Mars, the Red Planet – the first stop on the Galaxy Express, allowing Tetsurou to see life on another planet for the first time. That the world looks like a classic Western town is rather fitting, for reasons that will be explained later; for now, the opening shows Tetsurou and Maetal arriving on their first journey away from home, leaving the Earth behind. Of note is the one shot (shown above) of the two isolated in a frame, with darkness around them – this happens to be a long shot, placing the central figures off-center, with them talking about the fact that Tetsurou could indeed die if he were to miss the train. Maetal, the worldly mentor, teaches Tetsurou about the universe and what to expect; this happens to be Tetsurou’s journey more than anything, as he experiences life in the universe on his own terms, seeing the galaxy for the first time as he leaves the confines of Earth (and the bad memories that exist there) so that he can obtain a mechanical body.
Mars can be an unforgiving place, especially considering that its major city and capital, Syrtis Major, is barely inhabited, but the same applies to Earth – both planets went through the throes of idealizing the mechanical to the point where the rich have everything and are themselves isolated from the tribulations of the poorer classes and individuals who can barely afford any food and basic amenities, let alone mechanical bodies. This happens to be the grim reality of this show’s future – high technology allowed for people to forego their own flesh and blood in favor of pursuing a path of seeming immortality, but only the rich can apparently afford such a luxury as that. The allure of a free cyborg body lures Tetsurou to an unnamed planet; it ostensibly allows for societal equality, in that even the poor can make the transition, but at what cost?
The show introduces the audience to Geronimo, Fleme and Fleme’s father, the only three inhabitants of Syrtis Major that Tetsurou meets on his brief stay here – Geronimo gets major attention here, as he wishes to leave Mars, seemingly abandoning Fleme behind to the elements to pursue his own ambitions. However, there is a somber reality behind all this; as Tetsurou learns from Fleme, Mars has very little in regards to social opportunity, as no wealthy patrons remain on the planet, leaving those in the poorer echelons to fend for themselves. As a result, Syrtis Major became a ghost town, complete with a rather expansive Boot Hill filled with the bodies of those Earth immigrants who died due to the planet’s harsh environment; as Maetal noted earlier, only those with robotic bodies live here, which indicates that both Geronimo and Fleme are cybernetic.
Fleme’s father, a bartender, echoes this somber sentiment; he cannot afford to replace his body, and remains on Mars because he cannot get the money to move elsewhere. When Tetsurou offers money to allow the man to make the change, he politely refuses – this shows Tetsurou in a sympathetic light, as he is willing to make sacrifices to help others, and the bartender’s refusal shows that he would rather see Tetsurou survive and carry on his own path rather than spend all his money on a single person. This contrasts with the seemingly ambitious single-mindedness of Geronimo, who takes it upon himself to look for a pass; he is willing to fight Tetsurou for his, illustrating his desperation to leave a barren world that once held so much promise. In fact, Mars seems to be the wasteland equivalent of Earth – the rich abandoned it, much like how the rich on Earth abandoned the “lower classes,” spending their time in opulent abodes and leaving other humans to their fates.
The confrontation between Tetsurou and Geronimo that covers the second half of this episode puts all these themes into sharp relief – Geronimo shoots at Tetsurou, then fires upon Fleme before being shot by Tetsurou himself, the two dying before their ambitions can be fulfilled. Mainly, this is about Geronimo’s own anxieties about remaining on a planet devoid of any opportunity; his nervousness likely stems from his own apprehension over his own transition to a robotic form, as seeing blood (Tetsurou gets a cut on his hand) reminds him of what he left behind in search of a “better” life as a cyborg. When the two ancillary protagonists perish in the graveyard, they get covered in sand, their bodies now buried by the elements – left to be forgotten, although Tetsurou will likely remember his own experience here.