2 stars (out of 4)
It is a classic, so I feel bad about giving it a low rating, but this is how I honestly feel about this Leiji Matsumoto film, watching it now in 2013, for the first time. I saw it as a Toronto Animation Arts Festival International screening at the TIFF Bell Lightbox, and I have to say, that was the best way to see the film: for free, and on the big screen. I doubt I would have ever watched it otherwise.
In the future setting of GALAXY EXPRESS “three-nine”, many humans have turned themselves into cyborgs. Ophan Tetsuro sets out on a journey to get mechanical parts for his own body and to exact revenge on the man who killed his mother. He is accompanied on the journey by Maetel, a woman who bears a noted resemblance to the mother.
Along the way, he meets new people who widen his perspective. There is some resolution to his goals, and yet, the film still ends with some arthouse ambiguity and an indulgent train scene.
Considering its age, the animation looked pretty good. Character designs were limited, which is typical for Leiji-verse works. For instance, most of the women looked the same except for different hair colour; one also had a scar on her face, another held a guitar.
During an early flashback, I wondered how someone as purportedly beautiful as Tetsuro’s mom could have possibly given birth to such an ugly child. It did seem, however, that all the children in the film were equally ugly. Maybe in this future, all kids are born neck-less with their eyes closely-spaced in the middle of their foreheads, and as they grow up, the eyes gradually separate and migrate down their faces until they look relatively human by adulthood. Am I over-thinking this?