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.]
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?
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!!