Examining Old School Anime: Two is more than Three

I’ve realized one of the charms of Leiji Matsumoto’s work: his style of creating episodes centered on a particular theme reminds one of G. K. Chesterton’s short stories and the chapters of his novels.  Also, each of Matsumoto’s themes form part of a personal and systematic philosophy solidly based upon the truth.  Meiji Matsumoto is the Chesterton of anime.  Episode twenty-eight of Galaxy Express 999 brought to mind a theme of Chesterton’s described saliently in the following quote:

The same question might be considered well enough in the old proverb that two is company and three is none.  This proverb is the truth put popularly: that is, it is the truth put wrong….But if you reject the proverb altogether; if you say that two and three are the same sort of company; if you cannot see that there is a wider abyss between two and three than between three and three million–then I regret to inform you that you belong to the Third Class of human beings; that you shall have no company either of the two or three, but shall be alone in a howling desert till you die.
-from the chapter “The Three Kinds satisfied”  of Alarms and Discursions by G. K. Chesterton

What about this episode of Galaxy Express 999 brought that up?  (If any of our dear readers have never read Chesterton and now feel an inclination to exchange my post for Chesterton at this very moment, know that I forgive you and recommend Heretics, Orthodoxy, and The Ball and the Cross in that order.  Cheers!) There is an ancient novelist in this episode who aspires to write the longest novel in the universe.  (By the way, the longest novel ever written on Earth is Artamene ou Le Grand Cyrus by Madeline and/or Georges de Scudéry.  Can’t say that I recommend that 2.1 million word romantic monstrosity.) One wonders how he could have let his obsession so divorce him from human society.  Could he not have been satisfied with a mere three or four million words and attended to the business of living at the same time?  It is not good for man to be alone!

At any rate, seeing Maetel reminds him of the joys of society (at least one of them, anyway), and he falls head over heads for her.  So, he abducts Maetel and maroons Tetsuro on the lonely planet he had occupied for decades.  Yet, our trusty conductor foils the novelist’s plans, returns him to his house, and restores Tetsuro to Maetel.

What surprised me most about the ancient writer is not so much that he favored Maetel over Tetsuro, but that such a lonely person would not rather have Tetsuro with him as well.  After all, three is more than two.  Why not engage with two personalities rather than just one?  Yet, Adam was completely happy in the company of Eve, Aeschylus declined to use three way conversations in his tragedies, and the most fundamental relationship, between a man and God, also concerns two individuals.  There is a sense where two is more than three.  Three holds more quantity and breadth, but two more quality and depth.  Three is comradeship; two is intimacy.

Of course, intimacy need not be restricted to romantic relationships.  Upon Jonathan’s death, David said of his friend: “I grieve for thee, my brother Jonathan; exceedingly beautiful, and amiable to me above the love of women.  As the mother loved her only son, so did I love thee,” (2 Samuel 1:26).  Why was Jonathan more beautiful to David than women?  Because David has enjoyed often peering into Jonathan’s soul, and the soul possesses more beauty than the figure of she who launched a thousand ships.  The human soul is its own world, and one cannot begin to fathom another’s soul save through intimacy.

I find it odd that Maetel has no intermediate garment between fur coat and swimsuit.


Still, if accompanied by love of soul, those in a romantic union can delve deeper into each others’ hearts than even great friends due to the complementarity of men and women.  Hence, the relationship between God and his Church is described as that of a bridegroom and his bride, and the most mystic book of Scripture is the Song of Solomon: most mystic because its depths can only be plumbed by those who have drunk most deeply of the fountain of divine love.  The rest of us might only see a love song between two mortals!

But, without this accompanying love of soul, romance can hinder intimacy like few things can.  People are often loved for their function (sex) rather than their persons.  At the end of this episode of Galaxy Express 999, the old novelist expresses to Maetel how ardently he desires to live among beautiful women like her.  The following scene reminds one of Teresa of Claymore revealing herself to the bandits.  Maetel shows her body to the novelist, saying that she’ll stay with him if he thinks her beautiful.  For whatever reason, the novelist instantly loses interest.  And so, Maetel goes back to traveling the galaxy with Tetsuro.  As mysterious as Maetel remains, the intimacy of Tetsuro and Maetel eclipses the fellowship of three and the mob of three million, while the novelist remains in a howling desert forever writing an empty book for never having learned the nature of love.

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4 thoughts on “Examining Old School Anime: Two is more than Three

  1. An interesting piece on an older series I know very little about. But, intimacy in friendship is something we oftentimes ignore in film/TV. Intimacy in a romantic relationship is obvious. The friendship and the closeness I have with my wife in that bond is unique and beautiful. But the relationship between friends, a true intimacy where they know one another well – is an important one which we forget.

    1. Agreed! More frequently, recently, when I consume media with a story revolving around the close bond between two people of the same sex (I’m brought back to an episode revolving around a grown girl and her female caretaker, close in age, in Mushishi Zoku Shou), I wonder how many people interpret their relationship to be leading to sexual. Regardless of one’s views of the morality of homosexuality, two individuals can have intimacy without sex.

    2. That’s very true. I think that the rather stressful and active lives people live nowadays makes it harder to form intimate friendships. I’m reading an interesting book on the subject: Friendship by Hugh Black. He also notes that friendship seems to have been more valued by ancient pagans than Christians and the secular persons of our times, which is an interesting thing to think about.

      I can’t recommend Galaxy Express 999 or Space Pirate Captain Harlock (also created by Leiji Matsumoto) enough. They are some of the most awesome shows anime has to offer.

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