A prequel to The Legend of the Galactic Heroes, focusing on the FPA's Yang Wen-li. A chronicle on how he earned the title "The Hero of El Facile" and his handling of assignments he received after the historic event.
Spiral Labyrinth also continues with the background of Reinhard and Kircheis where the first Gaiden left off.
Spiral Labyrinth is the last release related to Legend of the Galactic heroes, and, like the first prequel gaiden series ('A hundred Billion Lights; Hundred Billion stars'), is made up of various story arcs that flesh out the background of the main characters and some supporting characters of the main series as well.
These ‘side stories’ were conceived in both written and anime form after the main series, and they contain a significant amount of foreshadowing and allusions to future events and important characters from the main series that are only named or shown in passing. These references would likely not be appreciated by those who haven’t seen or don’t like the main series. Hence the two prequel series’ should be treated as exactly what they intend to be: A ‘side story’ collection, not unlike some of the ‘specials’ that get bundled with anime DVD’s these days. Except that there’s no filler here, and we get to witness stuff direct from the source material. For that reason, it is strongly recommended that these two prequel Series should be watched after the main series, and this review is aimed at those who have already seen the main series.
Just like the first gaiden, Spiral labyrinth takes up a relaxed pace with a tone that is quite different from the main series’ tension filled drama. It doesn’t have the epic space fights or the massive story or character exposition of the main series. Instead, it presents the highlights of the past lives (mainly the military career) of the series’ main characters i.e Reinhard, Kircheies and Yang wenli. It is quite interesting to see what kind of (shitty) assignments (and misadventures) these future legends had to put up with when they were on the lower end of the military ladder. The lack of an overarching story would normally be worrisome; but the writer(s) takes good advantage of the story arc format, and the result is a commendable variety of stories which differ from each other in nature and theme, and helps keep things fresh.
Since the two prequel Gaidens were released from 1998-2000, the quality of animation is much better than in the main series. The colors are much stronger, the drawing more firm and overall the animation is more vivid. Like the main OVA, the series uses classical music and it fits perfectly well with the scenes. The infamous narrator is back again, except he doesn’t seem too keen on spoiling the story this time around (there’s not much to spoil anyway, as suspense level is much lower for the most part). The Seiyuu cast is the same, except for Kei Tomiyama, who did a perfect job as Yang wenli in the original 110 ep OVA. Due to his death by Pancreatic cancer in 1995, his role in the LOTGH franchise as Yang Wenli was taken over by Hozumi Gouda (hunter x hunter, D-gray man), who doesn’t sound as natural as Kei did in the role, but he makes for a perfect replacement.
The first half is entirely dedicated to Yang who, starting from his humble beginning as the son of a merchant ship Captain who dies in an accident on duty, is dragged into a military career by a strange twist of fate, and is then shot to fame when he saves the population of the planet ‘El Facile’ from an enemy invasion. All this we are told in the main series, but the first two episodes of SL cover the early part of Yangs life in a bit more detail.
His next assignment after El facile is a secret investigation into the death of a famous Free Planet Alliances war hero, ‘Bruce Ashby’, who supposedly died in an accident after winning the second battle of Tiamat. This investigation then takes up the better part of the next 11 or so episodes, during which we see Yang researching history, meeting historical figures, getting posted at a remote POW camp where he meets Patorichev for the first time, and comes across an old history obsessed ex-imperial soldier-turned-POW. As interesting the focus on Yang is, the long arc starts to drag towards the end. Despite that slight hiccup, the cameos on the FPA side are quite interesting. We get to see a much younger Bucock as a Turret operator. Yang’s interaction with Czellnu and Dusty Attenborough never fails to lighten up. The strict and principled Murai also makes an appearance towards the end of the arc to lend Yang a hand out of a tight situation. Overall the arc is interesting and enjoyable thanks mainly due to the history lesson and the solid cameo roles, although the plot itself starts to stagnate towards the end.
The best and the worst part of the series is in the second half; Focusing entirely on Reinhard and his trusty companion Kircheis, the last 14 eps are divided into 4 arcs, each with a unique story. Thus, we have an excellent 4 ep ‘Mutineer’ arc, which places Reinhard and Kircheis in a ship trying to save it from enemies without, while facing an internal discord within its ranks (complete with an epic Lotgh-esque death scene); the somewhat dull ‘duelist’ arc in which Reinhard faces off his would be assassin in a duel is the only blot-mark on the OVA; another 4 ep long masterpiece ‘Retriever’ sees the duo deep in enemy territory on an espionage mission as Reinhard commands a battleship officially for the first time; and finally the 2 ep long ‘third battle of Tiamat which is surprisingly the only arc with a proper lotgh-esque space battle.
While the ‘duelist’ is somewhat underwhelming (although mildly interesting), the ‘Mutineer’ and ‘Retriever’ are so good that they easily come close to the quality of some of the better episodes from the main series. These arcs also add details to LOTGH-verse, as we find out the origin of the zephyr particles, and how Reinhard gets his flagship Brunhilde. There are also some references to characters such as Merkatz; a small (random) cameo by lutz, and a somewhat larger one by Wahlen.
Overall, Spiral Labyrinth is slightly better than the first Gaiden due to a more consistent quality, a better variety of story arcs and a stronger role by Yang wenli. Definitely a must watch for LOTGH fans.
Critic’s Log - Earthdate: August 14, 2013. Review #54: Legend of the Galactic Heroes Gaiden (Season 2)
Space, The Final Frontier. This is a story of the ones that would eventually become Heroes. This is a grand epic that is being told within 110 Episodes in the Main Series, 3 Movies, and 52 Episodes in backstory. Every saga has a beginning and every saga has a conclusion. A lot has been told in this saga and it is time for me to end this voyage with Season 2 of Legend of the Galactic Heroes Gaiden.
Yang becomes the Hero of El Facil and is given a research investigation of some delicacy, after that story is told, we go more into the backstory of Reinhard. It involves Reinhard's first assignment to a ship at Iserlohn, then Reinhard deals with a formal duel among the politics of the nobles, It also tells Reinhard's secret mission into Free Planet territory, and the Third Tiamat Battle, wherein Reinhard earns a rank at the age of 19.
To be technical, this is a Artland production as well as a J.C. Staff production. This is the only entry in the franchise that has a different studio working on it alongside Artland. But I can honestly say that the animation is a huge step down in quality. I remembered that the first season of Legend of the Galactic Heroes Gaiden looking really good as well as the Main Series’ third and fourth season looking fantastic. What happened? Why does this last entry stick out like a sore thumb? It’s a real damn shame too because this is the last entry in the franchise. Look on the bright side, at least it’s not like Golden Wings. Honestly, I don’t like how the animation moves and it looks cheaply made. The animation is my biggest problem in this last entry. But does this show still hold up? I’ll get more into that.
When it comes to voice acting, Hozumi Goda plays a convincing role as Yang Wenli even though Kei Tomiyama could not play the role because he passed away before he could’ve been able to reprise the role. He was a good replacement and even though he’s not pitch-perfect. He still plays the part well. Ryo Horikawa (what can I say?) is terrific as always as Reinhard. Masashi Hironaka is also great as Kircheis (as always). The cast isn’t as big as the Main Series but the voice acting is mostly great.
When it comes to music, the usage of classical music has always been elegant throughout the franchise (with the exception of GOLDEN WINGS since that was an original composition of music) The music is used well in this season as well and this series knows how to make Classical Music used epically.
When it comes to characters. We finally get a good chunk of Yang Wenli’s backstory and Yang is still a pretty good character throughout the story, but I could say that I think he is extremely likable in the Main Series, but his past was nice to see too. Reinhard is still interesting in this show and Kircheis gets more screentime in this second season of Legend of the Galactic Heroes Gaiden. There are some characters that do stand out but not all the characters are perfectly written in this series. I do wish Yang was given as much screentime as Reinhard did in the first Gaiden season, but he’s only in about half the season and one moment in the second to last episode of this Gaiden season. Reinhard grabs more screentime than Yang does in this prequel series, so there is not much of a balance when it comes to the prequels. Which raises this question. Does the Second Gaiden season hold up?
Well... In animation, it does not. It is such a damn shame because the production value for character design and ship designs were spectacular in the Main Series as well as the first Gaiden season. This last entry took a huge step down regarding this. The character designs are not as terrible as you would think but it looks very different. But look on the bright side, the Character designs are nowhere as bad as the Golden Wings movie. The ship designs are quite possibly the worst in the series when it comes to the Second Gaiden season. This is all to blame on the animation itself. There are space battles that would have been epic to this show, but the feel and atmosphere is lacking this time because of the animation and visuals. In terms of story. It’s still handled well. The first story arc in the Second Gaiden Season is Spiral Labyrinth. This arc tells of Yang Wenli’s backstory and it’s interesting for the most part. It is slow at times but it’s acceptable. The second story arc is The Mutineer and this was a fantastic short story and definitely worth seeing. It’s a worthy addition. The Duellist is the third story arc and it was a promising arc but it could have been better. It’s a decent arc though. The fourth story arc is The Retriever and that was another pretty good one and another worthy addition to the series. The last story arc is The Third Battle of Tiamat. It is only 2 episodes long and we get the good old Space Battle that Legend of the Galactic Heroes tends to get at times. It ends nicely and ties in with the Main Series just fine even though the animation is not that good in this entry of Legend of the Galactic Heroes.
2000 was the year that this franchise came to a close and it has been 25 years since this massive Space Opera anime began. I have seen the entire voyage and this series has been extremely overwhelming. Since I reside in the United States, it is very unfortunate that this anime was never brought into the U.S. still to this day. I think this is a series that Sci-fi buffs should really look into. However, as far as the anime fandom is concerned. This is an anime for acquired taste. This isn’t necessarily an anime that is required viewing. It is a massive series and it was one of the hardest series for me to sit through and talk about. I may have some criticisms such as... The narrator brutally hinting a big plot twist in the Main Series’ Third Season. But despite my nitpicking, I will give the show credit where it is due. There was a massive and exhaustive amount of effort put into this show. This was an anime adaptation of a novel series which was pretty rare back then since animes are usually adapting from Mangas. This is a faithful adaptation of Yoshiki Tanaka’s novel series and Noboru Ishiguro deserves to rest in peace knowing he made this massive Space Opera anime. This voyage had an incredible, massive scope and cast that truly makes it A Grand Epic.
Season 2 of Legend of the Galactic Heroes Gaiden has not been licensed, the only way to experience this series is to watch it online. Look it up at your own leisure.
With all that said, Season 2 of Legend of the Galactic Heroes Gaiden is a huge step-down in terms of animation quality, but the short stories are still written well enough that it’s still worth watching. This may not be the best entry in this massive franchise and it doesn’t necessarily have to be. However, it’s still a decent viewing for fans of Legend of the Galactic Heroes.
I give Season 2 of Legend of the Galactic Heroes Gaiden an 8.1 out of 10. It is VERY GOOD!
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Now that I have witnessed the entire voyage. I would like to propose a toast.
I declare that I am retiring this series and shall leave it up to you to witness this voyage for yourself. Raise up your glass and celebrate with me and continue to watch more anime if your heart desires.
Prosit! (Translation note: “Prosit” is German for “Cheers”)