Based on a short story by the popular children's writer Kenji Miyazawa, Galactic Railroad offers viewers a slow-paced, dreamlike journey through space and time. When Giovanni, a lonely boy in a hill town, goes to get milk ... more »for his ailing mother, he finds himself crossing the Milky Way on a faster-than-light steam railroad. The stations he visits in various constellations, like the planets explored by St. Exupery's Little Prince, offer curious adventures and an assortment of human "types." Reality and fantasy blur aboard the train, and its travels across the light-years sometimes suggests the journey through life. The characters as depicted as cats, presumably to avoid the problems of animating humans. Filmmaker Gisaburo Sugii's long career as an animator, director, executive director, and screenwriter began on The White Snake Enchantress, the first postwar Japanese feature. He has worked on projects ranging from the mildly erotic Cleopatra, Queen of Sex (1970) to Osamu Tezuka's Astro Boy to a feature adaptation of the 11th-century novel The Tale of Genji. In the U.S. he's best known as the director of the movie version of the popular video game Street Fighter II. The contrast between the deadly battles of Street Fighter and the almost hypnotic pace of Galactic Railroad is striking. --Charles Solomon« less
"This film is based on the story "Ginka Tetsudo no Yoru" by Miyazawa Kenji. This film was originally released as a major motion picture in Japan where the complete works of Miyazawa Kenji were reissued and sold in theatre lobbies. By comparison, Tonari no Totoro was a double bill with Graves of the Fireflies and passed with comparatively little notice.Miyazawa Kenji was a significant poet and author of children's literature in the early twentieth century. As noted by others, death is a major theme in this film as are issues of friendship and family responsibility. The film is rather weighty and seriously beautiful. Although the characters are human beings in the original Japanese story, they are primarily represented by cats in the film. This choice was a bit controversial when the film was originally released. The characters in the original story are clearly human beings and Japan does not have a strong tradition of anthropomorphic animals in either manga or anime. Further, anthropomorphic animals in folklore such as the badger and the fox are often dangerous and not sympathetic at all. Those who have read published mistranslations of the original story may be surprised to learn that the main characters have Italian names. Regardless, the characters and story are quite compelling. I was deeply moved by the film when I first saw it and subsequently read the original story in Japanese.The artwork and animation for this film are both excellent. However, those who are fond of the cut-still approach to animation often found in Japanese animation for television may be disappointed by this film. Rather, the drawing and animation style of this film reminds me of a dark version of Disney's Fantasia of sixty years ago. Some of the images in the film remind me of impressionist or post-impressionist paintings. Film music and film sound are also quite pronounced in this film. Both the recurring theme first heard in the opening credits and the sound of the train on the tracks provide a recurring leit motif for what is an episodic film structured around various locations which often have symbolic importance. This recurrent symbolism reflects the Miyazawa Kenji who is noted as an important Japanese Christian poet who wrote European style poetry.My copy of the DVD for this movie has a few technical flaws which suggest that it was not made from an original negative."
A beautiful movie.
hellequin | Amherst, MA USA | 10/03/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"In my opinion, "Night on the Galactic Railroad" is an outstanding piece of animation.Many reviewers will note, and accurately so, that this movie is both heavy and slow as melted gold. It's true: in our current world of sound bites and media clips, fast action and short attention, this movie stands alone. This is especially so when the movie is compared to other anime, a category under which fall some of the fastest and slickest movies in the world. If nothing else, "Night on the Galactic Railroad" gets points for sheer originality and ingenuity.Gisaburo Sugii (the director) has taken Kenji Miyazawa's children's story and created for it a living atmosphere. While highly detailed backgrounds are nothing new for anime, "Night on the Galactic Railroad" combines its finely crafted images with a brilliant use of frame shots, pacing, and audio montage to create a surreal and ethereal viewing experience.While often advertised as a children's movie, "Night on the Galactic Railroad" most certainly does not tell a very light story. With both religious and nihilistic imagery, Sugii presents us with a powerful treatise on death and life. However, even if you do not appreciate the story itself, the beauty in the dream-like artwork and animation cannot be denied.If this is the kind of movie that you'd just as soon sleep through, then you're missing out on some amazing cinema. Admittedly, most people these days would probably rather numb their brains in front of the "Tomb Raider" movie, than sit through the likes of "Don't Look Now" or "Blow Up." But, who knows....If you want to be pulled into a beautifully crafted and mesmerizing world, then watch "Night on the Galactic Railroad.""
The Mystical Express
Joe S. Swick | Kent, WA USA | 12/29/2002
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Previous reviewer Ezra Shapiro dismissed this piece as "heavily theistic; it's designed to make you think, but only in one direction," and is troubled by the "glowing crosses on the horizon." However, it seems to me that he misses one or two key points.Perhaps most obvious is the repeated note that the train is travelling in the Dream Dimension -- a creation of Mind, filled with artifacts of the IMAGINATION. It is not the whole tale; something lies quite beyond this. While most of the train debarks at Miyazawa's depiction of "Christian Heaven," Giovanni and his friend Campanella remain on board, lonely passengers headed to what is referred to as "True Heaven." This is depicted as a black-hole-like "Sack of Coal," where Campanella suggests his "Mother" is waiting to be reunited to him. As he is not speaking of his "mortal mother," whom he has long since left behind, I suggest that this is the "Mystical Mother," known in the Western Mystery Tradition as "Binah," the principle of limitation beyond which is the formlessness of the Unmanifest. Attention to such details adds a significant dimension to the tale which Mr. Shapiro apparently did not see. It is definately not "one-directional theism" as he suggests.Miyazawa encourages us to compare Campanella's act of courage and kindness in saving his friend, with that of the young Tutor, who allowed his two innocent charges to drown that they might enter into his Christian version of Heaven. However, other characters in the film are ambivalent about the young Tutor's definition of "happiness." Finally, as others have pointed out, Giovanni fits more with the image of the descending Bodhisattva than with a traditional Christian theistic view. This movie is a visual feast, the story line exceedingly well-crafted, and its message is subtle and nuanced. First-rate!"
Filled with significance missed by most
bovineinversus | Seattle, WA USA | 12/03/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The vow taken by Giovanni in the end of the film is the same as the vow of the Boddhisattva. I think most people who watch this film miss this point. This vow is not the result of martyrdom or of a Fruedian desire for self-torture, but rather the result of a sort of enlightenment, brought on by a mystical experience or a crisis. Think about what it would take to make you vow to sacrifice your own personal happiness and even to accept suffering for the good of everybody else. The symbollism is the same as that of Christ being crucified, or of Osiris willfully getting into the coffin presented by Apophis. The scorpion is not only a symbol of death, but also of spiritual rebirth."
Don't let the talking cats fool you, This is great!
Jerry G Martin | San Francisco | 11/18/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"What a great film! I have to admit I like movies that make you think, and this one does just that. When compared to other main stream anime films which either center on nudity or violence to further the plot this one would seem incredibly slow and dull. But if you are in the mood to think I recommend to buy this film. And the price cannot be beat! Usually tapes of this caliber cost at least 24.00. Consider yourself lucky and buy this tape. And parents...don't worry about violence or anything of the like. It is great for all ages. But afterward be prepared to talk with your children. They will have questions. I can almost guarantee because I had quite a few myself."