This is the story of how one young kid has everything taken from him, but vows to take it all back and then some. With the loyal childhood friend Kircheis backing him up, Reinhard Von Musel's rigorous climb to the top of the empire food chain begins in this OVA; a prequel to the 110 episode Legend Of The Galactic Heroes OVA.
The setup, as fans already know, is epic defined. Having had his sister sold to the empire's ruler by his deadbeat dad, Reinhard has vengeance in mind, but coupled with his genius intellect, it’s a vengeance that spans the galaxy, rather than
through crosshairs via an assassination. This man wants to dispose of his nemesis in as grand fashion as possible, to not only save his sister, but to ensure it's not a suicide mission, to prevent his tragedy from ever occurring again to any other. To do this he needs to usurp the ruler himself. His personal desire is dressed in a noble mission of reformation, which adds to the fascination of Reinhard's character.
Prequels are generally designed to be viewed after the work they're meant to be set before, this way the viewer can gleefully spot foreshadowing moments and discover insight into characters they think they already know. A Hundred Billion Stars OVA is no different in this regard. Though lacking in any big revelations for the first 13 episodes, it is admittedly more of an exercise in filling-in-the-blanks. However that's not to say there's nothing of worth here, because although the first 13 episodes have not much bearing on the main story of the saga, there is still quality writing involved when it comes to character and dialogue.
Seeing how Reinhard began his military career and observing him in the front-lines of the war, dealing with numerous death threats from pissed off aristocrats and embarking on a murder mystery as a member of Military Police is all very entertaining. It's like constantly dodging bullets, what could have been terrible filler that betrays everything that came before, ends up being a work that is in honour of its predecessor, a supplement; more nourishment for the fans and viewers of anime in general.
The anime is interestingly, and successfully, split into segments. There are a total of four arcs of varying lengths, each with its own chapter numbering. This avoidance of one long narrative is successful because it prevents the anime from hitting slumps where the TV writers make up meaningless 'filler' type material to stretch the show to its allocated episode count. Instead we simply jump from one point in Reinhard's life to the next; a greatest hits of his youth, if you will. His first battle for survival on a harsh planet, a stint in the Military Police, and then what we're really itching for: a full-on naval/planetary battle against the Alliance with cameos galore. This last arc is what justifies the OVA.
But ok, I just lied about the anime avoiding hitting a slump. The third Kircheis-centred arc is extremely boring, clichéd, has the weakest link to the franchise (replace all the character names and you've more or less got a different show) and is populated by irritating characters. Reinhard has about five minutes screen-time, which kind of defeats the purpose of the OVA. It is the only time I have been bored in the entire LotGH viewing experience, and that includes the Golden Wings movie so that's saying something!
Back to that last arc though, the longest segment and the one to introduce big revelations and become something more than an exercise in filling in blanks. It’s a character study that reveals aspects of a few characters and their relationships to others that we only had a hint of in the main OVA. It cements their mythology for good. What you thought you knew about them before isn’t turned on its head, its instead unabashedly celebrated in this arc, and even better that every aspect of the arc is of the highest quality. The direction, visuals, pacing, and plot, all superb. The biggest antagonist of the arc is a guy you really hate, but for all the right reasons, because he is generally a well-rounded character with intelligence and motive.
The animation isn’t drastically different from the main OVA, but being that it was produced in 1998 it's smoother; with nice flowing hair moments. Character designs and scene composition is slightly higher of the standard the original OVA set. It’s all acceptable and does the job. It’s not going to win a lot of awards for its looks, but the story and characters are so strong, it doesn’t need to. The music also remains similar to the main OVA, all timeless classical bombast.
What this OVA also asserts is that Reinhard can’t form relationships with other human beings unless he is deemed, or feels, superior to them. This fact is extremely fascinating about the character, and the fact that he's so damn charismatic and honourable means we simply accept this narcissistic character-flaw of his, whereas in any other anime we'd feel repelled against the character.
Sometimes it’s easy to be swayed by Reinhard's superior attitude and presence, it’s easy to forget his struggle against the nobility. The OVA reminds us that the character had to fight his entire youth and early career against an entire system, a way of life. And this OVA contributes to his mythos in showing just how difficult and dangerous it was to ascend the ranks by dodging bullets, persecution, intrigue and insults to his dear sister all the way. It makes him one of anime's greatest characters because he didn’t have everything given to him, he had to earn it.
He also had to earn our respect and admiration via a great voice actor, character design and most importantly characterisation, all of which are in full force in this OVA. I give it a 9 and not a 10 because you need to see the original OVA to complete the experience, and plus one arc wasn’t up to standard, but for all fans of LotGH this OVA is essential viewing.
These episodes do not cover the beginning; they are side-stories meant to flesh things out. The main series should probably be seen first. That said, this OVA is in no way ‘filler’. It documents important, often-referenced events in the continuity, and shows a relationship between two friends that really is compelling.
A low-level nobleman’s son can claim he’s going to rule the universe, yet no one will care about the ridiculous dreams of a rebellious youth. For every rank that child rises, however, the possibility grows more and more real. Old aristocrats always talked about Reinhard and Kircheis’ swift rise in rank, some crediting his
sister’s favor with the Emperor, and others noting his significant military accomplishments. In truth it is no small feat for a talented person to come into power. This feat is magnified in a despotic state ruled by incompetent party-goers, as is the case here.
While that struggle is a big focus, arguably more attention is given to the friendship of a blond conqueror and his red-headed guardian. Theirs is perhaps the truest and most positive connection in Legend of the Galactic Heroes.
Kircheis can see Reinhard’s considerable dreams, and admires them; however, Sieg himself is content with small things. He is loyal to a person, not ideals, such that if key people are belittled Kircheis loses his famous morality. Like Reinhard, his views have an inevitable paradox: even if the noble ideals of someone inspire you to follow them, the attachment you form can create a monster, if broken or threatened. Kircheis never blames his master for these issues, preferring to consider what justice can be had from his dire circumstances, a conclusion befitting his reasonable nature.
Reinhard is as charismatic here as in the main series. His aura is a little different; more childish, and unable to contain himself while serving others. He is so definitely a Lord that, as an under-18 junior officer, Reinhard feels perfectly fit to hold galactic Fleet Admirals in full public contempt. Not a single social injustice or corrupted passes him without a sharp rebuttal, and hardly an advantage isn’t capitalized on. His story really does lie ahead though, so what’s seen here is through the eyes of Kircheis: a blond hero whose future is bright, and whose life we follow.
Compared to when the franchise began, the animation has seen a huge improvement. Movements are more fluid, and some scenes look rather stunning, in particular those of the first 4-episode arc. The sound is consistent with the main series: brilliant voice acting (though the passing of Yang’s actor should be mourned), an operatic score, and typical sci-fi sound effects.
I always found the English opening to be questionable, and this one at first was no exception; after some time, however, I found myself never wanting to skip it. The art is beautiful, and the dynamic camerawork is atypical of this series. More than that, the images capture a picture of Reinhard and Kircheis at their purest, while the music and lyrics hinted at a melancholic rejection of how their lives turned out.
Critic’s Log - Earthdate: August 7, 2013. Review #53: Legend of the Galactic Heroes Gaiden (Season 1).
Well, after reviewing the Main Series, and the three movies. It’s time that I go over the last entry in Legend of the Galactic Heroes. This is going to be my penultimate review of the Legend of the Galactic Heroes franchise. Here’s my review of Legend of the Galactic Heroes Gaiden : One Hundred Billi... Ah, screw it. Here’s my review for Legend of the Galactic Heroes Gaiden (Season 1)
Before I begin, the Prequel series to Legend of the Galactic Heroes is told in short stories. These short stories
fill in the background of Reinhard von Lohengramm and Siegfried Kircheis before the start of the main Legend of the Galactic Heroes series. In these stories, they journey to a planet of ice and are betrayed by someone. They investigate a probable murder at their alma mater, Kircheis takes a vacation and gets involved in a plot against an admiral, and finally a 12-episode story of Reinhard at Iserlohn, a battle fortress that protects the Galactic Empire from the Free Planets. That’s all the plot summary I’ll give you.
To be technical, this is a production from Artland and Kitty Films, both these studios worked on the previous entries in the franchise and the animation was pretty good in the Main series, it’s sometimes hit and miss in this first season of the Prequel “Gaiden” series. This can be a little obvious with the character designs in some moments of this season but it looks really good in the side story “A Hundred Billion Stars, A Hundred Billion Lights”. The animation is not as consistent like the Main series was, but it’s still pretty good for the most part.
The music which is used from classical composers is still used well here and just like the main series, the use of classical music is still terrific.
When it comes to voice acting, The casting is still pretty solid. Ryo Horikawa is still great as Reinhard. Masashi Hironaka plays Kircheis the way he has done before and he’s still great in the show. Hozumi Goda plays Yang Wenli this time and this was because Kei Tomiyama passed away before the Gaiden series was made and Goda-san had to fill in the role. But he does play Yang Wenli great for the most part. Even though Tomiyama-san was terrific as Yang Wenli, it is a bit different to hear someone else play him. But Goda-san plays the role well enough. I think that’s all I will say about the casting. It’s still just as good as the Main series. I know I’m cutting this topic short, but there’s not a huge cast in this prequel season. Not to mention, Reinhard and Kircheis are the one with prominent roles in this show while everyone get’s minor roles and cameos. Look up the casting at your own leisure. I’ll say it again. The casting’s great.
When it comes to characters, This entire season is focused on Reinhard and Kircheis. These short stories give the two the background we wanted to know. If you liked Legend of the Galactic Heroes. Reinhard and Kircheis’ background stories mostly will not disappoint. Reinhard’s motives in the main series are fleshed out pretty well in the short stories of this prequel season. Kircheis’ background does fully flesh out his character since most viewers of the show know that he was killed off at the end of Season 1 of Legend of the Galactic Heroes. So it was nice to see more of Kircheis in this prequel season. There will be some familiar faces throughout these short stories.
When it comes to the short stories. Allow me to give you my thoughts on each story arc since the count is under 10. The first story is The Silver-White Valley. It tells of Reinhard and Kircheis’ first military assignment and This was a pretty good start for the prequel series. The second story is Dreams of the Morning, Songs of the Night. This wasn’t an unanimously praised story arc but I actually liked it. Sure, Reinhard and Kircheis are tasked to do detective-like work, which may sound cliche at first glance, but since Reinhard and Kircheis are part of the Military Police during this story arc. The whole detective thing doesn’t bother me too much. This story arc is a bit hit and miss but it isn’t terrible. The lowpoint of this prequel season is the third story arc Dishonor. In my opinion, this was the most boring story arc of this prequel season. This whole story arc is centered on Kircheis and even though it was only 4 episodes long, I thought it was boring. If you like it, I’m glad you enjoyed it. I personally didn’t like it that much. The fourth and last story of this prequel season A Hundred Billion Stars, A Hundred Billion Lights is 12 episodes long and it’s a pretty darn good story arc if you ask me. It’s paced pretty well and there are some slow moments, but it will feel like the time when you watched the Main Series (that’s if you’ve watched the whole thing). I guess the question is... Is this prequel season worth watching? The answer... Yes. This prequel gives us backstories of Reinhard and Kircheis. If you liked Kircheis in the series. These backstories tell more about him. But if you liked Reinhard, you won’t be greatly disappointed with his backstories all that much. To my surprise, this was not a bad prequel series. I usually get worried about prequel entries to certain series. I remembered that Star Wars came out with prequels and you know the story there. All i can say is that the Star Wars Prequel Trilogy could have been better. The prequel series to Legend of the Galactic Heroes as far as this season is concerned is mostly good. It’s not perfect, but it holds up for the franchise pretty well.
Legend of the Galactic Heroes Gaiden (Season 1) has not been licensed in the U.S. The only way to experience this show is to watch it online if you can find it. Once it does get licensed. Get this show if you must.
With all that said. the first season of Legend of the Galactic Heroes Gaiden is a good prequel entry to this massive anime space opera. Even though it’s told in short stories, it mostly has watchable story arcs, good animation, great casting, more backstory, and great use of classical music. This show does suffer a little bit with a certain story arc, inconsistent character designs, and some slight inconsistencies with animation. These are just nitpicks. But it is still a good watch if you like Legend of the Galactic Heroes.
I give the first season of Legend of the Galactic Heroes Gaiden a 9.2 out of 10, it is EXCELLENT!
Feel free to leave a comment. I have one more review left for the Legend of the Galactic Heroes franchise. This franchise has been quite the voyage. But until then. Class Dismissed!