Ginga-tetsudô no yoru
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Reviews & Ratings for
Kenji Miyazawa's Night on the Galactic Express More at IMDbPro »Ginga-tetsudô no yoru (original title)

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22 out of 25 people found the following review useful:

A beautiful movie.

Author: hellequin ( from Amherst, MA, USA
2 October 2001

In my opinion, "Night on the Galactic Railroad" is an outstanding piece of animation.

Many reviewers will note, and accurately so, that this movie is both heavy and slow as melted gold. It's true: in our current world of sound bites and media clips, fast action and short attention, this movie stands alone. This is especially so when the movie is compared to other anime, a category under which fall some of the fastest and slickest movies in the world. If nothing else, "Night on the Galactic Railroad" gets points for sheer originality and ingenuity.

Gisaburo Sugii (the director) has taken Kenji Miyazawa's children's story and created for it a living atmosphere. While highly detailed backgrounds are nothing new for anime, "Night on the Galactic Railroad" combines its finely crafted images with a brilliant use of frame shots, pacing, and audio montage to create a surreal and ethereal viewing experience.

While often advertised as a children's movie, "Night on the Galactic Railroad" most certainly does not tell a very light story. With both religious and nihilistic imagery, Sugii presents us with a powerful treatise on death and life. However, even if you do not appreciate the story itself, the beauty in the dream-like artwork and animation cannot be denied.

If this is the kind of movie that you'd just as soon sleep through, then you're missing out on some amazing cinema. Admittedly, most people these days would probably rather numb their brains in front of the "Tomb Raider" movie, than sit through the likes of "Don't Look Now" or "Blow Up." But, who knows....

If you want to be pulled into a beautifully crafted and mesmerizing world, then watch "Night on the Galactic Railroad."

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15 out of 17 people found the following review useful:

Slow, Cryptic, Beautiful

Author: Tony Gregerson from Algoma, WI
26 January 2002

The first time I watched this movie I had to see it in two parts because my friend got sick of it after the first half. This movie is definitely not for everyone. The pacing is extremely slow and thoughtful. If your not the sort of person who spends time contemplating the mysteries of life, you will not enjoy this movie. If you watch this movie, don't watch it by yourself. Find a friend who you think might enjoy it, and set aside a quite relaxed evening to watch it. You will want someone to talk it over with afterwards.

One thing that must be noted is the character design. You may be initially turned off by the extremely cute, childish-looking characters. It doesn't take long to realize that the film is much darker and deeper than it seems at first.

Something to think about when viewing this film: It's interesting to see the strong use of Christian imagery in this film. I can't help but feel that as a westerner I'm getting a different reaction than the primarily Buddhist original audience and perhaps losing a bit of the mysticism.

I would suggest this film to anyone who enjoys spending a quiet evening lost in thought.

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17 out of 21 people found the following review useful:

Ranks among the most epic Anime titles

Author: Zuckervati from Waterloo, ON, Canada
11 November 2002

This film is up there with all of Miyazaki's works, including "Spirited Away," "Princess Mononoke," and "My Neighbour Totoro."

It has a very surreal quality and a deceptive cuteness to it, which may trick you into thinking it trite or superficial. However, like some of the best Anime out there, "cute" can leave you open to some horrifying consequences. Obviously it's not as heavy as "Grave of the Fireflies" or as light hearted and uplifting as "Totoro", but this film lies somewhere in between. I haven't read the book, but I'll bet it's similar in theme and scope to "Le Petit Prince" by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry.

I'm certainly not a Christian, and often tire easily when confronted by blatant Christian imagery in film, literature, and music. However, this film requires a degree of spirituality to get its point across, and the Christian images present, while overpowering at times, represent a nebulous kind of spirituality -- as if it's saying "there is a force out there which helps determine our fates, but I can't define what it is."

For example, the film takes place in some alternate European world (most likely Italy) and the characters have Italian names. But they're anthropomorphic cats and don't appear to practice any kind of Christianity (they celebrate moon festivals, and sail lantern boats in the river). However, they later meet up with human children on the train, and listen to Christian hymns on the wireless ("Nearer my God to Thee"). They pass several different layers of Heaven, and Giovani, the main character, has a special ticket that allows him passage to "the one True Heaven".

The film, like the train, takes its time to get where it's going, and some powerful messages come across to the viewer. Unlike many Anime and Western films, this one does not end with a happy and neatly tied-up ending, nor does it take pains to explain the things that go on inside the train. It leaves that to the viewer. This is what makes good art films. This is what makes a film worthwhile.

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14 out of 16 people found the following review useful:

Night on the Galactic Railroad is amazing piece of mind bending cinematic work.

Author: has_no_pseudonym from US
15 January 2002

This by far is the best anime I have ever seen. With its slow moving and oft disturbing plot this is not a movie for everyone, especial the adolescent/short attention span types who have only seen slasher/action examples of anime.

This movie is so slow yet it sucks you in and you can't stop watching. I have never heard or seen anything like it and I don't think I ever will again. No movie I have ever seen has affected me half as much. Its amazing visuals, sounds and eerie plot make this fascinating movie hard to describe and do justice to it.

This movie definitely deserves a 10 out of 10.

P.S. If you are the crying type have tissues handy.

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9 out of 10 people found the following review useful:

Metaphysical Feline Travelogue Aboard Space Locomotive

Author: Seragovitz from United Kingdom
6 October 2010

Superior to almost every toe-curling art-house flick that touches on similar territory Night on the Galactic Railroad says more and presents itself better than one would expect coming from a mere animated movie. Indeed if this was re-shot in live action, maybe in black and white and dubbed into French it would become a canonical post new-wave classic: to be fawned over by leagues of pea-brained cineastes. However it remains a little known and rarely talked about anime that has been seen by more fans of Galaxy Express 999 than by fans of Alan Resnais. Based upon the short children's work of the same name by Kenji Miyazawa the tale is ostensibly of a young cats (Giovanni) coming to terms with death by means of a surrealist adventure along the titular Galactic Railroad. The film contains a sequence of superbly realised vignettes that gradually paint the picture of Giovanni's life at home; his ill mother and itinerant father, bullying classmates and later the fantastical sights and stations he encounters on his one way ticket to the edge of the universe. The train he boards carries with it passengers of many creeds and persuasions: some disembark at the Pliocene Coast to further the cause of science others exit only to blithely tramp towards an afterlife of either Pagan, Christian or Buddhist contrivance . . . but young Giovanni stays on until the end. The less alert may mistake this film for some sort of religious allegory but it is nothing of the sort: Giovanni's revelation at the end seems more a triumph of moral philosophy. All text in the movie is written in Esperanto and the locations on Earth are reminiscent of small town medieval Europe. Beautifully scripted, animated and immaculately directed by Sugii Gisaburo, Night on the Galactic Railroad is one of the unsung masterpieces of cinema.

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10 out of 12 people found the following review useful:

Stays true to the author's intent.

Author: Misaomaki19
27 March 2002

Kenji Miyazawa intended "Ginga tetsudo no yoru" as a book for children. But in it are truths that everyone big and small look to find. No one is comfortable with death. Everyone searches for answers. As I read the book before seeing the movie, I was amazed to see how accurately and wonderfully the director and animators were able to capture the feeling of this fantasy. It may be too arty for some, but I feel that more often than not, viewers will come away with a deeper sense of what death can do for life and what life can mean if given a chance.

As for the cat characters, this seems to be a consistent image that surrounds Miyazawa. Some of the stories he wrote were populated by cats that would take human roles. Interestingly enough, in Kenji Miyazawa's biographical anime (Shoji Kawamori's Spring and Chaos) Miyazawa is portrayed as a cat. Maybe the cats exist to shield children from the pain that these harsh truths might bring. But not shield too much

Sometimes it is easy to look at a work like Night on the Galactic Railroad and say, this is just a fantasy. Perhaps Miyazawa wanted us to think that, maybe at first anyhow. But the true beauty behind this animation is that by creating a fantasy world so wild and vibrant, it forces us to see who and what we really are.

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8 out of 11 people found the following review useful:

A true masterpiece

Author: (dennis70) from Trieste
6 February 2006

Gisaburo Sugii sure has had a eclectic career, starting out with children's fare like Jack and The Beanstalk. Here he takes Kenji Miyazawa's children's story and creates a living atmosphere. While highly detailed backgrounds are nothing new for anime, "Night on the Galactic Railroad" combines its finely crafted images with a brilliant use of frame shots, pacing, and audio montage to create a surreal and ethereal viewing experience.

If I tell you that this is the same guy who did Street Fighter II: The Animated Movie you wouldn't believe it, right? Well it is the same person. But this is without any doubt his best film. I have never had such an experience with an animated movie before (I particularly dislike most of anime) but this was enlightening. A must see.

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4 out of 4 people found the following review useful:

Kenji Miyazawa's Night on the Galactic Express (1985)

Author: SnakesOnAnAfricanPlain from United Kingdom
22 January 2012

Night on the Galactic Railroad isn't your traditional family film. It deals with some incredibly deep themes, as well as having a slow meditative pace. We follow a young cat (changed from human in the original book) called Giovanni. Giovanni has no time for himself. His father is away, his mother is sick, and when he isn't at school he has to work. One evening the family's delivery of milk never comes, so Giovanni goes to get it. He rests on top of a hill before being confronted by a train. He gets on and finds his friend Campenella. From there the duo encounter a number of passengers each with a strange story to tell. This film is certainly all about the metaphysical. Each story strengthens the themes of religion and sacrifice. It gets highly emotional at times. The imagery is often surreal but always memorable. The animation is calm in both colours and movement. This film is presented in chapters, which I think may be a better way to digest it. It's something no country but Japan would try, and the ending is so powerful it really does make the journey worth it. Mature and thoughtful, if sometimes a little slow.

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6 out of 8 people found the following review useful:


Author: SheMightBeKaren from massachusetts =]
22 April 2007

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Being Japanese and having a Korean immigrant to Japan as a father and a Japanese mother, I grew up surrounded by Japanese culture--- including anime. Sometime when I was a toddler, my parents showed me this movie and I loved it, although back then I didn't understand much of it. I have no idea why... I just loved it. And to this day, I think it's beautiful.

It's slow paced, and it isn't for some people. But I think this is a very deep movie that moved my heart. Revolving around the lives of two cats living in a strange, Spanish or Italian-looking town, this movie is no doubt very dreamlike and seems like a dream I would have.

A very deep, sad movie which lets the viewer choose their own ending... this is a fantastic movie that lets you contemplate the meaning of life. A lot of the best scenes are the quiet ones... such as the way it showed that Giovanni was crying, without showing his face. Or how they showed how 'left out' Giovanni felt by showing Campanella and the girl's mouths move but no sound come out. I also loved the music. Sometimes it's eerie, sometimes it's merry. Either way, I love it. Oh, and one more thing... everything in this movie is in Esperanto. Just if you were interested Great movie that everyone, not just anime fans, should watch.

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2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:


Author: uwasatchisocks
28 April 2014

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

As soon as I finished watching this, I knew it had become my third favorite movie of all time. The characters are very cute, and I especially grew attached to them because they were cats. The animation and effects can be underwhelming but at the same time impressive for a 1985 anime.

Giovanni is an anthropomorphic kitten who tackles a lot of responsibility since his mother is sick and his father is away, and to make his trouble harder, he is bullied at school. He has a friend called Campanella. I find it unfortunate that the friendship between Giovanni and Campanella isn't expressed very much. Campanella does do a "favor" for Giovanni at the beginning of the movie. (Giovanni didn't answer the teacher's question, and so Campanella didn't answer it either so that Giovanni doesn't seem stupid). But Campanella spends time with the cats who bully Giovanni and he doesn't seem to have any interest in spending time with Giovanni.

After a seemingly ordinary introduction, the movie becomes a surreal and dreamlike adventure through mystical worlds of imagination. A galaxy train appears while Giovanni is resting on a hill and perhaps he is dreaming in some way. While he is on the train, Campanella slowly appears out of thin air and starts saying some mysterious things. Giovanni doesn't seem very bewildered considering what is going on. He asks questions but Campanella doesn't answer directly. The two of them ride the train together and sometimes other passengers appear / disappear.

One of the passengers, a bird-catcher, has a sack of herons. When he opens the sack, the herons seem to be flat. When he takes a heron out, he pulls it leg off but it's not as morbid as it sounds. He gives a piece of the leg to both Giovanni and Campanella and it turns out the heron is candy. The scene where it shows the cat catching birds is really beautiful. It seems cruel at first, since the herons seem alive, but in your mind you know they're candy in some kind of way. When they land on the ground, they seem to dissolve.

The scenery that the train crosses is full of magic and wonder. There's a place where magpies land in the trees and turn into apples, and a place where there's nothing but a cross in a weird blue sea of light. Many passengers appear out of nowhere apparently praying to the cross. Yes, there are Christian themes in this movie but that's one of the things that makes the movie so special. The movie revolves around heaven and that there are many different heavens, so I think including the Christian heaven was a good idea.

A human passenger and the children he is guarding arrive. I think one of my favorite parts of the movie is when he talks about how he and the children died on a ship that crashed into an iceberg and sank. He talks about how he tried to decide what to do for the children as the ship was sinking... it really touched my heart for some reason. He is obviously a Christian since he mentions God and it makes me wonder, are Giovanni and Campanella Christians? They don't pray to the cross like the other passengers did when they passed it, and they didn't get off at the Christian heaven that the man and the two children get off at. Of course, this is just an idealistic movie, but there are many questions you can ask and it's interesting to think about the movie and come up with your own answers.

Soon Giovanni and Campanella are the only two passengers on the train. Giovanni talks about how they'll always be together, and Campanella seems sad. He tears up but Giovanni doesn't seem to notice. Then it's time for Campanella to go to "his" heaven, where he says his mother is waiting. He leaves Giovanni without saying much else besides goodbye, and he doesn't seem to be sad as he leaves poor Giovanni alone and crying. I think the music it plays during this scene is very unfitting. It seems like happy or action music; I think it would be a lot better if they put sad music or even no music all so it doesn't disrupt viewers from reflecting these events in their mind.

In the real world, Campanella has drowned. It's a pretty devastating ending but Giovanni says he knows Campanella is out there and that they will always be together... even though he's in his own heaven far far away. Will Giovanni enter that heaven too when he dies? I'm not sure if it's implied in the movie.

Anyway, this is a wonderful movie. It manages to have death, heaven, and religion as themes while being about two cute colorful kittens. It's beautiful and creative, opens up your imagination, and touches your heart. It's also depressing.

If you're after comedy or action, this movie isn't for you. But if you don't mind a long, deep, sentimental film with an upsetting ending and some religious references, you need to watch this movie. It's a masterpiece.

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