Friday, September 03, 2010

Express Antiques

Now that's what I call a companion.

Particularly the third Doctor incarnation, for its aesthetic, but Doctor Who generally has sort of been reminding me of Galaxy Express 999. I almost wonder if Leiji Matsumoto was partly inspired by Doctor Who when he created the manga in 1977, but I doubt Doctor Who could've had much of a presence in Japan in the 70s.

But you could describe either series by saying it's about a mysterious, alien person and young human companion travelling through space in a vessel with a curious, sort of sentimental earthly appearance--a police box in the case of Doctor Who and an old steam engine train in the case of Galaxy Express 999.

The companion, Tetsuro, is the lead character in 999 while it's the mysterious alien who has the lead in Doctor Who. And the sexes are reversed--while Doctor Who seems downright patriarchal with its predominantly male movers and shakers and pint size confused female followers, 999 has a solemn, maternal woman guiding the goofy kid Tetsuro on his trip through the cosmos.

Maetel, the mysterious companion of Tetsuro, is both eerily reminiscent of his mother yet also clearly meant to be a romantic interest to Tetsuro, a certain weirdness I'd say isn't present in Doctor Who until I remember that the stream of small female companions/possible romantic interests were originally meant to be replacements for the Doctor's granddaughter.

I watched the twelfth and thirteenth episodes of Galaxy Express 999 with breakfast to-day. It's taken me years to get this far with the series, not because it's bad but because the fascinatingly extreme melancholy of the stories seems best taken slowly. This particular story dealt with a planet inhabited by a lone, sword wielding man surrounded by the fossilised remains of his lover and the rest of the planet's former population.

The animation has gotten quite a bit better, even though it's by no means as polished as to-day's anime. I love classic anime like this, though, because the passion the animators feel for the material is so evident. These guys may not know exactly how to draw a man moving with such prowess as to relieve several hostile opponents of their rifles with only a sword, but they chisel it out of their papers and pens seemingly with just enthusiasm alone.

Of course, Galaxy Express 999 is a lot more comfortable with violence than Doctor Who. I'm up to the second episode of "Day of the Daleks" and was astonished to see the Doctor kill someone with a gun for the first time in the show's to that point nine year run. Maetel meanwhile encourages twelve year-old Tetsuro to carry and use his gun, and the first episode of the series has to do with Tetsuro killing men in the name of revenge.

But I've been loving the past several serials of Doctor Who I've watched. Starting with "The Claws of Axos", I think it's been some of the best episodes of the whole series. I particularly like the Hammer horror vibe of "The Daemons" and the first episode of "Day of the Daleks".

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