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Adieu Galaxy Express 999 DVD Review

9 min read

Tetsuro is drawn back to the Galaxy Express when the Mechanized empire rises again.

What They Say:
Tetsuro Hoshino was once a boy willing to give anything to board the Three-Nine, including a promise to accompany a mysterious woman named Maetel to the other side of the Galaxy, if only to fulfill a vow to avenge the cruel death of his mother at the hands of the villainess Count Mecha.

Now, two years after the events of Galaxy Express 999, Earth has become a battlefield, and Tetsuro is summoned to board the Three-Nine once more. All questions will be answered and all mysteries revealed as Tetsuro embarks on a journey the destination of which is unknown even to the Galaxy Express Railways locomotive C6248 itself… a journey which will reveal a secret so awful, even Maetel herself can hardly bear speak of it.

The Review:
The audio presentation for this release is quite good considering the age of the materials and how they’re handled. While we do get the English language dub that was done some time ago in its original stereo mix form, we also get the more recent Japanese 5.1 mix encoded at 448kbps. The feature is one that doesn’t really have a whole lot of use for the rear channels, but they found some creative places to throw sound effects to there and to build up the overall ambiance of the feature with incidental music and sound effects. Most 5.1 mixes off of features this old tend to not add much or come across as forced, but there’s a lot to like here with the mix. But it’s even more than just how it uses it, the sound quality is very strong here with crisp, clean dialogue and music and no hissing, scratching or problems otherwise with it. It comes across as a very pleasing mix overall and allows the thirty year plus track sound almost brand new.

Originally released back in 1981, this movie is starting to show some of its age. The main problem people are going to come into it with is that it was originally done in 4:3 mode, but for the DVD release it’s cropped at 1.78:1. We’ve heard that the Japanese version is exactly the same and that this is Matsumoto’s preferred vision of it. With this anamorphic transfer, we get a really great looking disc overall. The show runs just over two hours and has a small amount of minor nicks and scratches throughout. For the most part with this movie, it’s smooth sailing with great looking colors and mostly solid backgrounds. There’s some grain throughout, but it’s pretty minimal and doesn’t effect the viewing. This is a solid presentation when you take in all the factors.

The packaging for this release is a standard DVD keepcase and it has a very dark look to it that works very well. Unlike the first movie, the Galaxy Express 999 does get shown on the cover here, but it’s pretty small overall as most of the focus is given over to Maetel herself taking up a lot of it. She looks great here with a closer look at her compared to the small shot on the first one and it has a wonderful ethereal feeling to it. The back cover is all black and definitely text heavy. The top has a wonderful full length cast shot of the main people to be aware of in the feature and it’s followed up with three paragraphs about the film and its origins. We do get more cast information in prominent font size than most other studios do and it’s followed up by some good shots from the film itself. Add in a clear listing of the discs extras and a solid technical grid that only gets the audio formats right by saying both are in stereo with no mention of the Japanese 5.1 track, and there’s a lot to like here. No show related inserts are included nor is there a reversible cover.

The menu design for this release avoids the what they did with the first release by going with different artwork for the static screen. Instead of a reworking of the front cover, we get a good, full look at the train itself as it glides across the stars. It’s a bright and vibrant piece while sticking to simple colors. It’s a simple approach but one that sets the mood well with the music that’s associated with it. Like the first, it has an upbeat and engaging feeling that has you ready for the journey it wants to take you on. The navigation is simple and cutely done with the 999 logo itself used as a button for each of the main selections on the main menu. Submenus load quickly and setting up the feature to play is a breeze. The disc correctly read our players’ language presets and we had no problems in navigating the disc.

The extras for this release are pretty minimal, but there’s not much I had really hoped for since most of the extras I had seen before were of Korean origin and were definitely interesting but hard to license. What we get here is a two minute image gallery that shows off some good, clean images from the feature as well as a trailer for this feature and its sequel.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
After the success of the first movie, which worked off of material from the TV series and the manga, a new feature was commissioned that dealt with all new material. It brings us back to the cast we knew, at least those that survived, and moved to the next level with it. The first movie was one that was a whole lot of fun, in its abbreviated form with what it wanted to do as it barreled through Tetsuro experiencing different things before being faced with the ultimate choice. We got to know the characters and see how they coped with various situations while it seemed like humanity was on a downward spiral. That film ended pretty conclusively for Tetsuro in a way, and it was made clear that he should never, ever see the Galaxy Express 999 ever again.

This feature moves us forward three years in time and Tetsuro is a pretty good fighter in the resistance that’s working on Earth, though it’s hard to say any real progress is being made since it all looks like a ruined piece of hell. The experiences on his journey with the 999 have definitely colored him, but it’s a hard fight he still has as the Machine Empire hasn’t lost any of its power even after the defeat of the Queen and the utter destruction of Planet Maetel. In fact, the Machine Empire seems even stronger now, but it’s hard to tell from his vantage point how widespread that is since he’s focused solely on the events on Earth itself with his small band of rabble. What sets into motion everything through is the arrival of a message, seemingly from Maetel, telling him to get on the 999 as it has returned to Earth at long last and that he should seek her out.

The journey that Tetsuro goes on this time is a little less busy in a way, but giving more time to the two worlds he visits doesn’t help to smooth things out either. When he gets on the 999, he’s surprised to learn that Maetel isn’t on it, and he doesn’t meet up with her until the end of his journey to the first planet on the agenda, La Metal. It’s here that he finds a world that turns out to be the birth place of the former Queen and Maetel herself, as we see them in a more human form compared to what the Queen was like before. The world is in ruins, but there are people there fighting against the Machine Empire as well. Maetel, for her part when Tetsuro catches up with her, tries to dissuade him from going any further, putting into doubt her own role in getting him off of Earth.

With the learning lesson that Tetsuro gets about what the Machine Empire is up to, he’s all the more intent on getting to Great Andromeda, which is now serving as the home of the Empire where Maetel is supposedly the new Queen. It’s a more complicated situation than that, and before he knows it, he ends up in the resistance there which has its share of sacrifice and horrors as well. Mixing into the larger storyline about dealing with the Empire is a more personal story with the new waitress on the 999 named Metalmena, a Mechanized being who has little interest in what humanity itself has to offer. She’s used to prove certain points along the way, and to show the horror when certain discoveries are made that she took for granted aren’t what they seem. It’s a nice way of tying things together, but Metalmena isn’t the easiest character to connect with because of her lack of humanity and her distaste for the things people have to do to survive.

The feature does again try to go big with events as it deals with an even strong Machine Empire than before, and it does come down to Tetsuro and his Warrior’s Weapon in hand to try and deal with it. The added edge of it involving Maetel more directly is interesting, but never fully realized. Tetsuro’s journey isn’t as interesting either and in some ways is a retread as they rewrite his past with his mother in a less than interesting way. It also works to bring back Harlock and Emeraldas again, but they’re even more poorly used this time around than before since they’re here less and just come to support events without any firm reason for really being there at that time. It does help to heighten the importance of what’s going on with their presence, but without the connection between Tetsuro and Tochiro here, they’re very unnecessary in the film outside of just bringing in more known and famous characters.

In Summary:
The world of Galaxy Express 999 is one that I like a lot and getting to check out the second theatrical feature, based on original material no less, was definitely something that I looked forward to. Unfortunately, a lot of it feels like they tried to recapture what they did in the first by repeating it, and removing a few pieces of it, while also removing a lot of the heart of it as well since Tetsuro is a known quantity now. With it being three years later, he’s not all that different either, but it serves as his final journey from being a boy to becoming a man. There’s a lot to like here as it deals with Tetsuro’s journey though and the people he encounters and how he deals with it all. Particularly those on board the 999, such as Metalmena and the conductor, who have bigger roles here and are definitely interesting. While I have issues with the movie overall, it’s a fun chapter in the overall universe and just makes me want the TV series all the more.

Japanese 5.1 Language, English 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Image Gallery, Trailers

Content Grade: B
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: B+
Packaging Grade: B
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: C

Released By: Discotek Media
Release Date: June 28th, 2011
MSRP: $19.95
Running Time: 135 Minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen

Review Equipment:
Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70″ LCoS 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.

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