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[ Maetel, the Conductor and Tetsuro on board the GE-999 ] [ Ginga Tetsudo 999 title ]

Ginga Tetsudo 999

(Galaxy Express 999: The Signature Edition)

[ production info ]

Copyright: © 1979 Toei Animation Co., © 1995 Video Video (North America)
Length: 130 minutes
Rating: NR, parental guidance suggested
Format: English Dubbed (VHS)

[ plot summary ]

vhs jacket

Young Hoshino Tetsuro is about to embark upon an epic journey -- a journey of discovery, as he sets out to avenge the death of his beautiful mother who was killed by the hands of Count Mecha... killed only to become a trophy in Count Mecha's Time Castle.

But Tetsuro gets more than he bargained for when he finds himself accompanied by the lovely Maetel, the beautiful woman who rescues Tetsuro from the clutches of the police. A woman who bears more than a haunting resemblance to his late mother. Aided by none other than Captain Harlock and Emeraldas, the young boy sets out to obtain a mecha body, in order to kill Count Mecha. But not even this young boy imagined that his voyage would take him to GE 999's final stop... and perhaps to the key to man's apparent immortality: the mysterious mecha planet in Andromeda, where human beings can trade in their organic bodies for a metal one... one that can live forever!

[ capsule review ]

[ The Galaxy Express 999 travels through space... ]

[ Testuro and his mother, in an earlier memory... ]

[ Tetsuro and Maetel on board the GE 3-9 ]

[ ... a young man receives a tradmerk hat and pistol from a patiently waiting mother... ]

[ Claire, attendant aboard the GE-999. ]

[ Testuro deliberately gains the attention of Emeraldas. ]

[ A very ill Tochiro asks Tetsuro's help for one last task. ]

[ Harlock and Tetsuro reveal Tochiro's fate to Emeraldas... ]

[ Count Mecha, within the bounds of the great Time Castle. ]

[ Queen Prometheum, ruler of Andromeda... and Maetel's mother. ]

This is one of the most difficult series to review -- mainly since you really need to have some background into Matsumoto's vast universe to fully appreciate the specific segment this movie portrays. The first-time viewer will immediately recognise the fact that several key pieces of information seem to be missing -- as if someone delivers a punchline without actually telling the joke. Those of you who have read Matsumoto's manga, or are familiar with his universe will find that GE 999 fills in a lot of details...

But even the most ardent Harlock fan will have a very tough time trying to resolve certain aspects of this story -- for starters, just how many co-incidences does it take to make a story completely unbelievable? As with many anime programs from this era, Galaxy Express suffers from some lousy action choreography. Once again, we see chase scenes involving our hero, in which police officers inexplicably stand around long enough for him to run away. And once again, these same police officers couldn't hit the proverbial 'broad side of a barn' with their guns. So when you add to this the incredible string of luck which sets Tetsuro with Tochiro's mother, who provides our young warrior with a gun, cape and hat so that *gasp* Emeraldas recognises his garb while travelling on a train through the middle of nowhere, only to *gasp* find the very planet on which Tetsuro is residing, arriving just in time as Tetsuro dies, which *gasp* miraculously brings Harlock onto the scene, which then... well, you get the idea. Not enough coincidences? Not to worry -- there's plenty more where they came from.

It's really quite shame, since there's a fairly decent story which goes along with all this -- as Tetsuro progresses along his journey, he also grows up to become a young man. The Galaxy Express is not only a means of physical transportation, but it's a metaphor about for life -- that life itself is a journey, punctuated by various stops along the way, people embarking and disembarking. Some interesting themes are thrown in as well -- most prominant is that of how human mortality is part of what makes life itself meaningful. Not very enlightening for today's more sophisticated audience, but remember that this film was made almost twenty years ago. The fact that this film is so old is quite obvious -- scratches on the original stock survived the video transfer process quite well.

Age does have its advantages, though. This movie was made at a time where real orchestras were used (in this case, the Columbia Symphony Orchestra) to provide the soundtrack, a luxury reserved for all but the most extravagant productions today. Even though the frame rates are very low, the animators still spent the time to do perspective motion frames, something that's pretty much left to the computers these days. The English voice-overs were pretty much a mixed bag. Both Maetel and Tetsuro's mother were acted in similar fashion -- not surprising, since both were played by the same actress. Fortunately, the low-key intonations suited both characters very well. We didn't fare so well with Tetsuro himself -- the voice is very, very annoying. The one high-point: the conductor was wonderfully played with just the right touch of humour.

Galaxy Express 999 provides some interesting ideas, but drowns under its own weight. The heavy-handedly directing and occasionally corny scripting makes it unwatchable at times. A 'classic?' About as classic as a Studebaker.
- AN, 98.10-14

[ café rating ]

Original: Subbed: Dubbed:
Story: N/A N/A 2 stars
Direction: N/A N/A 2 stars
Acting: N/A N/A 3 stars
Animation: N/A N/A 2 stars
Music: N/A N/A 4 stars
Translation: N/A N/A N/A
Overall Rating: N/A N/A 2 stars

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