Stephen reviews: Arcadia of My Youth (1982)

800621_1Arcadia of My Youth [わが青春のアルカディア Waga Seishun no Arcadia] (1982)
AKA Vengeance of the Space Pirates, My Youth in Arcadia

Starring Makio Inoue, Kei Tomiyama, Reiko Muto, Reiko Tajima, Shuuichi Ikeda, Tarô Ishida, Shuuichiroo Moriyama, Hitoshi Takagi, Takeshi Aono, Yuriko Yamamoto, Yuujiro Ishihara

Directed by Katsumata Tomoharu


Leiji Matsumoto’s most prominent character is certainly the aloof Captain Harlock, so it would be nice to get an origin story for him. Well, that’s exactly what this film does. If you’re old enough, you may have even seen it in the ’80s when it was drastically edited for an English release called Vengeance of the Space Pirate. It’s also notable for having a small role by Yuujiro Ishihara, one of Japan’s most popular actors from the 20th century. During the film’s opening, he plays Phantom F. Harlock I, one of Captain Harlock’s ancient ancestors. Not only is this his only animated film credit, but it was also the final performance of his career, so Japanese cinema buffs may find it interesting on that note.

The film chronicles Harlock’s transition from a ship’s captain in the Earth’s military to his role of wandering space pirate. If you’re curious as to how he got that eye patch, or met some of his more important crew members, this is the movie for you. It does not reveal how he came by his trademark scar, though. That tale has never been told, you’ll just have to come up with your own theories. But you will get to see how Emeraldas came by hers. Or at least one of the ways. Other stories give her a different origin. Leiji Matsumoto is not known for his consistency, and if you’re interested in his works, then you just have to accept that continuity is not the goal here.

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The Dagger of Kamui (1985)

The Dagger of Kamui [カムイの剣, Kamui no Ken] (198)

Starring Hiroyuki Sanada, Mami Koyama, Tarô Ishida, Yuriko Yamamoto, Ichirô Nagai, Kaneto Shiozawa, Takeshi Aono, Kazuyuki Sogabe, Takashi Ebata

Directed by Rintaro

Expectations: Moderately high. The trailer was awesome.


Before I get into anything concrete, I should preface this review with a quick bit on my knowledge (or lack thereof) of anime. In the 90s I saw a few, but nothing truly captured my imagination. Then I saw Spirited Away and I realized just how good the genre could be. From that point forward I sought out more Miyazaki films and was equally impressed with each of them. Despite working solely within animated films, Miyazaki had all the trappings of a traditional director, and being a firm believer in the auteur theory, I naturally latched onto him. I made a deal with myself to pretty much only watch his films when it came to anime; he was a name I could trust. Then I watched Whisper of the Heart a few months back, and I realized the fallacy of my personal pact. Clearly there were other films out there in which Miyazaki was not the director that were done just as well. I silently decided to one day re-visit anime in its many forms and truly give it a good ole college try. Enter one of my co-workers, who’s much more of an anime dude than I am. He suggested me this film, and after an initial internal struggle with myself, I decided to watch it. And I’m glad I did.

The Dagger of Kamui tells a somewhat complex story of betrayal and death, but it’s all told from the point of view of our hero, Jiro. The film opens with an unseen assassin murdering his mother and his sister, and when Jiro walks in and finds them, the townspeople immediately accuse him of doing the deed. They always knew he’d do it too; he was found in the river as a baby and was not actually one of them. This event sets into motion the entire film, as Jiro gets taken in by the kind and mysterious Tenkai and taught the ways of the Shinobi via a kick-ass montage of Jiro running along ocean waves and jumping between tree branches.

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