Sunday, February 27, 2011

My Arcadia

While I was browsing through my unsold science fiction stories, I happened across a story I'd forgotten about. I'd only written the first draft, and for one reason or another had never gotten around to revising it.

It was inspired by a favorite movie of mine, and rereading the story reminded me so strongly of its inspiration that I was motivated to dig it out. That movie was the 1982 anime Arcadia of My Youth.

I think most fiction writers were moved by something when they were young, a story that resonated with them and provided an inspiration to tell stories of their own. While Arcadia of My Youth did not provide the inspiration for me to write (I had already been writing for three, maybe even four, years by the time I saw it), it left a lasting impression on my teenage mind, and to this day I think of Captain Harlock as my favorite pirate of all time.

When I first saw the movie it was a partially censored version called Vengeance of the Space Pirate dubbed into English with 40 minutes removed and marketed as "Just for Kids." Never mind that the main character, Harlock, doesn't end up with much vengeance, that many of the characters die, and the reward for the main character for standing up for his convictions is a painful exile from Earth.

I was sixteen, and terribly moved by the story of a man who fought for what he believed in and was no longer welcome on his own homeworld. There is only way for a human to live on Earth, as part of a conquered and broken people subjugated by the aliens who'd won the war against them. Freedom means leaving Earth behind, never to return. Freedom means existing in a world where no one will help you. Freedom means hardship.

Harlock and his crew choose freedom.

I rewatched Arcadia of My Youth this weekend, my uncut, subtitled version, and was surprised by how much I was moved by the story. There are parts that have not aged well, largely because of things I now know are not scientifically possible or find unrealistic, but the core story, about a man and his beliefs is unchanged from my memory. Harlock is still an immensely strong, larger than life character who if he was a real person I would believe in without hesitation.

This time around though I was particularly moved by Maya, who is heavily implied to be Harlock's wife. It wasn't as though she had been removed from the cut version I'd seen as a teenager, but her messages to Harlock had been trimmed down and the moment of her death had been removed, as well as the grief Harlock shows when he realizes she's died.

Harlock and Maya's relationship is a little odd, which is why I only say it's implied they're married. We never see a ring and with the bleak world they exist in we never see the two side by side in a relaxed setting. They're hardly ever even in the same scene together, but it's obvious they know each other well and care about each other's safety.

I'd always watched Arcadia of My Youth with an eye on Harlock, but this time I found Maya to be a very strong character as well. Though Harlock is the captain and gets all the action oriented sequences, Maya is no less courageous a character for persisting in her underground broadcasts and encouraging the beaten people of Earth to aspire for more.

I'm at a loss what sort of category I'd file this movie under, which makes it difficult to recommend. It's a drama, but there are action sequences and certain moments of coolness that are more appropriate for a popcorn flick. There's just nothing else like it that I can think about off-hand.

I still like it for its message though; that even if it's hard and painful, it's worth fighting for what you believe in.

Arcadia's too close for me to go back and revise my short story now, but it was worth going back and reliving a couple hours with Harlock. It reminded me of just how important and influential a character can be for a young girl.