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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Space Pirate Captain Herlock - The Legend Returns (Vol. 1)
Space Pirate Captain Herlock - The Legend Returns (Vol. 1)
Geneon // Unrated // February 3, 2004
List Price: $29.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by John Sinnott | posted February 12, 2004 | E-mail the Author
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The Movie:

Leiji Matsumoto has created two series that have left their mark on Japanese animation.  His Star Blazers saga introduced many impressionable American youths (yours truly included) to the world of Japanese animation when it was dubbed and broadcast in the States back in the late 70's.  But Matsumoto's most famous creation is Captain Herlock, a space pirate.  Though there have been many anime shows over the years that take place in the Herlock universe, (often with different continuities,) the good Captain himself has been missing from the screen for a good while.  That has been remedied with the release of The Endless Odyssey, a 13 part OVA that finished up in December of 2003.  Geneon (formerly Pioneer) is releasing the series in region one under the title Space Pirate Captain Herlock.

A pirate ship attacks a refugee ship, only to discover that it was a trap.  The refugee ship is wired to explode, and damages the pirate's vessel.  The entire crew is arrested, including the skipper, Kei Yuke.  With Kei captured, the newspapers announce that all of Herlock's old crew have been captured.  Herlock himself has been missing for a while, but with all of his crew has been incarcerated, it is the end of piracy on the known galaxy.

A parallel story concerns a young hoodlum, Tadashi.  Tadashi's father was on a scientific expedition to the hourglass nebula Five years ago.  They found something mysterious there, and when they examined it, the other four members of the expedition died.   One day Tadashi comes home sees his father killed by the animated corpses of his four dead companions.  When the murderers see Tadashi, they decide to kill him too, but a mysterious stranger enters.  The corpses tell the newcomer that they are known as "Noo."  Unsure who the new person is and what he might do, the Noo leave.  It turns out that this new character is none other than the missing Captain Herlock.  He tells Tadashi that he knew his father, and leaves him with an offer.  "If you want to become a real man, come aboard my ship."

This is an offer Tadashi can't refuse, and he tracks Herlock to his ship, the Arcadia.  As he boards, the sensors track the craft occupied by the Noo as it head towards Earth.  When the ship gets in range, it fires a weapon that causes the Earth to totally disappear.

Herlock realizes the Noo are very dangerous.  He finds some more information about them and is determined to stop them from entering our Universe.  But to do that he'll need a crew, and his old one is being held under high security on the prison planet Panoptican.

I haven't seen the previous Herlock series, so I was a little worried that I would be lost.  I wasn't.  They do make some vague references to previous events, but it isn't anything that isn't explained or very important to the plot.

The story moves along at a good rate.  While the first episode was surprisingly dry, the series picked up in the subsequent chapters.  With only thirteen episodes to tell the story, they are moving at a good clip, but still have time to developed the characters.

It appears that the story is going to revolve around Tadashi quite a bit.  Herlock is a tall, quiet, forceful, character who does well playing the hero, but who doesn't lend himself to close scrutiny.  He won't change during the course of the show, and that would make him a dull lead character.  Young Tadashi, on the other hand, learning to become a 'real man' is much more interesting.  Seeing Herlock in action through Tadashi's eyes makes for an interesting story.

This was a good start.  There is a good foundation and enough action to keep you watching.  I'm looking forward to seeing how this series develops.

The DVD:


The audio tracks for both the original Japanese and the English dub were in DD 5.1.  There were optional subtitles for the dialog or just for the signs if you were listening to the dub.

I viewed this DVD with both the Japanese and English dubs.  There was good use made of the soundstage, with a lot of effects and dialog coming from one side or the rear.  Unfortunately this was not always appropriate, and sometimes is didn't work well at all.  In one scene, for example, the screen is taken up with large talking heads of various people, and their comments are sent to the rear speakers.  It was really odd seeing someone in front of you and hearing them speaking from behind.

Teh main problem was that the Japanese language track had the rear channels way too loud.  There were several instances of music being only heard in the rear speakers, which would have worked well, but the levels were so high that the music tended to drowned the voices from the front.  The front and rear channels did not mesh well for this reason.  The English language track did not have this problem, and was better for it.

The English dub was very good, with very good acting from the talent.  There were not any phony accents (a pet peeve of mine) and the dialog matched the mouth movement.  Because of the problem with the rear levels, I found myself enjoying the English dub much more than I usually do.

  I was very surprised at the low quality of this transfer. The picture was not very good, especially for a recent show. There were a large number of digital artifacts, especially aliasing. Aliasing (when diagonal lines have a stair-step effect instead of being smooth) plagues a lot of animation, but this was much worse than usual. There were only a few scenes where aliasing was not present. There was also the problem of smaller objects shimmering when the camera was moving over them. This is a result of poor encoding, and it was very prevalent. These errors became distracting.

If that wasn't bad enough, the picture was very soft, almost making it look like it was out of focus (though not quite that bad.)  The lines were blurred, and not sharp and clear like they should be.

The disc was also dark.  Details were lost in the shadows, and dark rooms were much murier than they should have been.  This show would have looked much better had it been a little brighter

This DVD deserved much better.

The picture on this disc was blurry and indistinct.

 The Extras:

The original Japanese opening and three trailers (Texhnolyze, Fighting Spirit, and Master Keaton) were the only extras.

Final Thoughts:

This show has gotten off to a very good start.  The characters and situations are alluring, and the show has a good pace.  The audio quality wasn't that bad, though the high levels on the rear channels in the Japanese mix was a little disturbing.  The real weakness this disc has is the picture quality.  It was far worse than it should have been.  The disc is still watchable, but Geneon should have put a some more effort into this DVD.  Still, the quality of the story makes up for the defects, so I still recommend this DVD, but with a warning about the image quality.

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