Adieu Galaxy Express 999
The first Galaxy Express film was a classic quest tale; more about the journey than the destination, with each stop along the way preparing the hero, Tetsuro, to face his destiny. It was an adventure movie taking place in a populous and varied galaxy. Adieu Galaxy Express 999 flips that around. It has no specific goal when it sets off, and the universe feels dead and empty.
The movie is based on the manga by Leiji Matsumoto, one of the all time masters of the medium. He creates space operas of epic proportions, and this entry doesn’t disappoint in that regard.
Its been a few years since the first film. The mechanization movement, which has people trading their living bodies for immortal, mechanical ones has turned into an outright war with a human resistance fighting for the value of a ‘limited life.’ It’s kind of a simplification from the original movie, in which mechanization was a complex issue with pros and cons, and a class struggle element. In this movie, it’s just good vs. evil.
The journey aboard the 999 is relatively uneventful. It’s no longer exploration, it’s just transportation. The movie even teases the audience about his by having the train pass over the planets it visited in the first movie, showing fleeting shots of the setting and characters we met there. It seems like the mechanization forces are winning. One of the planets they visited in the first movie, Hevay Melder, we’re told has been decimated by the war.
The few stops they do make are less varied and adventurous than in the first movie. The one real planet Tetsuro visits is La Metal, the ‘home world’ of the mechanization movement. There he meets a band of human resistance fighters, including a cat-man named Meowder, and learns a little more about Maetel.
Maetel is not the ‘mother’ figure she was in the first movie. She’s now a cause for suspicion. Perhaps this shows growth for Tesuro, who isn’t projecting his memory of his mother on to her, and is now seeing her as a woman with a questionable past.
The movie has a very lackadaisical pace. There are scenes of the train approaching a planet which last literally minutes, which is actually reminiscent of what it’s like to travel on a train in real life. This, paired with the general lack of humanity makes the universe feel very quiet and empty. Contrasted with the first movie, it’s a creepy depiction of what the fully mechanized universe would be.
The 999 eventually sets a course for Great Andromeda, a planet in the center of the Andromeda galaxy which acts as the headquarters of mechanization. While it wasn’t his intent when he boarded the train, Tetsuro decides to make the most of the destination by striking a blow against the mechanization planet.
The premise of the people of the universe making themselves immortal at the expense of true life is really interesting, and well explored in the movies. This second film takes the premise up to a logical next level. While the journey is not as colorful or adventurous as the first time around, it still manages to feel epic. Mastusmoto just has a knack for making everything feel profound and legendary.
The DVD from Eastern Star features a very clean video transfer with 2.0 audio. The video is totally unaltered, with the Japanese credits and titles.
Bonus fact: The ending theme song was written and performed by Mary MacGregor, who was famous for the song, “Torn Between Two Lovers.”