Galaxy Express 999 is the name of a train which travels through space,beginning at Megalopolis Station on one end of the galaxy and ending at Andromeda on the other. Tetsuro Hoshino is a ...
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Galaxy Express 999 is the name of a train which travels through space,beginning at Megalopolis Station on one end of the galaxy and ending at Andromeda on the other. Tetsuro Hoshino is a youth who'll give anything to board the Three-Nine, including a promise to accompany a mysterious woman named Maetel all the way to Andromeda, the planet where, she tells him, he can get a free machine body to avenge the cruel death of his mother.
GALAXY EXPRESS 999 anime TV special about mother and child
Where else but in Japanese animation can you find a poetic treatise on a mother's love in the form of a stylized sci-fi tale about a living planet and its runaway offspring? GALAXY EXPRESS 999: "Can You Love Like a Mother?" (1980) was the third TV special spun off from the popular "Galaxy Express 999" TV series created by Leiji Matsumoto and is all about mothers and their children. It's a 93-minute expansion of a two-part story, "Artemis of the Transparent Sea," told in episodes 51-52, and focuses on Artemis, a little blob from a living planetary body who takes on a featureless human form and flees the gelatinous mass that is her mother and contains all her sisters to embark on a life in a machine body so she can change her destiny.
As Artemis' path heads for a collision with that of Tetsuro and Maetel on the Galaxy Express 999, young Tetsuro flashes back to his own mother who died getting him to Megalopolis where he met Maetel who took him with her to the Galaxy Express station and GE999, the train headed for the legendary planet where poor humans can get machine bodies for free. He also flashes back to additional episodes of the TV series that dealt with a mother's love and we see excerpts from those episodes. One features a mother who tries to cook Tetsuro to feed her hungry daughter, while another involves an insect mother who puts her babies in tiny space pods to escape a climate that will kill them.
The Galaxy Express soon crashes on the gelatinous planet, "an unidentified life form," as it's frequently described, which had moved unavoidably onto the Galaxy Express track. The train is stuck in the planet's soft surface and only a Vibration Wave sent by the computer at Railway Headquarters can shake the train off the planet. At that point, a spaceship crashes and Tetsuro meets its dying occupant--none other than Artemis who has returned to join her mother after life in a machine body proved too oppressive. In flashback we see her enjoying her new body (adorned with an appropriately attractive outfit) and a subsequent whirlwind romance with a handsome man (also a machine body). Ultimately, however, the state charges her for her pleasures and, having no means to pay her debts, she is forced to perform slave labor in a factory. Eventually, she escapes in an unguarded spaceship and crashlands on her mother's surface. When Tetsuro realizes the planet is a living thing and a mother, he makes it his mission to try to save it from the Vibration Wave, which will kill it.
Like so many of Leiji Matsumoto's works, this one is filled with beautiful artwork depicting the various planetary surfaces, the cityscapes Artemis visits, and the assorted ship, train and character designs. There's a sad, melancholic feel to the whole production, a mood enhanced by the stark images and dark skies seen everywhere. It's a powerfully moving piece and further proof that great anime is not all violence- and action-oriented.
It helps to have a knowledge of the series (or at least have seen the movies or read the manga) to appreciate this particular special, but it's not entirely necessary since there are frequent flashbacks to the first episode and clips from others, so it's like a crash course in the series anyway. This TV special followed two others, "Can You Live Like a Warrior?" (1979) and "Eternal Traveler Emeraldas" (1980), both of which are also reviewed on this site.
The GALAXY EXPRESS 999 franchise, which included movies, TV series and TV specials, was Matsumoto's most stylized work and it offers a host of artistic pleasures not found in its more action-oriented contemporaries, "Space Battleship Yamato," "Mobile Suit Gundam," and Matsumoto's own "Captain Harlock." Unfortunately, as of this writing, the only titles in the entire GE999 series available on video in the U.S. are the two feature-length theatrical movies, GALAXY EXPRESS 999 (1979) and ADIEU GALAXY EXPRESS 999 (1980). The manga (comic book) series on which the TV series was based has been published in English in graphic novel form by Viz Communications (which also serialized it in Animerica Magazine).
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