Issues and Images in Adieu Galaxy Express 999 (Part I)
Adieu Galaxy Express 999 is the 2-hour sequel to the Galaxy Express 999 film. I just saw this movie for the first time and I thought it was excellent and far superior to the first. I think you could easily watch this as a standalone work, as enough background is given to make sense of the events. In any case, I’m going to comment on several issues and SPOILERS WILL ABOUND, including for the first movie, so read with care!
1. The epic quality of Adieu
My edition of Homer’s Iliad introduces the epic by discussing the concept of in medias res. This simply means that the storyteller begins in the middle, rather than from the very beginning. This is an essential ingredient to epics, because the reader immediately feels overwhelmed: s/he must read on feverishly to begin to understand why we are where we are in the tale. Starting at the beginning allows the reader to grasp the story like an observing God. In the epic, however, we don’t have that control. Instead, we are struck by a sense of the vastness of the story, a hint that there are inscrutable processes at work that we will possibly never understand.
The Adieu film is a sequel, sure, but watching it right after the first film still won’t erase that epic feel because there is a major gap between the two stories. At the end of Galaxy Express 999, Tetsuro has destroyed Mechanization Queen Promethium and returned to Earth. Everything seems resolved. But Adieu begins with Tetsuro on the verge of insanity, puzzled as we are, as Earth is attacked by Queen Promethium’s forces. (You can hear Promethium’s broadcast ordering Earthlings to surrender, very creepy!).
2. Maetel and Emeraldas
Over and over in Adieu, Promethium calls Maetel her only child. Starting with the Maetel Legend OVA (2 decades later, mind you!) Leiji Matsumoto starts to tell us that Maetel and Emeraldas are sisters, both daughters of Promethium. This is probably the biggest example that Matsumoto fans use to sink any hopes of Continuity in the Leijiverse. The contradiction is just too obvious. But is it?
All of the meetings between Emeraldas and Maetel in Adieu are gushing forth tenderness. If you asked me what I thought of them, without any prejudices, I’d have to say that they’re related somehow. Moreover, Promethium likes to call Maetel her only child precisely when she is chastising her for having betrayed her mother. This obsessive ranting “my only child, my only child” could very easily mean that her other daughter Emeraldas disappointed and left Promethium a long time ago, and that it is this first betrayal that has the Queen behave around Maetel in such a way. I see the shadow of Emeraldas all over this relationship.
I read somewhere on the Net that Matsumoto has stated that he always meant Maetel and Emeraldas to be sisters and just hadn’t had the occasion to flesh that out… After watching Adieu, I believe him.
3. Maetel’s Doom and Arcadianism
There’s much talk in Adieu of Maetel’s specific destiny. Maetel travels through time, guiding youth on their way to becoming men. She is not allowed to interact with her disciples once they have outgrown youth. The point is explicitly made in the film, Maetel is like youth itself: once it goes it never comes back but remains as memories. Matsumoto-sensei is obviously a devotee of what I would call Arcadianism: the worship of youth. This is ripe in Japan, as you can see by just how many anime glorify and obsess over “school days”.
Maetel’s doom interests me in its relation to Time in the Leijiverse. Based on my extensive studies :), I’d suggest by “time travel” Maetel might mean simply that as she travels from Ring of Time to Ring of Time just like any other personality in the Leijiverse, she remembers each passage! This of course would be a blessing and a curse.
4. Carnage of the Mechanized
There is a small but powerful scene toward the end of Adieu. The planet Great Andromeda, capital of the Mechanization Empire, is being sucked into a cosmic vortex known as the Siren Witch (the witch feeds on mechanical energy so Queen Promethium’s deeds have attracted her from god knows where). Here’s an image of the mechanized folk of Great Andromeda hurtling toward their doom:
To avoid suffering the same effect, the 999 turns off all of its 23rd century technology and switches to good ol’ coal. Here’s the coals being tossed into the fire (by Tetsuro).
It’s much more obvious if you’re watching the film, but the switch from the Andromedans’ flying about and the coal being tossed happens very quickly, making it look like Tetsuro is tossing little “mecha” people into the fire. In a larger sense, Tetsuro, Harlock, Maetel, and Emeraldas are all destroying the mechanized to save themselves, and this sequence was a nice little way of portraying that. The carnage on Great Andromeda was insane, and not a tear was shed!
I’ve got one more post of comments on Adieu. Coming soon!