Galaxy Express 999 (1979)

aka Gingo tetsudo Three-Nine
Article 2992 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 7-17-209
Posting Date: 10-23-2009
Directed by Rintaro
Featuring the voices of Saffron Henderson, Kathleen Barr, Don Brown
Country: Japan

A young boy steals a train ticket to the interplanetary Galaxy Express in the hopes of going to the planet of Andromeda to get a machine body, and to seek revenge on the evil Count Mecha for the murder of his mother. In order to keep from being captured by the police, he teams up with a mysterious woman who may have an agenda of her own…

Though this is not my first encounter with anime for this series (I’ve seen a couple of early Japanese animation features that have been described as early examples of the form, and I’ve seen an anthology film from the early nineties called NEO-TOKYO that also qualifies), I can’t help but feel that this one constitutes my real initiation into the form. I’m glad for the experience; since one of my goals in this movie-watching project was to become more familiar with the whole realm of fantastic cinema, it’s always exciting to embark on a new exploratory journey of this sort. Of course, anytime this happens, it takes some getting used to the new form; my biggest problems with this movie were that I found the visual style jarring and occasionally unpleasant at times, and some of the English dubbing is bothersome; the voice of the main character made me feel like the actor was suffering from constipation during the whole dubbing process of the movie. However, I loved the rich complexity of the story, which, despite the abundance of spectacle, manages to hold on to the human story underneath it all. It has a nice touch for surreal iconic images, such as the flying trains and pirate ships, and some of them are truly fascinating; I love the scene on Pluto with the ice graveyard of people who have given up their bodies to become machines, and which is maintained by a woman who, when she took on her machine body, decided to have one without a face. In the final analysis, I found it all a satisfying epic fantasy, though one not without its flaws; we have at least one too many scenes where the hero is saved from death by a recently-made friend, and the long goodbye at the end is way too long. But these are minor annoyances, and I look forward to more adventures with the anime form.


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