glam Queen Lafresia of the Mazone, looking extra-funky in outer-space hip-huggers. Whether you're leading an intergalactic invasion fleet or hitting the dance floor at Studio 54, you'll always be in style when Matsumoto's your designer! Matsumoto - because giant bell bottoms never go out of style.



The book also features some Studio Nue illustrations of various space vehicles seen in the show, including the Arcadia, your standard Mazone space-carrier, and what somebody who just saw Star Wars decided to call a "Z-Wing."



Seriously though, one of the most interesting things about this book devoted to selling a Captain Harlock TV series is that it really doesn't have a lot to do with the Captain Harlock TV series. Most of the cast is missing - where's General Kiruta? Where's Mimay, Harlock's alien girlfriend who has no mouth and yet must drink? Where's Tochiro Oyama and Emeraldas, even though they only show up in flashbacks? And where's the linch-pin of the entire series, the little girl who bravely faces the trials of being orphaned and then being kidnapped to another star system, the daughter of Tochiro and Emeraldas - Maya? She's nowhere to be seen. In fact, one might posit that this book was put together before the TV series even went into production, which shows Toei's determination to break into worldwide markets - a gamble that succeeded, judging by the subsequent worldwide popularity of many of their television series like Candy Candy, Grandizer, Gakeen, and later, something called Dragonball or something.

The episode guide (such as it is) bears no resemblance to what got broadcast on the TV. There are points of reference - the pyramid at the bottom of the Bermuda Triangle wound up in episode 13 and became the basis for the Toei "Manga Matsuri" short film "Secret Of The Arcadia" - but slinky Mazone spy Shizuka Namino does not appear in episode 3, and she is definitely not found breathing "carbiniferous air" in a "dome that comes rushing down to Earth." This book's episode guide seems to be following the story of the Captain Harlock manga that was running in Akita Shoten's Play Comic at the time ('77-'79). Which makes it really interesting for obsessed fanboys such as myself, but a useful guide to the TV show it is not.



However, it must have done some kind of good, as Toei's Space Pirate Captain Harlock was a worldwide hit in Asia, Europe, South America, Francophone Canada... everywhere but the United States, in fact. In Japan the series would be released on VHS, Laserdisc, and DVD, and other nations would see their own home video releases in their native languages. 

Japanese Captain Harlock VHS box art


It would be almost a decade after this book's release before Captain Harlock would wind up on American television, shoehorned in with Queen Millennia for a season of confusing afternoon confusion courtesy Harmony Gold, unhelpfully titled "Captain Harlock And The Queen Of 1000 Years.



In the meantime, American fans had to make do with a badly dubbed Z.I.V. home video release, a even more poorly produced Malibu Graphics re-release of the Z.I.V. video... and this book. Of course here in the modern world, Space Pirate Captain Harlock is available on DVD subtitled in English by Discotek Media, and is currently being streamed on several digital media platforms.

one of two FHE releases of the ZIV dub of Captain Harlock


Oh yeah. Almost forgot.  Toei ALSO did a book like this for Galaxy Express 999.


7 comments:

Chris Sobieniak said...

being reminded I have both those booklets, plus a few other promotional pamphlets and booklets Toei released in the early 80's (the ones labeled "Toei Animation '81 and '84 could've used English, but the pictures make up for that perfectly).

Steve Harrison said...

You know I could write endless pages on this artifact, but I won't, for now. :)

But some comments because I r an ass.

1. Mayu, not Maya.

2. Emeralda, not Emeraldas. Yes, I know, functionally they're the same chara and Emeralda fulfills the same role as Emeraldas, but they ARE named different for whatever reason. Maybe having something to do with contracts with Columbia and radio dramas or some nonsense.

3. by all indications Toei dumped a TON of these on Books Nippan, probably around 1981 after the big 'anime is the tits!' lovefest at the SDCC. Since Books Nippan was doing the outreach to comic shops, that's likely the prime source. Same as a metric buttload of Arrivederci,Yamato and Be Forever Yamato movie programs. I never saw the GE999 sales pamphlet however, is it done in the same way i.e. not really connected to the show as aired and reading more like a translation of the original proposal to Fuji TV's programming boss?

4. I'm NEVER going to shake you from being tainted by that second, HORRID Ziv dub of Harlock episodes, and get you to acknowledge that the first, original tape was fairly decent for the time, am I?
:)

Chris Sobieniak said...

That reminds me, here's one auction i didn't expect to find and/or win at all!
http://tinyurl.com/5njvev

d. merrill said...

$31, not a bad price!

Chris Sobieniak said...

$31, not a bad price!

Not bad at all!

David Simmons said...

The Captain Harlock TV series is now available for download at Crunchyroll - http://www.crunchyroll.com/

Hyperforce said...

Is there anybody out there who's aware of any alternative manga versions of Space Pirate Captain Harlock? You know, like there's another manga version of Yamato not penned by Matsumoto, but by Akira Hio. Or the two comicizations of Starzinger by Gosaku Ohta and Shigeto Ikebara...

The opening titles of the series mention Terebi Land, Terebi Magazine, Bohken Oh, Tanoshii Yohchien and Otomodachi as magazines other than Play Comic in which Space Pirate Captain Harlock was published. That seems to indicate that there are apocryphal versions out there, but I can't find anything on the web...