The Galaxy Railways is a science-fiction anime about railways extending beyond planets' surfaces and into space. With the advent of interplanetary travel through these trains, humanity formed the Space Defence Force (or SDF for short) as a way to protect passengers from terrorists, aliens and hazardous asteroids.
Manabu Yuuki is one of the youngest members of the SDF, enlisting after the deaths of his father and brother, both sacrificing themselves in the name of duty. Manabu is assigned to Sirius Platoon which include Louise Fort Drake, the only human female in Sirius Platoon; Schwanhelt Bulge, the captain of Big One, which happens to be Sirius Platoon's train; Bruce J Speed, a hot-headed serviceman who detests Manabu; David Young, the easy-going opposite, and friend, of Bruce; and Yuki Sexaroid, an android nurse.
What you get is an intense episodic anime from the mind of Leiji Matsumoto. The show contains plenty of sad, heroic moments, a heartwarming sense of companionship between it's cast, and complex themes dealing with life or death situations. Also included are deeper themes of destiny and accepting your own fate.
The 26 episode TV series is available in an English dub by Funimation. There are 4 OVA episodes collectively known as "A Letter from an Abandoned Planet", and a second series entitled "Crossroads to Eternity", with 24 episodes in total. However, the OVAs and second TV series have not been licensed in English.
Not to be confused with its spiritual predecessor, Galaxy Express 999 (although the OVA forms a Crossover with it), or Leiji Matsumoto's source of inspiration for both series, Night on the Galactic Railroad.
- Action Girl: Louise, and then the girls of Spica Platoon.
- Afterlife Express: It comes at midnight every few months to a specific platform; you ride it until you're ready to move on.
- Alternate Universe: Alien invaders seem to love leaping out of black holes to attack trains in Manabu's universe.
- Also, the series is part of the Leijiverse, see that entry below for more details.
- Amazon Brigade: Spica Platoon.
- Anyone Can Die: Mostly one-off or minor characters die, but this series practically does the worst thing imaginable and kills off Bruce.
- Badass Army: The Space Defense Force and the Space Panzer Grenadiers qualify even though they're part of a space railway corporation. The various train platoons are badass enough to defy the orders of the corrupted Galaxy Railway executives when the executives attempt to stop them from rescuing the main cast.
- Batman Gambit: Bulge knows his questionable actions involving his punching an intelligence officer in the face and disobeying unethical orders will likely result in his dismissal (and indeed he gets fired in episode 23), so he hands the cosmo matrix (a key to defeating the Big Bad) to the train mechanics so that it can be studied and integrated into Big One's weapons system. When the intelligence bureau general demands the cosmo matrix, the mechanics give him a fake. When Bulge gets fired (because of the intelligence bureau general's political influence), Big One is officially impounded. But of course, the mechanics take the time to fix Big One while every other platoon is out (getting killed). By the time Bulge gets the secret go-ahead from the strategic commander to get Sirius Platoon back together, Big One is ready to roll. In other words, Bulge used his own dismissal as a way to get Big One ready for the final battle and keep his platoon away from the eyes of the corrupt intelligence bureau.
- Bittersweet Ending: Both seasons do this to some extent. The first season ends with stopping an alien armada from destroying planet Destiny, at the cost of nearly all the combat trains (and nearly killing the heroes in the process). The second season ends with finding out that Manabu's father, Wataru, was bodily absorbed by a rogue dimensional tunneler machine, and that killing his spirit vessel is the only way to stop the tunneler from destroying the Galaxy Railways universe and the alternate universe.
- Bloodless Carnage: Averted viciously. Characters bleed easily and gunfights can get incredibly violent. Not even the heroes can get away without getting hurt a lot.
- Boobs of Steel: Julia from Spica Platoon. She's also the one who does Awesomeness by Analysis.
- Chekhov's Gun: Literally, the Tragic Keepsake gun that Manabu inherited after his father's demise. The gun is broken and won't fire, which makes it the perfect tool for tricking a suicidal maniac into getting arrestednote .
- Cool Train: Big One, and all the other locomotives used by the SDF. The majority of the passenger trains resemble real trains.
- Corrupt Corporate Executive: Galaxy Railway Corporation really needs to have an internal affairs department to prevent stolen or rogue secret projects from hurting passengers and alternate universes!
- Dying Alone: Bruce and at a gas station of all places, shot In the Back by some random punk.
- Filler: The first series is full of these. Then again, it's an episodic show where plot development is kept in the background until the final battle with alternate universe aliens that are pissed off about the railways' apparent destruction of their territorial space. The second season does this as well, and everything about the railways' secret project that started the whole mess comes to light, in a very shocking manner.
- Five-Man Band:
- Heroic Sacrifice: Vega Platoon and pretty much some of the minor characters, including two robotic train conductors.
- Hot Springs Episode: Episode 19 of season one, which served as comedic relief, especially with the violence that constantly goes on. One just has to see what the train crews do on vacation to get a good laugh. And the episode serves to give more depth to the crews.
- Just Train Wrong:
- Big One's valve gear links don't move correctly, if you use classic steam locomotive construction logic. But one can explain that the valve gear links are merely aesthetics to demonstrate RuleOfCool, since Big One is a space locomotive.
- Another bigger hitch is Big One not being an articulated locomotive, despite being based on the Union Pacific Big Boy. Yet again, we are discussing a train in space, where there are NO tightly curved metal rails for the trains to potentially derail upon.
- A somewhat hilarious lampshade is hung on the issue of David constantly pushing Big One's throttle to maximum power setting in season 2, episode 8, where Big One is temporarily stranded owing to the plasma plugs being burned out. Notice that whenever Big One accelerates from rest, it suffers wheel-slip, a detrimental phenomenon where the locomotive's driving wheels accelerate quickly enough to temporarily overcome static friction between the wheel's surface and the tracks (even when the tracks are merely magnetic fields in space). In other words, David burned out the locomotive's plasma plugs by doing the equivalent of slamming the accelerator pedal of a car. Do not try this with any railway locomotive (let alone a space train) unless you want angry mechanics complaining about your behavior!
- Ms. Fanservice: Yuki Sexaroid (obviously, considering she fits the bill for the creator's ideal woman). And Louise to some extent, but only when she's not in uniform.
- Monster of the Week: Plenty of this comes around when dealing with relatively under-developed planets. One monster happened to be a giant dinosaur.
- "On the Next Episode of..." Catchphrase: The English-language version had "See you next time on the railways!" (usually said cheerily by Manabu), though "We're going to encounter something at the next station" was what was used on the subtitles.
- Plant Aliens: The mysterious aliens that keep showing up look like human-shaped plants under their armor.
- Ridiculously Human Robot: Seriously, there is no way to tell Yuki's one until she says it outright. Other characters have to tell her not to view herself purely as a machine. In fact, Yuki's core consciousness is said to be perfectly human, since her core programs were based on Mori Yuki's genetic data. Yes, the female lead of Space Battleship Yamato.
- Sacrificial Lion: Bruce Speed, surprisingly enough.
- Screw the Rules, I'm Doing What's Right!: One of Manabu's key character traits is that he tends to ignore orders that he thinks are wrong or go against his personal ethics. Additionally, in the penultimate episode of the first season, the whole of Sirius Platoon gets back together to save the day, despite having been broken up and Captain Bulge having been officially booted from the force. Said unemployment means that Bulge doesn't have to worry about getting punished while away from Planet Destiny. And strategic commander Todo decides to screw the regulations when the corrupt and incompetent intelligence general hijacks the control center (Todo sticks up the general at gunpoint and then orders the security guards to escort the general out of the room in handcuffs).
- And yet again, in season 2, the train platoons and Todo disobey the commands of the corrupt Galaxy Railway executives and force their way past execution threats through appearance of solidarity, shocking the Destiny Station security guards. In essence, the platoon members implicitly said "Our job is to protect the galaxy railways from all possible threats. If we must protect them from our own employers' sick plans, so be it!"
- Shout-Out: The joker in a deck of cards at one point is Captain Harlock.
- So Proud of You:
- Manabu gets to hear his father say this to him in a sort of vision thing in the final episode.
- In season 2, Manabu hears this from his father when the latter requests suicide by proxy in order to stop the rogue dimensional tunneling machine from killing everyone.
- Stock Footage: The animations of the trains moving through space and Big One's launch sequence. You'll also hear the same bits of dialogue being reused each time for the latter. One wonders why the launch sequence is so important (oh, wait, isn't the system check supposed to prevent launch accidents!?).
- Theme Tune Cameo: Manabu gets roped into singing the opening theme in the first season's Hot Springs Episode, and he's forced to sing the tune while wearing a pink mini-dress. Captain Bulge sings the ending theme just before that.
- Tickle Torture: In "Memory Gallery," this is one of the ways in which David convinces the memory thief to give back Bruce's memory.
- Time Travel: Manabu falls back in time to just before his brother's death... in the second episode. And per the usual for anything made by Leiji Matsumoto, you can't change the past to save anyone.
- Troperiffic: We have the reluctant hero, the male partner that bullies him as a form of training, the girl who has mixed feelings for him, a steel-hardened captain, a sexy nurse robot, and a chronic gambler among them. Now throw in a basic scenario with predictable one-off stories. Matsumoto does this all the time but this never stops his works from being fun.
- Wagon Train to the Stars: The Galaxy Railways themselves.
- War Is Hell: Even women and children are never guaranteed to be safe from the crap that comes with alien attacks.
- Wave-Motion Gun: There are quite a few huge guns around.
- Iron Burger's regular rolling stock has a few articulated coaches at the rear that conceal a sub-atomic particle beam cannon.
- The oversized railway howitzers count, but with little armor, they are also vulnerable to counter attacks.
- When Big One has the Cosmo Matrix integrated into its weapons system, the main battery coach is improvised into a battery of wave motion guns at the cost of burning out during the first few battles and then self-destructing during the final battle against the Alfort grand command ship.
- The stolen SPG train in season 2 has a huge Denel cannon, which the pirates aboard use to shoot down other trains.
- Big One's greatest improvement in season 2 is the Cosmo Matrix Cannon, concealed behind its pilot truck's armor plating.
- What Is This Thing You Call "Love"?: As a sexaroid assigned to the platoon, Yuki doesn't really feel like part of the team at first because she's just programmed to do her job and can be easily be replaced if she gets destroyed. Manabu, however, doesn't buy this and helps her to see that she's more than this. And a person resembling Tochiro Oyama (Kei Oyama, who is most certainly a relative) tells Yuki that her soul is human, even if her body is mechanical.
- Willing Suspension of Disbelief: Discussed in the ADR director and voice actor commentary for the final episode on the English-language release disc. The ADR director notes that he's heard people who've worked on the show wonder about how a train would have steam when it's in space— but, then again, how would a train even travel through space in the first place?
- It is stated that the trains run on magnetic fields laid throughout the galaxy. That explains why derailments would be bad: If there are no tracks holding up the train, the train would plummet towards the nearest celestial body.