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.

The 777 under attack

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.

~ by Haloed Bane on December 10, 2010.

15 Responses to “Galaxy Railways 13: Aliens and Destinies”

  1. Speaking of unfinished Leijiverse stories, I am literally two episodes away from finishing the Galaxy Railways.

    I feel like “hey I must have written this episode” half the time, but something in those predictable tropes and “you go on without me” moments is comforting — like I know I’m watching a fun adventure because this sort of thing happened.

    But like all Leijithings, there are parts I have a hard time looking past, especially the role of women in his stories.

    • Two episodes! Golly, I wonder how long was it since you last watched the series. The role of women in the Leijiverse is an explosive issue, so let’s not open that can of worms now!!

  2. I’m still trying to figure out those aliens. We shall have a fun brainstorm in comments when you get to the end of the series. It is impossible not to see a similarity to the Mazone. I keep expecting Diaba to show up in vengeance mode and start shooting at them. I think Manabu’s reluctance to fire is weapon was starting to get to me at one point.

  3. Hmmm … I’m trying to rack my gray matter. I think this was one of the only good episode of GR … but I can’t remember O_O

    I just had an issue with the series itself … it just didn’t feel like Leiji. Just kinda like it was stripped down to entertain the mainstream otaku audience …. which made me sad.

    Anyway nice review. I didn’t know you lived in Japan :3 Learn something new every day.

    And you should TOTALLY translate some of those pages and put them on the English wikipedia :3

    • On the wiki pages, I’ve translated 4 of them I think (LaMetal, Promethium, Arcadia, Deathshadow). If anyone wants to put them up on English Wikipedia they’re welcome to, I have not the time!

      So far for me the series feels sufficiently Leijiish for me treat it as a Matsumoto work like the others. For better or worse, he’s integrated the story into the latest volume of GE 999 so this is THE MASTER’S WILL 😀

      Of course I lived in Japan. I’m Japanese!!!

      [kidding. or AM I?! Bwaahhaaahahaahhhaaaa.]

      • Perhaps I will then, put it on wikipedia. Such knowledge can not be bound by a language barrier!

        Wait is 999 still going? God … I forgot about that. Have you seen this latest volume :3

        … You screw with me all the time you know X3 Hey you know any good “learn japanese” books?

        • Well, the last GE 999 volume released was no. 21, and it came out in 2005. But the story is not over…it’s not clear if he’ll continue it or what.

          If you look at the cover you’ll immediately see the tie-in with Galaxy Railways. (and no, I haven’t gotten it, though maybe I should order it for Xmas…):

          It’s been such a long time since I studied Japanese at school that I’ve actually forgotten the name of the textbook series I used 😦

          Anyway, my advice to anyone interested is as follows: take a class. It is NOT an ideal language to try to pick up on your own.

          • Oh that does look like Galaxy Railways … hmmm …

            Well very very interesting. Seems like he does like it – so I guess that is that. Though I remember updating the wikipedia page on the CD only Mizar Platoon.

            Anyway wikipedia says that in the latest volume – Yuki and ..err … Yuki meet up so …

            I know, I know. But there isn’t anyone *sigh* Well I’ll try to hunt someone down.

            • Yes, Yuki shows up, and Harlock and Emeraldas…Readers of GE 999 were complaining on that this volume had nothing to do with the 999 story at all. I think Leiji was celebrating the 50th year of his career, so he is totally allowed to throw a party!!!

              I’ve decided I will purchase this volume.

  4. Speaking about destiny, somebody somewhere gave Layla the title of the most useless anime character in the world – indeed, the Supreme Commander is just weeping over her 3D railway map most of the time. Kinda sharing Subaru’s point of view 😀 While Shula is taking Manabu’s side.

    • Call me crazy, but the repeated shots of Layla crying remind me of the repeated shots of Hardgear drinking people wine in Maetel Legend…somehow.

  5. You’re right. If it was 999 Subaru would have been a goner. After watching all 114 or something episodes, the only thing I could remember well is that characters were only created, just to be killed off within 3 episodes. The family from the poison flower planet episode is the only exception

    • I haven’t watched that episode, but it kinda makes sense that a family used to living on a poison flower planet would be composed of hardy survivors…

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