Earth has been conquered by the evil Illumidus Empire, with parallels drawn to the U.S. post World War II occupation of Japan. Captain Harlock with a group that will become his life long friends begin their fight against this tyranny visited upon the planet Earth, with no regard to the costs the struggle will have on them, caring only for the ideal of restoring freedom to the people of Earth.
This is a story of being down & out in a world that has no room left for hope. It is a story of a subjugated humanity plagued by a lack of resources, a lack of trust in itself, and a lack of courage to fight off the oppressors who have bled it dry. It is a story of loss, vengeance, of unforeseeable consequences, of unconquerable resolve and an outdated code of honor, of a hope for the future, and of bitter betrayal. It is the story of a small group of people willing to fight for their right to survive, only
to realize that the world and people they’re fighting to protect may not be worth saving after all.
Arcadia of My Youth focuses mostly upon Captain Harlock, already a popular character upon the film’s debut due to the success of the Space Pirate Captain Harlock series from 1978, and his small role in 1979’s Galaxy Express 999 film. This flick, however, does not tell the same tale of the previous television series at all; in fact, it builds upon an entirely new continuity involving an already-present alien-enforced totalitarian control of Earth, and introduces Harlock at a much younger age—perhaps in his early twenties at the film’s start, prior to his losing an eye and gaining captainship of the space battleship Arcadia. As the film progresses, the audience bears witness to his meeting Toshiro Oyama, the creator of the Arcadia, and Emeraldas, the captain of her own vessel and fellow space pirate. Both of these characters had rolls of varying importance in other Matsumoto titles, particularly the aforementioned Space Pirate Captain Harlock, wherein their stories were rather different but ultimately accomplished the same purpose.
In the face of the previous titles, Arcadia of My Youth is far more somber and apocalyptic in tone, going great lengths to spell out the desperateness of the cast’s situation. There are times where its melodrama becomes a bit too over-the-top, but for the most part the narrative manages to keep the atmosphere balanced enough to justify itself. The backgrounds and art direction are simply stunning as well, no doubt adding a distinctly bleak ambiance to an already well-constructed setting.
The only real detrimental flaws this film has are some rather strange pacing issues. The directing is well-done if largely unremarkable, and the soundtrack—while not nearly on the same impressive level as some of Matsumoto’s other titles—works well enough to stay serious. And I cannot stress enough the inherent beauty present in the art direction & animation quality (especially for its time). However, the narrative itself jumps around rather frequently between periods of action, remorse, exposition, and melodrama, often with less than a short change of scenery to accommodate. Character and plot development suffer only marginally from the rather poorly-structured pacing, but I think it is largely up to the audience’s discretion as to how much this affects entertainment value.
Despite its flaws, Arcadia of My Youth still remains one of the quintessential Matsumoto titles, if not one of the quintessential sci-fi anime films ever made. The story is dramatic and engulfing, the characters are strong-willed and determined, the visuals are sweeping and gorgeous, the action is focused and suspenseful, and the tale it weaves has certainly stood the test of time. Highly recommended to anyone interested in anime, especially those interested in older works.
I was never a particular fan of the original Captain Harlock series, personally finding it a bit slow and the ongoing plot not being hugely engaging. However, I decided to give the movie a fair shot and it was incredible.
Gone are the animation errors and slow pacing, replaced with beautifully smooth and elegant art and animation. The plot is fairly simple, but well-executed and has a few good tear-jerker moments.
The movie provides a sort of backstory for Harlock and the Arcadia, also featuring his fellow pirate Emereldas. The villains aren't the series' antagonists but instead the Illumidus, a force occupying Earth - which sets
up a good plotline about the lengths to which humans will go for an easy life under occupation. The central conflict, however, is the rivalry between Harlock and an Illumidus leader which leads to a spectacular confrontation in space.
The film manages to be incredibly hot-blooded and exciting without the need for loud and fast-paced music, or shouting attack names - the composure of all involved makes the final battle incredibly dramatic.
The art is definitely some of the best you'll see, with Leiji's trademark slender and pale characters given fantastic rendering on the big screen and the ships and backgrounds being detailed not in the way, for example, Do You Remember Love relies on incredible amounts of small lights, buttons, rivets and panels, but instead an almost Go Nagai-like use of thick lines and shading.
The character design doesn't aim for realism, but instead the traditionally Leiji caricature style where a character's build and expression tells you everything you need to know - heroes are stoic, scarred and wear capes, sidekicks are either square-jawed space heroes or dumpy glasses-wearing friends, and women either wear retro-future catsuits or floaty dresses as they breathily sigh their lines.
It's a wonderful piece of retro-future styled sci-fi whose only real flaw is the slightness and predictability of the plot.
And the ending song, which evokes the original series' dramatic opening, is stirring in its own way.
A Christian's Anime Review
Waga Seishun no Arcadia
People are shot, punched, slapped, disintegrated by laser cannons, and implied to be crushed under falling debris.
One scene has a villain repeatedly slap a restrained woman.
Modest amounts of blood spray from gunshot wounds.
Spaceships engage in broadside style combat resulting in extensive damage and loss of life.
Perhaps a light curse word, once or twice... I don't recall if there was.
Two characters agree to meet in hell for a drink after they die.
During a funeral, a prayer is said that goes something like, "Whatever spirit governs this universe, we commit our lost friends to your bosom."
None... however, one
woman seems to have her clothes ripped after being captured by the enemy.
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The main character commits to being a pirate... the sentiment surrounding this decision is less a desire to plunder and pillage than it is a desire for freedom from oppression.
The story covers mature and depressing themes that mirror those of World War II. Indeed, the story makes clear callbacks to that time as well.
The story is very interesting and makes a good introduction to the universe of Leiji Matsumoto.
However, truckloads of sci-fi catgackery and deus ex machinas may cause some people to become disinterested.
Captain Harlock represents a character archetype that has clearly had widespread influence in fiction.
The supporting characters are well done and likable as well. Even the primary antagonist was a likable person.
The art is dated... what do you expect from 1978?
That said, this film did a really good job with what was available to it at the time. The action scenes are surprisingly smooth and detailed. The backgrounds are just amazing in some spots.
Leiji Matsumoto's characters often look very similar to each other. Most of the women's faces are the same, many extras don't differ from each other at all, and the Illumidus commanders all have the same hair/eyebrows/face.
The OST is what you'd expect from a space opera movie. The orchestral score is good, but nothing to write home about.
The insert/ending song is pretty good though. I going to listen to that again.
This was a very good space drama movie that had some neat messages to convey about freedom, honor, and friendship.
The movie was pretty long, clocking in just over two hours, but that added to the epicness of it in my opinion. This is one to watch with the family on movie night.
If you like space, drama (perhaps to the extent of melodrama), or strong role models, you will enjoy this show.
Those who like allusions and imagery related to World War II will also find something interesting here.
If you don't like manly men being menly in a manly fashion... move one.
"At the end of their lives, all men look back and think that their youth was arcadia." — Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
"Arcadia of my Youth" is an essential piece in the so-called Leijiverse (aka the universe in which Leiji Matsumoto's works exist). True to its title, it explores the youth of one of the main Leijiverse characters, Captain Harlock, as well as his associates (such as Queen Emeraldas).
The plot of "Arcadia of my Youth" is very good. Even though it's technically a prequel, it doesn't rely on the other anime of the franchise, but presents a fully fleshed-out story, and manage to tells you
what you need about the universe without too much exposition. The story and the events taking place have epic proportions, mixing together large-scale space battles with romanticism. There are quite a few dramatic and emotional moments, which, paired with the action scenes, create a good balance. Also, this movie has a great opening scene, which is one of my favorites.
The characters of this anime are mostly stoic, especially Harlock. He doesn't make excessive movements or shout as he attacks; instead, he shows his badass side through his silence. He is the archetype of a romantic hero, who follows his ideals to the point of rejecting society. The supporting characters do not lack characterization either, and they get a steady development.
The art and sound are typical of the era. Considering the time this anime was made, they are pretty good.
Overall, I believe that "Arcadia of my Youth" is a very good anime, and I highly recommend to everyone, even if you are not familiar with Leiji's works.