At this point, things actually started to look up. While there were still miles to go before one could sleep (or watch unbastardized Harlock; whichever you find more desirable), this was finally a solid step in the right direction. 1987 saw the release of several anime titles dubbed in English by Peregrine Films and distributed by the worrisomely named Just For Kids Video, including dubs of My Youth in Arcadia, Locke the Superman, Cyborg 009: Legend of Super Galaxy, and a pitifully chopped and dubbed version of the Macross movie renamed "Clash of the Bionoids." The Arcadia dub, retitled "Vengeance of the Space Pirate," was one of their better efforts, and for its day, wasn't half bad...though do the math, and you'll see the problem.
For the first time, we got to see a dubbed version of a Harlock property that actually kept all the original names. Well, virtually all of them. The slimy Illumidas officer Muriguson was rechristened "Murgison," which frankly could have been due to nothing more than a typo, though it was probably in the interest of making the name easier to say. Everyone else got to keep their names intact, even Tochiro Oyama, he of the uncannily foreign-sounding moniker. He never gives his proper name of "Toshiro" here, as in the Japanese version, but at least he's still Tochiro, and not Sundown McMoon, or even Roger Devlin (Harmony Gold's version). The script is also remarkably well-adapted, with only a few minor changes: we don't ever hear the name of the city (Heiligenstadt) where Harlock and Maya grew up, and unsurprisingly, Harlock's assertion that "We will never pray for anything" was replaced by the more acceptable (for Americans, anyway) "We will never surrender to anyone." Occasionally, the dialogue actually sounds a little too literal, making for some conversations that don't really flow particularly well. But for the fan who wanted to know what was going on in this essential chapter--or version, if you will--of the Harlock mythos, this was probably the next best thing to Japanese fluency, which is a bit harder to come by.
The voice acting is okay. Just okay. Nothing that impresses, but nothing to make one shrink like a liquified cat into a corner, either. The problem mostly comes from the incompatibility of the acting quality with the style of the script. The Arcadia film is melodramatic on a Shakesperean level, and it really needs performers of the caliber that can carry off such bombast and make it seem truly sincere. As it is, we can hear the actors reaching here, palpably trying to act, which undermines the film's true dramatic potential.
Unfortunately, it ain't all wine and roses (though we do see a great deal of both). The editing is where this dub really falls short of the mark, literally. The running time has been trimmed by twenty minutes, and the biggest loss is the seven-minute "Owen-Stanley Mountains" sequence that opens the Japanese film, depicting a distant ancestor of Captain Harlock, Phantom F. Harlock Senior, braving new heights in aviation in his biplane "Arcadia." One of the most artful and metaphorical sequences out of all of the Harlock stories, the episode finds its mirror in the later "Flame Stream Prominence" segment of the film, wherein Captain Harlock is pitted against a similar challenge during his attempt to escape the Illumidas fleet and return to Earth. There's precious little literal meaning in this rhyming couplet of scenes, and removing the first but not the second one leaves the whole thing dangling out there for the uninitiated viewer to wonder what the hell they're supposed to be seeing.
The prologue aside, most of the edits come in little snips here and there. Some aren't that noticeable, but some are. The moment of Maya's death is never seen; we're simply told that she "is now gone," apparently sometime during the second or so between this pronouncement and her last bit of speaking. Violent content tended to get the scissor treatment, too, so some important scenes, such as the death of Zoll (if you've not seen this movie already, I'm of course totally ruining it for you) and the scarring of Emeraldas' face, now don't appear onscreen and can leave people confused as to when these things were supposed to have happened. All this aside, however, the sad fact is that even the more logically-decided edits are still noticeable due to the fact that the music wasn't remixed (though it was lowered in volume throughout) to account for the cuts, so it jumps awkwardly whenever an edit hits. It was always my belief that the video had been fully dubbed first, and edited down after the fact; the converse simply made no sense. (History would eventually vindicate me on this.) Oh, and did I mention that there's a second-long shot of a cat cut out? What the hell is with these people?!
The film does feature an English adaptation (note that I didn't use the word "translation") of the closing theme song, but they managed to put it in precisely the wrong place; we now hear it as the Arcadia launches, right smack dab in the middle of the movie. It's really not the right mood for the scene, but one can at least console themselves with the fact that at least it's music from the original soundtrack, and not something akin to ZIV's "Take to the Sky" theme song. The most bizarre malady afflicting the video, however, is the mysterious background chatter that can be heard here and there, especially during the final battle scene. Some unused track that had not been erased, perhaps, or just technicians and/or other studio workers who didn't know the meaning of "quiet on the set" obliviously blabbering away. It's not so loud as to be terribly intrusive, but it's far from unnoticeable.
The box for this video is a bit interesting: most of the pictures are flipped left-to-right, so Harlock's scar and eyepatch are on the wrong sides. Two of the three pics on the back are from cut scenes, and the (obviously American) artwork on the front cover shows Zoll shooting out Harlock's eye, which of course doesn't happen (yet this can't be blamed on the Americans, for once; the picture is copied pretty much directly from a shot in the longer of two My Youth in Arcadia trailers, which are comprised almost entirely of animation not actually found in the movie, including this very scene. Go figure.) It also misspells "Illumidas" as "Ulmedas," which fortunately didn't reflect the pronunciation used in the dub itself.
More recently, this film has been released on DVD by East West DVD, which is a really great improvement...if you don't happen to own a VCR anymore. If you still do, then in fact it's not an improvement at all, as the DVD version looks to have been the result of a straight copy of the VHS version, and one which had been watched with great frequency in between its regular stints as a toilet brush. It goes straight into the movie without stopping at the menu, and manages to skip over the first few seconds of the film, as if the part-time video technician, part time burger-slinger responsible for mastering it didn't hit the record button quite fast enough and didn't feel like wasting his valuable glue-sniffing time with any pesky restarts. The box art offers us a cover pic which I imagine was drawn in Magic Marker by the company CEO's four year-old son, back cover art swiped from Galaxy Express, and the disc's listed features include "interactive menus" and "color." Color! Ooooh! Somebody hose me down before I wet myself!
Step in the right direction that this may have been, it wasn't quite a broad enough step. An English dub of anything Harlock that was worthy of its name was still slouching towards Arcadia waiting to be born, and it wouldn't be getting there anytime soon. It was about to take a step backward so far that its forward progress here would seem as if it had never existed.