Space Symphony Maetel 11: The Soil and the Sun

Maetel’s opening words this time around are the same we heard back in episode 03: “I am Maetel.  I will not forget the indomitable warriors who confront their own destinies and fight.”

As a commenter suggested in an earlier post, and in complete contrast to my own speculations on the man, Leopard reveals to Burnbarrel that he’s been ill at ease as a political ruler these past few months and now feels very much relieved to be out in space fighting Promethium’s balls [she has lots of them, and they’re rather powerful!].

The Commander rouses his men with a nice little speech, and the culminating phrase is subtitled by Live-eviL as follows: “The future of humankind depends on this battle.”  It’s a wonderful little translation, which seems to deliberately echo the famous line by Admiral Togo during the 1904-5 Russo-Japanese War, just before the Battle of Tsushima.  Here are three translations of Togo’s line from the first page of a Google search:

“The Empire’s fate depends on the result of this battle.”

“The existence of the Empire depends on this battle.”

“The Empire’s fate depends on the outcome of this battle.”

Admiral Yamamoto paraphrased the line at the start of the Pearl Harbor strike, and I think that the subtitle readers with good knowledge of Japanese history will not fail to make the connection.  But Live-eviL‘s rendering is not at all passive where this connection is concerned.  In fact, the Japanese in both lines is very different, even accounting for the obvious stylistic differences in two lines set apart by a hundred years.  Togo’s original line was “Kôkoku no kôhai kono issen ni ari” or, “The prosperity or decline (i,.e. the future welfare, thus the fate) of the Empire lies in this one battle.”  Leopard’s words are: “Warera ningen no mirai o kimeru tatakai da” or, “This battle decides the future of us humans.”  There are just too many differences in nuance to really associate the two closely, though I guess I’d have to quiz a Japanese person on whether s/he made a connection or not.  But the English subtitles encourage if not actually create this connection, and of course we could spend a lot of time debating what to make of the History of LaMetal in the light of Imperial Japan.  I’ll leave that to you though 🙂

The great Togo.

Next we learn that the 999 which got in trouble and was boarded by Emeraldas was in fact a fake.  Leiji Matsumoto is rather prone to using fakes: fake 999, fake Harlock, even fake Emeraldas.  It’s definitely one of those quirks of sensei that will turn off some people.  I guess it’s easier for fans to accept them because they know (or at least, believe!) that Matsumoto is not desperately resorting to gimmicks to wrap up a story (like the “fake” is often used), but actively using these techniques..simply because he fancies them.

The Space Panzers run into trouble against Promethium’s balls, and a mercenary force from Heavy Melder comes to the rescue (not very effectively, as it turns out).  Once again we get this motif of Man vs Machine that’s so starkly and yet ambivalently posed in the Leijiverse.  The Heavy Melder guys say they’re helping out because the LaMetalians are humans and fighting machines, and frankly, there doesn’t seem to be any other explanation for their actions.

It’s crazy, though, when you think about it!!  The LaMetalians have come rushing in from god knows where into the Euphrates System, bringing a freaking planet along with them.  Heavy Melder accepts to take them in as a moon.  It sounds rather altruistic for a commercially-minded planet but whatever.  Now it turns out that the LaMetalians have brought in an enemy, a great and evil mechanical fleet, and not only does Heavy Melder not kick them out from the neighborhood but it actually offers to help them!?  Wow.  The bonds of humanity are super-strong, and yet…not that long ago we had a whole episode devoted to the message that mechanized people were quite human too, and there should be amity between the two.  Hmmm…

There’s also the very interesting conversation between two mechanized soldiers in Promethium’s fleet during this battle.  One of them insists on retreating, scared we imagine by the appearance of the mercenaries as well as Harlock and crew, but the second one insists on punishing the LaMetalians for having ruined their wonderful mechanized existence.  Hold on, we immediately want to scream out.  Aren’t these mechanized soldiers LaMetalians too??  Aren’t they in their own mind the best that LaMetal has to offer even?  Then why have they already surrendered the title of LaMetal?!  It’s almost as if Matsumoto wants us to believe that in renouncing their flesh they have somehow surrendered all ties to everything and anything that is not mechanical (even the name of their own people) for the sake of their leader Promethium (and I guess I can add here, ultimately for the sake of the Darqueen).

In sharp contrast, the New LaMetalians are literally new.  From the very beginning of Space Symphony Maetel, we have been fed a very sympathetic of the remaining flesh-and-blood LaMetalians on the planet.  My sense is that the classic LaMetalians (e.g. Millennial Queen) are mostly rather arrogant.  But we really end up wondering whether, when Promethium began mechanizing the citizenry, she somehow managed to split the good, positive elements from the bad, negative ones in the LaMetalian character and fill her mechanized people with the bad while leaving the flesh-and-blood ones with only the good.

Another way to look at things, I guess a more satisfying way, is to bring in the concept of socio-economic classes into the mix.  Perhaps most of the mechanized LaMetalians used to belong to a corrupt upper class, whereas the flesh-and-blood ones were the poorer, more honest (if somewhat boorish and uncouth) citizens.  I must admit though, this analysis flies in the face of everything we know about Promethium’s project.  She was very democratic in her implementation of mechanization.  Even more, I feel as if the first people to get mechanized were precisely the lower classes.  But if this is the case, then what are we to make of Space Symphony Maetel and the LaMetalians there??  Watch the spring picnic scene in this episode, and compare it to the LaMetalian spring depicted at the beginning of Millennial Queen.  If you can explain to me how and why that change in the LaMetalian people took place I’d much appreciate it!!

The climax of the episode has got to be Commander Leopard’s death scene.  In true Matsumoto fashion, this death had been foreshadowed earlier, Harlock and Leopard himself both showing signs that they knew it was coming.  I wrote about this unreal idealism on my last post so I won’t rehash the topic again here…  I call it “unreal” but I should note that one reads plenty of stories of soldiers who go into combat one day and say or do something that others, later on when the man gets killed, interpret as revealing some sort of intuition of impending death.  I just read one such account earlier this month.

Call me weird, but the very last bit of Leopard’s death experience reminds me of Danga’s death in OZMA.  They’re mirror opposites of each other, don’t you agree?  Or am I really that insane 😀  But if I’m insane then let me go all the way.  During that last battle which, indirectly by way of a wounded mechanized soldier, deprives Leopard of his life, Burnbarrel loses (we can presume) his right eye.  The incident piratifies (my coinage LOL) Burnbarrel, right at the very moment that he is set to take over Leopard’s mantle.  Now, Leopard was a quintessential anti-pirate, though he seemed to realize his dependence on the pirates (Harlock and co.) at the very end.  Burnbarrel’s wound is thus not at all accidental, but maybe signifies that the New LaMetal, if it is to survive against Promethium, must abandon its imperial past and go down the pirate road 🙂

I really like the way this episode ended BTW.  It was touching.

~ by Haloed Bane on July 29, 2012.

27 Responses to “Space Symphony Maetel 11: The Soil and the Sun”

  1. I have been through the entirety of Galaxy Express 999, and if anything comes through from that show, it is that Matsumoto explicitly condemns the cyborg concept. For Matsumoto, the loss of the human body results in the loss of one’s humanity, and with that, the ability to make valid ethical judgments. Throughout the course of Galaxy Express 999, each person who has become a cyborg is either evil or else regrets it bitterly. I think Matsumotos’s point, as I recall he expresses it in the last episode of Galaxy Express 999, is that to become a cyborg also means to means to lose one’s mortality, and to lose one’s mortality results in the loss of that energy and vigor that comes from knowing that our time is short.

    It therefore does not surprise me that the humans would get together to oppose the cyborgs. I think that what we are really seeing in Space Symphony Maetel is the transition point in the realization by people that there are problems with the cyborg project, even though it was originally undertaken for a valid reason, due to the freezing of the planet. In other words, even survival can be purchased at too dear a price.

    So I think this series is really a transition point for the next stage in Matsumoto’s epic, which is Galaxy Express 999.

    • Agreed, though note that Leiji every so often presents us with the possibility of long-term mechanized-human cooperation. If you tally all of the mechanized characters that show up, most of them are quite depraved, absolutely, but there are quite a few good ones as well. I guess maybe they’ll all turn evil soon enough.

      • In Galaxy Express 999 there are some decent cyborg characters, but these are all the ones who are very regretful of having done it in the first place.

  2. It doesn’t matter then which class you come from, or what type of person you were to begin with. The problem is with the process of becoming a cyborg itself. I think Matsumoto is correct.

    • Right, but how come the flesh-and-blood LaMetalians, the ones who did not mechanize, are so outrageously different in this series when compared to older series like Millennial? This is what I don’t get. The LaMetalians were supposed to be a delicate, aristocratic race. For some reason SSM presents them like a rough, working-class kind of people.

      • In the QM TV series there are the “elite” Lar Metalians (living in their high castles, and reproducing by cloning, according to Selen) and their human slaves (naturally born) who are certainly portrayed as more working class (they get all the dangerous, dirty, manual jobs, that’s for sure – salt-of-the-earth types in the flashbacks to Selen’s time with them)… it doesn’t seem too much of a stretch that some of this distinction survives 1000 years later, allowing for the discontinuities in the canon? Perhaps it’s these people – more fiercely independent and resitant to mechanisation, who’ve held out against the process the longest? (This seemed to be implied by the final push towards mechanising we see at the start of SSM, anyway. It did look as if only the slums were left unmechanised…)

        A few of the elite seem to have held out (Leopard for one – rather like Selen rebelling before him…) but a decadent, hedonistic elite would be first with their noses in the trough for immortality, surely?

        • Well, the manga has the slaves too, but I didn’t think of them since they were not of LaMetalian blood. What you say makes sense though. Maybe they are actually Earthlings. That would actually explain why they’re so down to Earth.

          It’s also possible that the elite died out en masse when the planet got colder and colder..

  3. In Maetel Legend, most of the population of La Metalle seems to be presented as largely working class. In an early scene, Queen Promethium gives the order that everyone on the planet is to be made into a cyborg. I did not see anything in Maetel Legend that would indicate that anyone in the population escaped, except for Maetel and Emeraldas. But I do not think it does much good to expect everything in Matsumoto’s work to be completely consistent. The day would fail if we listed all the discrepancies.

    What I really wish someone would do would be to do a fansub of Queen Millennia. Someone started a fansub about 12 years ago but they only seem to have gotten up to episode 4.

    • Live-evil are up to Episode 12 at last count. Not getting anywhere fast – which is surprising given it’s one of the easiest shows I’ve ever watched raw in terms of dialogue! (For all I adore Harlock, it’s the QM TV series that’s my all-time favourite… the artwork and direction are just superb! I don’t think it strikes a duff note in 41 episodes (excluding the recap ep…))

      • Thanks for the tip. It is my understanding that a new company is about to issue the Galaxy Express 999 anime in its entirety in a few months and someone is also supposed to be issuing Space Pirate Captain Harlock. Maybe they can also be induced to do Queen Millennia.

        • Sooo tempting to double dip on Harlock if only to try and get my other half to finally watch it – the Corn Pone subs I have are dreadful video quality, and Live-evil’s mkv files can rarely be coaxed to play on my laptop – and not at all via my Western Digital TV to hard-drive interface thingy…! But then, he still insists he won’t watch ANYTHING with “potato people” in it, so probably not worth springing for it. (Though if Toei clean up the appalling technical glitches in certain episodes – “Long Journey from Afar” I’m looing at YOU…) for the Blu Ray release that’s bound to happen eventually, all bets are off!!)

          If there’s a market for the old time stuff in the making, I have a wish list as long as my arm to replace my raws or (cough) somewhat less than official (or adequate!) subs: Legend of the Galactic Heroes, The Mazinger trilogy, Getter Robo/G, Taiyo no Kiba Dougram, Marine Snow no Densetsu, Arei no Kagami, St Elmo; Bryger, Baxinger & Sasuraiger…) Ahem. Someone get me back on -topic here!

          • Potato people prejudice is an ugly thing, almost as ugly as potato people. Maybe you should have him watch Interstella, gently introduce him to potato people.

            • He’s not likely to go for Daft Punk, being something of a metal head! (Not my taste normally either, but hell, it’s Matsumoto!)

              Can’t get him into super robots either, natch. Though I have caught him hovering whilst I’m re-watching Shin Mazinger this week… this might be fascinated horror however since on both occasions the narrator was chewing up the scenery… [snigger]

              I’m hoping he’ll be won over by Legend of the Galactic Heroes, Cobra, Dougram or Votoms… any of those would appeal if he can be persuaded to watch subtitles! (There’s Ghost in the Shell but… he’d want to watch it dubbed, and even though it’s one of the better dubs it’s still painfully stilted! Plus it’s the show that started to reduce my antipathy towards Koichi Yamadera… Still waiting however for something to give me a higher opinion of Eiji Takemoto (Young Harlock) who quite frankly drives me to the dub and the delightfully snarky tones of Steve “David Lucas” Blum for CWZ and Gun Frontier every time…!)

              • Hmm, personally I’ve given up. If your significant other is not into anime or potato people, that’s fine. I bet you there’s tons of things your significant other is into that leave you cold so…

                Live and let live 🙂

                • Given that all he’s watched so far in the last 24 years is Wicked City and Ninja Scroll… (both of which he loved!) I’m probably wasting my time getting him into old-school (and I can’t stand most modern anime that isn’t old-school related, sooo…)

                  It’s just I *know* he’d love Harlock if he’d give it a try! You’d think Acadia of my Youth would be a winner, but one sight of Tochiro and he runs for the door…!

                  …His reaction to Danbei (and his variants) in Nagai Go anime can therefore be imagined…! 😉

                  • You might need to investigate more deeply into this. I’m willing to bet that he has some sort of potato-related trauma in his past. Hypnosis might be a first step.

          • If he does not like potato people, then he will probably have to give up on Matsumoto altogether. I can’t think of a single one of his anime that does not have potato people. In Matsumoto, you are either a potato person, you look like Harlock or you look like Maetel.

            Anime News Network reported on April 2, 2012 that Discotek will be publishing Space Pirate Captain Harlock. Dicotek’s own website states that it will be “coming soon” in one box set.

            According to Amazon.com, the first box set of Galaxy Express 999 is supposed to come out on October 2.

            • Surely there must be at least one anime without potato people, no? No? Gah, I can’t think of any…

              • Ozuma’s fairly potato-free… There are some odd-looking characters, but no obviously deformed midgets spring to mind. Although I’d not wish Sam on a neophyte! 😉

                Now if someone would animate V2 Panzer… apart from Gen (who’s not THAT deformed by Matsumoto standards…) the odder looking characters are justified as being alien or cyborg, and I don’t recall too many Masu clones or Yukino-san type old men with glasses halfway down their faces!

                Danguard Ace lacks the obviously deformed potato-folk, but it practically blows *any* chance of persuading someone that Matsumoto shows are awesome right out of the water with the screwball elelemnts it DOES have: A midget scientist, an Oidon clone, a Dr Sado look-alike, the most annoying looking (and sounding!) comic-relief robot in anime history, a pet pocket monkey, and a 5 year old brat who makes Revi-chan almost bearable… (Thank the gods for Captain Dan…!)

                Hmmm… Starzinger isn’t overburdened either – but then it’s even more cartoonish than Danguard in style, aimed at a much younger age group – and then there’s Kugo… [shudders]…

                • Any show with a character more annoying than Revi-chan is a show one would not wish to introduce the Leijiverse with.

                  You’re right about Ozma, no hard-core potatos there huh. Still, I agree with you, the absolute best intro IMHO is Arcadia of my Youth.

  4. I guess it is hard to look delicate and aristocratic when you are freezing and starving to death as the population was in Maetel Legend!

  5. [quote]Any show with a character more annoying than Revi-chan is a show one would not wish to introduce the Leijiverse with.[quote]

    That’s it! THAT’s why Harlock’s so grumpy towards Maetel in SSM – if (as has been previously discussed) our heroes are now fully aware of what the future holds for them, Harlock knows that whilst Maetel’s proteges include such luminaries as Nasca and Tetsuro, all *he* has to look forward to are an annoying 5 year old brat and Tadashi Daiba… (and he’s already stuck with I’m-too-busy-Yattaran…)

    Hell, I’d be looking as if I were sucking lemons as well with that fate in store…! 😉 (I doubt even the hyper-competant Kei makes up for putting up with Daiba. Hellfire, I’m not sure ANYTHING makes up for having to put up with Daiba…no wonder he’s always drinking… 😉 )

    • You and I are on the same page on Daiba, but I must warn you, Daiba does have his defenders..and they might be provoked by your comments 🙂

    • Yattaran can at least pull of cool stuff every once in a while with his models.

      • One of the ret-cons I like from SSM is the way we see WHY he’s always got a model on the go – Tochiro’s little “work on a model it’ll calm you down” comment when he gets a little freaked…! Awwww… Yep, working for Harlock, obviously there’s a lot of stress going around… 😉

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