Galaxy Legend/ary Locomotives
As part of my treatment of the Space Symphony Maetel anime, I have subbed the music video for the ending song Galaxy Legend, by Takako Uehara (formerly of SPEED). The video for the full version of the song is remarkable because it is intimately related to the Leijiverse, both visually and thematically, without containing a single sequence from any of Matsumoto’s anime.
First let me link to the video, then discuss two issues of importance.
The song goes “I want you to believe eternal life can be transmitted among us.” This sounds a bit odd at first. Isn’t the whole point of the Galaxy Express 999 franchise that we shouldn’t seek eternal (i.e. mechanically enhanced) life? Certainly it is, and I’ve translated the line quite literally, even to the point of it sounding ugly, because the phrasing is very important.
What Uehara sings is not about an eternal life that you and/or I can have, but one that we can have among us, through a transmission. I believe that the reference here is to the concept of the immortality of virtue. True immortality, the one that counts, is the memory of your deeds transmitted to later generations.
Roughly 2500 years ago in the state of Lu, right around the time of Confucius’ birth, there was a discussion at court on the meaning of immortality. Someone suggested that an unbroken (noble) lineage brought about immortality. Another, wiser officer responded that the only true immortality was that of virtue, of deeds and of words (in decreasing rank) that live on. I think Matsumoto is totally in sync with this notion.
The video is set around a gorgeous locomotive and I spent quite a bit of time trying to find some reference online to the identity of this train. I could find nothing. Then I noticed the plate number here:
The Galaxy Express 999, Leiji’s most famous train, also has a plate number. Here:
The plate number reads C62 50. C here means that it’s a steam locomotive with three leading wheels (see the three big ones?). 62 is the series number and 50 is the actual unit.
The 999 only carries this specific plate in the Galaxy Express 999 TV series. The original manga and the film have C62 48 instead. Leiji chose the C62 48 because had fond memories of riding it in the Tokyo area (the train ran from 1949 to 1969) and because he actually had managed to acquire one of the plates by the time he began writing the manga in the 1970s.
The C62 series produced 49 trains, from C62 1 to C62 49. When the time came to make the TV series, someone apparently decided the fictional 999 shouldn’t carry an actual license plate so the number C62 50 was used instead. By the time the film rolled along the franchise was so popular that the railway company probably encouraged Matsumoto to use the C62 48 of the original. If you can read Japanese there is a great webpage on the C62 and GE 999 [here]. This train hasn’t been preserved, so all we have are black and white pictures like the one below:
Back to the music video. Although it’s a little hard to see from that angle, the plate number is definitely C11 227. And luckily for me, and for you if you enjoy this sort of thing, if you just type “C11 227” on Google and hit the enter key you get lots of pictures of a very nice steam locomotive which is obviously the one of the video. The C11 227 is quite famous as one of a group of locomotives that has survived till today. Japanese Wikipedia has a rather detailed paragraph on this particular train.
The C11 227 is even older than the C62 48. It started operations during the war in 1942 and was retired in 1975. A company in neighboring Shizuoka called Oigawa Railways bought the C11 227 in 1976, restored it, and is still managing it for sightseeing purposes. A few years ago Oigawa did a Galaxy Express 999 special event and slapped a 999 sign on another one of its restored trains, the C11 190. You can check this [link] and this [one] for pictures of both trains.
One big question remains: is the C11 227 replicated in the Leijiverse, just as the C62 48 is? I don’t know the answer to that question, but it’s at least possible. The answer might lie in the DVD extras for SSM, which someday I’d like to buy. For now we’d have to start hunting down plate numbers in manga and anime etc etc. I might as well list confirmed cases of real locomotives being used as models for Galaxy Railways trains.
The 888, a bright yellow and red train that shows up in the OP and in episodes 9 and 10 of the TV series, is a replica of the No. 7100 series, locomotives imported from America in the 1880s. The whistle sound of the 888 in the TV series was actually a recording of No. 7101, better known in Japan by its nickname “Benkei”. [Here] is more information on the series and on that specific train.
The 998, which shares the same line as the 999 but runs slower, apparently has the plate number C62 44, so it belongs to the same series as the 999…