Jérôme Alquié has a uniquely enviable position. The comic artist has the distinct honor of getting to work alongside one of Japan’s most eminent creators, Leiji Matsumoto. In 2019, with assistance from French publisher Kana, Alquié began serializing a manga in Japanese publisher Akita Shoten‘s Manga Cross website. The story is Alquié’s very own series starring the iconic Captain Harlock, and it comes with all the approvals of the manga’s originator.
Captain Harlock – Arcadia no Kioku (Captain Harlock – Memoires de L’Arcadia or Captain Harlock – Memories of the Arcadia) will be available in English soon; publisher Ablaze will release the first 32-page, full color manga in June and the series will be available for Free Comic Book Day 2021 on Saturday, August 14.
Alquié sat down with ANN to talk about working on the manga, Captain Harlock‘s legacy, and his upcoming treatment of Saint Seiya.
How was the Captain Harlock – Memories of the Arcadia manga project created? Did you have any design brief to follow?
The project was created in 2014 from my desire to create comics (bande-dessinées) and from my passion for 80s Japanese animation. I was especially fond of Captain Harlock. It was obvious to me to work alongside Kana, a French publisher, because it has has always published Leiji Matsumoto‘s work in France. The project was built up this way, getting so important that Matsumoto himself approved it!
We started to collaborate with him on the artistic content in 2017. Regarding the “design brief” to follow, we had to stay as close as possible to the original work and to the character design, but we also had to make sure we were respecting existing characters’ relationships. Everything else was entirely up to us – story, new characters… as long as it was linked
to Space Pirate Captain Harlock, Matsumoto’s original manga. Which was excellent to me because it is still my favorite to this day!
How involved was Leiji Matsumoto in this project? What kind of “relationship” did you have with him?
He checked every single detail we sent him, from the major script elements and storyboards to the final version of the comics pages. We could discuss (directly or through or respective publishers) certain artistic & script choices, which was delightful. It really was a fantastic collaboration.
Apart from his “validation” that was normal, as we were creating something based on his own work; Matsumoto was also exceptionally supportive during the production process, sending a lot of enthusiastic and encouraging messages that helped me give this project my all. He had a benevolent eye on this whole project.
Why was Harlock this popular in France when it was originally broadcasted?
I think that the character was quite unique for the time (mid 80s) notably because the story wasn’t completely Manichean – unlike the majority of the other series that were broadcasted back then. Harlock also was an incredibly charismatic character. He had that pirate-side that would mesmerize the younger ones, of course, but they also appreciated the diversified characters of his crew, the impressive design of his spaceship… also, there were the scary Mazon that screamed and burnt up like paper when they died… All of this left a mark on our mind when we were kids. On top of this, there were some serious matters that were addressed in this series: robotics, humanity, ecology… This is also what helped contribute toward its timelessness and allows for another perspective on the story.
Were your first versions rejected? How much time did you take to produce a volume?
Initially, this should have just been a TV series remake. But quickly, with the approval of Matsumoto himself, we started to work on a new arc that would fit within his original manga. Nothing got rejected, it was more an evolution of different ideas that kept growing as we were progressing into the story.
Production-wise – writing the scripts, creating new characters – took about a year for each volume, and I spent nine months working on each of them.
We know you are a big fan of Shingo Araki-san. What could you tell us about his art? Do you have any other inspirations?
Obviously, he is a really talented character designer who inspired me a lot, but he also taught me, in a way, how to draw – as I was mimicking his drawings from Goldorak, Ulysses 31, and of course Saint Seiya. His way of directing animation is really dynamic – each of the episodes he directed has this particular energy to it. I think he is a genius that no one will ever be able to equal.
Regarding these three volumes, of course, Araki is one of my inspirations (Talika being a tribute to Polaris Hilda from Saint Seiya). But I can also name in that list all the main character designers that ever worked on Captain Harlock, like Kazuo Komatsubara, Nobuteru Yuki, and even Leiji Matsumoto himself. I tried to synthetize all their styles whilst staying true to my own identity, so I could produce something personal but at the same time close to the original work.
Is there any memorable story you could share – regarding your professional career or your work on Harlock – to Anime News Network readers?
Something exceptional was the release of the first volume in France, back in July 2019. It happened during the most famous convention in France where an incredible booth dedicated to Captain Harlock was installed for the occasion. A few weeks beforehand, we learnt that Matsumoto was going to be one of the guests. I was able to meet him there [three times] for the first time, for two days – and that moment will be a memory I’ll never forget. He was such a wonderful ambassador for the project! We ate together at the restaurant and we both left a note in the guestbook…. That I would have happily taken with me, to be honest!
Do you have any favorite aspect in this new comic series? How does it complete the Captain Harlock universe?
What defines the original story is the balance regarding the main trio – which includes Harlock and his crew, the Earth’s government politicians that consider him as an outlaw and hunt him, and the Mazon, humanoid plant aliens – that battle against each other. For my story, I decided to incorporate an original fourth element [Talika and the mutant Melon] that would disrupt that balance with some unexpected alliances. These are also to enhance the noble spirit of certain
characters and that fascinates me a lot.
What are you currently reading or watching?
I try to catch up with new anime series, but I’m so behind on everything. I’m currently watching Attack on Titan with my wife and my kids… And as I’m also really looking forward to watching the final Evangelion movie. I have started to read the manga again, just to be prepared. Recently I’m also reading a lot of Kurumada’s work (his manga and the spin-off inspired by Saint Seiya) but this is more for professional purposes than for relaxing.
Your next project: Saint Seiya. what can you tell us about it?!
We are working on this project exactly like we did with Captain Harlock, within Kana Classics. We seek to bring back the emotions felt during childhood! I grew up with Saint Seiya, it’s the series that followed me during my teen years, that period of time in life when everything changes… I have so many memories attached to this series that I’d like to make at least 25 references per page!
The most difficult part of this project is that fans love the series for different reasons. Some love it for its values, some for the memory of the 12 Houses, or others for the melancholy they feel about the dramatic stories of Asgard… It’s a tough job to create something that will please all those people, because we all have our own vision of this classic. We are going to try and make something that we are proud of and that will satisfy Masami Kurumada-san – who, just the way Matsumoto did with Captain Harlock – is supporting us through the different production steps. With all the passion we have for this series, I am sure you will be pleasantly surprised!
Translation of this interview from French was provided by Delphine Maurette