In Loki’s third episode, “Lamentis”, the prodigal Asgardian trickster and his new interdimensional travel companion accidentally wound up smack dab in the middle of an apocalypse from which there was only one clear route of escape. As luck would have it, neither of Loki’s heroes were exactly prepared to partake in this particular vehicle for salvation, but these are the sorts of situations Loki’s always excelled at surviving in.
Even with all their magicks presumably at their disposal, the only way Loki and Sylvie were going to make it off Lamentis-1 was by recharging a TemPad, something that could only be done by stealing power from the last space ark scheduled to leave the doomed planet. Considering that neither of the Variants arrived with tickets in hand to get to the ark, this was a tall order from the get-go. But it all became that much more impossible after the pair managed to sneak aboard the train, get tossed off moments later, and then arrive at the ark on foot just in time to see it destroyed before even clearing Lamentis-1's atmosphere.
Between its focus on people fighting for a spot on a train to its moments of melancholic introspection, “Lamentis” has a lot in common with some of the more compelling episodes of Leiji Matsumoto’s Galaxy Express 999—a manga series about a young boy named Tetsuro and his guardian, Maetel, who ride the titular locomotive. While Loki and Galaxy Express 999's stories are drastically different in style and format, both series explore similar ideas about what it means to be a self-actualized person capable of surviving multiple apocalypses. Though the Galaxy Express 999' anime adaptation’s a seminal classic in its own right, there’s enough thematic resonance between it and Loki to make the series worth revisiting (or checking out for the first time), especially give the cliffhanger “Lamentis” ends on.
Though the 999 and its many stops are Galaxy Express’ main focus, that specific train isn’t the only line featured in the series. When the 999 accidentally travels into a dense pocket of gas known as Solgaso, Tetsuro, Maetel, and the Conductor are dragged down along with the rest of the train into the bottom of a strange gravity well that seemingly derailed the 333 line. As well-known as hazards like Solgaso are, the 333's inexplicable degradation and the death of all its passengers are just the first signs that something horrific and heartbreaking is hiding within the gravity well.
Because the universe of Galaxy Express 999 is so dangerous, there are some humans who, rather than trying secure machine bodies like Tetsuro or opting to hide somewhere, instead choose to end their lives on the planet Nuruba, a homeworld to shapeshifting, sentient beings. As the 999 stops on Nuruba, Tetsuro and Maetel’s lives are put in danger when a pair of young Nurubans attempt to escape the planet by taking their forms and their places on the train.
As often as the 999 is targeted for attacks, you’d think that the Conductor would know that there’s no real place where it’s ever safe for him to stop the train. That being said, the stresses of the job make you understand why he’d need to take a break on the Kingdom of Atonement, a resort-like planet that takes its reputation very seriously. It isn’t anyone on the 999's fault when a robber holds the Conductor up and takes all his cash, but the idea that someone from the Kingdom of Atonement is responsible is so alarming to those living there that they’ll stop at nothing to make sure the Conductor tells no one what happened.
Of the many bandits who try to take the 999 down, the pirate queen Emeraldes is one of the more successful and memorable. As ruthless a figure as she appears to be once she manages to trap the 999 and drag its passengers down to her planet, her desire to steal Maetel’s body for her own embodies how tragic the lives of most of Galaxy Express 999's villains are.
There is much about the Galaxy Express’ chaotic larger universe that its core characters don’t fully comprehend by the time they encounter queen Egoteria, the unhinged queen of a mysterious planet that destroys other celestial bodies as it shifts through dimensions. The grandeur that Egoteria’s initially presented with gradually gives way to a much more base and grounded kind of villainy that contrasts with the unique powers she possesses. Maetel’s final battle with Egoteria features both some of Galaxy Express 999's most dynamic action sequences and and its gut-wrenching lines about why villains hurt people they way that they do.
As always tended to be the case whenever Tetsuro and Maetel came close to being left behind by the train, there’s little doubt that Loki and Sylvie are going to find some way to survive Lamentis-1's apocalypse despite all hope seeming lost. It’s anyone’s guess, though, how the pair are going to do it.
Galaxy Express 999 is now streaming on Crunchyroll.
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