GE 999 018-020: Obsession not necessarily a Perfume
Three episodes, three new planets.
Ep 18 takes us to the Rain Capital, where it, like, rains all the time. Poor people live in more or less large bubbles under the mud. So of course one of these muddy people decides to abduct Tetsuro so she can keep him company.
This plotline is so prevalent in Galaxy Express 999 that I can’t help but think it must relate to some deep-seated thought processes inside creator Leiji Matsumoto’s head. For those of you who haven’t really watched the show here is the sequence:
1) Tetsuro is a 10-year old boy.
2) Tetsuro comes across a beautiful full-grown woman who is extremely lonely.
3) Said woman attempts to keep Tetsuro by her side forever.
This happens over and over in 999. In this particular case the mud woman’s name happens to be Maetel (Live-eviL subbers were kind enough to translate the episode’s title as “Clay Maetel”). The creepy thing which the coincidence of names here declares quite openly, is that in the larger sense the entire story of Galaxy Express 999 is about a grown woman abducting a 10-year old boy.
Am I the only wondering whether there are events in Matsumoto’s past that would shine a light here? I’m reminded of a somewhat similar case: Vladimir Nabokov’s. The average person who skims over (or even hears about) the novel Lolita will think: “oh, this guy is a total perv.” Then likely along will come your sophisticated reader and quash that notion to the ground, maybe saying that in fact the great artists are great insofar as they are able to portray realistically fictional characters who are very much removed from themselves etc…
Say an impartial observer to the discussion said: “Ok, then, let’s read more of Nabokov’s stuff to see what it’s like.” They read Pale Fire, they read Ada, they read short stories. Then I think it’s totally possible for them to conclude: “Yup, he’s a perv.” I think in the case of Nabokov the conclusion that the artist had a thematic obsession with “lolitas” is inescapable (what this means is a whole other question). So I wonder about Matsumoto and the Maetel-Tetsuro relationship…
Ep 19 sees the heroes in the Land of Repentance, or the goody-two-shoes planet. The people here are obsessed with their clean, law-abiding image. The train conductor is upset because the company has given him his only day off precisely on this day: what is one to do in a land of saints? That said, as soon as he begins his stroll to the Singaporeanly clean streets he gets mugged. And upon trying to report the crime, he along with Tetsuro and Maetel are targeted for elimination: the Land of Repentance is scared tourism will drop if people know of this!
The episode is nothing to write home about, but it’s a fun watch nonetheless. We get some nice fodder for speculation on the physical appearance of the train conductor: is he invisible? or is he just hideously ugly? The evidence in this episode is inconclusive, but suggestive. This show must have the highest rate of shower scenes in anime…
Afterwards, the 999 arrives at Memory Star. BTW, technically Memory Star is a planet, but just as in the case of the West, the Japanese in former times called all heavenly bodies stars. Some of the planets in the Leijiverse are called “hoshi->star”. I’m all in favor of translating this literally if only to break the monotony of A planet, B planet, C planet.
My own interpretation of what’s going on in Memory Star (Maetel doesn’t tell that much, and Tetsuro doesn’t care to know) is this: mechanized humans do not suffer the diseases of the flesh but they may certainly malfunction. One possible way for them to malfunction is for their main drive/impulse to override the rest of their concerns.
If I’m a mechanized painter I might short-circuit and start painting over everything I see. Because I’m a total nuisance to society now, I get go to Memory Star (whether of my own volition or forcibly is not clear). There I will paint, paint, paint until someone stops me (by killing me, as otherwise I won’t stop!).
The planet is extremely dangerous: there’s an obsessed hangman, obsessed gunman, obsessed gunmaker, obsessed mangaka. They’re all professional souls who have taken the love for their profession to the limit. For some lovely (and inexplicable) reason, those mechanized men whose main impulse involves other human beings will only act out this drive when they have established eye contact.
The availability of this series is becoming an issue for me, and considering it’s 100+ episodes long, I’ve decided to take a break. I’ll probably move on to rewatch the Arcadia of my Youth movie and the SSX series, which is the sequel to the movies and which I have yet to see. I’d also like to blog about Space Symphony Maetel at some point.