I Want To Hammer My Point In With Many Nails Instead of Few, And That’s Terrible: A Galaxy Express 999 Post

After seeing Rintaro’s movie version of Galaxy Express 999, I took a look at the summaries for the actual series and was shocked at how awful they made it seem. For 113 episodes, Tetsuro and Maetel do nothing but visit planets and learn lessons regarding how awful it is to be a cyborg? That wouldn’t last me through a 13-26 episode series let alone one that’s longer than Legend of the Galactic Heroes. How can people like that stuff?

Editor’s Note: I forgot to take the time period of the anime into account when writing this, so whilst I stand by my points, I admit that it could have been reworded better and clarified my issues with Kadian in the comment section below. 

Screen Shot 2013-10-15 at 5.07.51 PM

For those who don’t know, Galaxy Express 999 is a story about a kid named Tetsuro who lost his mother due to a robot that hunts humans. His dream is to have a robot body so he can live forever and take revenge on the robot at the same time, but they’re too expensive for him. However, there is a planet that can give him a robot body for free, but you have to ride a space train known as the Galaxy Express 999 in order to get there. Tickets are expensive and the train only comes to Earth once a year, so it’s not until Tetsuro meets a mysterious woman named Maetel, who gives him a ticket in exchange for being her traveling partner, does he start his journey. On the way, they stop at various planets (the place where Tetsuro needs to go is the last stop) where Tetsuro meets many different people and customs, but the outcome is pretty much the same: he starts doubting he wants a robot body and more likely than not, the trip will end on a downer. The movie only had him visit four or five planets (including the ending one), but the series has him visiting almost a hundred. To which I ask, why?

Maybe it’s better execution-wise, but I don’t really buy that. There’s only so many ways you can say “being a robot is bad” before it gets tiresome, especially considering this type of moral has been repeated ad nauseum before the anime even existed. That message isn’t exactly as varied as the topics of the power of nature or immigration or whatnot, and from what I read of the summaries, the formula of each episode is about as repetitive as a Scooby-Doo episode. Hell, I was tired of it when the movie got to the ice planet part, because by then I caught onto its formula and whilst the additions of Esmerelda and Captain Harlock were great, the message was the “exact same” in the end, and if it wasn’t for the fact that their stories were plot-important, Galaxy Express 999 would really have lost me.

I somehow doubt every single planet in the anime or manga were that important to the plot, especially considering the movie had far fewer stop points and I could follow everything perfectly. Yes, I know there were liberties taken with Count Mecha and everything, but that’s to be expected regarding an adaptation. Namely adapt the goddamn thing! Even if it’s meant to be a recap movie or whatever…no, especially if it’s a recap movie, the goal should be that you don’t need previous experience with the franchise in order to enjoy it. Plus, from what I read, the changes were about as radical as Evangelion 1.11: You Are (Not) Alone or Air: The Motion Picture. Yeah it’s streamlined and details are changed, but the overall message is still the same. Oh sure, I might have missed out on some complexity and all that stuff that Leijiverse fans eat up, but unfortunately, this blog supports short and simple over long and complex. And as I said before, it’s not like the themes were complex enough to devote a whole lot of time towards them. Imagine if Bebop kept bringing up Spike’s past in every single episode up till its two-part finale. That would be really fucking boring because it’d just be repetitive and irritating.

Screen Shot 2013-10-15 at 5.08.09 PM

You may start complaining that I’m being harsh on a series I never watched. Well the point I’m trying to make isn’t that I dislike Galaxy Express 999, series or otherwise, but I’m being turned off from ever seeing it because of what the series seemingly represents: a good idea that seems to ruin itself, not only because it should have been compressed, but that it bangs on the same point over and over with its individual stories. If you’re going to have a long length, you have to realize that you can only evolve your concept so far. There’s a reason why Rumiko Takahashi’s comedy series are able to keep my attention despite the length whilst Inuyasha got boring in the middle of the second season. And even comedies can run stale at a long length. Not only is the Galaxy Express 999 series not a comedy, it seems to want to be another version of Detective Conan. Yeah, no thank you.

Besides, the movie was enough for me, and you know a recap movie is good when it doesn’t make you want to check out the rest of the series. Sorry, but why would I want to see your story again when I got it really well-done the first time? Okay, I didn’t love the movie or anything, but that’s due to genre biases. I can’t think of a thing you can change that would make it appeal to me more. And BTW, I am biased against that Carrie remake, even if I wasn’t that big into the first film.

So yeah, I have no desire to check out the series. I felt like I got all I needed by watching the movie version. Think I’ll have better luck going for the sequel films instead.

2 responses to “I Want To Hammer My Point In With Many Nails Instead of Few, And That’s Terrible: A Galaxy Express 999 Post

  1. Galaxy Express isn’t 113 episodes long because it needed to be for the plot. It was a primetime show made for serialization, to keep going for as long as it was popular and accessible to all folks who tuned in, whether those who religiously followed it or just occasionally viewed it. Where real criticism can be levied at plot-centric series like Naruto or Dragon Ball Z, which go to great lengths to stall for time between major events, GE999 clearly doesn’t hold itself too tightly to the needs of its overarching story. The simple format allows it to explore a variety of alien worlds and humans dramas limited by only the staff’s imagination and artistic ability.

    To compare Galaxy Express 999 to modern short-length and richly produced anime series is to profoundly miss the value of experiencing this classic. Think of other classics titles of that age; Astro Boy is 193 episodes long, Mazinger Z is 92, Lupin III Part 2 is 155, and Doraemon is 1800 and counting. You don’t need to watch every minute to glean their imaginative passion, their influences on modern creators, and their rightful place in history. If you’re satisfied with the GE999 movie condensing, why even bring up the TV series? To denounce it for being a long running drama rather than your preferred genre of romcom only displays your prejudices. And comparing it to modern late night otaku bait shows of short length made to sell character goods to an audience with short memories and shrinking attention spans is to compare apples and oranges.

    Writing a whole post whinging about this and other long-running series as “a good idea that seems to ruin itself” is to entirely miss the opportunity to see the evolution of the animated art form and it’s ability to connect with a broad, mainstream audience, and exhibits a highly myopic perspective. You should put your skills and voice to better efforts than this.

    • Yeah, I forgot to take into account the time period for when this anime occurred when I wrote this. I probably should have chosen a better series to represent my displeasure for the stuff that run themselves into the ground because they keep repeating themselves. Like Conan or Natsu no Arashi (I haven’t seen the latter, but I heard it repeats the same anti-war stuff over and over again).

      If you’re satisfied with the GE999 movie condensing, why even bring up the TV series?

      I originally wrote this post in regards to how a recap movie can make you not want to see the original, but I guess that message got lost somewhere whilst writing this. Should have proofread this more.

      To denounce it for being a long running drama rather than your preferred genre of romcom only displays your prejudices. And comparing it to modern late night otaku bait shows of short length made to sell character goods to an audience with short memories and shrinking attention spans is to compare apples and oranges.

      I don’t remember ever comparing it to otaku bait shows of short length, but as for your first point, I’m not denouncing it for being a long running drama rather than a romcom (which isn’t exactly my preferred genre). I’m saying that when you don’t have a story or whatnot like Lupin, Mushishi, or (for a more recent example) Polar Bear Cafe, you can probably churn out over a hundred episodes and I don’t think I’d get bored (I didn’t make it far into PBC, but that’s mostly because I didn’t get into it from the ground floor). It also helps that their themes are very encompassing (Mushishi is about nature, which you can write tons of stories regarding).

      Galaxy Express 999 has an actual plot though, even if it’s in the background. And when you do have one, it’s usually best to limit yourself. The length might have been tolerable if it had themes you could churn a ton of stories out of, but its theme from what I saw is “having a robot body is bad”. That’s not as encompassing a theme as something like “nature” or “growing up” and whatnot. Unless there are more themes within the story that I missed when researching the series, I don’t see how it can hold up interest for the length it was given. One of my main problems with Hell Girl was that it had one theme (“revenge is bad”, which you can tackle in various ways, but not enough to fulfill the length of the first season, let alone three of them) and repeated that same theme over and over again for 78 episodes, and I was sick of it by the fourth episode despite its episodic nature.

      Again though, I forgot about the time period, so yeah I can see how this post may look to you.