Galaxy Express 999 - The Soul Train

by Aaron Bynum

It appears that the more modern a society becomes, the more that an unfortunately yet unique potential continues to grow; that is the hidden possibility of that society's people to value humanity less and less. There are new sets of ideas and religions birthed from new generations of people every few years, as well as new understandings of how one could and should live his or her life from said generations. The possibility of people becoming less receptive of the feelings of others and less welcoming of the interests of others could perhaps be a factual evolution of a society so far progressed that it has forgotten the most fundamental elements of human existence. The storyline of Galaxy Express 999 was well ahead of its time; the story contained the thematic cues of a boy seeking his own self-worth, a woman trying to understand her future as once painted a grim fate by others, and the thematic focus of a group of societies devoid of emotional feeling due to the apparent inevitability of death.

A unique version of Leiji Matsumoto's manga series, the decades old feature film Galaxy Express 999 follows a young boy named Tetsuro, accompanied by the beautiful young woman Maetel, along a universally famous interstellar transport vehicle. The "Galaxy Express" for many pioneers, outlaws, and ordinary folk alike is a train, or more accurately a pathway to other planets in the solar system for starting new lives and seeing the universe like never before. A regular among the interplanetary train, Maetel is a wise woman whom despite being confronted with numerous inhumane visions of a futuristic life remains grounded. The courageous young lad called Tetsuro seeks to find a way to live a fearless life; they are two individuals fated to meet one another amongst a social system known for its ability to tear apart human sentiments, rather than mend them.

Born and bred in a social order where confident outlaws have more clout than entrepreneurial businessman, Tetsuro grew up understanding that power and authority came only with fearlessness and time, two oddly-shaped puzzle pieces that never seemed to co-occur. Tetsuro's goal of becoming a cyborg is an interesting focal point of his emotional awareness; even though the boy is aware of the fact that his life will end at some point, he still has yet to figure out what to do with his life until that moment in time arrives. As I see it, this character uniquely epitomizes humankind's lack of compassion because of his apparent need to abandon the hellhole that is his home and his need to survive life, rather than to live it. Of course, just as one may have a good reason for moving on to a new location, one may also argue that relocation forces a person to refer to escapism and to ignore the true problem at hand. There is obviously nothing wrong with emphasizing survival within a depressing and unsympathetic society, but when an existentialist's ideas of self, wisdom, and mercy are lost due to trendy beliefs, popular culture, and technology, something is seriously wrong.

Galaxy Express 999 is a wonderful little expedition into a world where instead of using reconciliatory methods of understanding their problems, people preferably seek to bypass the whole system of absolution and try to "live without regret" so-to-speak, as Tetsuro notes. Although it is most certainly a futuristic perspective, it is also a very real perspective. Galaxy Express 999 tosses around the theme of a society so hopeless that even the most inhumane motivations, such as murder and moral avoidance, are simply understood as inevitable societal developments. Without much desire to better that which has deteriorated, we now witness a desensitized society on shaky legs for fear of responsibility and conscientiousness. I find that because many of the film's characters happened to have lived in a world dominated by superficial aspirations and unreachable iconic status, the morals of those characters managed to slowly dissolve over time. The best way to overcome a horrible social system such as this is to increase the role of the individual and break away from moral dependency; however, those willing to forsake the reliable and comfortable securities of societal superficiality for reality are becoming more and more scarce.

The value given to the well-being of people, and the value given to the choices of those people has the potential to diminish as a society turns its gaze from a civilization offering new opportunities to a society with limited integrity. Galaxy Express 999 openly claims that every person's life is a journey and a chronicle in the making, but what the film also notes is that people should be wary of becoming too materialistic and covetous through their desire to satisfy such chronicles.

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