We’ve been conditioned by Disney and Pixar to think that animated movies are for children. Light in tone, with a standard comic relief sidekick for the protagonist. Simple messages about love and family and all that, plus an obligatory happy ending. But animation is just another means for telling a story, and that story need not be one suitable for children. Take a look at Fantastic Planet or Cool World or Fritz the Cat, for example. Most definitely NOT appropriate for children!
Even when the source material is ostensibly a children’s story, or the main characters are anthropomorphic animals, the resulting movie might not necessarily be something you’d want to watch with your kids.
Night on the Galactic Railroad is based on a classic of children’s literature (at least in Japan) by Kenji Miyazawa. If the movie is a reasonably faithful adaptation, it’s hard to imagine why. Not that it’s a classic, but that it was thought appropriate for children. Young adults, maybe… It’s positively loaded with theology, philosophy, and surrealistic imagery which I think would go way over their heads.
Anyway, on to the story.