Ever heard of a flying train? Tetsuro, living on a dismal earth, wants to ride it to Andromeda so he can get a mechanical body that will enable him to live forever. With the help of the mysterious woman, Maetel, Tetsuro braves many adventures on his way to Andromeda, heading towards a showdown with Count Mecha, an evil tyrant that brutally murdered his mother for sport. Will Tetsuro have the inner strength to face this monster on his own turf?
The Red Winds of Mars
Titan's Sleeping Warrior
The Great Bandit Antares
Shadow of the Planet of Indecision
The Comet Library
The Graveyard at the Bottom of Gravity - Part One
The Graveyard at the Bottom of Gravity - Part Two
Trader Junction - Part One
Trader Junction - Part Two
Formless Planet Nuruba
The Fossilized Warrior - Part One
ANIME MINOR JEWELS SERIES Full list of the review series can be found on this page, 3rd post from bottom: http://anidb.net/perl-bin/animedb.pl?uid=251338&show=userpage&do=blog&blogid=29009&page=0TEASER: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gq-b_iNrQaQI consider this anime as the oldest example of an interesting social commentary with the least amount of unneeded extra. And by extra I mean the usual things that one expects to find in dystopia settings. BANG! CRASH! KABOOM! AAARGH! And other similar stuff. It is a bit hard to criticize this work as it is a weird blend of slice-of-life, along with space opera elements. One part seems to overtake the other in random moments and so an average viewer used to clear genre distinctions will find it hard to accept the flow of the show. Being a Leiji work, it was made in the same year as Captain Harlock and they even share the same themes and setting. One will most likely end up comparing them just for that. Harlock seems to win hands down for being full of space battles around pirates and aliens and decadent human societies. Galaxy express has that too but in a completely low-toned degree. It is far simpler in its structure, its cast, its action and its scale of importance. To put it simple, while Harlock was about a huge crew saving the Earth from invading aliens, Galaxy Express is about a little kid wanting to go to some planet to become a robot. And that is all of it. There is nothing of cosmic importance going on in it; it is the journey of a single man.To be frank, that has its good side as well. Harlock had some really broken powers in his disposal, to the point he could take on the galaxy and still have it his way. There was no real way for him to lose and so chances are you cared more about the warfare than the human drama behind it. Galaxy Express on the other hand is about a few simple people, in a simple train-spaceship, going on a journey and experiencing various societies and human dramas. Without the fancy lasers getting in the way, you are left to focus on them and not the action (which is very low-toned to begin with). In this regard, this anime is far more successful than Harlock in telling you its story.Now about the actual story, there is very little of it in its core. A kid wants to become an immortal robot and travels through various places just to get to the planet where he can achieve that. That is all there is to it and every episode is pretty much an episodic encounter with other people or creatures from the various places the train he is on-board passes by. As long as you are fine with episodic-based stories without much action, then you will get to really enjoy the show. Each story is about the cruelness of the human spirit, a theme constant in all of Leiji’s works. It describes a situation were people suffer and how they try to live by in their own personal way. Most stories are very interesting and full of good settings entire series could be made out of. And that is probably the bad part because you are only allowed to see each setting for a few episodes before you are taken to the next and it never seems to affect future events in the least. That just sucks. Also, you are mostly let to think that the show is story-driven and not character-driven, which again makes you consider the main characters as nothing but passive observers and not active members who somewhat affect their surrounds. Ok, partly they do but it is mostly about being told the problem and not how to eradicate it. Kinda becomes pitiful after awhile.So forget the story part as it’s there just to show stuff without ever allowing the characters to affect them down to their core. Good ideas but barely developed further than the episode they are mentioned. So let’s focus on the characters a little bit. The main ones… is only one. Tetsuro is the lead boy doing the journey and experiencing the various societies the train passes by. All that are meant to make him a wiser person, and slowly drive him away from his initial nihilistic view of the world, his anger and frustration over the cruelness he has experienced so far. And guess what, the same thing is supposed to happen to you. The entire show is meant to affect you. Tetsuro is thus the Average Joe, meant to be simple and immature enough for all of us to identify with him. For the same reason of course he is a simple character in personality and acting thus kinda generic. As I said, the series is story-driven and its main character is as simple as possible for everyone to identify with; so again you end up remembering the story and not the characters.There is a second almost lead character and that is Maetel, his female co-traveler on-board the train. She has made the same journey many times and already knows all the things that happen along the way. She is there to be Tetsuro’s mentor and to explain to him (and us) all that he experiences for the first time. She is definitely a more interesting character as she is both beautiful and wise, with weird clothes that she occasionally… err… removes for various reasons. Yes, there is a rather high amount of nude in the show for its time but most of it is meant to show how frail and beautiful she is despite her wisdom. There is no direct sexuality at play here and Tetsuro is just a little boy to even care about that; he sees her just as a good friend. Other than that, do not be fooled to think she has some secret agenda as the series sometimes hints she has. She is just another plot devise for us to be explained the various events that happen in the story. AGAIN you feel the story is above the characters.The third steady character is the train clerk, who is some sort of black alien. He is just there to maintain order in the train and provide comic relief; he doesn’t really affect the story either. All the rest of the characters are just minor support, usually presented for just one or two episodes only. They are the denizens of each stop the train makes and GUESS WHAT they two are again plot devises just so the story can be told to you. I am not saying it is a bad thing to have a show full of such characters. But there is no way to bond with them directly; they are on screen for too little time and to the most part act too passive. Which to me it feels bad.Here is another thing to notice. If you look at the opening of the show the only thing you will see is trains. Not a single character. It is an indirect way of telling you that the show uses them as plot devices and thus you should only care about the individual stories and not about them directly. But wait; there is not much of a story either. So what is there left to like? Some sort of omnibus fondness is required or you will be bored fast (as I did). Another thing is the production values. They are ok for their time but don’t seem to be wowing in any way. There is a big variety in locations but most of the plot takes part in the same train wagon, around the same three characters. No space battles or scull-themed ships all the time either. Facial and body variety are also minimum and you usually think the same characters reappear with different names and roles all the time. And in the usual Leiji manner, cats and old people are God-ugly. Voice acting is fine for the roles the characters have but the music score just leaves me indifferent. It sure is elegiac and sad but not memorable for any reason. And all those train noises end up being annoying. They feel more like sound pollution rather than trademarks. Listen what; I fully understand this is supposed to be a cathartic series, meant to make you wiser through various short stories around human drama. If seen just as that, then you are going to enjoy this very much. If you also have a fascination with trains, it is even better. But I personally am not fond of episodic shows and prefer more complicating storylines and characters. Plus, I have no fondness of trains and DO like some action amongst all the drama. Yet all I was seeing throughout the show was a train moving linear, going to places, showing us something while it makes a stop and then leaving. How long can that keep someone like me interested? I ended up waiting for the next excuse Maetel will need to get naked. Yeah, I completely lost the feeling of the show.I am not saying it is a bad show. Just not one I would recommend for its story of its characters. It is pure emotion at play here and if you are fans of anime like Kaiba, Mushishi, Spice and Wolf, or Kino’s Journey, this definitely deserves a watch. If not, I sincerely recommend you give this a pass or watch it in very small daily quantities.And now for some excused scorings. ART SECTION: 7/10 General Artwork 2/2 (interesting) Character Figures 1/2 (generic) Backgrounds 2/2 (interesting) Animation 1/2 (basic) Visual Effects 1/2 (basic) SOUND SECTION: 7/10 Voice Acting 2/3 (corny but fitting with the feeling of the series) Music Themes 3/4 (sad but fitting with the feeling of the series) Sound Effects 2/3 (ok I guess) STORY SECTION: 4/10 Premise 2/2 (interesting) Pacing 1/2 (episodic) Complexity 0/2 (not much) Plausibility 0/2 (none) Conclusion 1/2 (cheesy) CHARACTER SECTION: 6/10 Presence 1/2 (generic) Personality 2/2 (rather cheesy but well founded) Backdrop 1/2 (generic and simplistic but it’s there) Development 1/2 (overblown but it’s there) Catharsis 1/2 (overblown but it’s there) VALUE SECTION: 5/10 Historical Value 2/3 (still remembered by some as an interesting retro title) Rewatchability 1/3 (low because of too much overblown drama and episodic pacing) Memorability 2/4 (generic today but has its charm) ENJOYMENT SECTION: 4/10 Nice concept but tends to get tiresome fast. VERDICT: 5.5/10
One thing that should be acknowledged before this review is that I have yet to finish this series (currently on episode 75) and may or may not make adjustments in the future. Leiji Matsumoto spent a large portion of his life constantly elaborating his own personal universe defined by certain key characters amongst a huge cast who left their marks on the various places in space. On these journeys, several questions are bound to be asked; is technological advancement something positive or negative; Will increased comfort eventually lead to our ambitious and creative decay; Is it possible to live on without inventing a purpose of existence and, as is made the most prominent in Galaxy Express 999, what is it that makes you human? Story: 5/10When young Tetsuro Hoshino who recently lost his mother is offered a ticket to the Galaxy Express by a mysterious and beautiful woman named Maetel, he sees the possibility to get himself a mechanical body and live a life long enough to compensate for the early demises of his parents. You see, the story takes place in a future where mechanical bodies are the norm for privileged individuals of wealth or power as well as highly desired by the less fortunate. These bodies are impossibly expensive but rumor has it that they're given away for free on the planet Andromeda, one of many stops on the route of the Galaxy Express; a train traveling through the universe. In other words, Tetsuro has to visit a huge number of planets before reaching his goal and these experiences cause him to question whether he should keep striving for his invented Raison d'Être or just embrace his humanity. This anime is incredibly episodic and when you consider the large amount of episodes you might be able to guess what the major problems are. If not, then allow me to explain: inconsistency and predictability. During its very best, Galaxy Express can reach the same allegorical and thought-provoking levels as Kino's Journey but most episodes are nothing more than "okay" while some of them can even be terrible. One of my favorites tells the story of a planet where the inhabitants are starving since almost all food is given to the queen who, as it turns out, died 200 years ago but hid herself before that happened in a narcissistic attempt to prevent anyone from seeing her once beautiful body reduced to a pile of bones. Furthermore, since each episode requires some sort of conflict, almost all of them basically boil down into "Tetsuro and Maetel visits a planet, something bad happens which might prevent them from returning to the Galaxy Express. They solve it."To be fair though, I haven't seen the ending yet so I might alter the score after that. Animation: 5/10Given its length and age, Galaxy Express boasts fairly impressive animation that nonetheless is very obsolete and naturally can't compete with anything remotely recent. A lot of characters are forced into the same state of cartoonism you could find in Captain Harlock while others are blessed with a little more detail. Women are tall and slender to incorporate the ideals Matsumoto seems to have, topped off with long and beautiful hair. Does the old animation prevent you from enjoying the show? The answer is no, working on the assumption that you don't condemn anything based on its age. While holding little to no regard for realism, the various creatures in space are interestingly designed while the mere concept of a train traveling through space (inspired by Night on the Galactic Railroad) is pulled off well enough to establish a unique and impressive atmosphere. Sound: 6.5/10The music in this show is actually quite good even if most tracks are re-used over and over again until they've made their way into your head not solely because of their quality but primarily because they're repeated. Voice acting is a mixed bag with Tetsuro sounding occasionally obnoxious (or if you prefer to call it just childish) and Maetel delivering her lines in a state of melancholia. Sound effects are made well enough for the time being and the background noise played during scenes inside the train made me want to embark on an impossible journey using a space-train as my main vehicle. Characters: 6.5/10In case the premise didn't highlight this enough, the very core of Galaxy Express is comprised of the journey towards self-discovery young Tetsuro embarks on under the guidance of Maetel; a woman of beauty, wisdom and above all else, experience. He's not supposed to be portrayed as heroic even though he reaches the level of a terrific childhood role-model in his sense of justice and will to help alone. Together, the two protagonists make for a memorable team even though Tetsuro never seems to learn from his mistakes; which should be the entire point of the journey. Furthermore, Galaxy Express tends to be somewhat depressing in its decision to observe miserable fates all across the universe whilst only occasionally deciding to depict something less heartbreaking. Individuals who spend their lives doing one pointless thing; A planet with more inhabitants than the current China who beg for a living and some characters in general who seem to accept their eternal suffering which does not in any way make it less sad are mere examples of what the show has to offer. The major problem lies in the fact that most of these characters are introduced hastily only to be killed shortly after or just left behind for the next story to begin. In other words, some of the sympathy you normally would have is instantly lost and all of the excruciatingly sad lifestyles are quickly forgotten as Tetsuro and Maetel continue. Overall: 6/10Make no mistake, so far I'm enjoying this show almost immensely but there's no way to review it without acknowledging all of the major flaws. Some episodes are, as mentioned, incredible not only from a story-related but also thought-provoking standpoint and the moral messages, whilst obvious or possibly clichéd for anyone older than twelve or so, are suited perfectly for slightly younger children. In the end, this is not the space epic you might expect but rather a somewhat elaborate tale of a young boy whose impression of life itself changes over time as he's exposed to the various lifestyles and opinions of the people he encounters. At the same time, he leaves several positive impressions of a seemingly lost humanity behind and continues to touch and inspire those who fail to see anything of value in existence. In the very truest sense he embodies everything the typical young hero Matsumoto so loves to depict should have and will probably grow up to reach the heights of Harlock or Emeraldas. Who knows, maybe this is even answered in another title from the vast Leijiverse? Regardless of its qualities, to discover the occasional gem of an episode you’ll be forced to wander through a huge sea of mediocrity, which basically sums up the overall score in one sentence. If you’re up to the challenge, then by all means, proceed!
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