Riding on the Space Train: A note on internal consistency

A long time ago, I did a post about Galaxy Express 999, looking at its often confusing, occasionally silly, but still satisfying world. In short, Three Nine’s world rarely makes “sense” in any logical way. And it’s completely unapologetic about it and often flaunts it. I mean, why wouldn’t the space train run on coal?

But, I am a bit of a Matsumoto fanboy. Okay, I am a lot of a Matsumoto fanboy, so I set out on his current trip on the space train – Galaxy Railways.

Now overall, I think it’s a good show. It’s definitely enjoyable. But it definitely does need some comparison with the original as far as world view goes.

What makes Galaxy Railways interesting, is that it does concede to trying to build a believable reality. Gone are the trains floating through space riding some sort of invisible track, and in comes an almost Cowboy Bebop-esque set of rings that seem to hold this invisible track. Sure, there are still scenes where the crew walks outside of the train without any breathing apparatus, but now there’s a forcefield that seems to hold the air in.

But all of this got me thinking, are these things really realistic? Let’s take the wind ruffling the hair, when the crew is outside of the train or has the window open. Now if we assume that the train is carrying around the pocket of air (a safe assumption considering that they’re able to drop their shield) then there shouldn’t be any wind because the air is moving at the same speed as they’re going. Oh yeah, and smoke evidently can filter out of the shield, but air doesn’t escape? And then there’s the big one:

They’re riding a train. In space.

But really, I could pick on Galaxy Railways some more. But it really is a good show. Usually I am a stickler for internal consistency, but in a lot of ways the show reminded me of AIR. They were both shows that paid the briefest lipservice to internal consistency. In AIR’s case, it set up a mythology about a winged girl and then expected everything else to fall in around it. And for the most part it did. And for the most part it did.

This all brings up a question. Do I expect my shows to be internally consistent or don’t I? Do I expect a world that sets out rules that make sense? Or will I willingly extend my disbelief to cover even the most unbelievable things? (A lot of this reminds me of some of Coburn’s comments on mechambivalence.)

And I think it depends. In the case of both AIR and Galaxy Railways, I think the shows appeal to the viewer to discard logic in favor of feeling the show. To not pay attention to the astral projections, or the train riding through space. Instead, they ask us to form a bond with main characters and cheer them through their trials. For the most part, both of them work.

Well, except for the last two episodes of AIR.

(Obligatory spoiler warning.)

The thing about Galaxy Railways is that it didn’t force you to ponder its inconsistencies. Much like Three Nine, it worked because it didn’t try to explain itself. So those problems with the logic of the show become kind of like asking about the paradox in the Terminator movies or the existence of bi-pedal war machines. They just aren’t important. The show doesn’t dwell on them. And it certainly doesn’t build a mythology around them.

And that’s the problem with the last two episodes of AIR. They just aren’t consistent with the rest of the story. They ask the viewer to accept that somehow turning into a crow and then hugging the current vessel of the winged girl will somehow free her of the curse. That somehow, this is what previous generations intended all along. And even after that, the show proceeds to even ditch that concept in favor of the main male character needing to hunt down Misuzu because his work isn’t done. Isn’t done? He turned into a crow, traveled back into the past, and then came back and his work still isn’t done? Come on.

See my problem with the end of AIR isn’t that it’s inconsistent. But that it highlights those inconsistencies to highten its emotional appeal. And in the end, it backfires.

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5 Comments

  1. It does? Maybe for you. I think the last episode did a bit of this, but the whole crow thing didn’t bother me.

  2. I was just confused by the whole ending of AIR, but maybe I was just too dense to see the significance of Yukito staying as a crow to continue hunting the winged girl or whatever it is the explanation I needed to have people give me was that I couldn’t arrive at myself -_-”

    “it highlights those inconsistencies to highten its emotional appeal. And in the end, it backfires. ”

    That line though, may just explain why my impression of the show dropped significantly at the end.

  3. The ending to AIR gave me the biggest “WTF” face of any anime ending ever. I understand that it’s trying to get emotion out of me without really deserving it, but it could at least PRETEND to deserve it like for the rest of the series.

  4. Context-wise, AIR is basically a bunch of stories intertwining with a core character: Misuzu. As you play through the stories, you, uh, eventually get to that part of the story where Misuzu bites it. The animated adaptation doesn’t capture the idea very well, though.

    It’s a bit hard to explain all of this, though. I myself root more for Minagi than Misuzu :V

  5. My head screamed “Kannazuki no Miko!!!” when I saw the first picture


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