Anime: Hakugei: Legend of the Moby Dick Volume 1: Ahab Awaits Preview
“Yea, but I’ll give anime adaptations of literary classics a chance after The Count of Monte Cristo,” I responded. But he was studying the case further while I worked.
“Wait, Space Anime Moby Dick?” My colleague said, dubiously.
“…Space Anime Moby Dick?” Now I was dubious.
Space Anime Moby Dick indeed. Before I can comment on its faithfulness to the source material, keep in mind that all I’ve read of Melville’s entry in the “No One Can Explain Why They’re Classics” canon is some edited for young readers edition that removed the detailed descriptions of whale hunting and flensing (I’ve always wanted to use that word in context) and the 14 bazillion pages of padding. Also, I was like 12. So basically I remember Ahab hunts Moby Dick, Moby Dick is a big damn white whale, and there’s some kind of weird homoerotic tension between Ishmael and Queequeg. On digging back further into my memories, I may have actually read one of those 20 page comic book adaptations of literary classics, which means I know the important bits without all the words.
Anyway, Space Anime Moby Dick seemed somewhat authentic to me. They’re whale hunters. Ahab has a peg leg and a crutch. There’s a big white whale and a tattooed native guy. And Captain Ahab is a saucy, yet mysterious fellow, though in this he’s much more jaunty pirate and less insane madman.
Moving on, the disc I got had three episodes on it and they’re an intriguing introduction to the series. Unfortunately for those with short attention spans, this is one of those series that spends its first couple of episodes getting its legs under it and shoveling backstory at you.
Episode 01: Drifting Place
On a snowy planet, a researcher is reassigned after 4,000 days. Shortly after he receives word of his new mission, he’s attacked by a giant, white spaceship, cut open and implanted with something, and the ship informs him they are connected by a “deep bond,” shortly before hurling him out into space.
We cut to a cargo ship and a stowaway with the unlikely name of Lucky Luck, and he gives us the setting. It’s 4699 in the Nantucket Nebula. Lucky’s out looking for Captain Ahab in a city that’s part Las Vegas and part Tortuga from Pirates of the Caribbean.
Episode 02: Whale Hunters
Backstory, backstory, backstory. This explains the “whale hunting” setup. No, they’re not actually hunting giant space mammals. They’re basically like the people in Firefly, flying around salvaging spaceships (or “whales”) and parts to make a living. Lucky settles in for training and his role as the ship’s new apprentice, once he finds Ahab.
This episode also introduces us to the rather motley crew assembled to be Ahab’s crew, from the brilliant engineer to the super-talented pilot to the doctor to the guy with the wicked laser sword. After the introductions (and the requisite partying hard), the crew sets off into the black, hunting whales and salvaging wrecks, which is a surprisingly physical exercise for being thousands of years in the future.
Episode 03: From A Cold Planet
A mysterious object found in space has unexpected consequences for captain and crew. The new salvage entwines the fate of Ahab and his men with a mysterious android, who has some near-magical powers. And he packs a mean punch, too.
The sound is…well, I’d give it an average of “okay.” The voice acting is hit or miss. The kids are annoying anime kids with that hoarse little boy voice that seems standard issue, but Captain Ahab sounds a lot like the Flying Dutchman from Spongebob Squarepants, which means he is a note-perfect space-pirate/whale hunter. The most memorable music in the series felt full of 80s synthesizers. I’m not fond of the opening theme, either. It’s a little too Japanese Lounge Singer, in the manner of Yugo the Negotiator.
I’m intrigued enough by the concept to suggest you give this one a go, since the full release will undoubtedly have a Japanese language option, which means my complaints about the voice acting won’t hold up. The characters were fairly standard issue, but were likable at the same time, and unraveling the mystery of Ahab, the strange white whale, and the mysterious cyborg from episode 3 should provide enough meat to sink your teeth into once the show hits its stride.