Hakugei: Legend of the Moby Dick
It is the year 4699. Deep in outer space, there is a place known as the Nantucket Nebula, where derelict hulks swirl about, and salvage crews fight for the right to the richest booty. These hulks are known to all as whales, and the finest whaling crew is helmed by peg-legged, eye-patched Captain Ahab. We follow 14-year-old Lucky Luck as he becomes the newest apprentice on the crew of the Lady Whisker, and search for a great white whale that may imperil everything the crew holds dear.
Legend of the Moby Dick? Is this hentai? Kinky.
Unfortunately, this is only the first in a long series of cheap jokes I will be making at this title's expense.
For starters, Hakugei has about as much to do with the Herman Melville novel as Odin has to do with Norse mythology. Let's see now ... far-future locales with referentiaal names? Check. Wonky retro technology like using harpoons to snag derelict spaceships? Check. Completely confusing the identities and names of characters with each other? Oh yeah, check check check.
Get this: Ishmael is Captain Ahab's middle name.
Not to mention that our Captain Ahab is a raver (get it? *Moby*!) who spends time in dance clubs, blows bubbles around for fun, uses a mechanical parrot as the ship intercom, and thinks every day is Talk Like a Pirate Day!
What is truly frustrating is that, with all of anime's obsession with space whales (see Plastic Little and Macross Dynamite 7), there are no actual whales involved in the production of this television series. The whales are spaceships. And yet everyone refers to the salvage crews as "whale hunters".
As opposed to, umm, whalers.
While I would like to grasp for a silver lining, the production quality of this show is somewhere closer to the range of tin. Dezaki Osamu's penchant for dramatic still shots, while curiously effective in Black Jack, fails time and time again in Hakugei, largely because the stills are barely less mobile than the actual animation. Hakugei is a slide show, and in certain scenes (like the scene at the dance club), a visually painful slide show, kinda like watching the infamous Porygon episode of Pokemon on continuous loop.
The lame attempts at dramatic tension also fail because this scurvy lot is one of the most generic casts ever to ensemble the anime screen. The irritatingly named Lucky Luck is a "plucky, idealistic young stowaway" whose narration leads us to believe he is well on his way to becoming Captain Obvious. Atre is the "sometimes adversarial upperclassman" type who shows Lucky Luck the ropes. Barba is "the big tattooed guy" who can't use complicated words. Academias is the smart, bookish helmsman type (couldn't tell you where they got his name). And there's a doctor named Doc, a portly cook named Cook, a pilot nicknamed the Speed King (who we are helpfully told was born while his mom was "hot-dogging" at a motorcycle race), and even a master swordsman who likes to meditate.
At this point, the cheap jokes just tell themselves. There is not a single aspect of this show that stands up to any sort of scrutiny whatsoever. Okay, I take that back. The music is so average as to defy notice, or keen jokery. Sadly, when this is the best thing I have to say about the show, that's just plain sad.
Once you've seen a crew of misfits pirating around on light mechanical ships in open space (protected from the vacuum only by a fine mist!) and wielding harpoons to capture a "whale" that looks suspiciously like a crayfish, it's time to pat this DVD on the case, while you put it safely back on the shelf where it belongs.
In a sad postscript to this incredible debacle -- Hakugei is one of those rare sorts of television shows that had the misfortune to be suspended during its initial run in 1997 (my guess is due to the magical mystical rave sequence, ow my eyes!), only to be restarted anew and run in full one year later.
I will say one good thing about this show: I really liked John Swasey as Captain Ahab.
Now say it with me everyone!
Unless you're ready for a metric buttload of unintended laughs, Hakugei is simply another derelict drifting in the open sea of anime releases. Aim yer harpoon elsewhere, matey. — Carlos Ross
Recommended Audience: While there are a couple of violent scenes, this has very little offensive content. Fine for teens and above, but recommended primarily for people who have a heightened sense of schadenfreude with a mild masochist bent.
Version(s) Viewed: R1 DVD
Review Status: Partial (3/26)
Hakugei: Legend of the Moby Dick © 1997 Tezuka Productions
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