GE 999 Ultimate Journey: First Stop
Thankfully the first volume of this novelization of Leiji’s latest Galaxy Express 999 scenario, published by Guide Media, was waiting at my door when I arrived from my vacation in early January. The chapters are called “stops”, and here I’ll discuss the first stop, which is around 50 pages long and is divided into five numbered sections. The first stop is called “Farewell Solar System – A Chance Meeting between Goddesses.” Needless to say, the discussion will be chock-full of spoilers for the Leijiverse as Ultimate Journey is Matsumoto’s attempt to cap, not only the GE 999 franchise, but pretty much all of his stories, with one epic saga. Here’s my digest:
The set-up is this: Tetsuro is on the 999, but Maetel isn’t with him. Alone with his thoughts, Tetsuro reminisces about his adventures. The novel seems to take as its “canon background” the movie versions of the GE 999 story. Thus, Tetsuro loses his Mom and then swears to avenge her on Count Mecha, heading toward Megalopolis etc. This is in agreement with the GE 999 film version of events. Also, the Black Knight Faust is mentioned (from Adieu Galaxy Express 999).
Tetsuro reflects on Maetel’s absence: she is presently meeting with her sister aboard the Queen Emeraldas. After wondering what they could be discussing, he continues to dwell on his life. The takeover of Earth and his rescue from prison by Maetel are recounted. The Eternal Fantasy events seem to be confined to what’s on the movie (Maetel’s rescue of the imprisoned Tetsuro, destruction of planets far and near, mission to head to Eternal and somehow reverse time to undo Earth’s destruction, battle with Helmazaria). Maetel tells Tetsuro that the reason the Metanoids destroyed Earth is that this is the homeland of the Humanoid race, the ultimate threat to the Metanoids.
This section takes us inside the Queen Emeraldas, where the two sisters Emeraldas and Maetel are having a debate. Emeraldas asks what’s happened to Helmazaria. Maetel explains: Tetsuro gave a lethal wound to Helmazaria. Because she is a Mechanoid and Mechanoid hearts explode when their bearers die, Helmazaria left the 999 in order to die without killing Maetel and Tetsuro in the process. Tetsuro thinks Helmazaria is still alive and licking her wounds, but in fact she’s dead. According to Maetel, Helmazaria’s last good deed was (along with not blowing the train up) sparing Tetsuro the guilt of knowing that he had killed her.
Emeraldas now comes around to the issue she came here for. Maetel intends to become the new Queen of the Machine Empire, and Emeraldas hopes to dissuade her. What does this mean? Well, Maetel feels responsible for all that the Mechanization Empire has wrought. There are countless beings throughout the universe, not only LaMetalians, who bought into the idea of eternal life through machinery and who are now starting to wake up to the fact that it can be a living hell. They have no one to turn to. As Promethium’s daughter and successor, Maetel is convinced that now it’s her job to become queen and help all the mechanized to deal with their problems. She hints as well that one of her roles might be to facilitate the death of all life-weary mechanized who may wish for oblivion. In other words, she might be setting up some sort of enormous euthanasia facility for machiners. Poignant, huh.
Emeraldas wants Maetel to relax and have a life. Part of the reason is that she is the elder sister, and so if anyone were to succeed Promethium it should be her.. Emeraldas is unwilling to do this so she feels guilty her little sister is undertaking it herself. Alas, Maetel is resolute and so Emeraldas offers up her own planet (Planet Esmeralda) for the new queen to take up court. Maetel accepts.
[I don't know about this planet Esmeralda, but it seems to be a major mechanized planet, much like Andromeda and Maetel were.]
The scene shifts again. Wotan is thinking to himself. Someone is coming to this universe, someone whose coming means the end, in fact, someone who is the End. Wotan knows that in his position (as supreme god, I guess) he is not allowed to act, he is not allowed to oppose this advent. But smaller beings are counseling to act and to resist. Should he give in and fight, or should he do the right thing and pass away and let what will be what will be. Sadly, he realizes that the fact that he is hesitating right now means more than anything that he is in his “twilight.”
[The Wotan section is very short and very prettily written. I'm always happy when he's made out to be as more sophisticated a god than both Wagner and Leiji tend to present him.]
Maetel hops back into the 999 and isn’t willing to explain clearly to Tetsuro what she discussed with Emeraldas. Both companions start praising each other. There’s a lot of emotion in their speeches but it’s all very tasteful and there’s no hint of some kind of forbidden romance between the two
Maetel brings the topic back to the Machine Empire and Tetsuro realizes that she’s worried about mechanized people. They agree to help each other in the two quests: reaching the planet Eternal to turn back time and save Earth, and helping out the legions of mechanized people in despair.
The 999 receives a call from the Galaxy Railways commander, Layla Destiny. Layla wants to speak to Maetel so she shows up in a hologram. Tetsuro is there, with Canon and Claire as well. Layla’s purpose? To solemnly declare to Maetel that Galaxy Railways is cutting off all of its financial and administrative ties to the Machine Empire. She informs Maetel she’s already spoken to the Machine Empire Cardinal Darknass over at Esmeralda and is on her way home to Destiny.
In the sidelines, Claire explains to Tetsuro how GR has been under the thumb of Promethium and is now declaring its independence. Well, independence might not be the right word. Layla explains she is placing the GR under the Great Galactic League. Maetel looks unhappy about this state of affairs. Tetsuro is surprised at Maetel’s reaction, but I think I can understand Maetel: the poor woman was hoping that with Promethium’s defeat there could be cooperation between flesh-and-blooders and machiners. But the battle lines are forming up again. I suspect this Galactic League is anti-machine and GR seems to have cast its lot with them, even though Maetel is to be queen of a reformed Machine Empire. If the GR had decided to be truly independent it might have been preferable… And BTW, what’s with this Cardinal?! I’ve never heard of him, but he seems to be a caretaker for the Machine Empire until a new queen ascends the throne.
At least it’s not all bad news. Layla brings up the 999′s journey to Eternal and says she’s decided to dispatch Big One (with Sirius Platoon of course) to escort them there. Then the 999 starts giving warning signals of someone approaching, and we see a new woman pop up before everyone.
(This last section is basically the Meeting between the Goddesses of the chapter title. It reads like a No play, or the Lotus Sutra for example, much more ritual than drama or, actually, it reads just like the really old Greek dramas like Aeschylus’. If you’ve read Leiji’s most recent manga pieces, where everyone is all-knowing and powerful and stuff, you know what I’m talking about.)
Maetel and Claire helpfully explain the situation to Tetsuro (and us). This woman is appearing via telepathic projection (not holographic, like Layla). She is a goddess from Asgard. Asgard is a planet in the center of the universe. Valhalla is in Asgard, and is the dwelling of the gods. The region around Asgard is Midgard, that is, the standard universe that we all know. The woman introduces herself as Aurora from the planet Great King. She says that the person who controls the Metanoids is about to interfere with the universe, and that Aurora is ready to help the 999 in its mission. Specifically, she has dispatched three knights to go to the planet Rhine, receive the Ring from Freia, and bring it to the 999 with them at some point. Wow. She says the knights are rather odd, but they will be of great help. Hmm…
(Aurora is from the series Starzinger. I touch on Great King very briefly [here]. I’m Starzinger-illiterate, so any info on her would be appreciated.)
Another warning signal, and we get goddess # 3 (counting Layla as the first to show up): this one presents herself as Brünnhilde from Asgard. She explains that she is in contact with her Valkyries, with Freia and with Thor, and they are all together trying to make Wotan act to help Midgard and stop the great menace that’s approaching (this hearkens back to section 4 of course). In the meantime, she bids the mortal heroes to do what they can in the struggle.
Brünnhilde announces that Photon (goddess # 4 we guess), from the planet Eternal [I don't know her, is she featured in the Eternal Fantasy manga] wants to speak too, but since Eternal is too far for her to generate a telepathic image, she will present herself via the Valkyrie’s own. (And what this means in practical terms is that Photon’s voice “speaks” from a little hologram of a nebula on Brünnhilde’s chest).
Photon tells Maetel that in order to bring Earth back they need to bring her a spacetime singularity (or singular point) and the Rhine Ring. With that in hand, Photon (who is goddess of Light and Resurrection) can make it happen. BTW, Claire is all emotional because, as she explains to Tetsuro, Photon was the one who brought her to life after she had broken into a myriad pieces long ago.
Now, we never get to see Photon, but out of the nebula hologram on Brünnhilde’s chest, a woman’s image appears. She announces herself as Merou from Svan, our 5th goddess [apparently from DNA Sights 999.9, once again, I please illiteracy]. Merou too pledges herself to help the 999 in any way.
The five goddesses declare they will do all they can in this mission, they share the same will and the same blood runs through them (that of Wotan, they state specifically). Maetel thanks them, expresses her determination, enlists Tetsuro (again) and the 999 whistles as the engine begins to roar.