Arcadia of My Youth
There are very few anime that actually deserve the moniker of "classic". There are plenty of currently popular shows out there that might get labeled that way, such as Tenchi Muyo or Neon Genesis Evangelion, but they have yet to stand the ultimate test of a classic--time. Leiji Matsumoto's creations of Space Cruiser Yamato, Galaxy Express 999, and the Captain Harlock series really do work, 20 or more years after their release. Arcadia Of My Youth , for those unfamiliar with the history of Matsumoto's work, is the film which fills in the backstory of Captain Harlock, his most famous character. It is an incredible piece of work, though its age will throw off some viewers.
Arcadia Of My Youth starts with the doomed flight of Phantom F. Harlock, the great progenitor of the Harlock line, as he heads into the Owen Stanley Witch mountains. We forward to the far future, as Captain Harlock brings in his ship filled with refugees to a crashlanding on Earth. It's an intentional crash--Harlock has no intentions to let the Illumidus, a green-skinned alien race that has subjugated the human race, have his craft. The Illumidus offer Harlock the chance to join them and pilot another ship, but Harlock refuses. He quickly meets up with Tochiro, an engineer whose genetic roots tie into Harlock's own...as it turns out, their two families have had a bond for generations. It's Tochiro who created the Arcadia, a massive starship that he wants Harlock to take to the stars. But first, they must figure out how to deal with the Tokargans, another alien race who are subservient to the Illumidus but want desperately to reclaim their home plantet...and at the same time, they long for those they love. Tochiro's love is for Emeraldas, a space trader who becomes a part of their adventures. Mira, the young woman known as the voice of Free Arcadia who broadcasts messages of hope on a pirate radio station, is waiting for Harlock's return. But tragedy and loss ensue, and the galaxy will never be the same when Harlock takes upon himself the burden to free Earth.
Arcadia Of My Youth is, quite simply, a great film. Now, before I continue, I need to make you aware that it is unabashedly melodramatic--those who think that lots of heroic monologues and protracted death scenes are stupid need to clear the room now. That being said, the film also has plenty of action and entertaining character development. The story itself is strong, and there is something to be said for the philosophy behind Harlock. Harlock is a strong personality with a unique sense of heroism, freedom, and stoicism in the midst of circumstances, which is rare in any medium, let alone anime. As far as the artwork goes, well...it's early 80s animation, and so frankly some of it is really weak in comparison to modern series. However, Arcadia shows that the best animated films do not have to look perfect if they are ultimately compelling. (One might want to find an LD or wait for an eventual DVD release, though, since the VHS tape does the film no favors, especially in dark sequences. AnimEigo should be commended, though, for a great translation and for picking up an older film other companies might pass up.)
Long story short--see Arcadia Of My Youth. Even if it isn't your favorite film, it is an important part of anime history that should be seen, period. (By the way, make sure to avoid Vengeance of the Space Pirate, which is a hacked-up version of this same film. It's a travesty that makes Robotech look like it was never touched.)
Arcadia of My Youth -- violence, profanity -- A