a.k.a. Harlock Saga, Niibarungu no Yubiwa: Rhein no Ogun
a.k.a. Harlock Saga der Ring des Nibelungen das Rhein Gold
The Rhein Gold, a legendary treasure capable of controlling the very essence of time, has been stolen. Now, the gods of the universe are seeking revenge for the theft. A battle between the gods and the thief, however, would lead the universe into eternal darkness. It’s now up to space pirate Captain Harlock, along with his crew in the ship Arcadia, to find a way to return the gold before humanity becomes the first victim of the imminent war.
summary by Griveton
Highs: Ambitious; fitting soundtrack; full of known and interesting characters
Lows: Inconsistent animation; character designs in general; boring combat
Matsumoto Leiji created one of the most popular and longest-living universes in anime that has kept anime fans engrossed since the ’70s. Harlock Saga adds more to this universe, already populated by series like Space Battleship Yamato, Galaxy Express 999, Arcadia of My Youth and Queen Emeraldas. And for this OVA, being part of all that tradition is its greatest asset… but also its biggest problem.
The story is an ambitious one: Heavily influenced by Richard Wagner’s opera series, Der Ring des Nibelungen (The Ring of the Nibelungs) and borrowing characters from classic anime that defined Matsumoto’s universe, Harlock Saga had everything to become a classic. Sadly, the presentation is somewhat lacking. Since the characters aren’t original, the OVA assumes the viewers already know who they are, and thus not given a proper introduction. Also, the battles are thoroughly boring and, thankfully, short. On the positive side, the cast is full of lovable characters, and the story develops and progresses at a good pace, constructing an interesting space opera. Harlock, in particular, is a really cool character, and Emeraldas and Tochiro don’t fall behind.
Sadly, in keeping an old-school feel to it, the series was a little bit too successful. While the animation is often very good, it’s also inconsistent in its quality; sometimes it just looks outdated, and the old school character designs just accentuate that. This also makes the CG feel even more out of place. The character designs range from great (Harlock, mainly) to the incredibly plain and uninspired, as do mechanical designs. While the music, heavily influenced by Richard Wagner’s compositions, is grand and fitting, it also takes away any sense of freshness.
Harlock Saga is, even with its many faults, an OVA worthy of your time and money, especially if you’re a fan of Matsumoto Leiji’s creations. For those who aren’t it will be much less enjoyable… but in any case, this is still an entertaining series, and in the end that’s enough.
Highs: Epic in scale; tremendous musical score
Lows: Zero personality; experimental animation; sleep-inducing action scenes
Harlock Saga is an aberration in the Leijiverse. By no means is this a worthy successor to the space opera saga that Matsumoto Leiji thrilled millions of fans with decades ago. With all the main characters of its predecessors but none of their excitement or flair for the dramatic, this anime is the end product of making a copy of a copy of a copy; the quality degrades over time.
Just about the only thing positive I can glean from Harlock Saga is that it pays homage to 19th century German composer Richard Wagner’s “The Ring of the Nibelungs” and even sets an epic space battle to the tune of Ride of the Valkyries. Yeah, that’s it. On to the negatives…
… which are plentiful. The first negative is the plastic characters. From Harlock to Emeraldas to Meeme to the cookie-cutter side characters, lines are delivered like they were read from a script for the first time with nary an expression on anyone’s face (unless you count the cold, dead stare of a fish on a dinner table as anexpression). The lone personality is Tochiro, but he exhibits one of the most annoying traits in recent memory: he has this… this penchant for repeating and stating the obvious. For example, Harlock would say, “This apple is red”, to which Tochiro would reply, “So you’re saying the apple is red?”. This is beyond irritation, I assure you.
But the fun doesn’t end there. The art and animation are suitably old school; old school doesn’t necessarily have to mean “bad”, but apparently the artists didn’t get that memo. Harlock’s ship Arcadia is even done in 3D for the first OVA, but the result is so poor that the vessel is hand-drawn for the rest of the series. Not to feel left out, the action scenes are boring and terribly choreographed.
I’m wondering why I even have to write a concluding paragraph. I think my message is clear: even if you are a Leijiverse fan, avoid this title. Please.
Harlock Saga can be downloaded legally in the United States HERE.