Kenji Miyazawa’s Night on the Galactic Railroad (1985)
Directed by Gisaburo Sugii
Written by Kenji Miyazawa, Hiroshi Masumura, Minoru Betsuyaku
Produced by Masato Hara, Atsumi Tashiro
Starring Mayumi Tanaka, Chika Sakamoto, Ayumi Ishijo, Kaori Nakahara, Shun Yashiro, Chikao Otsuka, Fujio Tokita, Takeshi Aono, Reiko Niimura, Junko Hori, Tetsuya Kaji
One among innumerable stops in the itinerary of a massive locomotive traversing the galaxy’s span is situated near a village populated by bipedal, Italian, Esperantographic felines. Boarding there, a poor, pensive, unpopular adolescent (Tanaka), employed as a compositor and paperboy to support his family in his father’s absence, and a wealthy classmate (Sakamoto) thwart the Milky Way to witness emblematical Northern and Southern (Christian) Crosses, Albireo’s grimly towering stone observatory, a black hole, the tragic submergence of a passenger liner and Scorpio’s fabularly sempiternal incandescence; further, they explore beyond a town resembling their own a Pliocene strand where ancient stones and walnuts are exhumed from its crystalline sands. Within their tenebrious car, these curious kittens encounter the train’s conductor (Kaji) and blind, geriatric radio operator (Aono), and fellow passengers — a catcher and peddler of weirdly ethereal birds (Otsuka), one pious, elderly Catholic (Kaori), and human siblings escorted by their tutor in the wake of their aforesaid shipwreck — all of whom are bound to a shared destination. Sugii’s deliberately deliberative animated adaptation of Miyazawa’s classic juvenile novel abounds with transcendental allusions and celestial symbolism, and varies by anthropomorphism from its source, the humanist pathos of which is fully intact. Their beautifully painted and poignant noctivagation glorifies the fealty of true friendship and Christian faith (posited by a famously devout Buddhist!)…be it perhaps only sciomancy dreamt in a deathly prescience.
Recommended for a double feature paired with Galaxy Express 999.

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