GALAXY EXPRESS 999
|Original title: 999 Ginga Tetsudo Suri Nain
Characters: Tetsuro Hoshino, Maetel, Conductor, Claire, Captain Harlock, Emeraldas, Antalius, Mechanical Count, Regina Prometheum
Authors: Leiji Matsumoto
Production: Toei Animation
Regia: Nobutaka Nishizawa, Masayuki Akehi
Year: September 14 1978
Broadcast in Italy: 1982
Gender: Anime / Science fiction
Episodes: 113 mm
Duration: 25 minutes
Recommended age: Children from 6 to 12 years old
The Japanese cartoon Galaxy Express 999 (Ginga Tetsudo 999 the original title) is based on the manga comic by Lejii Matsumoto (the same author of Captain Harlock) and was made by Toei Animation in 1978. Divided into 113 episodes, the series was broadcast for the first time in Italy on Rai Due in February 1982.
The story is set in the distant future, when technology has reached such levels as to dominate mankind itself. The difference between the rich and the poor is even more marked, as while most men live in conditions of misery and degradation, the wealthiest inhabitants of Megalopolis have achieved immortality, thanks to the purchase of very expensive mechanical bodies. As if that weren't enough, they regard other men as animals of prey, to the point that they enjoy "hunting" and killing them.
This is the fate that falls to the mother of the young Masai (Tetsuro Hoshino in the original version), who is killed by Count Mecha just for fun. On his deathbed, he asks Masai to board the Galaxy Express 999 to head to the planet of Andromeda, where he will be able to obtain a mechanical body for free and with it immortality and freedom. The boy follows the advice, with the intention of taking revenge and killing Count Mecha in mind. The first obstacle it encounters is the very expensive ticket price to get on the Galaxy Express 999, a spaceship similar in all respects to a late nineteenth-century train like the Orient Express, which reaches the planet of Andromeda.
The boy certainly doesn't have the money to buy the ticket, so he decides to steal it. However, he is discovered and is about to be arrested, until a beautiful woman, dressed in black, with long blond hair, who pays him the ticket in exchange for his company, comes to his aid, on the long journey that will take them to the planet Andromeda: the woman's name is Mashia (Maetel in the original version). The mysterious woman will also deliver to Masai a particular gun, called Cosmic Gun, the only one capable of killing a mechanical man. At this point the physiognomy of the Masai "gunslinger" is well defined, as he wears a poncho and a wide-brimmed hat, but with a stature far below average. On the train they share the journey with the Controller, a man with bright eyes, hidden by the shadow of his hat, very strict regarding compliance with the rules of the Galaxy Express 999, who nevertheless does not disdain to give a helping hand to the two protagonists, during their adventures. During the stages on the various Masai and Mashia planets they will come across different characters and situations, within which the boy will be able to learn many things, which will make him mature and grow. In the course of the various adventures, the face to face with Count Mecha will also come and Masai, thanks to the Cosmic Gun, will have the opportunity to avenge the death of his mother.
Over time he loses his enthusiasm for the acquisition of a mechanical body, as he realizes that those who have had immortality through this artifice are actually deeply dissatisfied people and some of these even attempt suicide, to failing to bear the weight of eternity. One of these is Crystal Claire, who works aboard the 999 and lives in a transparent body, devoid of human heat.
Upon arrival on Andromeda they meet Queen Promesium, who is actually Maisha's mother. It turns out that Maisha works in her mother's service to procure the human bodies, which are used to make the machines. Masai was therefore supposed to be a predestined victim, but Mashia changes his mind and rebels against his mother and with the help of his father, Dr. Ban, destroys the planet Andromeda and Queen Promesium, only to flee back to earth. Maisha actually possesses a human body, which she can replace as often as she gets old, allowing her eternal life. Once back on land, Masai greets Maisha, who sets off on the Galaxy Express 999 to an unknown destination.
As in all of Lejii Matsumoto's works, Galaxy Express also has slow and meditative narrative rhythms, such as to highlight the characters' dialogues and their psychological introspection. In fact, one can breathe great ideals and the recurring theme, already treated on Captain Harlock, of the arrogance of the rich against the powerful and the superficiality and arrogance of modern man, who crushes everything with his dullness and lust for power. The drawings and animations have several imperfections, but the stylization of the characters and in particular of the women is commendable, an authentic trademark of the author. The science fiction setting goes out of the classic stereotyped genres that were in vogue in those years, just think of the thousands of robots all very similar to each other, which in the 80s invaded our television screens. The idea of a train traveling through space appears unlikely and bizarre, but we understand that the intent is more "philosophical" than science fiction and everything, must be interpreted in the form of a metaphor. Also noteworthy is the splendid soundtrack by Nozomi Aoki, which contributes to the melancholy atmosphere of the Japanese anime.
Galaxy Express 999, the names, images and trademarks are copyright Toei Animation - Leiji Matsumoto - Tamiya Takeshi - Kominato Yoichi - Koizumi Yoshiaki and of those entitled and are used here for cognitive and informative purposes.
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