Space Symphony Maetel (13 episodes, SKY PerfecTV!, 2004)
There lives a cold and lonely planet; one that wanders without a permanent home. Why would anyone want to return home to such a place, let alone rule it? Maetel is one such person. Boarding the infamous Galaxy Express 999, she returns home to take over from her mother as queen and reshape this planet, La Metal. As the name implies, La Metal is a planet populated by machines. Promethium, La Metal’s queen, deeply feared the power of nature and did everything she could to combat it. In order to protect her citizens, she forced them to take on a mechanical body so they could stand up to La Metal’s harsh climate. However, the cyborgs on La Metal evolved beyond Promethium’s expectations and began to mechanise galaxy after galaxy against the will of many humans. The mechanisation of one world is tough enough but trying to mechanise galaxy after galaxy is a different matter. In retaliation, rebels and revolutionaries are all making their own stand to defend what, in their own eyes, makes them human. Our story begins with an uprising that offers a strange parallel to Galaxy Express 999. Instead of Maetel meeting a young boy who will do anything to get hold of a mechanical body she meets one that will give up his life not to get one. It is at this point that our story truly begins. Fighting against fate and for justice is a common theme in all the series based around travel on the Galaxy Railways. Tetsuro wants the power of a mechanical body so he can live forever and avenge the death of his mother and father; Manabu fights destiny so he will not be forced to choose death like his father and brother. In Space Symphony Maetel the stakes are higher; the fight against death is more intense than ever before. The main difference is that we see more of the fight from both sides and how they both use methods and schemes in order to fight for their own justice.
The artwork and music in Space Symphony Maetel is exactly what you would expect with its early 1980s styling. The character designs feel very developed, as does the world of La Metal. The warm colours of Nazca’s clothes contrast sharply to the cold greys and blues of La Metal and the empty black colour of many of the cyborgs. The only let down is the computer generated images of the Galaxy Express 999 which feels like it was added in as an after thought with the carriages totally lacking any kind of detail. The ending theme nicely closes each episode with the lyrics nicely summing up the essence of the series. The instrumental opening theme is calming and draws us nicely into the universe we are about to enter.
In all, Space Symphony Maetel promises to be an exciting series whether you are familiar with Leiji Matsumoto’s previous works or not. Whilst the themes are familiar, the plot twists and conspiracies are a welcomed surprise. Whilst the characters in Space Symphony Maetel may have bodies made of metal, their minds are certainly still fully human as they fight to preserve the way of life that they believe in. Whether man or machine will win the battle remains unknown as does Promethium’s dream to have her daughter rule the planet in such a fashion that man and machine can once again live side by side. What we do know is that the road to resolution will be a cruel, cold one.
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