Synonyms: Legend of the Galactic Heroes, LoGH, LotGH, Gin'eiden, GinEiDen, Heldensagen Vom Kosmosinsel
Status: Finished Airing
Aired: Jan 8, 1988 to Mar 17, 1997
27 min. per episode
R - 17+ (violence & profanity)
L represents licensing company
Score: 9.041 (scored by 7600 users)
1 indicates a weighted score
drama sci-fi space opera
SynopsisFor decades, the Galactic Empire has been locked in an interstellar war with the Free Planets Alliance, a conflict that involves thousands of spaceships and millions of soldiers on both sides. Two new commanders enter the conflict with great hopes: Imperial Admiral Reinhard von Lohengramm and the FPA's Yang Wen-Li. As they deal with superiors and subordinates, maneuver through complicated political arrangements, plot strategies, and win battles, each will be tested, and ultimately, changed, by the reality of war.
Related AnimeAdaptation: Ginga Eiyuu Densetsu, Ginga Eiyuu Densetsu
Prequel: Ginga Eiyuu Densetsu: Waga Yuku wa Hoshi no Taikai, Ginga Eiyuu Densetsu Gaiden: Ougon no Tsubasa, Ginga Eiyuu Densetsu: Arata Naru Tatakai no Overture, Ginga Eiyuu Densetsu Gaiden: Senoku no Hoshi, Senoku no Hikari, Ginga Eiyuu Densetsu Gaiden: Rasen Meikyuu
Characters & Voice Actors
This series is overrated on this site. That is to say, with 110 episodes, your vote only counts after you've seen 22 episodes, almost a full season, and those who don't like this show probably won't wait for 22 episodes to decide.
Which is a shame, as it's only after about 20 episodes that this series progresses from something that is slow, somewhat overly bombastic, and hinting at more to come to show itself to be one of the most intelligent pieces of anime that's been made to date.
When I say 'intelligent', I don't mean it to be cunning, surprising the viewer with unsuspected plot lines or new angles to view something. Nor does it delve deeply into some obscure theory of science or arts, bombarding the viewer with ideas he couldn't have come up with himself. In fact, there's absolutely nothing in this series that is wholly unexpected or very deep. What it has, though, is a sense of scale that's unsurpassed in any anime - or, for that matter, any television show - I've seen.
Legend of the Galactic Heroes centers around - you guessed it - a bunch of people who, according to populace at large that inhabits the fictional future this series plays in, are of heroic proportions. That is to say, heroic in a very classical sense, being possibly a negative thing as well as a positive.
The series is set in a future wherein the universe known to man is divided into two camps, the aristocratic and absolutist Galactic Empire, and the democratic Free Planets' Alliance, who have been embroiled in a war for some time, seemingly
being evenly matched. This balance is shattered when a military genius with a far-reaching ambition rises on the Imperial side, prompting the Alliance to, somewhat grudgingly, give ever greater backing to the most capable officer on their own side. Both men surround themselves with able staff, who become legends in their own right.
It sounds like your average hero of freedom-versus-tyrant story, but it turns out to be anything but. First of all, the heroes do have a sense of their own importance, but also the sense to question whether they are all that special, or whether the circumstances of their times have just brought them to a spotlight which people equal to them could never have aimed at. More importantly, the main question on which the whole series hinges remains an open one. This question is the age-old one of which is better, autocracy or democracy, the problem being that a good autocracy is usually better than a good democracy, but a bad autocracy being worse than a bad democracy. Within the happenings of the show, it becomes apparent that, militarily speaking, at least, a good autocracy has an edge over democracy in terms of speed and decisiveness, and this shows in how the series progresses.
A large part of the series is devoted to showing the war and its subsequent smaller-scale rumblings. The war is fully shown from the side of the commanding officers - one of only a very few shows to do so - and does show an appropriate sense of scale. With battles involving thousands of battleships and millions of men, simple depictions of large-scale tactics take the place of views of the battlefield itself, and a considerable part of the show is, laudable, devoted to discussions on logistics and military intelligence.
A larger part still, though, is devoted to discussions on politics, all within the greater autocracy versus democracy question. Again, these thoughts never go very deep, but what strikes one is that so very many possible variables are brought up. Almost any motive of rulers or the general populace that might affect a political decision is included at some point in the show, making me at least think to myself: 'They even thought of thát one.' The show does tend, here and there, to lean toward the old 'good soldier, bad politician' cliché, but, overall, it really lacks a clear villain, instead showing each possible side (apart, perhaps, from religious fanatics) from every possible angle. Moreover, all this is shown within a future universe that is highly consistent over the full 110 episodes, even if differences between the warring sides tend to be somewhat exaggerated: in many cases whole societies seem to act a bit too much according to a somewhat radical ideology, only to make their following actions be true to form.
This being true to form applies also to most of the actions that, at first glance, seem to be overly dramatical, in the first place many of the actions of the dozen or so main protagonists. However, when thinking about the how and why of their actions, it usually becomes clear that they cannot have but acted as they did, according to cultural mores and individual character. A case in point would be the reliance of many Imperial officers on the character of some military commander to predict his battlefield tactics. This would seem lunacy, until it is remembered that the Imperial commanders are a tight-knit group, mostly of noble birth, and known to each other: each commander would know the peculiarities of all others, which become all the more predictable as the importance of gaining personal glory and honour in battle are taken into the equation.
This reliance on known characteristics of all personalities is also possible because the characters don't evolve all that much. Now, I've never understood why 'character progression' in general seems to mean having characters make a full volte-face, and I am, in fact, happy with a series that shows all characters as being fully grown, and fixed in their ways. Each has a specific role to play, and a mind-set that might be predictable, but is, again, true to form. This doesn't make the character shallow. Far from it: their characteristics mean that each takes a single position to a fitting extreme, making for interesting differences between the characters, and accompanying differences in outlook.
That said, it is indeed true that the characters may be somewhat flat, and quite a few seem to be included only to show a different point of view toward a specific situation or theory, but it is exactly this relative flatness that makes it possible for them to discuss so many situations.
As for the art, it is old and outdated, but that can't be held against the show. It is a shame that, mainly in the first season, the series is at times simply bad: persons walk in an awkward way, scenes are recycled, and even relative positions of facial structures change from frame to frame. There's no excuse for that. Technically, though, the art definitely gets better during the course of the show.
In fact, the show being old might be a boon. The creators have opted to make the drawing style relatively realistic, which fits the series splendidly. One has only to look at the manga to see how different it could have been: the style of the manga doesn't fit the show at all.
Real points have to go to the design. Again, nothing is really innovative, from the spaceships to the almost 19th century looking setting to the uniforms of the soldiers. It is, however, solid, and consistent, and really brings the world to life.
The music is outstanding. It mainly consists of generally well-known classical compositions, which, granted, have been often used before, but never have they been used to such splendid effect: especially the use of pieces during battle sequences, fitting the individual scenes to the music, is a joy to watch.
As a whole, Legend of the Galactic Heroes never tries to be overly deep, and, though it tends to be somewhat bombastic, never loses itself to any glorification. It is slow and quite meticulous, focusing on a lot of details, and consists for the largest part of dialogue, not action. The story progresses slowly, and only after about a season's worth of episodes the real story starts to evolve.
And this show never, ever tries to evoke an emotional response. The whole series is based on having the viewer have an intellectual understanding of what happens, not an emotional one. There are, thus, no cheap tricks to elicit emotional response, nothing overly dramatic (barring a few strokes of bombast), and no characteristics that make a main protagonist or villain.
I can only applaud this, considering it a feat to produce such a good series without relying on drama. Legend of the Galactic Heroes is, in this sense, the absolute antithesis of my other personal favourite, Le Portrait de Petit Cossette, appealing to the rational side of the viewer, even when the protagonists act with all their vaunted 'foppery and whim'. read more
This is Star Wars. Lucas's franchise should be renamed to something else.
If any work of entertainment in our history deserves the title of 'Star Wars' then it is this anime, and not George Lucas's franchise. This is more star wars than Star Wars ever was, is, or will be. This is star wars. Epic wars among the stars, grand vision with something to say, something to show, all the while consistent narratively, thematically and audially, never pandering to a clamouring fan base, this is 110 episodes of pure sci-fi operatic drama of the highest quality. This is star wars.
Preferably experienced after watching the prequel movie My Conquest Is The Sea Of Stars, the story of the LotGH OVA pits two systems of living against each other. Two charismatic men. Delving through politics, military, religion, philosophy and media, it is a detailed anime that rarely ever takes short cuts. This means that we see everything play out and are never expected to just fill in large gaps with our imagination. We don’t just see ships blowing each other up, we see the tacticians inside them planning their moves, we don’t just see armies invading planets; we see them deal with the aftermath of restructuring society. There are no short cuts in LotGH, only one long and very entertaining path.
LotGH is like the anime equivalent of Michael Mann's Heat when it comes to the two protagonists of Reinhard Lohenngram and Yang Wen-li. They are not in each other’s faces with conflict; they are at a distance yet always on each other's minds. Human civilisation as their chess board. They are not protagonist and antagonist. They are figureheads who are almost comrades in their strong resolves to end a terrible war. They are like magnets drawing fate towards them by their personalities alone; then they back it all up with action and propel humanity into a new century.
Yang Wen-li. The great irony of Yang is that he is the historian-wannabe who is destined to make history himself. The anime speaker for Kurt Vonnegut and Joseph Heller's voices. Those two great literary giants of scathing wit and nonchalance. One of Yang's best quotes is the following: "People may need societies, but they don’t necessarily need 'nations'” He is beyond patriotism or nationalism. He is a conscientious, self-deprecating, charming and laid back man with the humility to feel intense burden and guilt at his actions, even though he tries to take the path of least violence, he is part of a war machine and is directly responsible for millions of deaths. This fact is not lost on the man, and it makes him that much more of anime's greatest characters.
Reinhard Lohenngram, the more romantic fairytale character, with flowing blonde hair, unparalleled achievement, aided by his unwavering childhood friend to rise through the military ranks of the empire with the sole purpose to rescue his sister from the clutches of the emperor, with the additional task of reforming and uniting the entire galaxy as a peripheral duty. Reinhard is not only the most powerful man in the universe, but he's also probably the loneliest. He's a pretty tragic figure that goes through more conflict than Yang, considering the autocratic environment he has to wade through, trying to hold onto his soul as the leader of such a system of living is what’s fascinating about his character.
There are dozens of memorable characters all fully fleshed out, even though they're supporting members, the fact that this is 110 episodes long means they all get a chance to shine in the spotlight and develop just as well as the two main figureheads. Many names will be etched in your mind after you've finished the tale, names such as Kircheis, Reuenthal, Oberstein, Mittermeyer, Poplan, Bucock, Schenkopp.
LotGH might get flak for having the appearance of being a talky and dry anime but that could not be further from the truth. Because of such excellent characterisation, the emotion and drama of this saga is beyond anything in other anime. When characters pass away the sense of loss is palpable, in the same vein of how character deaths in live action cinema affects the viewer, such is the ambition of LotGH in reaching for greatness beyond the anime medium.
"Humans don’t fight for principles or philosophy. They fight for the person who embodies their principles and philosophy. They don’t fight for revolutions, they fight for the revolutionary."
People fight for Reinhard and Yang. They are pyramids, and underneath them are a large cast of characters that are fascinating, fully developed and run the gamut of good to bad to walking the thin line between. One could argue that the empire has the most interesting group of characters, they get slightly more scenes, they have more skill and cunning, but then the republic is more relevant to the majority of viewers watching. They're more relatable because of the environment they're in which reflects modern day westernised society very well, warts and all.
LotGH's epicness lies in its relation to reality, in that we can actually believe various situations portrayed in the story can happen; that a group of men and women can band together to fight for equality no matter what the odds.
LotGH investigates and ponders the virtues and shortcomings of these two systems of living with so much depth, so much impartially, it’s a joy. You're not meant to root for one system because the show doesn’t paint with broad strokes. Whether you prefer one side or the other, both will be populated by characters you like, so not only are you split on an ideological level but also at a basic entertainment level. In fact you're not really meant to root for any side, you're an observer to history being made and repeated. Life is cycles.
When characters talk in LotGH, they talk to each other and not the viewer. For the most part, this isn’t a show stained by one of the main staples of the anime medium, that number one device used by lazy writers to convey information to the viewer: walking talking expositions. This is an anime that is prime material for such characters, who may as well directly stare at the 'camera' and waffle on about what they're doing for the sole purpose of cluing us in. Not so in LotGH, as characters only address each other with information that is relevant to them, not us.
We figure out what's going on through character actions, not asinine summaries from them. If they bring up something that they already know amongst themselves, then they discuss it in a relatively coherent fashion and not typically clichéd manner. In short the viewer is never treated like a child, we have to actually concentrate when watching this story because the characters aren’t going to wait up for us or spell everything out with easy words.
Characters will admittedly often sum up their situations in LotGH, so we can get our bearings, but it’s done naturally as you'd expect for people in a war situation demanding situation reports, it’s never shoe-horned in. Characters reflect upon experiences a lot, about what they've done, what they're doing and what they will do in the future, so a lot of information is conveyed but the most important fact is that they're talking to each other and not the viewer. You will rarely ever question the intelligence of characters, you will rarely exclaim "you're so stupid!" because most of the characters featured in the story are highly intelligent and are already two steps ahead of you. There is no greater viewing experience than watching intelligent people battling each other with everything they've got.
Another important aspect regarding exposition is that this show has a narrator who is the replacement for expositional characters. The narrator transitions us from one setting to another very concisely and is an integral part of the anime. If it weren’t for this grandfatherly voice we'd be bombarded by the terrible expositional conversations anime is famed for, but thankfully we're spared that fate.
Although there is a small irony in the fact that in the last season, comprised of 24 episodes, when the animation is at its best, these tropes of anime that have been disparaged in this review begin to surface. With expositional dialogue and unrestrained character body behaviour beginning to rear its unwanted head. Though it’s not enough to detract, it’s still noticeable considering all of the quality and restraint shown previously. Maybe it’s yet another example of how limitations such as low budget can make creativity flourish through determination, whereas abundancy, such as improved animation in the latter half of this OVA, encourages complacency.
So LotGH is not perfect. The animation and art are dated, the plot riddled with small holes that would make an obsessive nitpicker sweat. Some scenarios are diluted or presented in a very simple and convenient fashion that betray the ambition and scope of the series. Religion is painted with a broad stroke and not explored much. Some military tactics and operations are unrealistically achieved with very little complications when so much thought was put into them beforehand.
LotGH simply makes up for all that with pure passion, overriding aesthetics with storytelling and plot holes with historical research. The concept behind the art is solid, the ideas of what the animation attempts to show you are inspired. The plot holes do not negate the story, they can be forgiven for two reasons, the first is that the show is already so full of research and detail that when the viewer spots a periphery hole its almost glaring, and secondly because at the end of the day this is an anime for teens and needs to sacrifice some procedural details for the sake of entertainment given to you at a decent pace.
Not every little detail needs to be presented to you, because this is entertainment, not a documentary. Except when every detail actually is covered and it is a documentary, but more about that later.
If we have to choose between sacrificing plot details/art quality or character details, I would like to think most of us would choose to preserve character. Characters drive the story. An entertaining story with flat characters is not going anywhere. We need to emphasise and connect with depictions of human beings to be fully entertained. LotGH's intelligent characters populate it with so much personality and resolve, so much consistency, there are no clichéd twists and turns from out of nowhere, there are no characters dying and magically coming back to life.
There is a real emotional current running throughout the main characters’ arcs, a strong bond of friendship, love and camaraderie that is tested to the limits, and it results in very powerful episodes thanks to dozens of episodes worth of character development.
As much as the imperfections mentioned earlier in the review are apparent in the show, they are mostly in the earlier half, but at some point, after the first season comprising of 26 episodes, the wrinkles are smoothed out and the occasional moustache-twirling bad guy or belief-stretching plot-point are erased, until that last season where the wrinkles begin to appear again, leaving us mostly with a viewing experience packed with quality storytelling, tension, intrigue and sustained drama. You will rarely ever question the intelligence of characters, groan at their actions; blink in disbelief at their motives. LotGH stands out from the crowd for its pitch-perfect characterisation and consistent narrative.
Regarding the art and animation, if you have a problem with sparse architecture, rooms with a handful of chairs and windows, cityscapes with generic skyscrapers and not much else of note; crowd scenes that look like something a high school kid produced with pocket-money budget, then you might have a problem with LotGH. You'd have a problem period, because these flaws are due to budgetary constraints not ineptitude on the art department's behalf. If that irritates you then you're not a reasonable person. You will be placated to know that the art and animation increase slightly over the course of the 9 year production.
A quirk of the budgetary restraints to the animation results in a restrained 'performance' by the characters which is much welcomed. Another undesired trope of the anime medium is blatant facial reactions to various types of news, and some of them are naturally still used in this anime, but for the most part the characters in LotGH don’t overreact as much as other typical anime shows. When a character gives a damning speech for example, his face is static which serves to make him look even more menacing than if the animators went overboard with their tools and made his eyes bulge, irises smaller and veins pop out his head.
You just have to accept you're not going to see pioneering animation and that when a bunch of soldiers go to battle in a spaceship early in the series, there's a reason it looks like five people brawling in a nondescript metallic tube. This is not to say the entire OVA is like this however, as there are still many instances of bold imagery, thousands of ships in symmetry looking like stars is a regular motif, and the space fortresses in particular have a brilliant design with reflective liquid-metal surfaces.
The ship designs; save for Reinhard's and a few other empire ships; aren’t cool-looking. They're not sleek pointy colourful mecha; they're ugly blocky rectangles with many holes that fire lasers into your face. The design is pretty blatant: war isn’t the only thing ugly, the tools employed are also. Millions and millions of humans die in skirmishes, let alone giant battles. The cost is so high it’s hard to imagine, but the OVA does a good job of reminding you with visceral scenes of terror and misery.
Space battles consist of pre-20th century naval-inspired conflicts, with large fleets manoeuvring into strategic spots and moving in for the kill. Attacks are planned carefully and carried out methodically, with the occasional WW2 aerial-inspired dogfights with smaller jets taking off the cruisers. It’s totally unlike nearly every other space-set anime.
This war anime not once glorifies or makes the idea of war 'cool' at all. For all the talk of the Gundam franchise putting a more serious face on war in the medium of animation, it still had a kid piloting a mecha day in day out with funky soundtrack accompanying the action scenes. Not to discredit Gundam at all, as its always laid a huge burden on its kid protagonists, but in LotGH there is no subtle or overt undercurrent to the action, it is what it is: millions of people dying over and over again, mostly to the impartially beautiful and tragic classical score that the viewer can take one way or the other. That is to say, beautiful or tragic.
Chopin, Mozart, Dvorak, Wagner, Mahler, Bach, Bruckner, Brahms, LotGH rarely uses the same piece twice, which is why the LotGH soundtrack box set is massive. 23 CDs total, a behemoth of classical music, an amazing gateway for newbies to the genre, or a greatest hits for veterans. The OVA's soundtrack is timeless, much like its story. There are re-used themes and motifs, but every episode will feature a few compositions not used already. The classical nature of the music heightens the story to epic proportions, the premise is monumental and so should its soundtrack be also.
As for the voice acting, featuring such luminaries as Norio Wakamoto, Kaneto Shiozawa, and Toshio Furukawa, it is a classic cast, accompanied by a classic soundtrack. The OVA excels in audio, even if the visuals don’t.
There is so much depth that the OVA even has a character watch a documentary about the history of humanity. We observe with him a typical documentary format programme, complete with host, his academic credits displayed beside his name; documentary clips and interviews to supplant his monologue of humanity's actions since the latter half of the 21st century.
Rather than be a gimmick, it’s actually a validation of many of the show's quirks, stylistic choices and script decisions made. It provides more context to the story, shedding light on the backdrop of the saga, and the fact that we don’t even see this, the first of a few documentary-based episodes, until well over 30 episodes into the OVA is a testament to the fact that the writers of the OVA respect us, the viewer.
The documentary's content is so full of depth, imagination and epic scope it’s practically an anime in its own right. Indicative of LotGH, that there are so many story arcs or episodes that other anime would stretch into 25 episode series, but they're merely window-dressing in this OVA. Not only is the documentary episode one of the best of the OVA for its rich depiction of a future history, but because of how it changes the dynamic of the entire show, bombarding us with new facts and revelations of how these two systems of living came to be. As such, it is placed where it is with very good reason.
LotGH isn’t all serious politicking and battling, it’s carried by humour all throughout. A type of humour seriously lacking in most anime; that is to say a type of humour that doesn’t rely on slapstick, the breaking of physics, and lurid sex as a topic. The characters in LotGH are cynicists and realists; their humour is a defiant protest at their situation, the futility of war and all it entails. LotGH's humour is largely through dialogue, not sight gags. Vonnegut, Kafka, Heller, these novelists voices are heard in the mouths of many characters, from main protagonists to random fighter pilots, these men are all fed up of dying for no good reason and blow off steam with witty wordplay.
The entire anime is an in-depth exploration of two systems, approached from every direction imaginable, every context; every situation; the ramifications of military, politics, religion and media, of dynasty, lineage and class. It doesn’t lean heavily on one side or the other; both have their pros and cons when looked at objectively. What’s worse, the story ponders: a corrupt democracy or a reformed autocracy? There is of course an idealistic current running through the more relatable characters, those who dream of a universe with peace and equality, of ridding society of corruption and terror. How to go about it of course is up for debate, usually with fleets and bombs.
LotGH is a 6 year saga charting the 3 thousand year battle of humanity with itself, repeating history's mistakes and endeavours. When a character mentions something that happened six years ago, you actually remember the recalled event, because that’s how long the story is. You feel immersed in it, an invisible comrade; a third wheel standing to the side and reminiscing along with the characters. It’s inexplicable but the OVA gets better the more you watch. Every twenty or so episodes the quality rises and the storytelling becomes even more addictive.
There isn’t a single bad episode in the whole 110 episode run. Not only that, but you never know what to expect either, unlike the vast majority of other anime which have a clear narrative of beats: protagonist starts on A, must get to B, must end up at C. With LotGH the plot is so rich, the world so vast, the characters so many, you can never predict what people are going to do next, where they'll end up or what will happen. LotGH's depth is unparalleled.
The saga goes through year after year and you feel the weight with each season, you watch the characters grow together or drift apart, you see setups one episode then pay-offs dozens of episodes later, you see friendships, rivalries, enemies, comrades, battles, love, marriage, birth and death, you see it all. Nothing is left out, absolutely nothing. Other series are just as long, other series have better animation, but no other series is as far-reaching in depth and consistently intelligent and accomplished.
Legend of the Galactic Heroes is a legend of the anime medium. The greatest anime production in its history. read more
Imagine Code Geass without "magical eyes", mechs, ideas like "the one who yells louder wins", immortal women and stupid idealism (hi Suzaku). You with me so far? Now, imagine Code Geass where there are dozens of great commanders like Lelouch on both sides, where political intrigues, plots and schemes are far from uncommon. Imagine battles of epic proportions and war on the galactic scale, where winning side is decided only by commanders intelligence, number of troops, their morale and available resources, not superunits like Lancelot. Do this and you've invented LoGH.
BTW: concept of main hero searching for vengeance against Empire that did bad things to his sister, and exacting this vengeance using military and political means first appeared in LoGH, not CG. Lelouch copied Reinhard in many ways, but I can't say it's a bad thing. LoGH is just too damn good to not be copied.
In Both the hero is nobility. Lelouch was a discarded prince while Reinhard was a poor noble. But both want to remove the nobility from power. Both have grand plans to unify the world for the sake of their sisters. Both are charismatic and have strong allies and enemies. Both are Genius military guys and will make sacrifices for the grand dream.
Aristocratic governments, political machinations, Xanatos' gambits, the whole shebang.
While the stories are worlds apart, two characters are very similar. Both Suzaku and Yang Wenli fight on the side of corrupt governments. Though it would simply be easier for them to join Lelouch and Reinhard respectively, they instead decide to take the hard road and fight for their sense of justice. Both Suzaku and Yang Wenli have to face adversity and under appreciation. They know that there are obvious flaws in their governments, but they fight for the hope that they might fix the problems internally through hard work and dedication and create a justly ruling government for future generations. Both are modest but also have great skill in being the only one's who can stop their opponents from complete dominance. If Suzaku and Yang Wenli did not exist, both Lelouch and Reinhard would have easily achieved their goals very early in both series.
Hubris. Revenge. Noblesse Oblige. Revolution. Heroics. Anti-Heroics. Tragedy. Power grabs. Machiavellian schemes. Funny European names. If you like those, then you'll like both shows.
In addition, both stories follow a young man who wants revenge by increasing his power until he can succeed in overthrowing the monarchy because of the Emperor being a jackass who ruined the life of the protagonist's sister.
Code Geass is essentially a "down to earth" (literally) version of Legend of the Galactic Heroes, and I don't mean that in a condescending way.
Since the basic plot and characters are similar, I thought I'd outline some of the main differences between the two shows. Oh, and I'm also writing this under the assumption that people like these shows primarily because of the strategy behind the battles.
Some minor spoilers may be included. You have been warned.
Legend of Galactic Heroes
1. There are Lelouches on both sides (i.e. people other than Lelouch are not portrayed as whimpering idiots).
2. There is none of that "I have the Nightmare with more guns than you so I win" crap. Actual strategy and tactics are demonstrated throughout the whole show - formation, movement, timing, geography etc.
3. Suzaku, the ridiculous idealist who must say and do what he thinks is right, doesn't exist (replaced by a slightly less vocal Kircheis).
4. At one point, LoGH becomes difficult to follow which its detailed storyline, huge cast of characters and the lengthy timeline over which the show spans.
5. There are no supernatural powers that allow you to control people. Both commanders don't start from zero in the first place, so they have no need for Geass. Lelouch didn't need Geass as much once he established himself either.
1. Lelouch actually loses...many times. Maybe it's just me, but I swear the main commanders in LoGH don't ever "lose"; Reinhard wins by decimating the Alliance's forces, but Yang also wins because he pulled off a miraculous retreat - everybody wins! Yeah...no.
2. CG definitely has better graphics. Something from 1988 just can't compare...
3. Reinhard, the super-genius robot, doesn't exist (replaced by a slightly more human Lelouch).
4. I feel CG, even without Geass, is less realistic in general; by less realistic, I mean there are "unbelievable coincidences" happening all over the place.
5. There are more obvious plot holes. For example, the fact that Lelouch never commands anyone to obey all his commands (until the end of R2)...is a major one.
Watch whichever. Hell, watch both. Even if I don't sound very supportive, I really think they're both amazing.
Similar themes around war with intelligent commanders.
But focus heavily on tactics and strategy.
Main characters are a lot alike, they have similar circumstances and goals. Strategical mind games play a big part in both series, simply put these shows are basically the same, but everything is on higher scale in LOGH.
Both have battles that don't rely on strength in numbers or the capability of weapons to fight. They rely on strategies and tactics.
Lelouch/Zero can compare to Reinhard because they are both tactical geniuses, as is Yang, Wenli from LOGH.
Both anime give a clear explanation on how their world is run and the background of it.
"I know that you know that I know you know." Both deal with an intricate battle of the wits. LoGH has a much more multi-layered plot and character development however. Death Note is like LoGH for kids.
The setting is very different, but the way the show works out is similar. Instead of an intellectual battle between a detective and a god child, Legend of the Galactic Heroes has an intellectual battle between two fleet commanders, each fighting for their own version of justice. It's up to the viewer to decide who's really correct, in the end.
Both feature genius' who fight primarily with their minds and the use of psychological warfare. Both shows tend to focus on the lead opponents and, therefore, treat other characters like supporting ones.
The opponents also stand for different morals/beliefs and winning or losing means EVERYTHING.
Death Note tends to cheapen human worth exchange for very addicting storytelling.
Galactic Heroes takes a more natural approach to it's story, emphasizing on outcomes, what each side fights for; and HOW they can fight for it.
It takes it's time developing situations, doesn't use otherworldly elements as an additive, and contains a very human soul.
Both animes are very similar to each other. In both animes you óbserve two opposing factions who are trying to outwit the other. The basic idea is the same, whereas the rules and conditions might be a tad different. If you liked one of these, i honestly can not see a reason for you to not like the other.
If you like this DEEP show you might want to watch something that's actually deep.
both anime have two geniuses fighting against each other for their principles
psychological warfare, strategy
Both deal with a battle of wits, although LOGH is on a much bigger scale.
Opening Theme#1: "Skies of Love" by Michiru Akiyoshi (eps 1-22,24-26)
#2: "I am waiting for you" by Michiru Akiyoshi (eps 27-30,32,34-35,37-38,40,43,45,49,51-52)
#3: "Sea of the Stars" by LISA (eps 55-81,86)
#4: "Must Be Something" by Hitomi Konno (eps 87-106,108-110)
Ending Theme#1: "Hikari no Hashi wo koete" by Kei Ogura (eps 1-5,7-13,16-17,19-21,24-26,84)
#2: "Tabidachi no Jyokyoku" by Kei Ogura (eps 27-30,32,35,37-38,40,42-43,45,49,51)
#3: "Kansou no Uta" by Kei Ogura (eps 55-56,58-69,71-81,83,85)
#4: "Uchuu no Kakehashi" by Kei Ogura (eps 87-106,108-110)
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