MANGA REVIEW | "Captain Harlock: Dimensional Voyage" - Volume One
If there was one guy that could compete with Osamu Tezuka in the art of world-building, it's Leiji Matsumoto. For nearly 65 years, Matsumoto's creations have inspired many people from all over the world. From his bombastic space operas like Galaxy Express 999 and Space Battleship Yamato to even his work with iconic electronica duo Daft Punk for the film Interstella 5555, his mark in the world of anime and manga is one that shall never fade from existence. By far, his greatest work is said to be that of the heroic adventures of Space Pirate Captain Harlock (who shares a similar facial scar to that of Tezuka's Black Jack).
Recently, Harlock's original adventures were given the manga reboot treatment, in the form of the series Captain Harlock: Dimensional Voyage. Aided by illustrating newcomer Kōichi Shimahoshi, the series showcases Planet Earth as a floating orb almost completely abandoned. With only the rich in charge, any sign of danger is swept under the rug. That includes a strange object that fell from the sky, which the level-headed Dr. Daiba has claimed is a sign of a future alien attack. Everyone calls his findings hogwash, except for Captain Harlock, who promises to protect the Earth from said evil forces. (A surprising decree, given the massive bounty placed upon his head.)
It's when a reporter starts snooping for clues when it's revealed who is aiming to gun down what's left of Earth: an alien race known as the Mazon. When tragedy strikes, the Doctor's son Tadashi steps up with his findings, only to be thrown in jail for being too much of a nuisance. However, a quick jailbreak from one who salutes the skull & bones flag leads Tadashi to join ranks with Captain Harlock, as they set out to face the Mazon head-on for the sake of Earth's remaining humanity.
What makes Dimensional Voyage a fun read is its ability to showcase how badass of a Space Pirate Captain Harlock truly is. Never one to second-guess the motives of those who stand in his way, Harlock always finds a reason to use his Gravity Saber and make his enemies pay dearly. Whether infiltrating a ship or going face-to-face with a Mazon foe after a hard drink, he takes out the foes while always looking like the slickest man in all of space. All of this is captured in Shimahoshi's beautiful art style, which blends the vibe of Matsumoto's original work with a slice of modernistic sci-fi influence.
However, despite the level of coolness Harlock has on every page he appears, the focus is more placed in this volume on Dr. Daiba and his son Tadashi. Most of what we know about Captain Harlock is told via witnesses of the anti-hero's actions throughout the cosmos. Some call him a hero, whereas others label him a traitor. What we don't know quite yet is the scope of Harlock's reach within the galaxy, and while there's a hint of that greatness in the first volume, it's a speck of space dust compared to the true legend's impressive resume.
Perhaps that's why it's kind of a disappointment that we don't see enough of Captain Harlock in the first volume of Dimensional Voyage. You receive little morsels of his power, yes, but nothing that shows why people follow or despise him. Because of that, this manga doesn't exactly have that pull or oomph that can be used to draw in newcomers to Matsumoto's iconic outlaw. If anything, these first few chapters feel more like a prelude to what's to come rather than a grand entrance for a returning hero.
Although it is kind of slow-going for its first volume, I'd be a fool not to say to give the first volume of Captain Harlock: Dimensional Voyage a go-ahead, especially for what's to come right around the corner. The final couple pages seems to be setting up for the arrival of the true fun this franchise is known to deliver, specifically with the appearance of a certain comrade of Harlock. If you can go in knowing that the first volume is more of a build-up to the true adventure, then you won't be completely bummed out by the scarcity of its title character. Trust what's written in the stars, and you'll surely be prepared for when the real excitement begins onboard the Arcadia.
Promotional consideration provided by Lianne Sentar of Seven Seas Entertainment