Harlock: Space Pirate review

Cutting-edge CG animation breathes fresh life into Japan's notorious space pirate

In a distant future where humanity has spread across the galaxy, the Earth has become a sacred site, with the ruling Gaia Coalition refusing to let anybody return to the planet. But notorious space pirate Captain Harlock has other plans for the planet…

Manga artist Leiji Matsumoto's most famous creation has certainly come a long way since its first appearance in 1977. Thanks to the phenomenal popularity of the long-running comic and the anime series, Space Pirate Captain Harlock has gained iconic status, building up a huge fanbase not just in Japan, but around the world.

Director Shinji (Appleseed) Aramaki's computer-animated feature film completely reboots the franchise for modern audiences, giving viewers a darker and more angst-ridden take on the legendary character. While some old-school fans will lament the many changes made from the source material, this is still an enjoyable piece of blockbuster space opera told using state-of-the-art CG animation that sets a new benchmark for Japanese animated films.

Picture: The Blu-ray features an impressive MVC 2.40:1 1080p presentation of the film that can either be watched in 3D or 2D.

For our money, the stereoscopic 2.40:1 option is definitely the way to go with this film, as it gives the already stunning CG animation an even greater sense of depth and space. As the colour palette tends to be rather muted anyway, there's no real loss in vibrancy with the 3D incarnation, while detailing holds up well, as do the all-important black levels.

That said, as the disc's 2D version is drawn from the same core MVC 3D encode we don't have real complaints about it either – although the added brightness draws attention to some artefacts in deep, crushed shadows that aren't apparent when the film is viewed in 3D.
Picture rating: 4.5/5

Audio: The Blu-ray offers a lively DTS-HD MA 5.1 English language dub full of positional effects and growling bass effects. The lack of a Japanese language track will undoubtedly annoy hardcore anime hedz, but we presume its absence is because the hi-def platter only contains the slightly truncated 'international' cut of the film. 
Audio rating: 4/5

Extras: Manga Entertainment's Blu-ray is devoid of bonus features, which is where the accompanying DVD comes in. This contains an anamorphic 2.40:1 standard-def presentation of the original cut of the film (which restores a key plot point) with a DD 5.1 Japanese soundtrack, plus a 23-min promo featurette made for Japanese TV.
Extras rating: 3.5/5

We say: The lack of a hi-def version of the original cut is a shame, but this is still well worth a look

Harlock: Space Pirate, Manga Entertainment, Region B BD, £30 Approx