ADV Films // 2001 // 125 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Dan Mancini (Retired) // March 2nd, 2006
The epic saga continues!
Another volume of space-aged anime that has nothing to do with Herman Melville's literary classic!
Set in the year 4699, Hakugei is the story of Lucky Luck, a 14-year-old girl's struggle to save her homeworld from destruction. After having been strip-mined by the oppressive Federation government, the planet Moad is scheduled to be razed. The super battleship Moby Dick is en route. It carries a prototype planet-destroying cannon to be tested on Moad. In a last-ditch effort to save her homeworld, Lucky Luck has convinced famed scavenger whaler Captain Ahab and his ragtag crew aboard the Lady Whisker to intervene.
Volume Two of Hakugei contains episodes 6-10 of the series:
* "Farewell! King Kuron"
The crew of the Lady Whisker prepares to leave for Moad. But a tough cop named White Hat uses the opportunity of a Federation police dragnet on King Kuron to settle an old score with Ahab.
* "Nice to Meet You, Haunted Ship!"
The Lady Whisker begins the journey to Moad with the kidnapped White Hat onboard. Not long after leaving King Kuron, they encounter a famed ghost ship called the Mortician. When they're forced to board the haunted ship, they discover its secrets.
* "My Dear Cape God"
The Lady Whisker detours to Cape God in order to replenish food and fuel. Once there, Atre meets Irene, his old man's fiancée at the time of his death. She's president of a finance company and, as it turns out, Ahab and his crew have arrived just in time to save her from some aggressive yakuza.
* "Birth of a Fan Club"
Back on the journey to Moad, Atre and Lucky discover a stowaway aboard the Lady Whisker: Miss Marie, a flighty Cape God University student who wants to study the crew for a research project. She also develops a crush on the reluctant Ahab.
* "Planet Moad"
The Lady Whisker reaches the Cashmere constellation's spiral nebula, home of the planet Moad. To celebrate, the crew has a karaoke party. On Moad, a mysterious android named Sara takes refuge as horrifying bug creatures deployed by the Federation ravage the resistance.
Hakugei: Legend of the Moby Dick: Volume Two is a major let-down. After some shaky expository introductory episodes, the first volume picked up speed and left off with the promise of compelling space adventures to come. Volume Two opens strong, but quickly fades.
"Farewell! King Kuron" is a solid episode. Ahab's showdown with the scurvy cop White Hat provides plenty of action, an excuse to present a little more of the captain's backstory, and the first bits of humor that are actually funny by virtue of their not being broad, painfully lame slapstick. I was especially encouraged when White Hat ended up on board the Lady Whisker as it rocketed away toward Moad. His gruff presence and adversarial relationship with Ahab was a welcome addition to the ship's crew of misfits.
Unfortunately, the quality of the episodes in this volume rapidly declines. The ghost ship storyline of "Nice to Meet You, Haunted Ship!" isn't bad (at least it offers an engaging tone of fear and foreboding), but it feels like what it is: a diversion from the main story. Things turn sour in a hurry, though, with Episodes Eight and Nine. As an 11-year-old boy in an anime adventure, Atre is predictably annoying. That we're subjected to an entire episode about his backstory in "My Dear Cape God" is nearly insufferable. Even worse, the episode is saccharine, and emotionally manipulate. Like "Haunted Ship," it's an unwanted diversion from the primary story arc.
As bad as "My Dear Cape God" is, the tale of Miss Marie's stowing away aboard the Lady Whisker in "Birth of a Fan Club" represents the low-point of the series so far. The only thing more insipid than Miss Marie herself is the painfully unfunny (and poorly animated, to boot) way the crew lusts after her. It's difficult to image how anyone -- either the show's creators or fans -- could find the episode's comedy even remotely comedic. I admit I experienced paroxysms, but they weren't from laughter.
It would be just dandy with me if I could write the series off after this disappointing collection of episodes, but "Planet Moad" shows promise of a return to the kind of storytelling that characterized the best entries in Volume One. The episode is undermined a bit by the lame-brained antics of the Lady Whisker's crew's karaoke party. But the main storyline gives us our first glimpse of the dire conditions on the surface of Moad. It also introduces us to a mysterious female android who likely has some sort of connection to the Lady Whisker's resident android, Due. I ought to know better after the general disappointment of Volume Two's episodes, but leaving off with "Planet Moad" gave me some hope that Volume Three may see Hakugei reach its potential as a compelling space opera.
As with the first volume, ADV Films' presentation of Hakugei: Legend of the Moby Dick, Volume Two leaves little about which to complain. The full frame transfer sports a crisp image with excellent color reproduction. Digital artifacts are basically non-existent.
In terms of technical quality, the Dolby 5.1 English dub is the better of the two audio tracks. The original Japanese-language track, presented in stereo, is clean and serviceable, though hardly dynamic.
Supplements on the disc match those for Volume One. The clean opening and closing animation sequences are repeated. Character sketch and production artwork slideshows are also provided, with entirely fresh material. We also get more text-based character biographies, as well as a few more entries in the "The Space Whalers' Lexicon." A single-page insert inside the keep case contains a continuation of the interview with creator/director Osamu Desaki begun in Volume One. Finally, the disc contains a preview of Hakugei: Legend of the Moby Dick, Volume Three, in addition to trailers for six other ADV Films DVD releases.
Though the storytelling in Hakugei: Legend of the Moby Dick, Volume Two is mostly lame, Episode Ten shows glimmers of promise. Maybe I'm a glutton for punishment, but I'm holding out hope the show finds its footing in Volume Three.
This particular volume of Hakugei must walk the plank.
Review content copyright © 2006 Dan Mancini; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: ADV Films
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (Japanese)
Running Time: 125 Minutes
Release Year: 2001
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Clean Opening and Closing Animation
* Character Sketches
* Character Bios
* Concept Artwork
* The Space Whalers' Lexicon
* Interview with Creator/Director Osamu Desaki
* ADV Previews
* Preview of Hakugei, Volume Three