The 30th century, the age in wich Harlock
lives, is characterized by a strong environmental and cultural decay that
developed as a natural consequence of our contemporary society. It represents
the social criticism that Matsumoto expressed during the seventies, and
which is still (with no surprise) topical these days.
The Earth became one only vast nation, administered by a japanese centralist government.
This choice, apart from being due to obvious reasons of easy identification for the Japanese reader (and a direct criticism of Matsumoto's own nation) has to be related to what the Rising Sun country represented over the last few decades: the symbol of a great economic recovery and of progress, to the detritment of social life, morally killing the individual.
The power that the government of 2977 has
over the people isn't so far from that of today. Citizens are perennially
kept in a state of apathy and dejection, thanx to some hypnotizing waves
that are transmitted along with the radio-television programmes.
In return, they have what the government can offer: welfare.
Scientific progress allowed the people to relax completely. The machines do every job, exploiting the resources from the various colonized planets of the solar system.
But the price to pay is high.The government offers every possible comfort and an easy life in return for one's personality.
The media's hypnotism indeed radicates lack of will-power in the minds of people, depriving them of every slightest spur to work constructly.
Only Harlock understands the situation's seriousness.
The sea that's dying on Earth is the symbol
of human life which fades on account of a more and more destructive progress,
and space remains the only hope to be able to live one's dreams.
Everyone who believes so follows Harlock on board of Arcadia, a symbol of freedom and poetry, in contrast with the sterile planet Earth. The reference to ancient Greek region is clear:
the artists that ran to Karstic upland, away from the cities' turmoil, have been represented in Matsumoto's series as the space pirates towards the terrestrial metropolis.
The anarchic creed is then the natural consequence for those men who need a different future in which to live, escaping on authoritarian government that suppresses the individual.
Paradoxically, inside the terrestrial federation
there's somebody who still has strong "human" feelings...of hatred, for
It's Commander Kirita, the only soldier who still has some backbone and courage, whose only purpose in life is to kill the space pirate. His hatred is vivid because he's deeply envious of the friendly relation that the pirate has with little Mayu (such envy was caused by the loss of an emotional relation during Kirita's harsh childhood, a loss which conditioned his psyche).
After taking side with Harlock out of a conspiracy, Kirita will redeem himself dying in defence of the Arcadia. Eventhough the characters Kirita and Mayu were created only for the televisive serie, they did the story good in narrative and psychologic terms.
For exemple, the Harlock of the manga, without Mayu, was more bashful and less interested in the Earth's destiny. Somehow, that might have made him even more interesting, but the bond that links the pirate and the daughter of Esmeralda and Tochiro (the creator and the soul of the Arcadia) gives him even one more reason to defend the planet from the Mazone invader, highlighting the fundamental rivalry relation with Queen Laffresia.
Mayu, the only child at the boarding school who's still able to dream, is often "used" as an ambushes' bait against Harlock, by the terrestrial army. Even Laffresia reduces herself to take Mayu hostage in a crucial moment of war.
Laffresia is the true Harlock's nemesis, one is the opposite of the other. Harlock is a vagabond by nature, and his destination is the infinite universe and its mysteries.
To Laffresia the universe has no mysteries,
and she's determined to reconquer the Earth once her Mazone planet will
die out. She fells she's contesting her rights, because in ancient times
the Earth's civilization was indeed set in motion by the Mazone people.
Laffresia intends to invade the Earth with the intention to improve its conditions, according to her own criteria, she intends to subject humanity since it doesn't deserve such a wonderful planet.
In spite of Mazone's immense military force,
Harlock manages to arrest the offensive, compelling the refugee population
to search for another world where to spring up again.
Laffresia then leaves by her huge caravan, with a wounded pride since she's been beated by a little pirate whose race she always considered to be inferior.
"I sowed the seeds that germinated against me" she claims after her defeat, but the Queen will never understand that Harlock's true force is his human soul, which is still alive and burning inside the heart.
Mime is that woman who all the more understands
The sweet and wise companion without a mouth is the only survivor from planet Yura, and she knows Harlock's inner world more than anyone else.
The bond that links them two is very deep: Mime practically gave her whole existance, devotionally, to he who saved her from Yura's catastrophe.
Mime, being the last survivor of a population, also represents solitude's sadness, which she often pours out through the melancholy melodies of her harp.
The other important female member of the crew is Yuki who, released by Harlock from an unfair imprisonment, immediately embraces his cause. In tha last part of the story, making up a couple with Tadashi, she'll be one of the highest hopes for the reconstruction of humanity, just like Mayu and the whole new generation of children that will be born after the defeat of the terrestrial government (Matsumoto often tackles the theme of "destroying to reconstruct").
Tadashi enters the Arcadia as a little boy, and he leaves it as a man. When his father, Professor Daiba, dies, Harlock invites him on board of his crew, but the adaptation to the new environment and the infinity of the universe will affect Tadashi a lot. He'll mature only after several experiences on the side of Harlock and his 40 fellow travellers.
Among these, we have to mention at least the 1st officer Yattaran (whose great passion for model-making helps him to put up with a heart shock of his youth), Dr. Zero (a brilliant doctor who likes cats and wine, a drink the author loves), and Maji (Arcadia's engineer, whose family had been destroyed by his wife, a Mazonian infiltrator on Earth).
And most of all we have to mention the crew's 42nd member, Arcadia's central computer, or Tochiro's soul, who spent with Harlock the years of youth, filled with dreams and wishes, who sacrificed his life to carry out the longed-for project to create the symbol of their creed.