Galaxy Express 999

Alt title: Ginga Tetsudou 999

Vol: 18; Ch: 121
1977 - 1981
3.765 out of 5 from 20 votes
Rank #13,618
Galaxy Express 999

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?

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This manga is old, so old it shows. Especially the first arc and even slightly more in the first few volumes main protagonist Hoshino Tetsurou looks like a bag of potatoes with teeth and a hat. The story is, what is it anyway? First, the story is pretty much unlike other popular series. While the first arc is pretty simple it has some layers to it. I would say at the heart it’s a coming of age parable. It’s the journey of a young poor boy from Earth to the distant planet Andromeda in the Andromeda galaxy by train. Yes, by train. In this sci-fi series trains can go from planet to planet too. This journey consists mostly of series of short stories, which have usually a simple pattern of either Tetsurou or his mysterious companion Meatel being lost or abducted when they leave the train waiting for departure time. The departure time differs, but it’s generally one standard rotation of the planet, where the train stops, which ranges from few minutes to several days of earth time. Each story deals with different themes. Settings are manga multiverse, where characters from various other series appear from time to time. This includes Captain Harlock, Queen Emeraldas and legendary Space Battleship Yamato. In this distant future, technology is almost like magic, at least the way the train is supposed to run is pretty insane. You would expect it to fly, but no it runs on invisible tracks in some sort of space corridor. Aside from humans and strange non-human life forms, there are people, who moved their consciousness to mechanical bodies. The series later tends to expand on this mythological dimension, where some species or individuals are considered to be gods. The machine vs organics plays a central role in the main story because most of those arrogant machine people have disregard for biological humans. This is even more underscored by the fact, that only the rich can afford to make this transition from organic lifeform to mechanical. Tetsuro gets on a special train to get his own mechanical body for free if he travels to planet Andromeda, but he learns it isn’t going to be easy and maybe it isn’t a good idea, to begin with. The end of the first arc is good. Probably the highlight of the series in some regards. What I liked about the second arc is improved art. The story is yet another series of visits, but there is a bit more to it than Tetsurou or Meatel getting abducted. New characters are introduced as well. Interestingly the 999 train is upgraded too [1]. However, the ending of the series was a big disappointment. It was very underwhelming. In fact, it had almost nothing to do with the main character [2]. Japanese language difficulty The first arc difficulty is 4/10 and the second is 7/10. The first arc contains furigana, which makes it easier. The second arc drops furigana except for special readings. The series does contain some obscure kanji variants such as [楯] instead of [盾], [車輛] instead of [車両]. It contains a decent amount of sci-fi/science terminology. What I would recommend. Don’t waste time on this manga. It has good moments, but too far and few in between. It’s like reading series of mangaka’s philosophical insights in a relatively unrelated series of short stories. Read the Galaxy Express 999 Ultimate Journey, instead. It seems to be a remake of the second arc. It has better art and the story is more fleshed out. Spoilers [1] Engine room computer is personalized in the character of Kanon. [2] Earth is not restored at the end! Tetsurou just arrives at the centre of Galaxy railways.

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