Galaxy Express 999
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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. But the Galaxy Express is more than just a train, it's also a metaphor for life itself, with passengers constantly boarding, debarking, and dreaming along the way. 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.
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It's about Tetsuro Hoshino, a boy who desperately wants a ticket for the eponymous train (well, a space ship that's shaped like a train, anyway) so that he can go to the planet at the end of the line in a distant galaxy and obtain a machine body. He wants this so he can exact revenge on the evil Count Mecha (a machine-man himself) who killed his mother in cold blood some years prior. A ticket onboard and a traveling companion both come in the form of Maetel, a mysterious blonde traveler who secures Tetsuro a place on the 999 in exchange for his company. Together the two will journey the galaxy, see many wonders and learn the significance of being human.
This movie is something very special, and can be viewed on many levels. I won't go into too much academic-level analysis here (not really the place for it) but I will say that this gem has just about everything: love, hate, vengeance, friendship, sublime beauty and the limitless wonder of the universe. You really do feel that you are traveling through the cosmos with Tetsuro and Maetel, and can also feel the progression of Tetsuro from a single-minded child to a more rounded adult. "Galaxy Express 999" does get sentimental (hey, it's a Leiji Matsumoto story) but never gooey and the emotions are genuine. In addition this is a film has something for both youngsters and adults and can be enjoyed by both as a genuine family film (i.e. not just a kiddie movie with adult references thrown in) - although young children may not want to watch it based on the level of violence and some disturbing scenes (the scene where Tetsuro finds out just exactly *what* Count Mecha has done to his mother's body, for example). The film is well-directed (by Rintaro of "Metropolis" fame) and well animated, and even though it was made in the 1970s it manages to not date itself that badly... this film is truly timeless. And of course GE999 is filled to the brim with truly imaginative imagery, not the least of which is the main image of a railroad train making its way through space. Other wondrous and awesome sights and moments await you should you decide to see this fantastic film, but I won't spoil them... although I will say that Captain Harlock makes an appearance (along with Queen Emereldas to boot). Yes, the biggest badass in all of anime turns up, and he commands every scene he is in. Naturally.
This animated marvel is finally available on DVD in North America after years of fans watching fansubs, bad bootlegs and unsubtitled Japanese Region 2 discs. Thank you, thank you Discotek for releasing this - it has been too long.
The video on this disc is very, very good, especially for an anime film from 1979. Colors are bright but not lurid and really serve the fantastic imagery very well. The image is bright but not too much so, and black levels are good. The film is presented in its original theatrical aspect ratio of 1:66:1. This was the standard aspect ratio for a Toei anime movie in the seventies. Toei was - and is - sort of the Disney studio of Japan and could afford to make movies in widescreen. Studios with smaller budgets usually did their movies at the standard 4:3 ratio, an exception being Hayao Miyazaki, (who made his first movie "Castle of Cagliostro" in widescreen the same year as GE999) who used to work for Toei.
Audio is good and clear. Discotek provides both the original Japanese dub and the 1990s Viz English dub. The English dub is okay... the casting is alright although the dialogue can be a little stilted, and some of the lines are very different from the subbed Japanese version. Still, a decent alternative for those who don't want to read subtitles. And you get to hear the two GODIEGO songs in full English (seeing as how some of the band members are American)! So that's pretty cool.
There aren't too many extras, but then again there don't have to be - the movie is enough for me. There are two original theatrical trailers, one each for both Galaxy Express films released by Discotek (this one and "Adieu Galaxy Express 999"). There is also an image gallery, which consists of stills from the movie as well as a nice cast shot (which also shows up on the back cover). The packaging is decent and is NOT a cheap, flimsy "eco-friendly" DVD case - this one is actually somewhat sturdy. Thanks, Discotek!
+ Just about everything: the story, the characters, the music, the imagery....
- Some very minor plot holes, the animation though very nice *is* from the 1970s which may deter some (but not me).
Conclusion: This is a science fiction classic. If you like sci-fi, get this. If you like Japanese animation, get this. If you like animation in general, get this. Even if you just like a good story or seeing fantastic things put on your screen, get this. This is a classic film, and if you like classic films, get this.
The movie itself is great. It manages to get the basic gist of the 113 episode TV show, but it doesn't feel rushed. I like that they made Tetsuro's revenge of Count Mecha a more relevant part of the overall story. I really like how Tetsuro was able to have a confrontation with Count Mecha in which he kills him, but realizes that he values limited human life more than getting a mechanical body. This gives Tetsuro great character development because around this time he also admits to falling in love with Maetel. He is now a strong willed but also hopeful young man, which fits his name, Tetsuro Hoshino. This isn't even the climax though because Tetsuro and Maetel then go to the home world of the mechanized empire to destroy the planet. As with most of Matsumoto's works, this film has a moral message and also romance between Tetsuro and Maetel.
One of the best aspect about this DVD is the English dub. It is one of the best English dubs that I have seen. The voice cast is chosen well because the voice actors suit their characters well and do a good job. I actually like the English voices for Count Mecha and Promethium better than the Japanese voices because they really sound intimidating and powerful, which is appropriate because they are the 2 main villains. This dub also does a good job at pronouncing the Japanese names, which is something that I am picky about because I am half Japanese. The only complaint about the dub that I have is that the main characters and narrator pronounce the 999 as three-nine, which is correct, but Emeraldas and a background voice or two says nine-nine-nine, which is incorrect. Overall, even though I usually prefer to watch animes in Japanese with subs, the English version is very well done and faithful to the original, so watching it does not take away anything from the Japanese version.
As for the DVD, it is basic, but well done. The audio and video are good, but there isn't much in terms of special features. This isn't really a problem though. In conclusion, this DVD will treat you to an excellent, classic anime, which you will certainly love if you are familiar with other works by Leiji Matsumoto. You have the option to watch it in the original Japanese version with subtitles, or a very faithful and well done English dub. This is a must have for GE999 fans or a great stepping stone for people who are just starting to discover the wonderful world of anime.
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Was a nostalgic trip for both my boyfriend and I.