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Harlock Saga

(return to disc)

Content rating: 5
Posted 2001-07-06 by StupendousMan
Endorsed by Cacophanus on 2001-07-07 13:45:00

"Harlock Saga" is a six-episode adaptation of the Ring Cycle to the world of Harlock; in short, Wagner in space. On second though, "adaptation" seems a bit strong; "Harlock Saga" would be better described as "inspired by". I can't say that I was favorably impressed.

Brief background: Harlock and his crew of 3 (yes, as far as I could tell, just 3) humans fly a giant battleship- shaped spaceship through the universe. They call themselves "space pirates", but the only reason seems to be the Jolly Roger painted on their bow. American TV used to show episodes of this or some related show back in the late seventies or early eighties. I can't remember any details from back then, I'm afraid. This disc contains a story based loosely on the Teutonic legends which form the basis for "Das Rheingold", an opera by Richard Wagner.

Let me start with the strong points: the producers use samples of Wagner's music in the soundtrack, and the Moscow Philharmonic does a fine job. I really liked the start titles, which show spacecraft slowly approaching each other to a low, ominous rolling theme. Unfortunately, it all went downhill from there.

The character of Emeraldas appears for the first 20 minutes, then leaves for good. Why? Don't ask. A young man is picked up off Earth about halfway through the adventure, and then proceeds to do absolutely nothing for the remaining ninety minutes (except fall over several times when the ship is struck). The characters Meeme and Freya look exactly alike -- yet one is a Niebelung and the other a goddess of the Aesir. Why? Their identical appearance doesn't advance the plot or cause any crucial misunderstandings. Perhaps the art department was running late on character design and decided to save a little money...

Worst of all is the ending. It was pleasant to watch the first five episodes, but I found myself wondering "How are they going to wrap all this up in the next half hour?" I _knew_ that there was a lot more to the entire Ring Cycle than we'd seen so far. Well, in the end, the producers punt on about three quarters of the full opera, turn the dramatic showdown between the Arcadia and the Bad Guy's fleet into a non-event, and reveal the god Wotan to be ... a guy who drinks wine and yells at his subordinates. Feh. I won't even mention Harlock's plan to return a powerful artifact to a group of people (who are now dead) on a distant planet (which has been destroyed).

One more thing: several times in different episodes, the DVD seems to have lost a bit of the Japanese audio track: when a character off-screen spoke (as indicated by the subtitled English on the screen), there was no sound at all from the TV set. I do think that someone was supposed to be talking, because no other action was going on and afterwards people responded as if words had been spoken. Wierd.

Equipment used when writing this review:
Panasonic 19-inch TV, mono speaker Sony DVD player

Content: 5 Video: 5 Sound: 8 Packaging: 6 Menu: 5

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