There’s just something romantic about trains. They’re one of those forms of travel where the journey ends up being more fun than the destination because of the opportunity to meet new and interesting people. Who are they? Where are they going? Home? To see a loved one? Is an opportunity taking them on a ride to a new life? Train travel comes from a bygone era that you just don’t see anymore now that most people are content with taking domestic flights where the company is as bland as the food. My admiration for traveling by train is what attracted me to Galaxy Express 999 because, apart from being a story about a boy’s quest for revenge, it is also a celebration of the railroad’s civilized elegance.
Galaxy Express 999 is a film adapted from the manga and television series of the same name and set in a future where technology has advanced so far that humans can now have their minds transferred into emotionless robot bodies and live forever. This process is done in a faraway world in the Andromeda galaxy and can only be reached by the space-faring steam engine, Galaxy Express 999. In order to seek robot bodies for themselves, Tetsuro Hoshino and his mother make their way to Megalopolis in order to secure passage on the train, only to be attacked by the vile Count Mecha. Tetsuro’s mother is killed and collected as a trophy, forcing him to travel on his own. After stealing a pass, Tetsuro meets a mysterious woman named Maetel who looks very much like his dead mother. Offering to be his travelling companion, Maetel and Tetsuro board the Galaxy Express and set off on a grand adventure, encountering colorful characters on the train as well as those they meet during various stops.
Galaxy Express 999 is a film that celebrates humanity and wants to serve as a warning against hyper-advanced technology, even though it allows us to do great things. But when technology gets to the point where we can easily become emotionless, immortal robots, things have clearly gone too far. That is the lesson that Tetsuro faces throughout his journey and although he steps on the train determined to become a robot and get revenge, the individuals he interacts with slowly make him seriously consider the ramifications of his choice. Tetsuro’s stop on Pluto is a great example of this change in his character. Pluto is used as a massive grave site where the human bodies of those who have gone through the mechanical procedure are kept so that they may be preserved and viewed by others. The site is tended by a machine who shows Tetsuro her beautiful human body and expresses severe regret over her decision to become a robot. Despite how often this theme crops up in the film, the message never feels like it’s trying to beat you over the head.
Because the film was released in 1979, the animation isn’t going to win any awards but it has gone through a thorough clean up process resulting in a film that looks clean, but very dated. And yet, that works in the story’s favor and adds a considerable amount of charm. Galaxy Express 999 is a film for all ages and doesn’t contain any severe questionable content. There is a brief flash of Maetel’s skin as she stands in the shower and after Tetsuro’s mother is dragged away, a small pool of blood rests on the snow.
Galaxy Express 999 tells a wonderful story that has held up quite well after all these years. If you’re in the mood for an adventure filled with drama, excitement, romance and all stops in between, this film will serve you well.
Galaxy Express 999
Eastern Star, 2011
directed by Rintaro
128 minutes, Number of Discs: 1
Company Age Rating: 13