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Galaxy Express 999: Can You Live Like a Warrior!? (1979)

Ginga tetsudô Three-Nine: Kimi wa senshi no yô ni ikirareru ka!? (original title)
| Animation, Sci-Fi | TV Movie
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1st GALAXY EXPRESS 999 TV special based on the series
15 December 2001 | by (Bronx, NY) – See all my reviews

GALAXY EXPRESS 999: CAN YOU LIVE LIKE A WARRIOR? (1979) was the first TV special spun off from the popular Japanese animated TV series, `Galaxy Express 999,' which had begun in 1978. At 90 minutes, the special took a two-parter from the TV series (episodes 12-13) and expanded it to feature length.

The intergalactic passenger train, GE 999, makes a routine stop at a planet allowing passengers Maetel, a worldly woman in black, and Tetsuro, her young orphan charge, to investigate a recent disaster that had befallen the planet, the petrification (turning to stone) of its entire population caused by a traveling `fossil cloud' from space. The two encounter the planet's sole survivor, Urius, a military pilot who'd flown into space to investigate the cloud and became the only one to escape its effects. Urius fights Tetsuro and steals his GE999 pass, which he wants to use to find a new body for his petrified wife, Deijya. While he fends off Tetsuro's attempt to get back the pass he must also take on the gang of `fossil bandits' who have come to steal the stone bodies including that of Deijya. Tetsuro sides with Urius but eventually the two must have a showdown over the pass. Since both have good causes, the audience is sympathetic to both.

The film is full of the stark beauty and dramatic imagery that characterized late 1970s Japanese animation. There is a massive abandoned spaceship in which Maetel and Tetsuro go searching for Urius. The action is largely set against a gray, desolate, ruined planetary landscape, with mountains of stone bodies representing the planet's population. There is also a heavy streak of romanticism as seen in the flashbacks to Urius and Deijya's romance and marriage. This is a common theme of the anime based on Leiji Matsumoto's work--a love story underscored by tragedy and loss.

An opening montage details basic facts about the series and background of the two lead characters and how they came to be companions on GE999. Not everything is explained, however. We never learn exactly how Urius is going to revive his wife or what makes the stone bodies so profitable to the fossil bandits. Still, the film is a worthy entry in the large body of work by Matsumoto, one of the prime artistic forces in Japanese animation, and creator also of `Captain Harlock,' `Queen Millennia,' and (co-creator) `Space Battleship Yamato.'


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