Since the beginning of time, the gods resided at the center of the universe. Central to their existence are the two maidens who's harmonics control the passing of time. Freya, is located within Valhalla; realm of the gods. Miime had become one of the crew of the Arcadia, and a close friend of captain Harlock. Trouble begins to stir however when Alberich, a descendant of Nibulung decides to finally take revenge on the gods for casting his race out to the corners of the universe. The first step is to take a golden nugget from the planet Rhein and forge it into a ring, a task he easily accomplishes. With the ring of Rheingold, Alberich can enter Valhalla and destroy the gods. The consequence will be the end of the universe. Can the crew of the Arcadia hope to stop a war between the gods themselves?
A bit of context first. Captain Harlock enjoyed much success up to the early 80s, then faded. Then in the 90's there was a resurgence of interest in the series. With so much time passing this was very much the return of Captain Harlock. Not only that, but he would return in an adaptation of Richard Wagner's Das Rheingold, a 19th century opera, which on paper should be nothing less than epic.
One key thing to keep in mind that while Das Rheingold was adopted to fit this anime, the Harlock series also had to be adopted in order to fit Das Rheingold. The results were not as good as expected. The biggest problem is.. well... it's boring. There I said it. Whatever the vision of a space pirate is to most people, it certainly isn't dull in mine so I wonder how this could possibly happen. Lack of action? It's true that there wasn't a whole lot, but not much less than other titles I could name. I think the biggest culprit was ironically what was intended to be one of it's best attributes: the music.
Musically the score is impressive at times but often mismatched to what was happening. This is the reason most musical scores are composed (or at least selected) for their respective titles and not grafted in, as what appears to have happened here. In particular this caused a lack of tension, with the exception of some creepy organ tunes here and there. Musically the climax was probably intended to be the well known epic piece, Flight of the Valkyries but plays out during one of the pointless battle scenes. Harlock Saga likes to show small fighters attacking capital ships and having NO effect at all. They're then promptly destroyed. These types senseless attacks happen quite a few times in the bigger battle scenes.
If you're familiar with characters in the Harlock universe, you probably won't like how they were changed this time around. Even Harlock himself seems to be this brooding figure who doesn't say or do much at all. Wotan and Alberich are the characters central to the struggle over the universe but I couldn't stand either of them. Wotan is like a pompous senile old man I came to dread appearing in any scene. Alberich is obsessed with destroying the universe, but seems to have no depth at all. The thing which most annoyed me was that he needed the ring because he knew he couldn't get past Valhalla's defenses without it, and even states that the ring is all he needs to get in. Despite this he brings this huge space ship armada along with him (that he doesn't need) and then lets them all be destroyed before he decides to use the ring which quickly destroys all Valhalla's defenses. What the hell.
The story dragged from beginning to end. I won't say it was bad, because the theory was interesting and some parts did in fact touch on deeper themes. Harlock himself was nearly unnecessary to this entire series and that's a huge problem and likely a big factor in the disconnect with the story. Traditional Harlock themes of honor, courage, freedom and the like are absent here. The closest it gets is Harlock deciding to obtain the ring because "the universe isn't just for the gods, but for everyone." That's a pretty lame reason for a series which stakes it's claim on more personal ideals.
Animation wise it was acceptable, but not great. The DVD from U.S. Manga Corps is a terrible transfer, and looks like it was copied from a VHS master. Unusual as this is for me to say, I found the voice acting in Japanese wasn't very good. And the dub... lets not even go there.
Over the years I've grown to become a big Harlock fan, and I first saw this title before I had seen much of the franchise. Later I watched it again, this time as an avid Harlock fan just to be sure on my conclusions. And I still hold the same opinion. Overall this title is just dull. Perhaps classic music fans will get more out of the score in the background, but personally I didn't find it worked well. If you want to see a show with an epic music score that truly drives an anime farther, check out the Record of Lodoss War - OVA
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