Everyone knows Leiji Matsumoto, even those who have never heard of him. The Japanese mangaka (i.e. manga author) who died on February 13 at the age of 85 gave birth to immortal masterpieces such as Galaxy Express 999, Space Battleship Yamato and most notably Captain Harlock, a cartoon that changed the lives of many of us has . We want to remember him fondly through his space captain, a romantic hero who fascinated at least two generations of Italians.
It was April 9, 1979. A year after the arrival of Atlas Ufo Robot, another Japanese hero appears in Rai’s program and conquers the hearts of young Italian viewers. This is Captain Harlock, the space pirate fruit of Leiji Matsumoto’s wild imagination, one of the most prolific and popular Japanese authors of all time. For audiences accustomed to Grendizer’s robot battles, it’s not just another love act at first sight, but also the discovery of a new breed of sci-fi, different, romantic, introspective, and full of metaphorical meanings. The story of Captain Harlock himself, set in the year 2977, is new and thought-provoking also for older audiences. Future Earth is under the control of a centralized Japanese-led government. In this world, the result of globalization which has reached its most extreme consequences, after decades of ruthless exploitation, resources are now exhausted and in order to find the products necessary for its survival, man has begun to colonize other planets. Thanks to the widespread use of machines, men no longer have to work and live a listless and lazy existence. They no longer have any ideals, dreams, goals to pursue, they no longer have anything or anyone to fight and fight for. Special hypnotic waves spread through radio and television programs keep them in a situation of complete apathy. Anyone who does not accept this situation is considered crazy or even called an outlaw. Corrupt rulers, only interested in their own personal gain, prefer to have fun and don’t even realize that a terrible alien invader is preparing to attack Earth: the Mazonians. Few scientists try to sound the alarm, but nobody listens to them. The aliens have such an easy time eliminating them. One of them is Professor Daiba (Daio in the Italian version). His orphaned son Tadashi therefore decides to join Captain Harlock’s crew on the spaceship Arcadia, where he will find a new family and where he will also mature as a man episode after episode. Harlock is the living symbol of freedom, is the one who flies into infinite space and does not agree to lead a useless existence on earth, although he loves her with all his might. With his unfathomable face marked by a scar and a blindfold, the space pirate embodies the ideal of the romantic hero reinterpreted through the ethics of Bushido (samurai code of honor) and can therefore only fascinate and enchant.