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Hakugei: Legend of Moby Dick, Vol. 1: Ahab Awaits (1997) – DVD Review


Based upon the manga by Osamu Desaki and Akio Sugino
Directed by Osamu Desaki
Music by Masahiro Ando and Hirotaka Izumi


  • Clean opening and closing animation
  • Lexicon
  • Production artwork
  • Character bios
  • Character sketches
  • Text interview on liner notes

Dindrane’s Anime Warnings:

  • Scary clown
  • Crazy people
  • Young girl with the voice of a 70-year-old New York smoker
  • Whale-shaped battleships

Released by: ADV
Region: 1
Rating: PG
Anamorphic: N/A; appears in its original 1.33:1 format.

My Advice: Get it.

In this science-fiction anime version of Moby Dick, it’s the year 4699, and a young researcher named Dew is collecting daily data on an icy planet known as Windmill. Dew is told that his duties are complete, and he is due to be reassigned to a new mission, which is downloaded directly into his cybernetic parts. Just as he’s receiving the information, however, the frozen peace of the ice world is broken, as a giant white shape, apparently some kind of massive robotic ship, blasts up through the ice, and abducts Dew. The next time we see him, his cyborg-like human structure is being rebuilt by strange machines he does not seem to recognize: he is apparently inside the giant white ship, and a voice announces to him that he is now joined to them. But how? And why? And what can Our Hero do to rescue himself from… whatever awaits him at the hands of the strange aliens? Meanwhile, we meet Lucky, a stowaway out of Nantucket, traveling to find the mad Captain Ahab who is needed on Lucky’s home planet. Ahab and his men are “whale hunters,” scavengers who recycle finds from derelict ships.

Most of the legendary characters of the novel are present, if not quite “intact.” Instead of Ishmael, we get Lucky, a little boy in search of Ahab. We also get the flotsam and jetsam of the universe instead of pirates and sailors, and of course Ahab himself, who is willing to risk his life and the lives of his crew for one last shot at Moby Dick. We even get our version of Queequeg, known now as Barba of the Tattoo Clan.

The sci-fi elements are quite interesting. We get magnetic boots, cybernetic eyes, space ports, laser swords that look a lot like lightsabers, and automated boxing sandbags. The Nantucket Nebula is also somewhat interesting, in that the large mass of salvageable ships are drawn in by the nebula’s powerful magnetic pull; this enables the Ahab Group and other whale hunting groups to make their living without leaving the nebula. The street scenes are also interesting; it’s fascinating to conjecture what future entertainments and pop stars will look like. The traditional sailor elements are also strong, such as the accent of Captain Ahab and his fondness for referring to his crew as “the scalawags.”

The English voice acting is mediocre, and Lucky’s voice in particular is rather annoying—loud and gruff. I understand the need to sound child-like and so forth, but most kids don’t scream all the time, and (spoiler alert!) even tomboy 14-year-old girls don’t sound like that. If you don’t mind reading your movies, the Japanese cast is better than the English on this release, though there are several other reviewers who disagree with me on that. The translation is more of an interpretation than a transliteration, but the meaning is preserved. The music is mediocre, but not offensive. The visuals look even more vintage than 1997, due to the character designs (especially the hair) and the backgrounds, much in the style of the Captain Harlock series. That doesn’t make it unattractive, but it might not be to the taste of someone used to today’s flashy all-CGI, rounded-out characters. It’s not the art or acting that’ll hook you here, but the plot and style.

The features are fairly standard: we get the text of an interview with the director in the insert, along with a clean opening and closing, a sketch gallery, and a production art gallery. The nice features are the lexicon that includes definitions of all the lingo the characters will use; you might want to read this first to prepare you for the show, so you don’t have to figure it all out from context or wait for exposition bits to do it for you. There’s also a nifty character bio section that contains spoilers of things you’ve probably guessed already.

English teachers won’t want to rush right out and get this one as an adaptation of Melville’s classic (and surprisingly interesting) novel; however, on the other hand, it might make an interesting comparison to discuss how things are maintained or changed for various audiences. You might enjoy the show more if you don’t expect any version of Moby Dick and instead just enjoy the show on its own merits. Ahab himself is radically different in this version than in the original novel, though he might become darker as Moby Dick and the revelation of various secrets draws nigh in future volumes.

In short, if you enjoyed Outlaw Star or Cowboy Bebop in its lighter moments, then you’ll probably enjoy this one. It’s basically a light-hearted adventure with nautical and piracy themes, as well as a creative and interesting plot. The “funeral” for Dew is quite moving, actually. Check it out, and you won’t be disappointed.

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