Anime Review: The Galaxy Railways Box Set (Viridian Collection)
Gretchen is an anime junkie who spends far too much time reading manga and searching for that elusive new favorite series. She lives with her cat, and raises tomato trees.View all articles by Gretchen Lee
Humanity has spread across the universe, occupying planets into the far reaches of space, and it is all connected by an extensive rail network. Well, not rails exactly, but close enough. Giant rings and magnetic fields keep the trains on the correct route as they travel throughout space. The universe is not a safe place for travel, and the Space Defense Force (SDF) sees to it that the trains are protected from such threats as terrorists, asteroids, and aliens.
After losing both his father and brother to the dangers of the SDF, Manabu Yuuki makes it his goal to join the SDF, much to his mother's horror. She understandably would like to keep her youngest child grounded and working in the family restaurant. Manabu has other ideas, and wanting to live up to the example of both his father and brother, joins the SDF anyway. He is assigned to the Sirius platoon where he must find his place and figure out what he truly wants by joining up.
The Galaxy Railways takes its time building up the characters. Even with the dramatic first episode that sets up Manabu's fascination with trains and his desire to join the SDF, it doesn't have that hook to draw the audience in. This anime is very, very serious, especially in the early episodes. There just isn't enough personality or humor to lighten up the series. Luckily, as the series progresses, and we slowly get to know the characters, there are far more humorous moments to leaven the mood. Once the characters get a bit more personality, they exhibit a nice depth.
Just as it takes a while to get to know and appreciate the characters, the plot itself takes time to develop. At first, each episode brings a new disaster that is solved with much personal risk. All the loose ends are neatly tied up by the end, and the series moves on to the next disaster. Once the characters develop, this format works well; it's a chance to see the platoon members in action and watch how they interact. Over a third of the way in, a larger story arc begins. It was a shame to have to wait so long for a more involved plot, but by that time, the audience has more of an investment in the characters and what might happen to them.
When I first saw the character designs, I thought it was a considerably older series. Tall and lanky with stylized wavy hair, the designs reminded me so much of the designs in The Last Unicorn. There's no relation, and this anime came out just a few years ago, but it was hard to shake the notion of watching something older. While most of the main characters looked like people, some of the side characters had very strange designs that had me doubting their humanity. Turns out they are indeed human, but the juxtaposition of a tall, nice looking drawing next to the short, frumpy, squashed-faced characters is disconcerting. Aside from that, the trains are beautifully drawn, and are fun to watch, even it does seem fundamentally wrong for trains to be the transportation of choice in space.
On the whole, this series is worth watching. It's not something I'd buy, but I'm glad to have stuck with it until the end. Was it the best series, ever? No. But by the halfway point, a series emerges with sympathetic characters, plenty of action, and even a bit of humor to lighten some of the dramatic bits.
Details: Runtime 600 minutes, contains 26 episodes on 6 dvds. Extras include an interview with series creator Leiji Matsumoto, episode 2 recording session filmed in Japan, title announcement press conference, character profiles, animated shorts, commentaries, textless songs, and trailers.
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