Reviews

Sep 30, 2009
Beatnik (All reviews)
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.