Space Symphony Maetel
Riding on the Galaxy Express heading for her home, Maetel is joined by a young boy named Nasuka, who seeks revenge for his sister. On arrival, he immediately gets caught up in the fight between the robotic forces of Queen Promethium and the human beings on the planet that is slowly facing another ice age -- which, naturally, spells bad news for the human beings on the planet.
Among my favorite subjects in the Leijiverse, the story of Maetel and the Galaxy Express ranks as the best of the stories. (Well, maybe aside from the titles starring Captain Harlock.) Storywise, this series takes place after Maetel's mother has turned herself into a robot (as showed in the rather substandard Maetel Legend), but before the events in any of the other Galaxy Express 999 features. I'll try to make this review as free of spoilers regarding the main series at the best of my ability.
One thing's for sure, though; Maetel has NEVER looked better than she does in this show. The art in this show is just lovely, and the animation is quite good when not involving too much CG. True, most character works does bear the mark of Matsumoto's limited variation in character designs, but fans of his work should probably be used to this by now.
The story is, as usual, intriguing. At least most of the time. The great part of this show is that you get another look into the mindset of Maetel and what drives her ambitions and dreams. One thing I've noticed when watching the Galaxy Express 999 anime and read the manga is that Maetel herself is one of the most strong-willed and dedicated women I have ever seen in any anime bar none. It almost made the kidnapping scene in the first GE999 movie look rather implausible by the prospect of it. The Maetel we see in this series is, while still strong, a little bit more vulnerable -- mostly in regard to her own mother. This actually suits the show quite well, as Space Symphony Maetel does an admirable job of building up her personality and "preparing" her for the long task she will eventually face.
Nasuka, however, struck me as kind of redundant from the beginning. ANOTHER young lad to be taken in by someone in the GE999 universe? Like so many young lads before him, he has a chip on his shoulder and dreams as large as the universe. And, naturally, Maetel is there to help, with the welcome -- though somewhat predictable -- aid of Harlock later on.
Thankfully, however, the plot mainly centers around Maetel herself and, naturally, her issues concerning her mother and her plans. This is done through several story arcs, starting with Maetel's home world and the efforts made in evacuating the humans to a more suitable world while battling down the robotic forces of Queen Promethium. This later turns into a fight for survival as the queen isn't prone to be defeated THAT easily.
Of course, Space Symphony Maetel DOES have a rich additional cast, even if they won't all get equal screen time. One (possibly bad) habit of characters in the Leijiverse is their short lifespan. If you start caring for any of the characters in any Leijiverse, and they're not one of the few main characters, be prepared to watch them die heroically. Stoic sacrifices is as prevalent here as in most of the other works from Matsumoto. And another thing; if you thought the second Galaxy Express 999 movie was ripping off Star Wars, then get a load of Promethium's "death star" near the end of the show. In the show's defence, I would say that it's only logical for a race of mechanized people to make a mechanized planet. However, there's just no way to look upon that thing and NOT think something like "Hey, look. It's the Death Star".
One bad thing I would have to say about this show is that I felt it dawdled a little past the middle. After walking us through a tight story with many twists, the later events felt like a much too long battle sequence. This is also where the CG usage was at its worst, with odd enemy ship designs and rather unrealistic movements coupled with some blatantly bad CG explosions. However, the show reeled itself back on track and served the viewers with a nice and bittersweet end to a story that served as an introduction to a world of trainrides and maybe the most famous of Matsumoto's "angry young heroes" to ever mark his arrival in anime. As such, it's definitely worth a watch. Granted, it's better served as an addition to the full story about the Galaxy Express rather than a standalone story, but it's definitely worth it.
Deduct one star if you haven't and don't plan on watching anything else in the Galaxy Express universe. — Stig Høgset
Recommended Audience: There is one semi-nude scene with Maetel early on as she's plugged into a machine. It ingeniously covers up all her private parts, but you can see enough to figure out that she's not as scrawny as she looks fully clothed. Yeow!
Version(s) Viewed: Prerelease fansub
Review Status: Full (13/13)
Space Symphony Maetel © 2004 Leiji Matsumoto / Shogakukan / Tsuburaya Entertainment / avex / JoySquare
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