Legend of the Galactic Heroes: Die Neue These – Anime Review
Synopsis: Thousands of years later, humanity has advanced into space. Here it has divided into two countries with two different forms of government: the autocracy of the Galactic Empire, and the democracy of the Free Planets Alliance. These two countries have been at war for 150 years. Near the end of the 8th age of the space calendar, the appearance of two geniuses will change history forever. The unstoppable genius, Reinhard von Lohengramm, and the unbeatable magician, Yang Wen-li. As heads of the Imperial and Alliance armies respectively, the two will face each other in battle over and over again. (Official Crunchyroll Synopsis)
Review (Warning: Minor Spoilers to Follow):
Legend of the Galactic Heroes attempts to adapt a beloved Japanese sci-fi novel series for the second time, re-imagining the anime form of this story from the original OVA that stands at a total of over one-hundred episodes. Not having had the chance to experience the OVA I can’t really comment on how this second adaptation holds up to the previous. What I can say is that what’s offered here is exclusively for one kind of audience alone, so focused and set on providing the epic tale of two warring governments and people that deeper characterization is largely absent.
Galactic Heroes’ primary focus is on strategy, political drama, and war. While the series offers Yang Wen-li as a compelling lead character, with his own charm as the nonchalant, reluctant hero with the brains to back it all up, there aren’t any other characters to truly gravitate towards. Most of the men and women around Yang Wen-li serve a singular purpose, acting as warm bodies to help carry the plot forward or round out the world building. Yang Wen-li’s adopted kid? Features for a handful of episodes and largely exists to make certain moral points, or provide a way for other plot developments to occur. In fact many characters are like this, individuals that could be removed from the story, replaced with another character with a different personality or visage and nothing would change in any extreme way.
There are certain characters whose unique story feature in important ways, like Walter von Schonkopf, whose potential of betraying his country adds tension to a certain mid-season sequence, but these moments and characters are few and far between. The only other major characters to latch onto are Reinhard Lohengramm and his subordinate Seigfried Kircheis, two high ranking officials within the Galactic Empire. Lohengramm holds designs of seizing power for himself, to right the wrongs of the empire as ultimately a benevolent dictator. Both characters are explored and featured enough that they feel like true individuals, central to the story. However, both take a long absence from the center spotlight, to the point where their early episodes and focus pales in comparison to how much we learn about Yang Wen-li and grow to like him as an unlikely and reluctant hero forced into heroism. Reinhard and Seigfried eventually end up feeling like the out and out villains due to this framing, only brought in at the end of the season to close the noose around Yang Wen-li as plans begin to fall apart and the war between the Galactic Empire and Free Planets Alliance grows dire. Reinhard and Seigfried aren’t exactly true villains, as we learn from their backstory and strong desire to undo the injustice within the empire they serve. But the series gives them so little exploration alongside the Empire’s social and political situation that they never get a chance to shine as ‘heroes’ in their own half of the narrative.
Largely this means that Legend of the Galactic Heroes is a truly global story in scale, focused more so on the Eb and flow of the battle between these two warring governments with extremely polar opposite ideological ideas about governance. It’s not to say any of these things are extreme detriments, but it’s appropriate that audiences realize you’re not going to be offered a plethora of characters to latch onto, despite the series name perhaps implying such. The greatest example of this is the season finale, as we’re introduced to a slew of new characters, with unique designs and names plastered across the screen. But despite their attention grabbing visage, we learn next to nothing about all these new faces, making it extremely unlikely audiences will be able to remember the 10+ new characters showcased in the final two episodes before we’re left with a cliffhanger.
What Galactic Heroes does do extremely well however is that global narrative of politics, social upheaval, war and strategy. It’s a deeply focused series in that regard and for audiences seeking a grand epic tale Galactic Heroes succeeds in spades. It’s enough that I’d argue any other deficiencies are waylaid by such a strong, primary focus, and should audiences gravitate to Yang Wen-li, he makes for such a strong lead that you’ll find yourself eager for the film continuation. However, one other issue I take note of is how harsh the cliffhanger is. Instead of offering a true conclusion to the current plot line, where things look grim for our hero, we’re left mid-fall, waiting for the ultimate confrontation in this arc between Yang Wen-li and Lohengramm, who haven’t challenged each other again since the beginning of the season. I might be less sour on such a harsh cliffhanger if I had faith that Western audiences will see the film continuations any time soon. Even then Japanese audiences need to wait till next year for the first in a three film continuation, meaning Western audiences could have to wait even longer.
All that said, I can’t help but recommend Legend of the Galactic Heroes: Die Neue These to anyone eager for a grand, global level story focused less so on characters and more so on world-building and grander plots. Legend of the Galactic Heroes nails that laser focus with such perfect precision that its other deficiencies hardly matter.