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Night on the Galactic Railroad

a.k.a.Ginga Tetsudou no Yorou

notgr-2
Genre: Drama
Company: Gisaburo Sugii/Group TAC
Format: 1 movie
Dates: 7/13/1985

With his father on a suspicious fishing trip and his mother bedridden, Giovanni needs to mix school and work to help support his family. As if life was not hard enough, he gets teased by many of his fellow students. A childhood friend of his, Campanella, is the only one that seems to understand him. During the annual Festival of the Stars, a mysterious train that can transport its passengers across galaxies makes a stop in the village. Where does Giovanni want to go? Anywhere but here.

summary by Kjeldoran

 

Reviewed: 06/01/2002 by
Grade: 81% av-Kjeldoran

Highs: Fascinating metaphors; enthralling sounds and music; imaginative land and characters

Lows: Lingers terribly; sketchy artwork

Miyazawa Kenji is perhaps one of the most respected authors in Japan. Chosen to adapt one of his classics of Japanese literature was Sugii Gisaburo, whose incredibly broad directorial experience now ranges from Astro Boy episodes to Street Fighter II V. No, there aren’t any martial arts fights in this one, and fans of Miyazawa Kenji will be pleased to know that aside from using cats as main characters, a textbook, chapter-by-chapter conversion was applied, thus keeping every original ounce of symbolism intact.

For an anime supposedly aimed at children, Night on the Galactic Railroad was shockingly mature. In fact, most children would probably be bored stiff by the interminable staring contests and slow moving storyline. I, too, found the pace to be flirting with the line of tolerance. What kept me gripped are not pretty sights but mesmerizing sounds that create an eerie atmosphere. Music only plays a small part of the symphony; what stands out is the focus set upon the clatter of everyday life amplified as if heard by the perceptive ears of a cat.

Night on the Galactic Railroad requires you to be in a philosophical mood and will surely please most symbolism fans. Themes like growing up, religion, life and death are brought forth intelligently using legends and analogies. The tale of the Scorpio constellation alone is worth the while. Still, this anime might have easily worked with about thirty minutes less. All those moments of stillness could also have been used to show the characters’ inner thoughts instead of wasting them on empty gazes and uncomfortable inactivity.

As much as it succeeds inspiring anime fans to read Miyazawa Kenji’s books, this is a movie that moves too slowly for its own good. Whether this is a major or minor setback depends on your attention span.

 

Night on the Galactic Railroad can be downloaded legally in the United States HERE.

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