After losing his father and brother to the Galactic Railways, Yuuki Manabu joins up himself, much to his mother's consternation. There, he is assigned to the team boarding the "Big One", being lead by Schwanhelt Bulge, an officer serving under Yuuki's father.
This is the story of their random adventures.
Those of you expecting this series to feature the better known Matsumoto characters -- like Harlock, Emeraldas, or Maetel -- I will tell you right now that you're in for a disappointment. Even after nineteen episodes, I haven't seen so much as a trace of them, nor heard anyone confirming their existence. This series is, basically, a standalone sci-fi series who'se only link to the Leijiverse is the concept of the galaxy-travelling trains and Leiji's easily recognizable character designs. (The female ones in particular, though Yuuki does share a lot of traits with Harlock as far as his looks go.
But don't worry; this series still has the ingredients which makes the typical Matsumoto title recognizable. The only departure seems to be in the way the concept with the Galaxy Express has been expanded into a giant network of railway transportation, which is a far cry from what I gather, both from the Galaxy Express 999 manga AND anime. This DID take some time getting used to. In fact, I think "Star Trek on rails" would be a good analogy for this show.
But then, this title doesn't claim to be a part of said universe, so it's not like it works against it in any way. Rather the opposite, in fact.
What MAKES this title work is the way it is set up and how it puts the various characters to work. And Galaxy Railways DOES feature a rich cast. Even the main characters, though slightly typecast, are a rather interesting couple. Yuuki, for being a typical brash and inexperienced youngster, does go through a lot of growth sessions as the series progresses. And Louis, for also being the typically tomboyish girl and main love interest for the generally clueless Yuuki, does the same. There's also Bruce, who starts out outright hating Yuuki and his attitude to the SDF. There's Yuki, the Big One's medical android woman. (From what I understand, the androids of this series has nothing to do with the mechanized humans featured in the main Leijiverse.) And let's not forget Bulge, Yuuki's officer in charge, or David, who is one of the few black people I've seen in any anime. (Though he looks more Jamaican than African, if anyone cares.)
Outside of the first couple of episodes, which mainly deals with Yuuki losing his father and brother and later joining the SDF, the series is mainly episodic of nature, only tied together by the character Layla Destiny Shura, who is the main leader of the entire Galaxy Railways system and apparently sports the ability to see into the fate of everyone travelling the Galaxy Railways. And, since the railway itself has been upgraded to an all-purpose interstellar transportation system, that means we get taken on many different rides to all corners of the universe, and on a lot of different trains at that. The episodic build of the show doesn't really detract from the viewing pleasure. In fact, it just makes it easier to go into detail on each of the various characters. This spans from "What would it take for you to go against your own principles" to "are memories worth keeping if they bring you nothing but pain?" Personally, I like the stories with Yuki and her discoveries about her inner self. I guess I'm a sucker for plots like that.
In general, I have little ill to say about this series. In fact, the only thing that comes to mind is episode 19, where the main scriptwriters are all kidnapped and replaced with aliens. Yes, we're talking about the typical "hotspring episode" that seems to pervade a lot of anime at some point in its duration. With Manabu turning into a clueless dolt, Louis turning into a seethingly jealous woman and the rest of the girls around Manabu's age turning into clingy ditzes.... it became somewhat of a departure from the general Matsumoto fare, or even a departure from the other episodes in this series altogether. Though they DID manage to cram in a lesson in that episode too, so I'm not really complaining all THAT much.
If there is something I have no complaints in whatsoever, then that would be the art and animation. The art style is VERY familiar to Matsumoto fans, and the animation is mostly top notch. Some of the trains, mainly the modernized ones, are easily identifiable as 3D CG, though there's no question about them looking great. The only fly in the ointment would be the rather stiff and unnatural way they move when they crash. (Not that I have any experience of how trains move when they collide, but still.....) Nevertheless, I don't think that's anything worth mentioning, since it doesn't happen very often.
The voice actors do an admirable job, given the generally diverse cast of characters. The music in the series is also doing a good job, though the opening theme had me wondering whether this was going to be a comedy show. The song is sung with such feeling, I don't know whether the lead singer is taking his performance too seriously or not at all. The dub is also quite good, though I never really had any doubts about that, seeing as FUNimation proved they could do great dubs with Fruits Basket.
Nevertheless, as a Matsumoto fan, I am pleased. Granted, this series had little to do with the main Matsumoto works ... (But then, Interstella 5555 had even less so.) ... but it's a series I honestly would like to see licensed and released. It's a ride worth taking.
Drop a star or two if you feel the loss of Harlock, Emeraldas or Maetel would be too big a burden to bear. Otherwise, I see no reason to complain about this title. — Stig Høgset
Recommended Audience: Early teens. Aside from the fact that most of the issues this series touches would be lost on the younger ones, there is some violence as well as some minor fan service.
Version(s) Viewed: R1 DVD, bilingual
Review Status: Partial (19/26)
Galaxy Railways © 2003 Hideo Aihara / Leiji Matsumoto
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