From hell's heart, Appellate Judge Dan Mancini stabs at this second volume of the nautically-themed space opera anime. For hate's sake he spits this review at it.
The epic saga continues!
Another volume of space-aged anime that has nothing to do with Herman Melville's literary classic!
Facts of the Case
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"
• "Nice to Meet You, Haunted Ship!"
• "My Dear Cape God"
• "Birth of a Fan Club"
• "Planet Moad"
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.
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