Captain Harlock: The Classic Collection, Vol. 2

By Leiji Matsumoto. Released in Japan as “Uchuu Kaizoku Captain Harlock” by Akita Shoten, serialized in the magazine Play Comic. Released in North America by Seven Seas. Translated by Zack Davisson. Adapted by Snati Whitesides.

This second omnibus of Captain Harlock settles down a bit, with a lot less goofy comedy but also without the tragedy that I was expecting. What we end up getting are a series of scenes/arcs of the Arcadia and its crew going after the Mazon in deep space, and having adventures. It reminds you that manga titles back in the day were far more concerned about any casual reader being able to pick up and follow along even after missing the previous seven months. There’s not a lot of intercontinuity here. That said, it’s certainly not dull; once you get your head around the Harlock pacing and remind yourself that these characters don’t speak, they declaim, you can see why Captain Harlock is still a beloved character today, even as he spends the entire book talking with his computer or getting upset about (seemingly) being saved by his hated enemies.

The cover art has the Mazon Queen, who spends most of this volume standing in her place of power and trying to get more inside information on Harlock and company. At one point a Mazon pilot, who seems to be not quite as fanatical as the others, boards the ship and speaks briefly to the crew, finding them “united in body and heart”, much to the horror of the seemingly heartless Mazon Queen, who in reality is about as cold and ruthless as the Cybermen in Doctor Who’s 80s period, which is to say not at all. A lot of the conflict in Harlock tends to be glossed as “men” (Harlock and his crew) vs. “women” (the all-female Mazon), and we get to see the men be the ones who are stronger because of their emotions and bonds, while the cool, heartless women are doomed to never understand. Harlock’s crew does have two women in it, of course, and possibly my favorite sequence of the book was seeing Kei pretending to be in trouble and letting herself get rescued by Daiba to satisfy his grumpy male ego. This is laid out explicitly so that the reader gets it. That said, I’d feel better about Matsumoto’s handling of women if he didn’t draw most of them looking the same.

At one point the Arcadia is almost destroyed by a gravity planet, and is rescued at the last second. Harlock thinks it was the Mazon who did it, and is suitably angry and humiliated – it’s not just Daiba, Harlock too has an ego that is easily bruised. The Mazon Queen, though, is also wondering who it was that saved Harlock, because it didn’t seem to be them either. As a result, there is a tiny bit of forward plot motion in this volume that is otherwise a series of static paintings. I think there’s one more omnibus of this series, and I’m interested to see if it wraps up nicely and neatly, or if its ending is open. In the meantime, if you like classic manga, you should give this a read.

Added bonus for Doctor Who fans: the Sontaran fighter who makes an appearance. (OK, he’s not meant to be Sontaran, but come on, look at him.)

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