The Maetel Monologues in Space Symphony Maetel
In the classic 1970s shows and films Maetel was voiced by Masako Ikeda (1939-). Later, in Maetel Legend (2000), she shared the spotlight with Satsuki Yukino (1970-). In that OVA Yukino [wonderful name for a Leijiverse actress to have] played the young Maetel and Ikeda played the older one. In Space Symphony Maetel, Yukino basically took over and played Maetel throughout…EXCEPT for the series of monologues that heads every episode, usually beginning with the line: “Watashi wa Maetel”, or, “I am Maetel.”
I think it’s fascinating that Maetel ended up having two voice actresses in this show. I also think it amazing that Yukino only began to play Maetel when she was 30 years old (and only the very young Maetel at that!). It truly seems to be a role that requires substantial maturity. Anyway, Ikeda’s monologue series is one of the most memorable aspects of the show and, since I’ve neglected them so far in my coverage, I’ll present translations of the first six. [The principle of these translations is to unveil every image conveyed in the Japanese, even if the resulting sentences sound ugly in English]. Episode 1’s is by far the longest, as is to be expected.
01 – I keep on walking…on a track called destiny (Jp. unmei) which continues without end. I am sure that the final station I am heading for is connected with the future. Believing that, I continue fighting. Even if this body threatens to crumble as the ring of time circles round and round, my thoughts (or: memories) will never ever disappear. My name is Maetel, a woman that continues to roam the universe for the sake of a sad struggle. At that time, I was in a train headed for my native LaMetal, telling myself over and over: “It is my fate (Jp. shukumei) to return to LaMetal.”
02 – I am Maetel, a woman traveling on the rails of destiny and fate. Yes, it began on my mother planet (or: my mother’s planet) LaMetal: an eternal voyage.
03 – I am Maetel. I will not forget the indomitable warriors who confront their own destinies and fight.
04 – [Identical to 02]
05 – I am Maetel. My voyage has no starting station. Far away where the ring of time meets (or: the rings of time meet), that is my starting station.
06 – I am Maetel. The cogwheels of what is called destiny are beginning to move strongly. My destiny is a voyage without end, circling the rings of time.
It’s tempting (treacherous?) to ascribe some importance to the use of the words unmei and shukumei (translated destiny and fate). I’m utterly confused as to what the difference between the two is, and in any case Japanese people often use unmei and shukumei interchangeably, although the latter is used far less frequently and thus seems to have a more serious, somber tone.
The people who do try to establish a distinction between the two words do tend to agree on where it lies. You are born with a shukumei and there is nothing you can do to alter it. Unmei, however, is something that is forged of the events in your life, events which often you can shape and reshape.
I particularly like this site [here] which gives an etymological foundation for the distinction. The character “mei” in both words means “life”. The character “shuku” is also used in the word “yadoru”, which means “dwell” (often used in expressions such as: the soul dwells in the body, the fetus dwells in the womb). The character “un” means “carry.” The distinction is then explained as follows: shukumei is what you receive when you dwell in your mother’s womb, unmei is literally “to carry your life,” to live and in so doing effect changes in what will become of you (always, of course, within the bounds of your pre-determined shukumei).
Applying this distinction to the monologues (and trust me when I tell you I’m not nearly convinced it’s a proper thing to do), we can note that Maetel talks of her never-ending voyage as her unmei [01, 06], thus implying that she has to some extent chosen and that she can envision other destinies for herself. However, the return to the homeland is fated, it is shukumei and there’s nothing she can do about it. Perhaps there is some mysterious LaMetalian tenet (religious and/or philosophical) at work here. Alternatively, she is really trying to convince herself that she had to return, that she had no choice, and denying the possibility that she simply longs for her mother and is choosing to go back.
The third monologue talks of warriors confronting (or standing up against, or fighting) their unmei. I guess here shukumei would be inapt, or at the least, very silly. One cannot do anything about one’s shukumei.
I like the fifth monologue very much. She denies X, then affirms a certain definition which when examined turns out to be impossible, therefore X is denied again. A ring forms a circle, and circles do not have starting points.
Anyways, I’ll be sure to comment on these monologues in this post series from now on 🙂
P.S. According to some accounts, Leiji cast Ikeda for Maetel’s role when he heard her play Marianne in his favorite film of all time.
P.P.S. A recent comment from 2ch: “Satsuki Yukino keeps so close to Masako Ikeda’s image of Maetel that it’s like she’s possessed by her.”
P.P.P.S. The last comment is from a thread titled: “Galaxy Express 999‘s Maetel is a woman who journeys through the currents of eternal time doing such things as turning multiple young boys into machine parts and annihilating entire planets when she gets angry but she’s cute.” This is officially the coolest thread name I’ve ever seen~