Written by: Michael Den Boer on July 10th, 2011
Theatrical Release Date: Japan, 1979
Director: Rintaro (Shigeyuki Hayashi)
Writers: Kon Ichikawa, Shiro Ishimori, Trish Ledoux, Leiji Matsumoto
Cast: Masako Nozawa, Masako Ikeda, Yôko Asagami, Miyoko Asô, Toshiko Fujita, Banjô Ginga, Yasuo Hisamatsu, Makio Inoue, Tatsuya Jô, Ryôko Kinomiya, Kaneta Kimotsuki, Gorô Naya, Noriko Ohara, Ryûji Saikachi, Hidekatsu Shibata, Reiko Tajima, Kei Tomiyama, Kôji Totani, Akiko Tsuboi
DVD released: June 28th, 2010
Approximate running time: 125 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Sound: Dolby Digital Stereo Japanese, Dolby Digital Stereo English
DVD Release: Eastern Star / Discotek
Region Coding: Region 1 NTSC
Retail Price: $19.95
Galaxy Express 999 was directed by Rintaro, who’s other notable film’s as a director include Adieu Galaxy Express 999 and Metropolis. The screenplay for Galaxy Express 999 was adapted from a Manga that was written and drawn by Leiji Matsumoto (Space Battleship Yamato). There was a T.V. series that also was adapted from the same Manga and it consists of 113 episodes and 4 specials. Also the T.V. series is a more faithful and expansive adaptation, while the feature film adaptation condenses Tetsuro’s journey considerably. When Galaxy Express 999 was released theatrically in North America by Roger Corman many characters names where change and the film’s length was trimmed by about thirty minutes. In 1996 a new English dub was created by Viz Media and this more faithful dub is the one used for the Eastern Star DVD release. Since the release of Galaxy Express 999, there have been further feature film and television adaptations including the aforementioned Adieu Galaxy Express 999.
Content wise this film is equal parts coming of age story and an allegory tale the loss of humanity in a mechanized world. This film’s narrative is told from the perspective of its protagonist Tetsuro, who’s mother was murdered by mechanical man named Count Mecha. Though this event sets in motion the story at hand, it is one piece of a much larger puzzle. Along the way Tetsuro befriends a mysterious woman named Maetel, who is a dead ringer for his deceased mother. Without giving away to much about her motivations for helping him, let’s just say that she is basically his guide on this magical mystery tour. Besides Maetel and Count Mecha, there a wide array of colorful characters like a bumbling train conductor and pirates. Also all of these characters are portrayed as purely good or evil, there are no grey areas with these characters.
At just over two hours things move along briskly enough that there are no moments where things drag. Every character in this film, even the more minuet ones have been sufficiently flesh out, making them and the overall flow of the narrative all the more engaging. Another area in which this film often excels is the way in which it subtly introduces subtext into the larger story at hand.
Being that this is a film that is not rooted in reality, it should not come as a surprise that the film’s visuals don’t waist a single frame when it comes to exploiting the wondrous vistas on display throughout. With one of the more memorable moments being a scene where Tetsuro and Maetel visit the planet Pluto, which has become the graveyard for the bodies of those who’s mind’s have been transported to mechanical bodies. And while the visuals do play a large part in why this film hold’s up as well as it does. Without a doubt this film’s greatest asset is the relationship between Tetsuro and Maetel.
Eastern Star presents Galaxy Express 999 in a 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. The image never looks cramped, colors look nicely saturated, flesh tones look accurate, black and contrast levels look consistently good and details look crisp throughout. There are no problems with compression and edge enhancement is minimal.
This release comes with two audio options, a Dolby Digital Stereo mix in Japanese and a Dolby Digital Stereo mix in English. Both audio mixes sound clean, clear and balanced throughout. Also included with this release are removable English subtitles that are easy to follow and error free. And when watching the film via its English dubbed audio track, there is a second English subtitle option that translates all the Japanese text which appears on screen.
Extras for this release include a image gallery and trailers for Galaxy Express 999 (2 minutes 56 seconds – anamorphic widescreen, in Japanese with English subtitles) and Adieu Galaxy Express 999 (3 minutes 1 second – anamorphic widescreen, in Japanese with English subtitles). Overall Galaxy Express 999 gets a strong audio / video presentation from Eastern Star.