Anime Rewind: Galaxy Express 999

A Journey to the Stars

  • Episodes : 1 (feature film)
  • Genre : Sci-Fi, Adventure, Space, Drama, Fantasy
  • Airing Date : August 4, 1979
  • Studios : Toei

Contains Spoilers

Ginga Tetsudou 999 Introduction

Based on the manga by Leiji Matsumoto, in the distant future, mankind has largely immigrated throughout the galaxy and the Earth is now a desolate wasteland. In addition to intergalactic expansion, humans can now achieve immortality by gaining a mecha body. However, gaining a mecha body has its consequences since some individuals can and do lose their humanity, and that includes Count Mecha, who mercilessly kills humans like a trophy hunter.

After Count Mecha kills a young woman, her son Tetsurou, now wants to gain a mech body so he can fight Count Mecha on equal terms. In order to gain one, he needs to go to the Planet Promethium, the last stop of the Galaxy Express 999, an intergalactic steam engine train. Thankfully, he meets Maetel, a mysterious woman who resembles his mother, who is willing to offer him a free ride as her companion.

What We Liked About Ginga Tetsudou 999

Galaxy Express 999 masterfully demonstrates that while relying on technology can be useful, can over-relying on it strip us of our humanity? Can modern audiences contextualize getting a mech body in relation to how people today can’t live without their cellular devices? When you look at videos on YouTube of people on their phones while walking along the famous crosswalk outside Shibuya Station, people are bumping into each other. In addition, a good number of people have psychologically broken down if they don’t have their phone. Or does it come down to how we use it? If so, this feature film does a great job of answering that very question through Tochirou.

Why You Should Watch Ginga Tetsudou 999

1. Captain Harlock

If Leiji Matsumoto is going to be forever remembered for one character, it’s going to be Captain Harlock. And in this movie, it shows they have something of a shared universe by giving Harlock and his crew some presence. In the beginning of the movie on Earth, we see wanted posters of him. In addition, this movie provides an origin story to his ship’s computer, Tochirou. As the film enters its last act, him and his crew play a significant role you have to see to find out.

2. One of the Best Ending Songs

Another reason we recommend this anime, it just has one of the best ending songs ever. The ending theme is simply called The Galaxy Express 999, by a famous band in Japan called Godiego, and was actually a top hit there. The ending theme perfectly captures the spirit of this anime of going on a grand journey, saying goodbye, becoming a man and the memories of your journeys and encounters will forever remain in your heart. It shares that even though parting with a new friend is difficult, it’s ok to cry as long as you keep your head up and that there will be plenty of new opportunities in the future. If you don’t understand Japanese, don’t worry! Godiego even did an English version for you to enjoy!

3. Excellent in Japanese and English

While there is an older dub to Galaxy Express 999 back from the early 80s, we can’t really comment much on it. However, we do strongly recommend VIZ’s version, which was released in 1996. What’s interesting to note is that Tetsurou, the main character, is voiced by Masako Nozawa, the voice of Son Goku from Dragon Ball! So why is this interesting? It also happens to be that Saffron Henderson, the voice of Goku from the old Ocean Studio dub happens to voice Tetsurou in the dub! If you’re familiar with both the Japanese version and the 1996 dub to Dragon Ball, you’ll instantly recognize their voices. They both do an excellent job of capturing Tetsurou’s desperation/determination, and at the same time, as a person who still needs a maternal figure in his life.

Why You Should Skip Ginga Tetsudou 999

1. Outdated Art

We can’t deny that the art and animation are very rough and grainy. However, in today’s PC culture in the West (especially in context to body shaming), the designs of the female cast would probably get this movie banned in London by Mayor Sadiq Khan in the same manner he banned advertisements that promote living a healthy lifestyle. The character designs in general will come across as awkward who aren’t familiar with Matsumoto, but we promise the environmental and mechanical designs do make up for this quality.

2. Doesn’t cover all of the material from the manga and TV series

For those who don’t know, this is actually a complimentary movie that loosely takes materials from the most popular chapters of the manga, and episodes from the anime TV series. While the movie does its job of telling a full story, this movie only gives you a small fraction of what Galaxy Express 999 as a whole has to offer. If you’re a purist in that sense, we can only recommend the manga and TV series as an alternative.

Final Thoughts

If you want the ultimate coming of age story, Galaxy Express 999 is the anime to watch! It has development in both context to the characters as individuals and with their relationships. Tetsurou goes on this journey and meets all kinds of people at a small number of planets he stops at. Through his travels and with Maetel, he learns that having a mechanized body solely for revenge isn’t worth throwing away his life over. While we do lose loved ones in our lives, even for unfair reasons, Galaxy Express 999 teaches us that life will always go on and we have to live it to its fullest.

Galaxy-Express-999-Wallpaper-500x499 Anime Rewind: Galaxy Express 999


Author: Justin "ParaParaJMo" Moriarty

Hello, I am originally from the states and have lived in Japan since 2009. Though I watched Robotech and Voltron as a child, I officially became an anime fan in 1994 through Dragon Ball Z during a trip to the Philippines. In addition to anime, I also love tokusatsu, video games, music, and martial arts. よろしくお願いします

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