GE 999 022-023: Triumph of Mechavellian Ethics

[At the beginning of the year I started watching this series from the beginning again (plus reading the corresponding manga chapters) and I’ve finally caught up to where I had left off before because of technical difficulties.  I’ll be slowly working my way through the rest of the series blog posts will cover 1 to 3 episodes or so.]

Episode 22

I think the real beauty of this episode only comes out when you see it in the light of Leijiversal history as a whole, including events which Matsumoto only introduced into the metaverse years after episode first aired…

More concretely, what I mean is this: we have four characters here who are paired up and opposed to each other in very meaningful ways.  Maetel and Tetsuro are traveling together.  This pair is the backbone of Galaxy Express 999.  In this episode we meet Emeraldas, and she is alone, but we know that her partner used to be Tochiro, now deceased.  So there is a second pair here: Emeraldas and Tochiro.

Now, Maetel and Emeraldas are sisters.  Tetsuro, on the other hand, is in many ways the successor of Tochiro (I don’t know if this has ever been argued, but I think it’s very possible the Hoshino family is related to the Oyamas somehow…in any case, they’re both Japanese, which neither Maetel nor Emeraldas are).  Tochiro has Tetsuro’s gun and his clothes.  Tochiro is absent in this episode because he’s dead.  And in most versions of the story, Tochiro died due through illness…that is, Tochiro died because he didn’t mechanize himself.

Tetsuro’s whole quest in this series is to obtain a machine body and escape a fate such as Tochiro’s.  This opposition is neatly paralleled by Maetel and Emeraldas, since the latter seems about to succumb to illness while the former lives on and on because, as all the evidence indicates, Maetel’s body has been mechanized by this point.

That Maetel fights and defeats an Emeraldas android really only strengthens this mechanization theme: Maetel’s technology is simply superior to the android’s.  This is not a victory of humanity over mechanization!!

The episode highlights the poignancy of Maetel’s existence (she bemoans the fact that she cannot die), but I still find the message on mechanization somewhat ambivalent.  Doesn’t the fact that an android has been able to take over the Queen Emeraldas represent a huge failure for the all-too human Emeraldas?  Isn’t Maetel’s method for defeating Queen Promethium, involving as much sacrifice and as much Machiavellian artifice as it does (poor Tetsuro), ultimately superior to her sister’s?

Episode 23

The episode as televised interested me because of only a single point: the cavemen’s prophecy.  How did that prophecy come true?!  I see three possibilities:

1) There was no prophecy.  This means Maetel simply lied to Tetsuro, which is very possible but then the question becomes why would she do that?

2) There was a prophecy, but its so-called fulfillment was simply a coincidence.  This would be an amazing coincidence!!!

3) There was a prophecy, and it was fulfilled.  That is, there was causality involved.

Now, to believe (3) we must hold that either a) someone could foretell the future, or b) someone caused both the prophecy and the event that fulfilled it (so this “someone” didn’t foresee the future, but actually made a promise and then fulfilled it).

I guess divine prophecy can be seen from either of the two angles.  You can believe that God causes everything, and therefore when he speaks through a prophet about the future he is simply telling us what he will do later on (i.e. possibility 3b).  OR, you could say God sees everything but doesn’t force people to act, he only lets it happen (possibility 3a).

It’d be interesting to see in this episode either Maetel, or more likely Promethium, as being the cause of the prophecy and its fulfillment as per 3b.  So far I don’t think the Galaxy Express 999 has been delayed in its schedule.  Therefore Promethium could have picked up the itinerary at one point and sent a message to the cavemen that her daughter and a young bowlegged boy were on their way…

The TV episode cuts off the very end of the manga, where Tetsuro actually starts wondering whether Maetel (or her protectors) instigated the destruction of the planet.  He starts putting things together: the voice in the hotel back on Metropolis, the cases where Maetel seems to die and resurrect.  He ends up by very philosophically concluding that Maetel is helping to achieve his dream, and she’s being nice to him, so he might as well not worry about what she is, even if she turns out to be a witch!!

~ by Haloed Bane on June 28, 2011.

7 Responses to “GE 999 022-023: Triumph of Mechavellian Ethics”

  1. I’ve been slowly getting these episodes myself, but I’ve been very nervous about starting until I know that I can get all of them. It would kill me to start something this epic, and then have to stop in the middle. Until I get them all, I can at least enjoy reading what you have to say about them.

    • I am watching them on Crunchyroll. I couldn’t do so earlier because Crunchyroll restricts viewing to North America and I was elsewhere. If you’re in the region go ahead and watch them on Crunchyroll, the subtitles are very good.

  2. Ep. 22 – wow, that’s certainly a very interesting angle to look at Emeraldas’ situation. I tend to agree, in the context of GE999 she does look like a failure. I can add another question: does Emeraldas ever try to defeat Promethium?

    As a true Leijiverse fan, I saw this episode AFTER I’ve watched virtually every other show featuring Emeraldas and after I’ve read lot’s of fans’ wailing on “later changes” in the characters’ biographies, making Maetel and Emeraldas sisters, etc. What strikes me about this ep now, is that there is no evidence against them girls being sisters. Maybe I’m reading too much into it, but that picture in Emeraldas’ room – friends don’t pose for a picture like that – that’s a typical staged family photo (before the mass introduction of snapshot cameras 🙂 ).

    To me, another paradoxical evidence of the meant-from-the-start sisterhood is that later, when Matsumoto officially stated the fact, he took no pains to link Emeraldas to the family tighter. I mean, she never has any reminiscences about her past, she hardly ever talks to Promethium, she never mentions her father, etc.

    And I think it’s significant. In this episode Maetel calls Emeraldas her rival, and it’s their choices that make them rivals. In a broader leijiverse context, we have two sisters, the heiresses of the royal family, equally dissatisfied with their mom’s policy. I don’t remember, where was it that Emeraldas is the elder sister? So the crown princess lets it all go to hell and sets out on her own journey, while Maetel faces it.

    Thus, Emeraldas’ way of dealing with the family is to cut off all ties. A sort of a black sheep (with white scull and bones). Instead, she gets a full-fledged personal life – adventures (well, Maetel gets her share of adventures too, but is it fun knowing they won’t let you die anyway?), freedom, career and universal fame, friends, the love of her life (((and a kid))). At the same time she loses the responsibility and power to influence the family affairs. In a way, she has no right to oppose Promethium anymore.

    So the sisters represent the lost opportunities for each other. Sure there must be some jealosy and rivalry involved, along with love and respect for their choices…

    • “does Emeraldas ever try to defeat Promethium?”

      I’m not sure if this is ever actually stated. If it is, it would be in Space Symphony, but I can’t remember right now. Another great reason to rewatch that series, which I want to do.

      I agree with you on the sisters 100%. You express the contrasts very beautifully! How rich the Leijiverse is 🙂

      Yes, Emeraldas is the eldest. After the sisters are shipped off by Promethium (in Maetel Legend) Emeraldas gives up on the throne but Maetel comes back to her mother, for her own reasons. It’s fascinating. Promethium must have been really touched by Maetel’s return, because she absolutely loves her and keeps loving her even when it’s obvious Maetel seeks to overthrow her. And it is in this context that Promethium’s statement “You are my only daughter” should be taken. For Promethium Emeraldas is dead.

      • …and Maetel keeps loving Promethium in spite of doing everything to overthrow her. I think I mentioned somewhere that Maetel as a daughter figure intrigues me much more than Maetel as a mother figure (probably because I’m not a 10 year old boy). Among other things, it’s a tale of mother and daughter’s love, and love of epic scale.
        Maybe you’ll be surprised to know that it was the Space Symphony opening that made me first realize it.

  3. Ep. 23
    1. So I guess the other half of the planet controlled by scientists bought the farm even earlier? I chuckled.

    2. Why stop at that ugly place at all?!?!?!

    3. Your theories on the prophecy triggered my imagination. My speculations: the local prophet could forsee the future but caught the wrong wave or the folks misinterpreted (no wonder) – well, Maetel IS to become a queen, and Tetsuro is to be sacrificed – that’s just the wrong planet, and the prophecy hasn’t been quite fulfilled here, right?

    Another possibility is that it’s Maetel “prophesying” for Tetsuro’s sake alone. After all, we see all events entirely in her interpretation and I wonder whether those savages can speak at all. And that’s the first episode where Maetel looks really sinister (just like your average rainforest Mazone).

    4. Maetel goes about the universe as if it were her own little garden, weeding away the rotten worlds. Now how does she do it? It’s not like there is a secret red button on each planet or something… You know, this episode made me recall that Maetel is half a planet herself. She has a celestial body too – so it looks like she can communicate with other celestial bodies – she knows (feels?) exactly what is going to happen next moment with the planet. So she can wipe off a world the same way she puts a bullet through an individual.

    • Yes, my sense was that the science planet was destroyed immediately after the split.

      Aha, I love this interpretation of the prophecy!! A queen and a sacrifice…

      It’s interesting. At the beginning of this show I started speculating that Maetel was orchestrating things not because I believed Leiji intended this, but because it was my way as an adult to come to grips with a lot of the ridiculous and nonsensical plot twists that appear in 999 and that a child would accept readily. But the more I watch this the more I start to realize this conspiracy thing is actually already there. The show works on two levels (young and old) because that is how Leiji himself intended it.

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