Thursday, December 25, 2014

Night on the Galactic Railroad

Based off a novel written in about 1927 and published in 1934, the movie version of Night on the Galactic Railroad premiered in 1985. The writer, Miyazawa Kenji, was a childrens' author who died in 1933, seemed to be quite into existentialist themes and became more popular in the years following his death. Railroad is no stranger to these themes, and also makes use of a lot of other elements, such as foriegn languages and religious imagery.

On the upside, it's educational.

The plot follows Giovanni, a young catboy living in a small village. He is rather poor and is ridiculed by his classmates for having a semi-absentee father who's away working in the north, and having to work at the local newspaper to help his sickly mother. The only friends he has are his teacher, and his classmate, Campanella. After school one day, the teacher tells the class of the Star Festival in town. Giovanni heads off to his job at the paper, and after he leaves at night and doing some chores at home, he encounters the school bully, Zanelli. Zanelli proceeds to mock him for something his dad promised to bring him, and in a fit of rage and despair he runs away from the town and up a hill, where he decides to stargaze. In the midst of his dreaming, a train pulls up in front of him, seemingly from thin air. Giovanni decides to get on, being joined by Campanella. The two then proceed to explore the mysteries of the cosmos together.

This seems like the beginning of a beautiful Yaoi.

The novel has proved to be quite influential in Japanese pop culture as the years have gone on. Between spinoff series, references in other works, music, (Including a Vocaloid Song) and the animated movie based off it, Railroad is definitely a Japanese classic. On the other hand, it's a bit hard to gauge how popular it is elsewhere. It has been dubbed, but the most prominent language feature is that all external signs are in Esperanto. Miyazawa was quite interested in the language, so the signs appear to be a tribute to him.

I should have studied on Lernu more...

The music was just lovely. Thankfully, the soundtrack was rather easy to find (a lovely little wordpress post located here), which was a bit of a relief after the headache of trying to track down Belladonna's. It utilizes mostly piano and strings to convey a mood of both elegance and perplexity. One of the composers was a member of a famous Japanese band; the other went on to compose almost all the music for Studio Ghibli.

Keeping with the uber-religious overtones, a Hymn features prominently along with the background music.

The imagery in this movie was, frankly, confusing. It makes for interesting discussions and philosophy but horrible for a childrens' movie, which sort of makes me question the author's life choices. I suppose it could have been made with the "you're never too young to think" idea in mind, but should a child really be contemplating questions like the finality of existence? A great story, indeed, but I question the choice of intending this for children. Adding insult to injury here is the amount of Christian imagery in the movie/book, especially given the author was a devout Buddhist. This isn't to say that religious material can't be given to kids (not trying to insult any of you Christians out there), however, to be presented as a very general movie, it seems wise to not put a heavy amount of specific religious references within it.

Religion!? IN *MY* ANIME!?

Railroad was released on DVD in 2001 by Central Park Media in North America with an english dub. Otherwise, it's on Bakabt, from Nakama Subs, Citadel of the Raven (with subs in English, Spanish, Japanese, and Russian) Tanoshii Fansubs (Spanish), and Lasden Subs (Hungarian).



No comments:

Post a Comment