Galaxy Railways 13: Aliens and Destinies
This episode gives me lots to talk about.
The train featuring in this episode is the 777. The 777 has the peculiarity that its schedule is completely undetermined: no one aboard it knows where it will stop next. Its final destination is completely unknown as well.
Japanese Wikipedia has an entire article on Non-Combat Trains in Galaxy Railways. I might as well say right here that Japanese Wikipedia has tons of amazing information on the Leijiverse, and that I would be willing to dedicate a year or two to translating all of this stuff into English if a philanthropic organization were willing to fund my efforts (with 2 two-week paid vacations, preferably to Europe).
Anyway, according to that article the 777 can carry up to 350 passengers and it has 10 cars. Its maximum speed is 900 space kilometer per hour. Now, there’s a lot of confusion as to the definition of a space kilometer (which Leiji has used throughout his works, appearing as early as Space Battleship Yamato). A lot of fans in Japan have argued, on the basis of complex computations from the Yamato story, that a space kilometer must be smaller than a regular kilometer. However, it has been said that Matsumoto defined a space kilometer in an interview as equivalent to 1,000 regular kilometers. I think most fans don’t care, or assume 1 skm = 1km , which I think is perfectly fine. Anywhere, if you read Japanese, here’s a thread debating [this].
When I lived in Japan I was acquainted with a bus tour service that would take elderly customers once a week on a trip outside the city. It was a mystery tour, however, and none of the passengers knew where they were going until they reached their destination. In this case, of course, the bus driver knew where he was going. In the case of the 777, not even the conductor knows where the train is going. You could say the train is being driven by Destiny.
Watching this episode I was struck by how tautological (or at least, bordering on the tautological) our views on Destiny can be. Manabu’s friend Subaru keeps saying everything is hopeless because what will happen will happen: it’s destined. Well, since it seems his definition of destiny is what will happen, it stands to reason that you cannot fight Destiny, because what will happen will (by definition) happen. It’s silly.
I realize that Subaru is at least at some level arguing something different: he’s trying to say the future is predetermined and nothing you can do can change it. I don’t see why Subaru has to be pessimistic about this, either, though he seems to function as if he knows the future (when clearly he has not a clue). If his point is that human will is irrelevant, then we shall say the following: human will is not irrelevant, it is certainly relevant, but it is a single factor in a great multiplicity of factors, including factors that determine that human will in the first place.
Here’s an example: Peter wants to be a doctor. He studies and eventually becomes a doctor. Was his will a factor in this transformation? Yes. Was it the only factor or even the main factor? Not really. Consider everything that had to happen for Peter to become a doctor (consider how many children around the world dream of being doctors, even if for an instance, before they realize that this dream will never become a reality despite their most ardent aspirations). Consider also why Peter wants to be a doctor. Is it because both of his parents are doctors? Ohhh!! Well, that complicates matter. Peter’s will starts looking rather puny compared to factors that were in place before he was ever born! And so forth and so forth. In the case of Galaxy Railways, you can think of Manabu’s decision to join the SDF…
Another exciting thing that happens in this episode is the alien attack on the 777. Look at the aliens themselves and their attack mode and it’s impossible not to remark a striking resemblance to the infamous Metanoids. In fact, the very setting of the attack is basically the same as the one in Galaxy Express 999: Eternal Fantasy. The only two differences between these aliens and the Metanoids in that 999 film are that these guys don’t seem to be liquid-like (gooey) in the same way, and that these guys erupt into blue flame and emit shrieks when they are killed JUST LIKE THE MAZONE!
So what’s going on, are these guys Metazones?? One official website describes the aliens in this episode as “a power whose true form is unknown”. Big help! Fuji TV’s site on the series dubs them “vegetable humanoids”. This is a term often used to describe the Mazones in SPCH. A nice fansite points out the mystery of these aliens’ identity, quotes the second description of “vegetable humanoids”, and then speculates they might be “insect humanoids” or “Insectors”. My own guess is that they’re for all intents and purposes Metanoids, with the Mazone-like qualities nothing more than a nice bit of fanservice.
So finally Manabu gets the work done with the help of Shula, who is Layla Destiny, but isn’t. I enjoy this kind of stuff, because it stimulates my theological taste buds. How can Layla Destiny be Shula and not be Shula at the same time??? When I actually have anything to discuss on this question, be sure I will do so!
P.S. I think it’s fair to say this episode could have just as easily been a Galaxy Express 999 episode. The only thing is that if it had been the 999 that Subaru was a passenger of he would have surely died.