Galaxy Express 999 (TV)
Hoshino Tetsuro is a young boy who lives with his mother on earth, living a life of poverty. His mother has worked hard to give Tetsuro an opportunity to go by the Galaxy Express 999 to the Andromeda galaxy so that he can get a machine body for free, thus living forever, without having to be cold and hungry all the time.
Under an attack by other machine people, Tetsuro's mother is killed. Tetsuro, running blindly into the snow, is eventually rescued by Maetel (called "Meter" in the Swedish dub) and she promises him a ticket to the Galaxy Express for free, if she can follow him on the journey. Blinded by revenge and the desire to obtain that machine body, he readily accepts.
The list of Matsumoto titles that I've reviewed for this site is quickly becoming fairly sizable, and it's getting hard to find something new to say for each one, given that almost all of them hold to quite a high standard.
I've been wanting to watch the Galaxy Express 999 TV series for quite a while, ever since I streamed the first episode from the official site, together with fellow reviewer Samuel Arbogast some years ago. (This is one of the origins of the synchro session phenomenon that seems to have grabbed hold of many a THEM member over the last couple of years.)
And Matsumoto Leiji's Galaxy Express 999 tale is probably his best known title, except maybe the Star Blazers/Space Battleship Yamato series. It's often been said that the tale of the Galaxy Express, in particular when told through the eyes of its best known traveller, Tetsuro, that it is a tale about growing up and finding your place in destiny's grand scheme.
Galaxy Express 999 is quite the adventure too. One of the boons of the show is that as strange as the planets the intergalactic trains go to, they all have something to pass on to Tetsuro, whether literally or metaphorically. The nice part of it all is that the show knows how to be vague enough as to let the viewer decide what moral lesson they'd like out of a particular episode every now and then. Galaxy Express 999 isn't necessarily a complex show, but neither is it blatantly in-your-face.
It's an old show, so, understandably, it also looks very dated. Actually, animation isn't half bad considering the age of release and the sheer number of episodes contained within the show itself. What's more, the art is also very consistent and, naturally, in style with Matsumoto's character designs. It's an unabashedly retro show, and won't visually stand up to even the later Matsumoto features like Space Symphony Maetel or Interstella 5555.
However, since I assume people reading this review is quite familiar with the Leijiverse, I'm guessing that is a pretty much irrelevant observation. As old-school goodness goes, Galaxy Express 999 is one of my favorite story continuities, and the TV series is definitely the most pleasant viewing of them all. I realize that the chances of this getting a full, official release are probably next to none. One can only hope, though.
Finishing off the review, I'd like to add a little note for the benefit of our Scandinavian readers. (I know you're out there.) Seeing as Ozon Media actually went ahead and released a 26 episode pack of Galaxy Express 999, I went ahead and bought that very pack. And, while I do appreciate their efforts, the pack is -- much like their Starzingers release -- a mixture of good and bad.
The good part of this release is that, well, you ARE getting the show you may or may not have loved watching in your youth. The transfer is certainly decent enough, and the company has seen fit to outfit both shows with Swedish dubs. Now, while the Starzinger dub was ... well, mediocre at best, the Galaxy Express 999 dub is, for the most part, decent. That being said, it looks like the dubbing team saw fit to make the rather peculiar decision to have the voices of the non-human characters, like Claire and Shadow, sound like voices coming from people who've lost most of theirs through chain-smoking accidents.
What's more, they've taken the episodes, removed the opening and ending animations and just put the episodes together in one long sequence, with the opening and ending animation added to the beginning and end of each DVD respectively. Which would be fair enough, if not for the fact that -- like with the Starzinger release -- only a fifth or so of the grand total of episodes has been chosen for the DVD collection. In Galaxy Express 999's case, they've followed the release exactly for around 22-23 episodes, and then taken the three or four last episodes to round off the package. This does, in a sense, give off the illusion of being the entire story, had I not noticed the slight, but noticeable, change in our main characters that seemed to appear right out of nowhere.
This does put a small cramp in an otherwise enjoyable series. In all honesty, I enjoyed it a lot. I just wish I got to see more of it before it ended.
If I ever get to see the complete series in its entirety, my rating may very well change. Deduct one star for the somewhat haphazard Swedish DVD release, if that one's your target. — Stig Høgset
Recommended Audience: Adult themes and violence are pretty common themes in Galaxy Express 999. None of those are portrayed in any extreme sense (this is NOT Elfen Lied), but I'm guessing, despite appearances, that it's unsuitable for very young people.
Version(s) Viewed: R2 DVD (Swedish dub from Ozon Media); digital source
Review Status: Partial (26/113)
Galaxy Express 999 (TV) © 1978 Leiji Matsumoto / Toei Animation
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