Dec 27, 2008
Beatnik (All reviews)
"Perhaps man is a creature that must fight until the last one is dead."

The antithesis of George Lucas's Star Wars, Legend of the Galactic Heroes: My Conquest is the Sea of Stars begins with a lengthy credit crawl that doesn’t treat the space opera genre as a joke and doesn’t talk down to the viewer, but instead invites you along to a gentleman's philosophical pondering on the nature of man and war.

Afterwards a brilliant white ship approaches a spherical fortress in space and a character quips, "but damn it’s small," again in direct opposition to Lucas's own trite: "Look at the size of that thing!" The character who gives us the more restrained quote is none other than Reinhard von Museal of the autocratic Empire, and this quote in a way reflects his entire character succinctly. The universe is something to grasp in his hand and wrest control of, to eradicate others perception of him and to end a war.

In polar opposite to Reinhard, his rival's appearance is with a pacifistic "don’t we want to avoid the enemy fleet?" to his commander who's itching for a conflict while on a mission that is primarily a sneak attack. You can't have an epic rivalry without having mirroring aspects, and these two men are joined by the fact that they dont so much want to win the war as they want to end it. A key distinction that seperates them from their superiors and provides them with the aptitude to win battles because they are not blinded by patriotism.

Yang Wen-Li, of the Republic is like Irresponsible Captain Tylor except he has a heartbeat, doesn’t have a slack-jawed zombie way about him, and doesn’t rely on blind luck to pull him through life. In short, he is a relatable character written well, and the fact that he's charming to boot, to the point that his office is stuffed with fan-mail, is a comedic plus. His character arc is about shedding that Tylor-esque lackadaisical attitude and to exert more force to his ideals, to essentially take responsibility for the lives of the men around him because he knows he has what it takes.

This movie is also a contrast to the Gundam franchise, with two sides equally explored and developed, no predictable allusions to World War 2 ala "Sieg Zeon!” For a show based on the premise of a 150 year galactic war you'd expect endless dry preachy and predictable dialogue and although sometimes it feels like it veers into that territory, LotGH avoids it with panache. Or humour to be more precise.

It inserts a cynical Joseph Heller Catch-22 type humour into the characters' mindset, making the show that much more enjoyable to experience. There are many quotable lines of characters lambasting their superiors or the state of war in general. It makes it that much more compelling to see so many people on both sides of the conflict speak out their minds on the futility of what they're embroiled in, making you the viewer, empathise with them all.

The battles consist of more than just bashing into each other, unrealistic power ups or reliance on military hardware from Anaheim Electronics, etc. They are aided by music that is all classical bombast, giving the show a timeless quality, no matter how dated the aesthetics may appear at times, and honestly it’s hardly noticeable at all if you're captivated by the narrative itself.

The direction and editing are excellent, and I drool at the idea of this brought to live action with skill and care. A fantasy dream maybe but you can’t help but dream up a cinematic form for such a tale as this. I give a high score for the animation as it's not technological innovation alone that deserves the highest ranking, but the usage of art as well as its aesthetic quality, and though LotGH isnt going to stand up next to whatever's humping our eyeballs these days, its still full of amazing space-scapes and visual wonder.

As you can tell from this review, this movie, and by extension the franchise itself, is an antithesis to many other anime or films out there. It’s a marvel, a precious gift from the past, and we as anime viewers should cherish it and herald it. "The battle of these two heroes has begun!" the end credits declare, and so onto the mammoth 110 episode series you must go!