Space Symphony Maetel 10 (I of II): The Time has Come
We start off with a brand new opening monologue:
“I am Maetel. Nowhere is there a person/thing that can stop the hourglass [which is] ruled by light and gravity.”
Horrible English, right? Japanese “mono” can mean both person and thing, so it makes the statement much more absolute. The Japanese is relatively simple, though formal and cold. Ikeda delivers it in bursts, with ponderous pauses, the end result coming off like a super-epic principle of existence. Which it is!! Here’s the original with dashes marking the pauses:
Watashi wa Maetel. / Hikari to juuryoku no shihai suru / toki no sunadokei o / tomeru koto no dekiru mono wa / doko ni mo inai.
Have a listen to the first fifteen seconds below:
This is voice acting!! The OP starts at the perfect time too. Wow.
The monologue serves to indicate that we are near the end. Nothing can stop time. Maetel and Nazca’s honeymoon is almost over. To speak crassly, Galaxy Express 999 is right around the corner. And as if to stress the point, we begin the action with Emeraldas boarding the famous train and facing an imminent threat. [The scene reminded me of the climax of Galaxy Express 999: Eternal Fantasy which is still lying in the distant future, time is indeed a ring!]
Promethium’s miasma begins to infect the universe once more. The planet Pulra [Parura] comes under attack. Pulra is the 57th planet in the Euphrates System [this system is huge!], which includes of course Heavy Melder around which New LaMetal now orbits. In other words, Promethium has managed to materialize right next door to her foes of old.
Leopard and Burnbarrel meet with Harlock and Maetel. Leopard takes the latter two’s warnings seriously but he dismisses them nonetheless. I have to agree with Burnbarrel here: New LaMetal needs all the help it can get, the decision is deplorable. Leopard’s ultimate motivation for it is clear enough though: he is scared of Maetel, scared that she will reconstitute some sort of monarchy on the planet. Let’s note that there is a seismic social shift at work here. LaMetal used to be a matriarchal society, with the Space Panzers, the one male power base, being strictly subordinate to the women. Now it is the Panzers that rule. Whether Leopard wants men to rule now, or have society be gender-blind, is difficult to determine for sure. I wouldn’t put it past him to have dictatorial pretensions for himself, quite frankly.
Promethium’s trick is revealed: her new fleet has been traveling along the GE 999, borrowing the latter’s shield to evade radar detection. The 999 just so happens to be en route to Heavy Melder, so the deal is perfect, though I’m at a loss to explain the mechanics of the thing without invoking cartoon logic
The 999 makes a distress call and we are told that the SDF (Space Defense Force) cannot come to the rescue because the area is right on the border of the Milky Way and Andromedan galaxies. Some treaty (or possibly lack of one) prevents the SDF from acting in this zone. Without more information, this tidbit is very difficult to interpret.
Ownership of the Galaxy Railways is a troublesome question, it’s possible that ownership has shifted several times and (in true Japanese fashion) at times the formal owners may have had less actual control than other figures in the shadows. I get the sense that by this point Promethium has a good choke hold on the company. She certainly does in the regular Galaxy Express 999 franchise. There, the company seems to be headquartered on Earth, and without any other evidence I think it’s reasonable to assume that this is already the case in Space Symphony Maetel. I’m almost tempted to speculate that Leiji intended the Galaxy Railways to be a successor to Japan Railways in his native country, and if so then the GR has always been an Earth company.
The SDF is assigned to protect the GR, but it’s only natural that there will be gaps in this defense. To wit, many planets and solar systems that might be happy to have GR stations, might not be happy about a high-tech armed force barging into their neighborhood whenever a train breaks down! Likely, GR service lines extend beyond what the SDF can legally cover. And from the tidbit we get here, we can infer that the GR has by this point extended its service beyond the Milky Way and into the Andromeda Galaxy, but that the SDF has yet to be granted access to this new region of space. In Galaxy Express 999, Promethium’s Empire is housed in the Andromeda galaxy, so it’s possible that then the GR was allowed to operate in Andromeda, but not before. Let’s remember too that although LaMetal’s thousand-year orbit took it very far it was still centered on our Sun, which is of course in the Milky Way, and so Queen Promethium could control the GR and use it without caring much for Andromeda.
My interpretation is probably not the most natural, I’ll admit. From the way the man speaks I think it’s easier to think that the SDF has operating rights in both galaxies, but not in between. And maybe that’s the case. If anyone has a better theory I’d love to hear it.
Harlock’s suggestion to Maetel that she go with Nazca to face Promethium seems to go back to the topic of time and the inevitability of its passage, of destiny. You can see how Maetel knows that Nazca will need to be sacrificed, yet hesitates to do what must be done. She tries to let him be and face the Queen alone and yet Harlock figuratively slaps her, tosses the boy back onto her and tells her to do what must be done. This is one of those Platonic-Idealistic scenes that the Leijiverse is full of: Timeless Character A bids Timeless Character B to lead Timeless Character C to his Destiny of Heroic Sacrifice. Both know what will happen, and the dialogue is totally trivial when measured against this knowledge. Harlock says: “He is one of us, isn’t he?” BUT the meaning is NOT AT ALL “Oh, he’s a brave little boy and he’s got a really nice ship so why don’t you hitch a ride with him?”. Sure, it would take watching quite a few of Matsumoto’s shows to get the subtext, but even if this is your first show you will not miss the weight with which Harlock imparts his brief words.
The Ring of the Nibelung manga takes this Platonic-Idealistic tendency to extremes, to the point where the comic almost stops being an adventure fiction story and becomes something else, something less readable, perhaps. But I believe it is important to recognize that this tendency does exist in other works of Leiji’s œuvre.