Space Pirate Captain Harlock in 3-D

Space Pirate Captain Harlock in 3-D

The adventures of the skull-festooned pirate first blazed across Japanese TV screens way back in 1978, just a year after the debut of Star Wars.

While that original series may have lacked the game-changing technical wizardry of George Lucas' seminal space opera, its characters and story were every bit as compelling.

Perhaps even more so.

"I loved pirates from a young age and wanted to be one," said Harlock's creator Leiji Matsumoto. "Pirates can travel the seas as they like without anyone to answer to.

"Nationality, borders and age don't matter to them in the slightest. That freedom was the appeal of the pirate.

"Even in my childhood, I knew that the skull and crossbones on their flags weren't there to scare people - they represent the will to fight until only their bones were left. They live freely, but they take full responsibility for their actions," Matsumoto said.

From his humble beginnings in the 1970s, Harlock has gone on to be an icon not just in Japan but across Asia and parts of Europe, particularly France and Italy.

There have been many adaptations of his story over the decades, each quite different from the next, but there has never been anything like this latest project.

Space Pirate Captain Harlock, opening in cinemas here tomorrow, is a US$30 million (S$37 million) stunner that finally gives the eye-patched anti-hero a grandiose backdrop worthy of his intergalactic antics. And that's not just our opinion. It won the prize for Best International Animated Feature at the 3D Creative Arts Awards in Los Angeles earlier this year.

It was also nominated for Animation of the Year at the Japanese Academy Awards in March.

"We wanted something we could be proud of," said producer Yoshiyuki Ikezawa.

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