Space Pirate Captain Harlock [Kyaputen Hârokku] (2013)

It’s amazing how far Shinji Aramaki has progressed since 2004’s Appleseed.

As heavily praised as Appleseed was at the time (with at least one overenthusiastic critic hailing it as not merely another anime but a new genre of film), Aramaki has never stopped pushing past the benchmarks he himself established to create even more stunning films.

Like Appleseed, Space Pirate Captain Harlock re-imagines a classic 1970s anime, although unlike many such recent films (Casshern and Space Battleship Yamato come to mind) Armaki seems to stay closer to at least the spirit of the original.

But what is new is the incredible imagery Aramaki creates here.  The Arcadia (Harlock’s flagship) alone is an incredible creation, featuring a beautifully realized version of the original’s skull figurehead, a magnificently ragged skull and crossbones flag fluttering at her stern, lots of working parts and a constant wreath of black clouds spewed by her mysterious engines.

His visual artistry makes every shot a thing of beauty, his use of shadow and smoke reminiscent of what Mamoru Oshii has been doing in his recent films.

By far the most important change, however is Harlock himself.  He has been transformed into a mysterious, almost sinister figure lurking in the background, until he is finally revealed as a powerful and somewhat tragic figure.

Awe inspiring.  But then, what else did we expect?

(movie available here)

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