Night on the Galactic Railroad (film)

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Night on the Galactic Railroad
Night on the Galactic Railroad.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byGisaburo Sugii
Screenplay byMinoru Betsuyaku
Based on
Produced byAtsumi Tashiro
Masato Hara
StarringMayumi Tanaka
Chika Sakamoto
CinematographyNobuo Koyama
Edited byMasashi Furukawa
Music byHaruomi Hosono
Distributed byNippon Herald Films
Release date
  • 13 July 1985 (1985-07-13) (Japan)
Running time
113 minutes

Night on the Galactic Railroad (銀河鉄道の夜, Ginga Tetsudō no Yoru) is a 1985 Japanese anime film directed by Gisaburo Sugii, based on the 1927 fantasy novel of the same name by Kenji Miyazawa. The film's screenplay was written by Minoru Betsuyaku. Its plot follows a young cat named Giovanni (voiced by Mayumi Tanaka), who journeys on a train with his classmate Campanella (Chika Sakamoto) through the Milky Way galaxy.

Produced by the animation studios Group TAC and Gallop, the film was released by Nippon Herald Films on July 13, 1985.


Giovanni is a young, bluish-colored cat, whose father is away on a fishing trip and whose mother is ill at home. At school, during a lesson about the Milky Way, Giovanni's teacher asks him what the galaxy is composed of. Giovanni knows that it is made of stars, but is unable to say so, and his classmate Campanella does the same to save Giovanni from their fellow schoolmates' teasing. After school, Giovanni works a typesetting job at a print shop, and buys a loaf of bread and some sugar. He returns home to find that no milk was delivered that day, so he heads to the dairy, where he is told by an elderly cat to return at a later time.

That night, the Centaurus Festival, or the Festival of Stars, takes place in the town. Upon reaching the festivities, Giovanni is mocked by his classmates for expecting an otter-skin coat from his father. Giovanni runs to the top of a hill at the edge of town and gazes up at the night sky. A steam train suddenly appears, and Giovanni boards it. Onboard, he is joined by Campanella, and as the train sets in motion, the two observe fields of flowers outside the windows of their train car. The train travels past the Northern Cross and halts at a stopover, where Giovanni and Campanella disembark. They walk down a flight of steps and are directed by a sign towards "The Pliocene Coast", where they find their teacher leading an excavation of fossils from crystallized sands.

They return to the train, where they meet a bird-catcher who catches herons and turns the birds into candy. Giovanni and Campanella help a blind wireless operator to his radio system. He picks up a transmission which an elderly passenger identifies as the hymn "Nearer, My God, to Thee". When a ticket inspector appears, Giovanni discovers in his pocket a rare ticket which allows him to go anywhere that the train runs. They are then joined in their seats by a tutor and two children, who were onboard a ship that sank after hitting an iceberg. They share apples and pass by a vast cornfield.

As the train passes Scorpius, one of the children recalls a story about a scorpion who perished in a well after escaping a weasel; regretting that it did not sacrifice itself for a good cause, the scorpion prayed to bring happiness to others in its next life, and its body burst into a bright flame that still burns in the night sky. The train stops at the Southern Cross, where every passenger except for Giovanni and Campanella disembark for the Christian Heaven. Giovanni pledges that he and Campanella should continue on the train's journey together forever. However, as the train approaches the Coalsack, Campanella sees what he claims to be "the true Heaven", where his mother is waiting for him. Campanella vacates the train, leaving Giovanni alone.

Giovanni awakens on the hilltop. He returns to the dairy, where this time he collects a bottle of milk from a farmer. As Giovanni passes through town on his way home, he learns that Campanella fell into a river while saving one of their classmates, Zanelli, from drowning. Giovanni hurries to the river, where he finds Campanella's father giving up searching for his son, as his disappearance occurred 45 minutes prior. He tells Giovanni that he has received a letter from his father, stating that he will be home soon. Giovanni believes Campanella is "at the edge of the universe", which he says he knows "because we explored it together". He vows to be like the scorpion who promised to bring happiness to others, and continues homeward.


Character Japanese[1] English[2]
Giovanni Mayumi Tanaka Veronica Taylor
Campanella Chika Sakamoto Crispin Freeman
Zanelli Junko Hori Oliver Wyman
Teacher Ryounosuke Kaneda Greg Wolfe
Store Owner Ryuji Saikachi
Giovanni's Mother Yoshie Shimamura
Dairy Woman Reiko Niimura Rachel Lillis
Bird Catcher Chikao Ootsuka Oliver Wyman
Lighthouse Keeper Fujio Tokita Eric Stuart
Wireless Operator Takeshi Aono David Moo
Young Man Hidehiro Kikuchi Sam Riegel (as Gil Ramsee)
Kaoru Kaori Nakahara Lisa Ortiz
Tadashi Yuriko Fuchizaki Amy Birnbaum
Conductor Tetsuya Kaji Scott Cargle
Marceau Miyuki Ichijou Rachel Lillis
Campanella's Father Gorou Naya Eric Schussler
Dairy Man Seiji Kurazaki Scott Rayow

Additional voices[edit]



Campanella (left) and Giovanni (right)

The film was produced by Nippon Herald and animated by Group TAC with in-between animation done by Gallop. The most prominent alteration made in the film is that the main two characters (and their classmates) are depicted as cats.

Some other characters, such as the children from the ship, are humans. Many members of the anime staff ultimately went on to high-profile careers as directors or as studio founders, such as Kōichi Mashimo, then a storyboard artist, who more than ten years later would go on to form the famed studio Bee Train.

Use of Esperanto[edit]

The captions throughout the film are in Esperanto as an homage to Kenji Miyazawa, who was strongly interested in the language. The film's title in Esperanto is Nokto de la Galaksia Fervojo. Text appearing in various scenes was also written in Esperanto, such as writing on the blackboard in the classroom. A newspaper being printed in the printing house where Giovanni works tells of the shipwreck of a passenger ship bearing the Esperanto phrase Dio, pli apud vin ("Nearer, My God, to Thee").


The film soundtrack was composed by Yellow Magic Orchestra member Haruomi Hosono.

Home media[edit]

The film was licensed by Central Park Media in the late 1990s, and was released on VHS with English subtitles. The subtitled version played irregularly on the Canadian station Space in 1997 and 1998.[3][better source needed] When it was later released on DVD in 2001, CPM produced an English dub that starred Veronica Taylor as Giovanni and Crispin Freeman as Campanella. The film was re-licensed by Discotek Media and released on DVD in 2015 and Blu-ray in 2016.[4]


Justin Sevakis of Anime News Network commented that the film was "a beautiful journey, albeit an ominous one. Slowly, the mood of the trek shifts from excited and childlike to desperate and profound."[5]


The film was honored with the Ōfuji Noburō Award for 1985.


  1. ^ "Night on the Galactic Railroad". Behind The Voice Actors. Retrieved 2021-04-04.
  2. ^ "Night on the Galactic Railroad". Behind The Voice Actors. Retrieved 2021-04-04.
  3. ^ Igarashi, Ru (November 24, 1997). "[Galactic Railroad] Space's broadcast". rec.arts.anime.
  4. ^ Jensen, Paul (February 1, 2016). "Shelf Life: One Piece: Season 7 Part 4". Anime News Network. Retrieved February 2, 2016.
  5. ^ Sevakis, Justin (December 21, 2006). "Buried Treasure: Night on the Galactic Railroad". Anime News Network. Retrieved February 16, 2021.

External links[edit]