I think that you can figure out what kind of movie this is just from its title. Space Pirate Captain Harlock is a definition of the term style-over-substance featuring stunning CGI graphics but a very superficial and dull story. And the dialogues are just too over-the-top. They get progressively worse and worse. While in the first hour I could swallow some of the more showy lines, the last fifteen minutes are just plain old crazy. The plot takes so many twists and turns that by the end of it you won’t be sure what it is you just watched. But everything here looks really cool and you get that juicy “traveling among the stars” vibe.
All of this makes Space Pirate Captain Harlock a nice little science fiction curiosity. Just think of it as Pirates of the Caribbean in space and you should be fine. And there are a lot of similarities between these two movies. This is odd, considering that Captain Harlock is based on a Manga comic book published in the seventies. Perhaps this is the reason why the design of the spaceships, suits, and weapons is more steampunk than futuristic. The planets and spaceships look almost realistic while the faces are a bit iffy. You can tell it’s 2013 and they don’t have the capabilities to make them look believable just yet.
If you’ve read any of my other science fiction movie recommendations, you’ll know that I’m a sucker for movies set in outer space. I like to zone out and just chill in the vastness of the universe, even if I’m not high. There’s something so comforting about that setting. Something reminding you that you’re just this small being on one small planet in an endless ocean. This brings us to the themes Space Pirate Captain Harlock is exploring here. Expansion of the human race, our inevitable corruption, and a chance for redemption to name a few.
Humans did what humans do, they multiplied and multiplied until the Earth could no longer support them. A bloody war broke out and ended with the formation of the Gaia Sanction, a government in charge of restoring order. There is, however, one man who managed to escape their ruthless grasp. His name is Captain Harlock and after a horrific dark matter accident, he roams the universe with his spaceship Arcadia eluding authorities. He has a secret plan and in order to find out what it is, Gaia sends a spy aboard his ship…
I oftentimes say that you should watch foreign movies as they were made, with subtitles, but animated movies are different. For obvious reasons, so I recommend you check out the English-speaking version of this movie. Anyhoo, what you can expect from it are epic space battles followed by vague exposition dumps followed by more fighting. Your standard-issue space opera stuff. We will even get a shower scene with a bit of Space Elf nudity. This is truly a strange movie and it can be a refreshing break from your usual viewing schedule.
Finally, if you’re looking for movies like Space Pirate Captain Harlock, I recommend you check out Treasure Planet and Titan A.E. Both of these movies feature a traditional style of animation but much better stories and dialogues. Of course, you can always go back to the granddaddy of these sorts of CGI-animated adventures and watch Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within. And if you’re looking for something darker do take a look at Dead Space: Downfall.