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.
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.