Synonyms: Galaxy Express 999, Ginga Tetsudo 999, GE999
Status: Finished Airing
Aired: Sep 14, 1978 to Apr 9, 1981
Producers: Toei Animation
Duration: 25 min. per episode
Rating: G - All AgesL represents licensing company
Score: 7.991 (scored by 1176 users)
1 indicates a weighted score
2 based on the top anime page.
Mar 8, 2010
Galaxy Express 999 is one of the chief anime that created the foundation for the space opera genre in anime, the vast majority of new series since have their foundation stem from this (among the others such as Harlock, Yamamoto, etc.) series. What most newer viewers might think about new and recent anime as being riveting and ground breaking, is usually a remake of an older series; back when everything was still done by hand, and without all the eye candy available today. Creators had to rely on their stories and the characters to make a successful anime. Matsumoto does that in GE 999 without having the recycle plotlines in any of the 113 episodes and tie all of them together into a deep insight into the human condition and reminds us of many things we take for granted.
GE 999 is set far into the future (around the year 3000) where people can achieve immortality through the use of mechanical bodies. A person's mind is put into a purely mechanical cyborg body giving them an infinite lifespan. The story starts out with one of the main character's Tetsuro being chased by cyborg hunters. One of them shoot and kills his mom, where its her dying wish for Tetsuro to become strong and live a long immortal life in a mechanical body.
Tetsuro meets up with Maeel who helps him board the legendary galaaxy express 999; where one can travel to a planet where mechanical bodies are given away free. Through the use of space trains (mass transit with a touch of romantic old style) Tetsuro and Maetel travel to dozens of different worlds; each unique in its own way.
For a show that's over 30 years old, the animation and artwork quality are very good. Matsumoto has his own unique style for character designs (much like Miyazaki). Throughout the series he often borrow other characters from his other anime's either as the character themself (like captain Harlock) or uses character design very similar to his other characters from other series.
Creating realistic sounds to match all the different environments and planets that they (Tetsuro and Maetel) visit throughout the series is done very well. While its nothing spectacular on its own, the soundtrack never sounds out of through the course of all the stops the 999 makes.
The meat of the series is built up largely in the characters, each character has their own agenda/purpose in the grand scheme of things. There's really 3 main characters, though the series is focused around Tetsuro and his journey. You have Tetsuro, a homeless, poor and very confused character at the start. Maetel is his traveling partner that acts as a guide/escort/protector during his journey through space. Then you have the conductor, at times he can play a key role in the story; though somewhat comedy relief as he's more like a ghost with clothes on.
The development of the characters is a large part of the series. Tetsuro being new to space travel and cruel world that lies ahead relies on Maetel for guidance. When he first boards the 999 he is a really weak person with no skills or experience. Much of the series is about him learning how things really work out there, and becoming a real man. It could be said that its a coming of age story, but there is much more to it than just watching Tetsuuro mature. Along the way he see many different types of people, and what it means to have a mechanical body.
At the beginning Tetsuro is a naive, annoying pest that never does what he's told despite what dangers he might face. In the beginning of the series it can be tough to watch him make stupid mistakes to the point you want to reach into the screen and strangle him for making such stupid judgment errors. As he travels to more and more planets he really learns what it takes to survive out in the harsh reality of space; many of these lessons are done the hard way with him doing exactly what he's told not to do, usually requiring Maetel to come save him.
Some characters/character designs might show up several times throughout the series, but each episode is truly a new adventure - Matsumoto never recycles a storyline. You never feel that you're watching recycled scripts/plots like other long series like Inu Yasha, Ranma or Urusei Yatsura are guilty of doing.
There is also a big element of mystery throughout the whole series in the character of Maetel. From her detailed knowledge we know she's traveled the same route on the 999 several times before. While she is always looking afterTetsuro, at times you get the feeling that she's got a hidden agenda and is stinging Tetsuro along for an anterior purpose. And no one really knows what exactly she is, throughout the series she is somewhat an enigma of mystery as she frequently knows what's going to happen beforehand.
GE 999 is a great series once you finally settle in with it. The character development and depth is enormous and spectacular. There's a number of episodes that are 2-parters; aside from those each episode brings something new. While frustrating at times, many of the mysteries and odd things that go on during the series don't get tied up till the very end (last few episodes) leaving you guessing the whole time as to what or who Maetel is, and what unique value there is in being human. read more
Sep 5, 2010
Our Journey takes place in a rather futuristic setting where humans are able to transfer their minds to a mechanical body in order to achieve enternal life. While this seems to be a somewhat perfect world, it is in reallity a dystopian Universe full of opression, suffering and tragedy for the poor and the weak ones. Our Protagonist, Hoshino Tetsuro,a proud and rightous young boy boards the Galaxy Express 999 with help of mysterious Maetel in order to reach the planet where you can get a mechanical body for free. If you are familiar with Leiji's works you will know what kind of Journey you will expect, for those who aren't, this will be a Journey full of Painfull situations, tragic heroes and shatered dreams, in other words, the definition of Drama.
While the Story seems rather episodic, from time to time, you will get a tiny revelation about the storyline, which in my oppinion, is a boost in the morale of the viewer since it can be sometimes tyring to watch such a long anime.
The art is that from Leiji's previous and future works, beautiful long-haired and fragile looking women, aerodynamic haired and proud males, small and sometimes comic looking elders. One small flaw I think is that, at some point females look like revamps from one another wich is a consequence of the large number of characters throughout the series.
The Soundtrack is very good in my opinion, whether it is a comic or serious situation it addapts to the moment you are experiencing, you will sometimes listen Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata and songs sang by characters that add an even more dramatic tone to the scene.
What I really want to say about this series is that this is a life learning experience, in each of the 999 stops you will get your persona lifel lesson out of the diferent situations that our protagonists will enconter, I felt that I learned something valuable from characters experiences, that is, in my oppinions, the greatest thing about this Anime. read more
Jul 14, 2012
When young Tetsuro Hoshino who recently lost his mother is offered a ticket to the Galaxy Express by a mysterious and beautiful woman named Maetel, he sees the possibility to get himself a mechanical body and live a life long enough to compensate for the early demises of his parents. You see, the story takes place in a future where mechanical bodies are the norm for privileged individuals of wealth or power as well as highly desired by the less fortunate. These bodies are impossibly expensive but rumor has it that they're given away for free on the planet Andromeda, one of many stops on the route of the Galaxy Express; a train traveling through the universe. In other words, Tetsuro has to visit a huge number of planets before reaching his goal and these experiences cause him to question whether he should keep striving for his invented Raison d'Être or just embrace his humanity.
This anime is incredibly episodic and when you consider the large amount of episodes you might be able to guess what the major problems are. If not, then allow me to explain: inconsistency and predictability. During its very best, Galaxy Express can reach the same allegorical and thought-provoking levels as Kino's Journey but most episodes are nothing more than "okay" while some of them can even be terrible. One of my favorites tells the story of a planet where the inhabitants are starving since almost all food is given to the queen who, as it turns out, died 200 years ago but hid herself before that happened in a narcissistic attempt to prevent anyone from seeing her once beautiful body reduced to a pile of bones.
Furthermore, since each episode requires some sort of conflict, almost all of them basically boil down into "Tetsuro and Maetel visits a planet, something bad happens which might prevent them from returning to the Galaxy Express. They solve it."
To be fair though, I haven't seen the ending yet so I might alter the score after that.
Given its length and age, Galaxy Express boasts fairly impressive animation that nonetheless is very obsolete and naturally can't compete with anything remotely recent. A lot of characters are forced into the same state of cartoonism you could find in Captain Harlock while others are blessed with a little more detail. Women are tall and slender to incorporate the ideals Matsumoto seems to have, topped off with long and beautiful hair. Does the old animation prevent you from enjoying the show? The answer is no, working on the assumption that you don't condemn anything based on its age. While holding little to no regard for realism, the various creatures in space are interestingly designed while the mere concept of a train traveling through space (inspired by Night on the Galactic Railroad) is pulled off well enough to establish a unique and impressive atmosphere.
The music in this show is actually quite good even if most tracks are re-used over and over again until they've made their way into your head not solely because of their quality but primarily because they're repeated. Voice acting is a mixed bag with Tetsuro sounding occasionally obnoxious (or if you prefer to call it just childish) and Maetel delivering her lines in a state of melancholia. Sound effects are made well enough for the time being and the background noise played during scenes inside the train made me want to embark on an impossible journey using a space-train as my main vehicle.
In case the premise didn't highlight this enough, the very core of Galaxy Express is comprised of the journey towards self-discovery young Tetsuro embarks on under the guidance of Maetel; a woman of beauty, wisdom and above all else, experience. He's not supposed to be portrayed as heroic even though he reaches the level of a terrific childhood role-model in his sense of justice and will to help alone. Together, the two protagonists make for a memorable team even though Tetsuro never seems to learn from his mistakes; which should be the entire point of the journey.
Furthermore, Galaxy Express tends to be somewhat depressing in its decision to observe miserable fates all across the universe whilst only occasionally deciding to depict something less heartbreaking. Individuals who spend their lives doing one pointless thing; A planet with more inhabitants than the current China who beg for a living and some characters in general who seem to accept their eternal suffering which does not in any way make it less sad are mere examples of what the show has to offer. The major problem lies in the fact that most of these characters are introduced hastily only to be killed shortly after or just left behind for the next story to begin. In other words, some of the sympathy you normally would have is instantly lost and all of the excruciatingly sad lifestyles are quickly forgotten as Tetsuro and Maetel continue.
Make no mistake, so far I'm enjoying this show almost immensely but there's no way to review it without acknowledging all of the major flaws. Some episodes are, as mentioned, incredible not only from a story-related but also thought-provoking standpoint and the moral messages, whilst obvious or possibly clichéd for anyone older than twelve or so, are suited perfectly for slightly younger children. In the end, this is not the space epic you might expect but rather a somewhat elaborate tale of a young boy whose impression of life itself changes over time as he's exposed to the various lifestyles and opinions of the people he encounters. At the same time, he leaves several positive impressions of a seemingly lost humanity behind and continues to touch and inspire those who fail to see anything of value in existence. In the very truest sense he embodies everything the typical young hero Matsumoto so loves to depict should have and will probably grow up to reach the heights of Harlock or Emeraldas. Who knows, maybe this is even answered in another title from the vast Leijiverse?
Regardless of its qualities, to discover the occasional gem of an episode you’ll be forced to wander through a huge sea of mediocrity, which basically sums up the overall score in one sentence. If you’re up to the challenge, then by all means, proceed! read more
May 1, 2011
Preceded by: Future Boy Conan (1978)
Followed by: Gundam 0079 (1979)
GALAXY EXPRESS 999 (1978)
I consider this anime as the oldest example of an interesting social commentary with the least amount of unneeded extra. And by extra I mean the usual things that one expects to find in dystopia settings. BANG! CRASH! KABOOM! AAARGH! And other similar stuff.
It is a bit hard to criticize this work as it is a weird blend of slice-of-life, along with space opera elements. One part seems to overtake the other in random moments and so an average viewer used to clear genre distinctions will find it hard to accept the flow of the show.
Being a Leiji work, it was made in the same year as Captain Harlock and they even share the same themes and setting. One will most likely end up comparing them just for that. Harlock seems to win hands down for being full of space battles around pirates and aliens and decadent human societies. Galaxy express has that too but in a completely low-toned degree. It is far simpler in its structure, its cast, its action and its scale of importance. To put it simple, while Harlock was about a huge crew saving the Earth from invading aliens, Galaxy Express is about a little kid wanting to go to some planet to become a robot. And that is all of it. There is nothing of cosmic importance going on in it; it is the journey of a single man.
To be frank, that has its good side as well. Harlock had some really broken powers in his disposal, to the point he could take on the galaxy and still have it his way. There was no real way for him to lose and so chances are you cared more about the warfare than the human drama behind it. Galaxy Express on the other hand is about a few simple people, in a simple train-spaceship, going on a journey and experiencing various societies and human dramas. Without the fancy lasers getting in the way, you are left to focus on them and not the action (which is very low-toned to begin with). In this regard, this anime is far more successful than Harlock in telling you its story.
Now about the actual story, there is very little of it in its core. A kid wants to become an immortal robot and travels through various places just to get to the planet where he can achieve that. That is all there is to it and every episode is pretty much an episodic encounter with other people or creatures from the various places the train he is on-board passes by. As long as you are fine with episodic-based stories without much action, then you will get to really enjoy the show. Each story is about the cruelness of the human spirit, a theme constant in all of Leiji’s works. It describes a situation were people suffer and how they try to live by in their own personal way. Most stories are very interesting and full of good settings entire series could be made out of.
And that is probably the bad part because you are only allowed to see each setting for a few episodes before you are taken to the next and it never seems to affect future events in the least. That just sucks. Also, you are mostly let to think that the show is story-driven and not character-driven, which again makes you consider the main characters as nothing but passive observers and not active members who somewhat affect their surrounds. Ok, partly they do but it is mostly about being told the problem and not how to eradicate it. Kinda becomes pitiful after awhile.
So forget the story part as it’s there just to show stuff without ever allowing the characters to affect them down to their core. Good ideas but barely developed further than the episode they are mentioned. So let’s focus on the characters a little bit. The main ones… is only one. Tetsuro is the lead boy doing the journey and experiencing the various societies the train passes by. All that are meant to make him a wiser person, and slowly drive him away from his initial nihilistic view of the world, his anger and frustration over the cruelness he has experienced so far. And guess what, the same thing is supposed to happen to you. The entire show is meant to affect you. Tetsuro is thus the Average Joe, meant to be simple and immature enough for all of us to identify with him. For the same reason of course he is a simple character in personality and acting thus kinda generic. As I said, the series is story-driven and its main character is as simple as possible for everyone to identify with; so again you end up remembering the story and not the characters.
There is a second almost lead character and that is Maetel, his female co-traveler on-board the train. She has made the same journey many times and already knows all the things that happen along the way. She is there to be Tetsuro’s mentor and to explain to him (and us) all that he experiences for the first time. She is definitely a more interesting character as she is both beautiful and wise, with weird clothes that she occasionally… err… removes for various reasons. Yes, there is a rather high amount of nude in the show for its time but most of it is meant to show how frail and beautiful she is despite her wisdom. There is no direct sexuality at play here and Tetsuro is just a little boy to even care about that; he sees her just as a good friend. Other than that, do not be fooled to think she has some secret agenda as the series sometimes hints she has. She is just another plot devise for us to be explained the various events that happen in the story. AGAIN you feel the story is above the characters.
The third steady character is the train clerk, who is some sort of black alien. He is just there to maintain order in the train and provide comic relief; he doesn’t really affect the story either.
All the rest of the characters are just minor support, usually presented for just one or two episodes only. They are the denizens of each stop the train makes and GUESS WHAT they two are again plot devises just so the story can be told to you. I am not saying it is a bad thing to have a show full of such characters. But there is no way to bond with them directly; they are on screen for too little time and to the most part act too passive. Which to me it feels bad.
Here is another thing to notice. If you look at the opening of the show the only thing you will see is trains. Not a single character. It is an indirect way of telling you that the show uses them as plot devices and thus you should only care about the individual stories and not about them directly. But wait; there is not much of a story either. So what is there left to like? Some sort of omnibus fondness is required or you will be bored fast (as I did).
Another thing is the production values. They are ok for their time but don’t seem to be wowing in any way. There is a big variety in locations but most of the plot takes part in the same train wagon, around the same three characters. No space battles or scull-themed ships all the time either. Facial and body variety are also minimum and you usually think the same characters reappear with different names and roles all the time. And in the usual Leiji manner, cats and old people are God-ugly. Voice acting is fine for the roles the characters have but the music score just leaves me indifferent. It sure is elegiac and sad but not memorable for any reason. And all those train noises end up being annoying. They feel more like sound pollution rather than trademarks.
Listen what; I fully understand this is supposed to be a cathartic series, meant to make you wiser through various short stories around human drama. If seen just as that, then you are going to enjoy this very much. If you also have a fascination with trains, it is even better. But I personally am not fond of episodic shows and prefer more complicating storylines and characters. Plus, I have no fondness of trains and DO like some action amongst all the drama. Yet all I was seeing throughout the show was a train moving linear, going to places, showing us something while it makes a stop and then leaving. How long can that keep someone like me interested? I ended up waiting for the next excuse Maetel will need to get naked. Yeah, I completely lost the feeling of the show.
I am not saying it is a bad show. Just not one I would recommend for its story of its characters. It is pure emotion at play here and if you are fans of anime like Kaiba, Mushishi, Spice and Wolf, or Kino’s Journey, this definitely deserves a watch. If not, I sincerely recommend you give this a pass or watch it in very small daily quantities. read more