Completing a Minor in Maetel Studies
So you want to become an expert on Maetel, but the sheer amount of Maetel media out there is daunting you? I’m not surprised. The Galaxy Express 999 TV series alone is a whopping 113 episodes, 45 hours on this single stage of Maetel’s life! There are lots of manga volumes to consider too…those poor in time and money are bound to reconsider.
Luckily there is an easy alternative that will give you a good hold on the whole Maetelverse at a fraction of the time and the cost. All you have to do is tap into the movies and OVAs that summarize the action quite faithfully (and sometimes, arguably, in a more exciting manner than the original comics and TV series).
I’m going to run quickly through the curriculum, in the internal chronological order of the Leijiverse (not in the order of release, which is totally different). I won’t give out any heavy spoilers, just the sort of stuff you’d see on the back of the DVD Box. Most of this stuff is available on amazon or on torrents (look here). In fact, we are in the midsts of an “availability renaissance” for Matsumoto works, from crunchyroll and FUNimation through to YouTube and DailyMotion, so there’s no excuses!!
First Course: Millennial Queen (movie)
Duration: 2 hours.
My Rating: 4 / 5
The first thing that must be said about this film is that Maetel isn’t in it. The heroine is actually Promethium, Maetel’s mother. Still, if you want to get you Minor you must see this. A lot has been said about the (mutual) influences of George Lucas and Leiji Matsumoto…but for our purposes right now it’s enough to say that Maetel’s life story has many parallels with Luke Skyewalker’s. So this is the Leijiverse equivalent of Star Wars Episode One.
Just as importantly, LaRela shows up in this movie. If you don’t want to be clueless when that freaky little girl shows up in the middle of Space Symphony Maetel you need to watch LaRela’s every move here!
BTW, the more usual translation is Queen Millennia.
Second Course: Maetel Legend (4 episode OVA)
Duration: 1 hour and a half
My Rating: 3 / 5
In this OVA Promethium goes Darth Vader on us and Maetel begins her epic journey. You’ll notice that I gave this the lowest rating of all the shows here. This is mainly due to the animation, which looks very low-budget. If I were to pass one of these courses up, it’d be this one. There’ s a solid blow-by-blow account of what happens in Animepedia (here).
Third Course: Space Symphony Maetel (13 episode OVA)
Duration: Just over 5 hours.
My Rating: 5/5
OK, so this one’s relatively long. Let me tell you though, it’s well worth it. Maetel begins her struggle against her mother’s Mechanization Empire, and a boy called Nazca somehow becomes both Maetel’s and Promethium’s lethal weapon.
A lot of fans of the Galaxy Express franchise have complained about this OVA. I think they were dismayed at some amazing similarities between 999 and Space Symphony, and immediately concluded the Master was running out of ideas. And of course, since they saw 999 first they were bound to dislike this new “adaptation” (fans always prefer the original, right?).
The truth is that this criticism is just as if we were impressed with a season of “Law and Order” and then upset to find out the next season had more crimes and more court cases. Well duh, the protagonists work in the legal system, that’s what they do!! And the whole point of the show!! In the same way, Maetel’s job is to take kids on long journeys to not so nice places. It’s what she does. There are deeper meanings to this but we won’t get into that now. Anyway, the art rocks in this too!
Fourth Course: Galaxy Express 999 (movie)
Duration: Just over 2 hours.
Rating: 4 / 5
This film covers the same ground as the 113 TV series. And it pulls it off amazingly well. Maetel comes to Earth to pick up the boy Tetsuro as the struggle against the Empire continues.
I didn’t give this a 5 of 5 for two reasons: from what I have seen of the TV show, it is a bit better than the movie; also, the next film is much better so that deserves the 5!
Fifth and Final Course: Adieu Galaxy Express 999 (movie)
Duration: Just over 2 hours.
Rating: 5 / 5
After 11 hour or so, you expect this finale to be epic, and it is! The Mechanization Empire is not utterly destroyed, and Tetsuro and Maetel must go in one last time for the jugular. In the process, Tetsuro learns more about Maetel’s past, and his own.
Harlock shows up in a powerful scene with none other than–well, I won’t spoil it. Anyway, it’s excellent.
That’s it, 13 hours in all by my count. I just completed this and it was fun. I’m not including the 3rd Galaxy Express movie (Eternal Fantasy) simply because it’s more of a taste of Matsumoto’s new Maetel arc than anything else. If they ever get down to doing a proper show on it (or film), then I’ll include that. As it stands, I think it’s unnecessary in order to obtain your Minor…