The year is 2977 AD. As the Earth slowly dies, humans have taken to outer space to forge new lives. In the deep blue sea of stars, Captain Harlock’s ship appears in the vast darkness, and the music that plays is a sailors’ chant about life at sea. The chorus is rousing but self-indulgent:
Nearby, an Earth military cruiser pauses its flight, and the captain of that ship asks: “What’s that noise? Is that singing?”
That’s right — the chant isn’t just background music for a TV show. It’s Captain Harlock’s entrance music that he pipes through all the radio channels as he flies through space. I always dreamed of attaching speakers to my belt and playing music to announce my arrival at college parties, but I never actually had the balls to go through with it. Harlock went through with it; this dude is badass before he’s even made his first onscreen appearance!
The military commander announces that he’s been looking forward to the chance to have a BLOODBATH with Captain Harlock. As revealed throughout the series, the Earth army hates space pirates. But the Earthmen are going to be sneaky. They raise the white flag, signalling surrender to the pirate vessel. Harlock’s swashbuckling crew is pleased that they’ll be able to get some easy spoils, and they plan their casual approach . . .
With this word, we see Harlock for the first time, slouching in his chair on the bridge. With a gleam in his good eye (the other covered by a pirate’s patch), Harlock stands and orders the crew to send a scout. He has seen through the cunning scheme! We’re then treated to some of Leiji Matsumoto’s signature spaceship designs, as the scout ship approaches the Earth cruiser and a firefight ensues.
Harlock then launches the harpoooooons. His legion of pirates breach the cruiser and prepare to steal a bunch of brandy — but Harlock slices the alcohol apart with his blade! “Only take the food.” This showy act tells us two things:
1) Harlock isn’t a fan of brandy, although he seems to love wine.
2) Harlock has a sweet sword.
Meanwhile, the Earth council convenes to discuss the matter of Harlock’s recent raids. They aren’t sure what to do about him, so they give up on that topic and start watching horse races on their video monitors.
Since Harlock looks like a pretty mean dude right about now, the narrator intervenes to explain that the Earth government has taken over other worlds to plunder their resources. To quell any potential revolts, Earth sends subliminal mind-control messages to the populace through their TV sets. With that explanation delivered, we viewers no longer see Captain Harlock as a troublesome pirate — now he’s a heroic swashbuckler, fighting for freedom! The narrator explains that Captain Harlock “feared for the future of humanity”. This description of the government’s audiovisual evil is overlaid atop scenes of women weeping while watching soap operas.
Meanwhile, someone is going around destroying observatories and killing astronomers. These crimes were pinned on Harlock, and the Earth government has already sentenced him to death. So much for a fair trial!
While all this plotting is going on, Harlock lounges in his private cabin, carving an ocarina with a knife. This is a stark contrast to the drones mindlessly watching TV all day, complacent in their petty landlubber lives. It’s soon revealed that Captain Harlock is planning to visit Earth, which will put him in grave danger. Why is he doing such a thing? He plans to celebrate a little girl’s birthday. Down on Earth, the poor girl tearfully begs the Lord to delay her birthday by a year or two, so that Harlock won’t put himself in danger for her sake. Up in space, the pirate crew calls Harlock a nutcase, but the valiant space pirate simply smiles. It’s worth risking his life to see that little girl’s face.
At this point, it’s hard to tell this dude apart from Jesus. But then Harlock casually kicks a kitten for no reason.
The little girl — her name is Maya — waits at the promised meeting place, which happens to be surrounded by a dozen army tanks. A sad song plays as Maya waits, dreading the wonderful thought that her beloved Harlock will actually come to see her.
“We meet for the first time in a year and you greet me with tears?”
Harlock gives Maya the ocarina as a present, and then . . .