|Did you ever wonder if animation importers do this kind of thing just to see how much they can tick off anime fans? You've got a Japanese animated series you want to dub into English, but because of different episode run requirements in the two countries, you find yourself several episodes short of a full U.S. syndicated season. Solution? Grab another series, do a little slice and dice, and try to fix everything when you do the dubbing. The younger tykes probably won't know the difference, but if you listen closely, you can hear the sounds of die-hard anime buffs screaming (or possibly swearing in Japanese) in households across the country.
In Japan, artist Leiji (Reiji) Matsumoto had a string of anime hits, including the saga of Space Pirate Captain Harlock. Set in the year 2976, the show focused on the title character, a typical sea dog who was forced to conduct his business in outer space after the oceans had all been destroyed.
Unfortunately, Harlock only conducted his business for 43 episodes, so Harmony Gold (importers of Robotech) added elements from another Matsumoto series, Queen Millennia. Never mind the fact that the latter show was set in 1999 and had nothing to do with space pirates, it was available, and you never know what you can create in the editing room. Coming to American audiences in 1985, the two series were edited and redubbed into one 65-episode story, retitled Captain Harlock and the Queen of 1000 Years.
Here's the story, as reconstituted for U.S. audiences: Unlike the famed pirates of the past, Harlock actually had a noble purpose to his ship-jacking and cargo-destroying raids. The Earth of the future was a decadent, vice-heavy world (think Ancient Rome with 30th Century technology). Taking to the skies, the Captain set out to destroy loads of drugs, alcohol and other useless pleasure goods. Like any good pirate, though, Harlock cut a dashing rebel figure with his shaggy mane, cape, eyepatch and scar.
Most episodes focused on Harlock's conflicts with Queen Lafresia, the evil alien ruler of the Zetons (Mazones in the Japanese original). These warrior plant-women came from a planet that could no longer support life, and so they set their sights on Earth. Professor Hairball (Daiba in the original) warned of their impending invasion, but he was laughed off as a crackpot theorist. When the Zetons did invade, they killed the Professor and framed Harlock for the crime. Hairball's son Terry (or Tommy, depending on which version you saw) vowed revenge on the captain, but once he learned the truth, he joined the crew of Harlock's ship, the Arcadia. Together with a band of like-minded rogues, Harlock and Tommy battled Lafresia's minions for the rest of the show's run.
For whatever reason (maybe the fact that the two main characters never appeared on screen together), Captain Harlock and the Queen of 1000 Years failed to catch on with American audiences, which was a major disappointment to the merchandisers who had profited from the success of Robotech that same year. Malibu Comics released a different dub in later years, but with the same results.