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Galaxy Railways Complete Collection Anime DVD Review

16 min read

Leiji Matsumoto returns with this fantastic look at The Galactic Railway system and the people who defend it.

What They Say
In the future, mankind will venture to the far reaches of the cosmos using technologically advanced trains, perhaps the least likely method of intergalactic travel. The fleet of Galaxy Railways transports countless galactic citizens from one exotic planet to the next, protected by the SDF, the elite force protecting the Railways Fleet against terrorists, meteor storms and malicious alien life.

These are the stories of those that travel the Galaxy Railways system and the people that are sworn to protect it. No one knows these stories better than Layla Destiny Shura, the leader of the system with the uncanny ability to see the fates of all those who travel on the Galaxy Railways.

The Review:
For this view session, I primarily listened to the English 5.1 audio track. An English 2.0 track and a Japanese 2.0 track are also offered on each disc. Interestingly, the English 2.0 track seems to be the default setting for all but the second disc, which defaulted to the 5.1 track. The sound was mostly clear throughout, with some decent directionality on sound effects, though the dialogue stayed on the center track. The only issue with the sound was that sometimes during dramatic moments, the music tended to drown out dialogue on all the tracks, though on the 5.1 track this was fixable by turning the center channel up.

This series is given in its original 1.78:1 aspect ratio and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. Since this show originally aired in 2003, we have a really nice transfer, with only a few minor instances of pixelization that would probably be missed if not looking for them. The colors are bright and vibrant, with very nicely done visuals, especially of star systems and galaxies. Of course, since this is Leiji Matsumoto, the character designs are also very well done in his trademark style. A very pretty looking anime.

The Galaxy Railways Collection has a very well put together package, with one very minor annoyance. The box itself is a wrap-around with a glossy preprint covering each side. Around the box is a small card wrap to help keep it closed. The front image of the card combines with the outside edge to shows Manabu and Louis in front of three trains with the show’s logo on each side. The spine side has Captain Bulge and Yuki set in front of Big One. The back of the card has the logo with a summary of the series.

When closed, the spine and front of the box combine to form an image of Manabu and Louis looking determined, and the various trains flying overlaying a picture of the Supreme Commander. The top of the box features David with a train in the background, the bottom shows Yuki with Big One, and the outside edge has headshots of Wataru, Mamoru, and Manabu saluting. All of these images are set to a shot of space that wraps around each of the sides. The series logo is displayed on each side as well. The back of the box also has an image of the Supreme Commander, along with series credits and some of the technical details, but it is all set to a solid black background.

One the box is open, the bottom of the outside of the box has an image of the Iron Burgher in action, while the top shows the Flame Swallow. The outside edge shows the mechanics saluting Big One as it takes off. The interior of the box has an image of The Iron Burgher and The Flame Swallow flying past some planets with the Supreme Commander watching over them stretching across the entirety of the inside of the box, from the front across the spine to the back.

The six discs the box holds are the original releases in their original packaging. This is where the minor annoyance comes in: each disc is individually wrapped and stickered as if it is still an individual release. So besides getting the box open, each disc needs to be unwrapped too. Not a big deal, but a little frustrating.

The covers of the discs are reversible, with the reverse image viewable through the clear case when opened. On the standard covers, the front sides of each disc are dominated by an image with the logo, volume number, and volume title listed at the bottom. The spines also have the volume number, logo, and volume title, but also have a small head shot of one of the characters at the bottom, and the backs have an image along the top, with the logo, title, and number right underneath, followed by the disc summary, screen shots, and technical information (including episode numbers and titles) at the bottom. The back shot of all the sides is an image of space. There are no inserts for the discs, though each comes with a brochure advertisement for other Funimation products.

The front of Disc One has a picture of the entire Sirius Platoon, with Manabu featured predominantly in the middle of the foreground. The spines features Wataru, and the back has a shot of the take off ramp on Manabu’s home world. The second disc has Yuki standing in front of the 809 train, with Louis on the spine, and The Iron Burgher and The Flame Swallow running side-by-side on the back. Disc Three has Manabu covering most of the front, with smaller shots of a train and Louis in front of him. Captain Bulge is shown on the spine, and a picture of the 777 train flying over a planet is on the back. Disc Four has a group portrait of the Vega Platoon with The Iron Burgher behind them on the front, Bruce on the spine, and The Iron Burgher and The Flame Swallow trains flying over Destiny City on the back. The fifth disc has a shot of Manabu and Bruce aiming their guns in front of a train on the front, Yuki on the side, and three trains getting prepared for battle. The front of the final disc has a nice shot of Manabu reaching out for Louis while the Supreme Commander observes in the background. Manabu occupies the spine slot, and a shot from the bridge of the Alfort Command ship looking down at Planet Destiny appears on the back.

The reverse covers are less complicated having one image that wraps around the entire box, with the logo, volume number, and title on the backside of the disc. The first disc has an image of Big One, with Wataru on the far right standing behind it and saluting. Disc Two has the 620 train, with Louis in her space outfit on the right. Disc Three also has a train, this time With Captain Bulge standing in front. The fourth disc has Bruce and David posing in front of another train. The fifth disc once again features Big One, this time with Bulge and Yuki standing behind it. The final disc has Manabu standing in front of a train and holding his gun.

Each disc again shows the logo, volume number, and title along the bottom, with a picture of one of the characters making up most of the background. Disc One features Manabu, Disc Two has Yuki, Disc Three has Louis, Disc Four has Murase, Disc Five has Bruce, and the final disc shows the Supreme Commander.

The menus are fairly straight forward and easy to understand. Each menu has a picture of at least one character along with the selections. The selections on the main menus are Play All, Episodes, Audio, and Extras. The Episodes menu takes you to a submenu that allows you to choose and episode that then takes you to another menu where you can choose Play, Opening, Closing, or Preview, though the episodes are divided into more breaks then that. The Audio menu takes you to a submenu that gives you the option between English 5.1, English 2.0, and Japanese 2.0. The Extras button also takes you to a menu where you can select what Extra you want to watch. The buttons stand out well from the background, as like everything else in the presentation, there is a space theme to the images, and the buttons are in a nice contrasting yellow. Nice menus.

Since this box comes with the full, individual releases, we also get all of the extras that came with the original releases, and there are some really nice things here, especially on the first disc. Each disc comes with the standard textless opening and closing credits and Funimation trailers. Discs Two through Six also come with a bonus episode of the somewhat amusing Funimation series Mr. Stain on Junk Alley (which appears to now be out of print). Also included are:

Disc One: First we have a nice interview with Leiji Matsumoto where he discusses the creation of this story, its place in his universe, and the relation of Manabu to Kei from Captain Harlock. We also get video footage of the Japanese voice recording session for the second half of episode two, the press conference where Matsumoto announced the creation of The Galaxy Railways, and profiles of some of the principle characters.

Disc Two: This disc gives us character profiles of the rest of the main characters, along with English commentary from Mike McFarland (ADR Director and voice of Bruce J. Speed), Chris Patton (Manabu Yuuki), and Luci Christian (Louis Fort Drake) for Episode Six.

Disc Three: Here we again get video of a Japanese voice recording session, this time from the first half of Episode Twelve.

Disc Four: We get English commentary from Chris Kason (Director) and John Gremillion (Captain Bulge) on Episode Eighteen.

Disc Five: There are no additional extras on this disc.

Disc Six: For the final installment, we get another English commentary, this time from Mike McFarland (ADR Director, voice of Bruce J. Speed), Markus Lloyd (David), and Laura Bailey (Supreme Commander Layla and Shula) on the final episode.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
With The Galaxy Railways, Leiji Matsumoto revisits the same universe he portrays in all of his works. The Galaxy Railways is a network of flying trains and lines that connect all of the planets in the galaxy. Manabu Yuuki has always dreamed of joining the Space Defense Force (SDF), the specialized security network of The Galaxy Railways. The fact that Manabu’s father, Wataru, and brother, Mamoru, gave their lives in service to The Galaxy Railways has done nothing to deter him in his dream. If anything it has made him more determined to do his job well and succeed where others might fail.

When children, Mamoru and Manabu sneak aboard Big One, an SDF fighter train captained by their father, in an effort to say goodbye to him before he leaves on a mission to rescue a passenger train incapacitated by asteroid collision. When a mysterious, and seemingly invincible, battleship appears in a portal near the collision and opens fire on Big One, Wataru commands his crew and sons to abandon ship and gives his life to crash Big One into the battleship, ending the threat.

A few years later, Mamoru goes on to join the SDF and is ultimately given a position in the Space Panzer Grenadiers (SPG), the standing army of The Galaxy Railways. When Mamoru is killed in a battle with space pirates, Kanna Yuuki is determined not to let her only remaining son, Manabu, follow in the footsteps of his father and brother. Manabu, however, has different plans and signs up with the SDF behind his mother’s back. While initially angered, she quickly relents as she realizes that she would not be able to stop him, and Manabu leaves for Destiny Station, the central headquarters of The Galaxy Railways.

Manabu is given a commission with the Sirius Platoon, his father’s old group, on the rebuilt Big One under Captain Bulge, his father’s old first mate. With his placement, Manabu sets out to prove that he belongs in the SDF, and though he often disobeys orders to do what he thinks is right, he quickly gains a reputation throughout the military as a special soldier.

The majority of this series deals with the day-to-day trials that a platoon of the SDF has to go through. The SDF is in charge of making sure that The Galaxy Railways runs smoothly, and their jobs range from assisting a train that has broken down to diffusing terrorist hijacking and bombing situations. However, as the show progresses, we slowly learn of a plot by the Alfort Fleet, a band of invaders from another galaxy bent on destroying The Galaxy Railways. Ultimately, it is up to the SDF to stop these invaders.

What is interesting in this series is that despite all of the action going on throughout, the main focus really seems to be on the relationships developed between the different platoons and soldiers, especially where Manabu is concerned. Very quickly, we are shown what initially appears to be a mean-spirited rivalry amongst the platoons, especially where it concerns Vega Platoon, a group of brash, loud-mouthed, chauvinistic men who seem to consider themselves a cut above the rest. Vega Platoon is headed up by Captain Murase, who is just about as egotistical as they come, and his men follow suit. However, in the long run we are shown that while there may be rivalry amongst the different platoons, that rivalry is friendly in nature, and none of the groups ever forgets that everybody is on the same side. In fact, despite their lone wolf attitude, Vega Platoon tends to be the quickest group to volunteer to help out comrades that are in trouble. The friendly nature of the infighting between the platoons is natural in any military setting, and it really helps to drive home how close knit all aspects of the SDF really is.

Manabu’s relationships tend to be just as complex. When he joins up with Sirius Platoon, he is partnered up with Bruce J. Speed, the weapons expert on Big One. Bruce, however, wants nothing to do with Manabu. In the early days of his time with Sirius, Manabu refuses to use his gun, even going so far as to carry his father’s old gun that does not work anymore. Bruce seems to resent Manabu for this decision, as not only does it make Manabu seem reckless, but it also means that he cannot have Bruce’s back should they ever get into battle. For a long time after Manabu joins up, Bruce refuses to have anything positive to say to Manabu.

In time, however, Manabu proves his worth, and Bruce slowly begins to accept him. In fact, we learn that Bruce had accepted Manabu long before he ever let on, because Bruce considers himself cursed. Every partner he had before Manabu had been killed in the line of duty, and Bruce tried to get Manabu to quit so that Manabu would not share the same fate. When Bruce finally accepts that Manabu is not going to leave, he opens up and becomes Manabu’s best friend in the Sirius Platoon. When Bruce is killed in an act of revenge late in the series, it is all of the advice he had given to Manabu during their time as partners that gets Manabu through the conflict with the Alfort Fleet.

Yuki is a medical sexaroid assigned to the Sirius Platoon. A sexaroid is a female android. The name sexaroid implies a certain job function, though that never comes into play with Yuki as she is instead programmed to be the unit doctor. She considers herself expendable, an outsider, and it is no big deal if she dies because another sexaroid will be assigned to replace her. However, to the rest of the crew, she is one of their shipmates. She begins to see this for herself when, on numerous occasions, Manabu risks his own life to save hers. Initially she cannot understand why he would do something like that, but through his explanations, she begins to see the compassion that Manabu and the rest of the crew have for her. It is suggested that she begins to develop romantic feelings for Manabu, as his kindness touches her in ways she cannot comprehend, but she knows that there can never be anything between them. However, his actions show Yuki that even a robot can be respected and admired like a human.

Manabu also has a great deal of respect for Captain Bulge. Bulge had been the first officer for Manabu’s father, and he was the man that broke the news of Wataru’s death to the Yuuki family. The fact that he always seems to make the correct decisions and never gets too down on Manabu for following his feelings instead of sticking strictly to orders only increases Manabu’s respect for him. In many ways, Manabu looks up to Bulge as the father he has not had for many years, as many of Bulge’s traits reflect the attitude of Wataru, and it is not long before Manabu’s view is shared by the rest of the crew.

Another crew member joined up with Sirius Platoon at the same time as Manabu: Louis Fort Drake. Manabu meets Louis on the train from his home planet to Destiny Station. Louis is partnered up with David, the systems analyst for Big One, who gives her a much easier time of things than Bruce gives Manabu. However, more often than not, Louis spends her time with Manabu. At first, there is a playful, platonic friendship between the two, due in large part to Manabu’s youthful naivety. As the show progresses, though, a romantic tension begins to build between them, especially from the perspective of Louis. Manabu is usually too caught up in his duty to notice. Things between them go through some rocky stages as Louis grows impatient with his cluelessness, and it certainly never helps that Manabu is incessantly nice to everybody, including other cute girls.

However their relationship never sours to the point where they are openly fighting, and it never gets in the way of their job. Louis lets her feelings slip to the others when Manabu is invited to train with the SPG, with the idea that he would be invited to join and follow in his brother’s footsteps, a promotion that only the best of the best get. While the rest of the Sirius Platoon slowly accepts the idea that Manabu will be leaving them to go with the SPG, she refuses to believe it, going so far as to try and convince people that his grades are not good enough to warrant his promotion. Needless to say, she is extremely relieved when Manabu turns down the promotion in order to stay with the SDF. While there is no immediate progress in their relationship, it is her reaction to his staying that begins to make Manabu officially notice her. Ultimately, it is their search for comfort in the wake of Bruce’s death that brings them together.

It is this relationship that the series is really built on. Louis is the first member of the SDF that Manabu meets when he is formally accepted, and it is Louis that Manabu goes to most often when in trouble or when needing help. Before being accepted by Bruce, Manabu leans heavily on Louis for support at times, especially when his suitability for the job is continually called into question. It is also Louise that many times follows Manabu in some of his more ridiculous decisions, like boarding the 666 ghost train in order to find a missing person.

However, when Bruce finally opens up to Manabu, Manabu begins to look more towards Bruce for guidance, and Louis at times seems a little left out. As Manabu passes her by in ability and determination, she begins to look to him for support, and ultimately begins to develop her feelings towards him. In later episodes, it sometimes feels that we are watching her trying to keep up with Manabu, which can be particularly heartbreaking at times. After Bruce’s death, it is the awakening of Manabu’s feelings for Louis that puts him back on his feet and determined to do what he can to end the Alfort threat.

Interestingly, it is an Alfort battleship that attacks Big One on the day that Manabu’s father dies, and yet Matsumoto avoids the easy plot device that has Manabu hell-bent on revenge when the Alfort Fleet arrives for its final climactic battle against The Galaxy Railways. Instead Manabu fights for the time-honored hero tradition of ending the war. What makes this interesting in terms of Manabu is that it would not be out of character for Manabu to have vengeful feelings, as he is very head strong and was absolutely crushed by his father’s death. However, it speaks volumes about Manabu’s character that he never seemed to have these ideas. It shows that while Manabu may disobey some orders, and certainly has an unorthodox approach to situations, he is always concerned with doing what he believes is right, regardless of his own personal feelings or personal danger he might have to put himself in. In that way, he is the ideal soldier, and the ideal person to have in the SDF.

In Summary: 
The Galaxy Railways has been one of the best shows I’ve seen in a long time. I’ve always enjoyed the works of Leiji Matsumoto, and this is certainly one of his best. Despite its episodic nature leading up to the final battle, the show never falls into the trap that many shows do where many episodes feel like they are there “just because.” There is never a wasted moment at any point during the twenty-six episode run. The strong characters, and the relationships between them, are the real draw of this show, but there is certainly enough action and intense moments throughout to satisfy viewers looking for that in their anime. While I hesitate to call this a masterpiece, if only because Matsumoto is not retired yet, I cannot recommend this title any higher.

Japanese 2.0 Language, English 2.0 Language, English 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Interview with Leiji Matsumoto, Japanese Dub Recording Session Footage

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

Released By: Funimation
Release Date: February 6th, 2007
MSRP: $59.98
Running Time: 650 Minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen

Review Equipment
Phillips Magnavox TP3285 C129 32″ TV, Samsung DVD-V5650 Progressive Scan DVD w/ DD/DTS, Durabrand HT3916 5.1 Surround Sound System

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