Blast from the past – Captain Harlock: Arcadia of my Youth

Origin stories have become incredibly common place these days. Especially since we are currently in the super hero movie bubble. More hero origins are getting explained and are still being placed in the already large cinematic universe, DC is catching up with their latest offering being the origin story of Wonder Woman, Star Wars is going through their own small origin story phase, and many other stories are trying to copy their success in one way or another. More often than not, they appear in more gritty form then their original appearance. Arcadia of my Youth is that kind of thing for Captain Harlock, even if this movie came from the early 80’s. It’s not like Captain Harlock is the happiest series that ever existed, but this movie is a lot more grounded and gritty in comparison to the series. This is the way that it needed to be done because in the series, Captain Harlock is an invincible figure to get people away from reality. This approach works for the most part, but it’s far from flawless.

Captain Harlock is one of the many inventions that come from the mind of unlimited imagination of the famous Leiji Matsumoto. A mind that given the anime universe Space Battleship Yamato, Galaxy Express 999, Queen Emeraldas, and many other works that aren’t as popular as these four. He loves space and I love talking about his work whenever I get the chance. Watching this movie gave me this chance. I want to share my love of this guy and his ideas. Even if this post gets a small amount of views or barely any attention at all, this movie is worth talking about. People need to know about shows from the past that influence the way we know anime now. This series and this movie is a mere stepping stone along that path and it’s worth knowing about. Even if it’s strange and out of this world in one way or another.

This is one of a few movies that makes me question what kind of story telling was used in the 80’s. The other one being the Space Adventure Cobra movie. The plot set up makes sense, but Arcadia of my Youth makes so many random turns completely out of nowhere. To its credit though, when the turns happen this movie goes into them at full force and sticks with them until the end. No cowardice is given here, this movie is about passion and the fighting spirit after all. Arcadia starts with a defeated Captain Harlock returning to Earth after it was conquered by the Illumidus empire. He crash lands his ship in defiance and then slowly starts to rebel against this opposing force. On the way through all this, Harlock gather items that are relevant to his classic identity and we start to see what they stand for and why they are important. Nothing wrong with that, but I wish this movie had more subtlety to it. This kind of shows that Leiji Matsumoto’s work fits better into a tv show format, because all of these revelations would have worked better in that form with some more explanation behind them. Solid movie regardless though.

A few of these sharp turn revelations have a lot to do with the film’s two main characters’ Tochiro and Harlock. Did they have to use a machine to show that these two character’s ancestors met during world war two and form some kind of bond too instead of these two characters just forming a friendship like they were doinig in the first place? Really? You guys should already know about Captain Harlock already, but if you don’t, he’s a bad ass pirate captain of an invincible ship called the Arcadia. He still fights for Earth in his own way, even if Earth rejects him. We see how all that happens in this movie and finally see why he is the way he is. Tochiro is the mystery character here and he represents how insane this show can get. For example, he meets Harlock, he is acting like a beggar for some reason. They meet in a cafeteria. Harlock goes out to save him from the Illumidus bullies, though it turns out he is an awesome fighter in his own right. He is also shown to be an engineer/mechanic when he repairs a ship later on. Then, when people are trying to steal that ship he just repaired, Tochiro reveals that he has a ship of his own that he built. You will probably never guess what ship that turns out to be. Maybe you will, but regardless, it comes out of nowhere. Believe me, I have given away only two of the many weird things that happen from a character stand point. The genetic memory that these two characters had comes into play in the final battle in the combination of the best and worst way possible. That’s the movie for me.

Arcadia of my Youth is a movie that was made in 1982, but it’s beautiful. All the settings were incredibly unique with decent texture and color to make them feel different and special. Cityscapes felt like areas that I could live in, space scenes were incredibly and unique, and some scenes of wreckage felt lifelessly and hopeless. The character designs are basic Leiji Matsumoto fair, which is fine considering that this is one of his unique products. The animation was great most of the time. There were some still frames, but those were in between some decently anime fight scenes, and a spectacular space battle at the end. All of this should be no surprise considering that movies are better than tv series from a tv stand point, but all of this is worth talking about anyway.

Despite all the weirdness that this movie has, I would definitely call it a classic that should be watched by everyone. Captain Harlock is a famous character that was brought to life by the famous Leiji Matsumoto. He can be seen almost everywhere throughout the anime medium since his conception, especially if the concepts of space and pirates are involved. Knowing the origins of this character and then watching the series, or the opposite, will be beneficial to know one of the many steps of how anime became what it is today. It could also be considered a decent introduction to older anime. Or if you need more great science fiction anime in your life, here is more. It’s a two hour and ten minute movie that is a great thrill ride, even if Arcadia of my Youth has some weird choices in it. Might be interesting to watch for those as well. Either way please give this movie a watch at some point


  1. I haven’t watch the movie, but I watched the Anime series a long time ago, when in it was pass on the french-canadian television. I have to admit, soon as I saw the title the French opening start to play in my head 😅. I doubt I’ll be able to find it, but if I come across it, I will definitely give a try to the movie.

    Liked by 1 person

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