Beginning Galaxy Railways
This Matsumoto franchise beginning in 2003 is in many ways an expansion of Galaxy Express 999; whereas the older 999 focused on the single train in question, now we get to see the rest of the gigantic network in operation (we did get glimpses of other trains in Galaxy Express, but not much more).
There’s a lot of linguistic juggling of names here in Japanese and in the English translations of these names (which show up within the story itself). For starters, the names of the two franchises in Japanese are: “Ginga Tetsudo 999” and “Ginga Tetsudo Monogatari”, which I would translate as “Galaxy Railways 999” and “Galaxy Railways Stories”. The connection is thus much tighter in Japanese than in English. Once “Galaxy Railways 999” was translated into “Galaxy Express 999” it was impossible to follow up with “Galaxy Express Stories” because this would imply all of the company trains were express trains, which isn’t true.
The word “SDF” in the series is used just like this (in English) although the acronym is supposed to stand for “Kukan Tetsudo Keibitai”, literally “Space Railway Guards”. Presumably, we’re meant to translate this as “Space Defense Forces” dropping the “railway” element off. The desire is clearly to remind Japanese viewers of Japan’s current Self Defense Forces (SDF) whose official Japanese name is “Jieitai”.
“SPG” is much more straightforward. “Space Panzer Grenadiers” is historically a great way to translate the Japanese “Kukan Soko Tekidan Rentai” (literally “Space Armored Grenade Regiment”) because the elite WWII “Großdeutschland” Panzer-Grenadier (or Armored Grenadier) Division in Germany was originally a regiment too. Whether you think it’s cool to emulate an entity like Großdeutschland is of course another question altogether.
In this connection I might as well point out the thoroughly German name of Sirius Platoon Captain “Schwanhelt Bulge” [as it’s commonly subbed]. Schwanhelt gives Schwanfeld (“f” and “h” are allophones in Japanese, they’re essentially the same; a final “d” is pronounced “t” in German). Schwanfeld is a municipality in the Franconian region of Bavaria, which is Leiji’s Arcadia just as much as it is Harlock’s. “Bulge” is easy: this should refer to the Battle of the Bulge (Hitler’s last major offensive of the War) which the Japanese know as “Baruji no Tatakai” where “baruji” is their phonetic equivalent of “bulge”.
It’s funny that I was commenting on Arrivederci Yamato and how Leiji is touchy about his main characters but is ever so willing to kill minor ones every chance he gets. This very often happens at the beginning of a Matsumoto story, and in this one we have Manabu Yuki lose both his father and his brother in the first two episodes! These “we hardly knew you” deaths, coupled with the triple gun turrets which the Big One (the Sirius Platoon vehicle) is peppered with, makes the Leiji fan feel right at home from the beginning.
But let’s go deeper, there is reason to be outraged here (you either get outraged or you giggle a lot, it’s up to you): the beginning of Galaxy Railways [YAMATO SPOILERS FOR THE REST OF THIS PARAGRAPH] as I was saying, the beginning of Galaxy Railways is surprisingly similar to the end of Arrivederci Yamato, yes, the ending which Leiji was so disgusted with he refused to work on! In both cases we have 1) a captain who tells everyone else to get out (Susumu Kodai, Wataru Yuki) and then 2) he is aided by a supernatural woman (Teresa, Shula) who 3) after confirming said man is willing to die for victory’s sake 4) helps him to face the great foe by 5) streaking across the screen right to left in a ray of light leading the man’s vessel!!! It’s homage, is what this is! The only difference I could find is that Kodai is the main hero whereas Wataru is the hero’s father, which means he is expendable. Then again, maybe the person that came up with the story for this episode was a secret fan of this ending, and Leiji just didn’t catch the reference…
Compare the two scenes…it’s truly an amazing resonance.
The music is very good too. You can tell it’s good because even I noticed it! Nice and groovy.
The other thing I feel I absolutely must cover is the appearance of Yuki Sexaroid. I’m not talking about her physical appearance (she looks great) but about the fact that she’s here at all. As far as I know this manga character from the late Sixties had never been animated before, and I think her role as medical officer is very well chosen. Especially if they do things correctly and don’t show her actually healing pe0ple, as we’ll get a chance to imagine just what sort of cure she is employing 😀
No, seriously, I was actually about to complain in episode 3 with the fanservice shots of Yuki’s and Lois Fort Drake’s groin and buttock areas, but I guess it’s OK since we got a groin shot from Manabu later on. Equal opportunity and all that 😀
Did I just manage to completely avoid talking about the plot? Good. The plot is fine, but I don’t think bloggers need to address it all the time. There will be time for that…maybe!
PROCEDURAL NOTE: To avoid any confusion between Sexaroid Yuki and Manabu Yuki (the first “Yuki” being a given name with a short “u”, the second one being a family name with a long “u”) I will never refer to Manabu as just “Yuki”. If I write plain “Yuki” you can assume I’m talking about the Sexaroid.