Night on the Galactic Railroad -

Anime/Manga Reviews

Mania Grade: NA

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  • Audio Rating: N/A
  • Video Rating: N/A
  • Packaging Rating: N/A
  • Menus Rating: N/A
  • Extras Rating: N/A
  • Age Rating: 13 & Up
  • Region: 1 - North America
  • Released By: Central Park Media
  • MSRP: 29.99
  • Running time: 108
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Nightwalker

Night on the Galactic Railroad

    October 09, 2001
Release Date: October 09, 2001

Night on the Galactic Railroad
© Central Park Media

What They Say
Once upon a time, there was a young boy named Giovanni whose life was filled with hardship and despair. In addition to his studies, he worked early in the morning and after school every day to earn enough money to feed his sick mother. Because he had no time to play, his schoolmates mocked and tormented him....

But his life is about to change...

Giovanni is planning to attend the annual Festival of the Stars with his only friend, Campanella. While staring into the starry sky, a mysterious galactic train appears like a falling from heaven. The two friends embark on a magical journey to the constellations of the Milky Way, where they witness inspiring beauty, tragic loss, and explore the splendors of the universe. Together, they experience a voyage of inner discovery and spiritual growth as they discover that there are some things in this universe that transcend mortal existence.

Based upon the 1927 Japanese literary classic, written by Miyazawa Kenji, Night on the Galactic Railroad is a modern fable, filled with magic and symbolism.

Note: This film is heavily symbolic and attempts to compress an entire multi-volume set into a single film. The character design is first rate, but expect to be watch it more than once in order to understand fully.

The Review!
Overall Rating: 4.7
(on a scale of 1-5)

-Technical Ratings-
Sound: 5
Picture: 4
Menu: 4
Presentation: 5
Goodies: 5
Overall: 4.6

-Content Ratings-
Animation: 5
Sound: 5
Plot: 5
Acting: 4
Music: 5
Entertainment: 5
Overall: 4.8


This is a real tough movie to write about. It’s very unusual, not only for an anime, but also for a movie of any type. It’s not gonna be everyone’s cup of tea, and some people will be downright bored with it. It took me a bit to digest it and think about. I suggest you see it with someone else, just so you can talk about it after it finishes. And yet, I’m gonna have to classify it as another example of animation as a serious work of art.

-Technical Review-

It’s another round of good technical scores for CPM. The sound was very good on our set up. The picture seemed a bit fuzzy and was doing a bit of jittering around in the frame. These look more like issues with master copy. This film was done in 1985, and I think the age of the print might have something to do with the quality of the picture. The menus were pretty simple, but worked quickly and kept with the theme of the movie. The cover of the keepcase has all the information on it including rating, region coding, channels of sound, length of the disc and a list of extras. Once again there is art and information on the reverse side of the cover, but it’s not in a clear keepcase. Not only that but the hub on the keepcase broke and the disc was floating all around inside. The extras for this disc are a brief history about the writer of the story, an art gallery including stills from the show and some black and white art, as well as CPM’s trailer for the movie. On the DVD ROM section you get the movie script as well as an art gallery and writer’s history (again?). I did like how the DVD ROM menu was done in the style of the movie (instead of using the standard DVD ROM menu that CPM has had for a while now). It’s a pretty good set of extras, although the info on the author could have been more in depth on the DVD ROM section, maybe including a selection of other works by him. It’s a pretty good technical grade for a great movie.

-Content Review-

This movie has lots of great things going for it, but in a way it’s a puzzle that you need to decipher. I love movies that don’t spoon feed you and this movie doesn’t at all. In some ways it’s visual poetry and in other ways it’s like watching a dream unfold.

The story follows young Giovanni. He lives in a small village with his sick mother (and a sister who we never see). At school Giovanni is neither the smartest nor the most well liked of the children. His teacher seems to be looking out for him and a friend of his Campanella seems to care about him. On the eve of the star festival Giovanni wanders off by himself, away from the festivities and gazes up into the milky way. Suddenly a huge train arrives and he finds himself on it. Campanella also arrives and the two begin their dreamlike journey threw the universe. Christian imagery collides with astronomy and eastern philosophy as the train makes its way across our universe. It’s a unique coming of age story that will intrigue and haunt you long after it concludes.

The animation and sound are utilized to the fullest. The film has a darkness to it, and it fills the story with shadowy images and brilliant moments of light. The director also uses angles and camera moment to the fullest. The use of sound and how it is placed in certain scenes further the dreamlike quality. A scene that really uses both the darkness and sound particularly well occurs in the print shop. That entire scene captures the mood perfectly. In fact much of the film is going for a particular mood, a dream world where anything is possible and everything flows from one element to the next. I’ve seen similar work in live action films like "Akira Kurosawa’s Dreams", "The Seventh Seal" by Bergman and the work of American director David Lynch. His film, "Eraserhead" was like living in a dream world, and while Night on the Galactic Railroad is less disturbing and abstract, it does use many of the same techniques that Kurosawa and Lynch utilized. In addition to that the pacing works in the same way. Things move at a ponderous pace, slow and steady. This will drive some people mad, but for me it worked within the mood created by the film. This is great stuff.

The plot is pretty straightforward but it can deceive you into thinking that there is much more going on beyond the basic hero myth. And in a way there is more going on. This is the story of Giovanni coming of age and we are pulled into the journey with him. This movie strips down the classic myth to imagery, sound and music and taps into the basic elements you find in many myths and stories. A hero myth can be exciting and full of adventure (like Star Wars) or introspective (like this film) or combine the two (Neon Genesis Evengelion). Night on the Galactic Railroad is a much purer vision of the story, but it is so pure that is can seem confusing.

This is something that can be tough to dub, and I think that all the actors did a spectacular job. The key to acting in this type of movie is too keep within the mood and feeling of images. The long pauses between lines and the particular way the lines are delivered hold greater meaning. The acting becomes a main key in the poetry and it’s unfolding. Veronica Taylor as Giovanni and Crispin Freeman as Campanella really do a great job. But the supporting cast is just as good and seems to know what this movie was going for. There were a few moment where lines seemed a bit off, or delivered in a way that didn’t quite fit. But for the most part this dub cast did a great job!

The music tends to be a bit disconcerting and even out of place at times. And yet it works with the film. I know that doesn’t make sense, but the images, sounds and music work together. If you separate the score it can seem to be strange or overdone. Again it reminds me of the work of David Lynch and composer Angelo Badalamenti. The music adds to the mood and builds tension, mystery, joy and sadness.

Night on the Galactic Railroad is a work of animated art. It’s surprising in many ways. However, it’s easy to look at the cover and expect something like "My Neighbor Totoro". The cat characters are cute. But this mythic story is not something that I think many children will enjoy. It’s more like "Grave of the Fireflies" than "Kiki’s Delivery Service". Don’t get me wrong, there is no violence or anything graphic. But it is a film filled with images and at times it can feel uncanny. Fans of foreign films and the work of directors I mentioned above will probably love it. If you are looking for something beyond the norm then see this. It’s definitely worth it. It’s a top notch anime worthy of a high spot in any serious collection.

Roman J. Martel
Tell me what you think! E-mail me at...

Japanese Language,English Language,English Subtitles

Review Equipment
Phillips Flatscreen (27 Inch), Sony Playstation 2


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