Set in the far future, Galaxy Express 999 is about a world in which man has spread into space and has come to inhabit many different worlds. Unlike most futuristic worlds that are filled with populous, bustling space cities, GE999 portrays humanity as strangely disorganized and divided. The prosperity that should have come with the technology to reach the stars exists in only a minor part of the vast galaxy. There are huge class divides between the rich and the poor, and even bigger social barriers between the humans with "real" bodies, and those humans who took on mechanical bodies to achieve lasting life. Everlasting life sounds really nice, but it twists the mechanized humans so that they lose not just their biological bodies, but also a part of their humanity. Living forever, they lose the drive and ambition that they had when their lifespans were shorter. Some become cruel, hunting down real humans like deer. Others begin to long for their real bodies, for the warmth of blood flowing through their veins, and the fragile, transient beauty of a human life.
The main character in this movie, Hoshino Tetsurou, saw his mother murdered right before his eyes by the mechanized humans. Ever since that day, he swore to somehow get a mechanical body for himself and avenge his mother. According to popular rumor, the GE999 stops at a star in the Andromeda Galaxy where mechanical bodies can be had for free. Conspiring with his ragtag set of friends, he manages to steal a pass to the GE999, but he loses it when the local mechanical police start chasing him. A blond lady dressed in black, Maetal, who reminds him of his mother, saves him. Together they board the GE999, and the story begins.
Each of the worlds these two visit is unique in its own way and also has a strong, central character that seems to embody the essence of the planet. The first planet they visit is Titan, one of the moons of Saturn. There, they find a world dominated by the mechanized humans, fiercely resisted by the local real humans who live in fear for their lives every day. They also meet an old woman who hopes everyday for the return of her space-faring son, knowing in her heart that he will never return alive. On Pluto, Tetsurou and Maetal meet Shadow, the guardian of Ice Grave, the place where the discarded real bodies of the mechanized humans are preserved frozen. On Planet Heavy Melder, he meets the genius engineer, Tochiro, the designer of the spaceship Arcadia. On the Galaxy Express itself, the two meet the odd captain, a small, round-ish man with glowing green eyes -- the only visible part of his face. They also meet Claire, a waitress in the dining carriage with a mechanized body of see-through glass, working on the express to earn enough money to buy back her real body.
Full of drama, plot twists, and the angst of human souls trapped in mechanical vessels, GE999 is a very deep and thoughtful movie about the depths of humanity. Although slightly dated, the plot line is excellent, and the feeling of sadness that fills Maetal is very poignant. Overall, I enjoyed this movie a lot.