Friday, May 24, 2013

Revisiting the Classics -- Galaxy Express 999

Today I have dug up another anime gem for you: Galaxy Express 999. It was a TV series followed by several movies based on said TV series in the late 1970's. Since the TV series was recently released in America for the first time, I thought I'd do my part to help bring in new fans.

The protagonist is an adolescent boy named Tetsuro Hoshino who lives on future Earth. He spends his times in the slums living below the more well-off citizens, but dreams of boarding the famous Galaxy Express, an intergalactic train which travels the galaxy. One day he attempts to steal a ticket to board one of the space-faring locomotives but gets caught and subsequently chased by station security. He is saved by a mysterious woman with long blonde hair and a Russian-style fur outfit. She identifies herself as Maetel, and asks Tetsuro why he is so intent on boarding the Galaxy Express. He tells her he wants to travel to the Andromeda galaxy and acquire a machine body so he can kill the robotic Count Mecha who murdered Tetsuro's mother. Maetel offers to get him on board one of the trains, the 999, if he will allow her to accompany him on his journey. Tetsuro readily agrees and together they set out across the Sea of Stars.

I've always loved Galaxy Express 999. It, more than any other science fiction I've experienced, so completely captured the wonder of space travel. This is due in part to the whimsical, exaggerated character designs of creator Leiji Matsumoto. Characters run the gamut from beautiful, sorrowful women (such as Shadow and Claire) to comically deformed men (like Tochiro). The most compelling of 999's cast (namely Maetel, along with space pirates Harlock and Emeraldas) were so popular they got their own prequels and spin-offs. Furthermore, the haunting musical score and somber narrator give emotional and nostalgic weight to one boy's journey to become a man. And along the way, we must ask ourselves if it's truly worth becoming an android to live forever, or if, perhaps, human life has more meaning than we think.

Ultimately, though, words fail to do it justice. You really should check it out for yourself.

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