GE 999 027-029: To be Human
The Galaxy Express arrives at a place called the Snow Capital. Tetsuro immediately has flashbacks of his time back on Earth and on the beginning of his journey. The sight of heavy snow has left a deep imprint on his soul and he’s not at all interested in getting off the train this time around. Maetel won’t have any of it, though, and she practically forces him to explore the planet.
The scene reveals a lot, I think. Usually Tetsuro is chomping at the bits to leave the 999 and venture out. Maetel’s job is to warn him about the dangers and to agree to go out, it would seem, reluctantly. But what happens here lays bare the truth: Maetel expects the boy to get off at every station, and if he doesn’t want to then she’ll make it happen.
Tetsuro falls into an underground village in Snow Capital and a starving lady decides to cook him for dinner. What saves him in the end is, well, Maetel’s appearance…but also the fact that he had given the lady’s daughter a piece of biscuit earlier. Pity saved him. So through the frankly funny situation there’s something pretty deep going on. Tetsuro has another flashback and this time both of his parents are around (wow!). They give him some bread and let him eat it all. His father does look like Black Knight Faust from Adieu Galaxy Express (double wow!).
A knowledgeable Japanese person would have been able to tell where this episode was going from reading the title: Kishimojin of the Snow Capital. Kishimojin (=Hariti in India) was a demoness who used to kill people to feed them to her children. Eventually she converted to the Buddha’s teachings and become a goddess of childbirth. So we can hope that Yuki’s mom in this episode will stop trying to catch kids like Tetsuro from now on!!
This is another good place in which to rehash this old issue of what constitutes “human” in the Leijiverse. Tetsuro and Maetel are descending on a new planet and Maetel says only animals inhabit it. All of a sudden a stone breaks through the window, and both reason that a human must have tossed it.
So what is it to be human then? Well, clearly, being an extraterrestrial doesn’t disqualify you (the 999 is far, far away from Earth at this point). Also, all of the mechanized people get called “mechanized humans” in contradistinction to the unmechanized “flesh-and-blood humans”. It seems that to be human means to be an intelligent lifeform.
There are two factors in the Leijiverse that make this ample definition much more acceptable than in other sci-fi universes: 1) intelligent lifeforms in the Leijiverse have a relatively uniform phenotype: essentially they are erect bipeds. The skin color might change a bit but they do usually look human (think of the LaMetalians). What’s interesting (and eminently childish) is that often the genotype behind these humanoids is supposed to be radically different from Earthlings’ (i.e. the Mazone, which belong to the plant kingdom instead of the animal kingdom even though they look like female humanoids complete with mammalian bosoms).
2) There seem to be several tales going around that these intelligent lifeforms have a common ancestry. The LaMetalians, for example, claim to be the mother race from which Earthlings have sprung.
Anyway, at the end of the episode Maetel tells the villain she will show him her true form. He uncovers herself and he is shocked. What did he see? It was obviously not a beautiful woman’s body. And it was obviously not a standard mechanized body either, since those exist aplenty in this era. What was it then?? I DON’T HAVE A CLUE.
What can one say about a planet ruled by an alcoholic savage called Sakezan and populated by monkeys that drink sake all day long? Not much.
I was a bit surprised by how little Maetel did this in this episode to help Tetsuro out. Especially when the boy fought Sakezan, I was expecting her to come to the rescue with her explosive earrings but she never did. It’s almost as if she wants to push Tetsuro to a higher ground.