Galaxy Express 999 Movie (Ginga Tetsudou 999) - Released: 8/4/1979
Major success in "Yamato" movie and "Captain Harlock" naturally brought up the plan for theatrical release of "Galaxy Express 999". The plan was proposed 3 days before the "Galaxy Express 999" TV series had even started, which was very unusual circumstance at the time. You can imagine how popular Matsumoto was and how great the anticipation from the production side as well.
Theatrical Release Based On The Original Story
Another issue that is worth mentioning here is that the "Galaxy Express 999" was produced based on the original script written specially for the movie. You might think, "What's so special about that?" But wait a moment. Back then when "Galaxy Express 999" was made, most of the theatrical release animation movies were based on either compilation of the TV series films or only an extra footage from TV series. The main reason for that is 1), because of the unexpected booming of anime scene,
the production side could not keep up with the demanding audience, 2), first "Yamato" was, after all, the compilation of TV Yamato series, and it made a major hit in theaters. From the production point of view, if they could make enough profit by the edited version of already-made TV series films, they have no reason to put extra effort to make something original. However, because of the booming of "Yamato", the audiences were screaming for ever-better quality animation. At the time, just the fact that "Galaxy Express 999" being a movie based on the original script was creating a major impact, and that fact alone was enough to stir up even more anticipation among newly-born anime fans.
"Unheard of " Story
"Galaxy Express 999" is about the travel of Tetsuro Hoshino, the boy who is heading for Andromeda to get a "machine body", and Maetel, the mysterious beautiful lady. The movie was produced when the comic and the TV series version were still ongoing. In the ongoing comic version, the ending of the story was supposed to be unknown, and there were a lot more mysteries yet to be resolved. However, the movie story needed to have a conclusion on it's own. Revealing the conclusion of the story in the movie, in spite of the ongoing comic and TV series, was also very unheard of at the time. The movie script was written under many discussion sessions between Matsumoto himself and the scriptwriter. The notes Matsumoto turned in were counting up to one hundred.
Production of "Galaxy Express 999"
The main staff were selected from "Captain Harlock" TV clews and others. "Captain Harlock" TV series was impressive in the aspect that it very well resembled Matsumoto's artwork and atmosphere. In the script-wise, however, it was far from satisfactory level due to the unconcluded ending even in the original comic, and all the restrictions in making it as a TV broadcast. One of the major goal in producing "Galaxy Express 999" movie was to overcome these handicaps and to create the product
which is in a lot higher level. Also, "Galaxy Express 999" movie was divided into 6 parts in production, and the later parts were produced in earlier time period. It was done so in order to avoid compromising the quality of the later part of the film due to the rushed schedule later on in the production time frame.
The preview film was released in the theater on March 1979. "Captain Harlock" and "Galaxy Express 999" TV versions somewhat disappointed many Matsumoto fans because of their different image and the atmosphere, but the preview of "Galaxy Express 999" movie created big sensation among fans with it's quality. Seeing Harlock and Emeraldas in the preview also boosted fan's anticipation for the grand opening.
Many Matsumoto fans were camping out for several nights before the grand opening. Toei and Japanese Railways jointly organized the major event called "Mystery Train", where you get on the train with unknown destination, and the preview of the movie was played at the final destination. The event with such large scale was never conducted before (I actually remember them advertising it, but I was too young to go then). The line was so long for the opening day that they had to start playing the movie earlier than the scheduled hour. It made a major box hit of the summer.
Significance of the movie "Galaxy Express 999"
Putting aside the financial success of the movie, the best contribution "Galaxy Express 999" made was that this was the first animation product recognized as stand-alone movie. Until "999" came along, most animation products released in theaters were considered merely as "TV specials for kids". Success of "Galaxy Express 999" changed the perception of general audience that good quality animation product can be a real entertainment for all generations, not just for anime fans. Mass communication media evaluated the success of "999" very nicely as well.
Adieu Galaxy Express 999 Movie (Sayonara Ginga Tetsudou 999) - Released: 8/1/1981
Production of sequel "Galaxy Express 999"
After the major box-office hit "Galaxy Express 999", the project to release its' sequel has started. Matsumoto says, "It was proposed not because of the trend to make sequels of big-hit movies, but it was the plan from the very beginning stage of "Galaxy Express 999" production." Because the first movie was produced before the comic or the TV series was completed, they had to have the prepare the plot for the sequel to give its' final conclusion when they were making the first movie.
The plot of the sequel
This time story starts with the battle scene, which is very unlike the first one, which had very fantasy-like feeling. The battle between machine people and revel force, Maetel takes over the Machine Empire, story goes on with rather atmosphere. Black Knight Faust is one of the most important characters in the second movie. Matsumoto prepared the first movie as the growing-up story of the boyhood, and second story as the turning point of a boy to a man. A confrontation of a father and a son was drawn out as the biggest challenge for Tetsuro to overcome as a process. By the way, it seems as such a story resembles the second "Star Wars Empire Strikes Back", but it was purely coincidental.
Main staff had to work extra hard this time in order to overcome and the quality and the reputation of the first movie. Lots of experimental effects were used in scenes such as the one with the Ghost Train and the part where Black Knight Faust disappears into the air.
"Adieu Galaxy Express 999" made a major box hit although it was not as successful as the first movie. After this, the trend of Matsumoto Anime movies continues on to "Queen Millennia" (1982) and "Arcadia of MyYouth" (1982).
Galaxy Express 999 Eternal Fantasy OVA - Released: 3/7/1998
After 17 years of "Adieu Galaxy Express 999", "Eternal Fantasy" was produced. This movie is based on the NEW "Galaxy Express 999 Eternal Series" comic, which is supposed to be a year later Tetsuro came back on the Earth. Maetel rescues imprisoned Tetsuro from Earth, and they again take another journey to "Eternal Galaxy" to fight the battle with dark force. Solar system becomes totally destroyed by enemies, and Tetsuro's ultimate mission this time is to restore the Solar system and the Earth.
This is probably the one of the most controversial Matsumoto Anime ever got created mainly due to the following reasons.
1) Total lack of advertisement from Toei Inc.
2) Short playing time for a movie (50 minutes)
3) Switching of Harlock voice actor from Makio Inoue to new actor Yamadera
The press conference for "Eternal Fantasy" was conducted on September 9th, 1997 (9th year of Heisei, which then consists of 9/9/9) and actual movie was released on the March 1998. Toei hardly put any effort to advertise "Eternal Fantasy" for unknown reasons, so many Matsumoto fans did not even know that the movie was released at all. We also have no idea why "Eternal Fantasy" was so short. As you can imagine the plot does not have much of the conclusion, but it is merely a suggestion or prelude that there will be another long movie to finish the plot in future. There was absolutely no explanation given for justification in switching from Inoue to Yamadera to play Harlock, either. Many
Matsumoto fans are VERY angry with that, including serious Harlock fans like myself (giggle, giggle).
Queen Emeraldas event was conducted in Hiroshima, Japan on January 1999, and Matsumoto was there. Although "Emeraldas" was supposed to be a main topic, many Matsumoto fans there could not help but asking questions regarding "Eternal Fantasy" and plans for the new "999" movie in future. According to unofficial sources, Matsumoto's answers for these questions can be summarized as follows:
- There will be a new "999" movie in production very soon.
- He is very unhappy with the quality of "Eternal Fantasy".
- The new "999" movie will be totally independent of "Eternal Fantasy", and it will be more of a continuation of "Galaxy Express 999" and "Adieu Galaxy Express 999" movies, therefore, "Eternal Fantasy" can be considered as just an extra stand-alone episode.
- He wants to have Inoue playing Harlock, but sometimes voice actor's schedule can be very hard to adjust.
So in summary, "Let's forget "Eternal Fantasy" next time; we will make totally new "999" movie." Needless to say, his comments stirred up even more heated arguments among fans. My attitude is, at least I can see that Matsumoto cares about his creations, so I just keep my mouth shut and wait for his new stuff. Heck, we waited this long; I will take anything at this point. And personally, I really like when a creator shows passion in his or her own products.
Maetel Legend OVA: (2 episodes) - Relieased 3/2001
Space Symphony Maetel: (13 episodes) - Broadcasted: 8/2004~11/2004
Galaxy Railways OVA - A Letter from the Abandoned Planet: (4 episodes) - Released: 1/2007~4/2007
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Disclaimer: Copyrights of Captain Harlock, Queen Emeraldas, and Galaxy Express 999 belong to Leiji Matsumoto and Toei Enterprise, Inc. This site is created for purpose of personal leisure only. Any copying or use of any materials in this site shall not be allowed without my written permission.