Jun 26, 2018
Playthingy (All reviews)
This review was written by someone who has not seen, and honestly couldn’t care less about the original 1998 OVA, Legend of the Galactic Heroes.

I’ll start by saying this anime is extremely unique in it’s presentation in that it doesn’t even feel like an anime. It doesn’t really use the medium to it’s fullest, it’s not overtly creative, and nothing about it is particularly inventive except for the fact that it ISN’T inventive at all. It feels more like a play, an opera, or a wartime drama. You know, it feels like something I’d have been assigned to read in school; an epic that spans far far past the first novel, but a story that I’d never see the end of because I was only assigned to read book one, and I didn’t care to finish it after I got my grade.

Legend of the Galactic Heroes: The New Thesis is told like an actual wartime “legend” would be, and Hiroyuki Sawano’s breathtaking opening theme personifies this perfectly. It doesn’t hesitate to walk you though events with narration, and it doesn’t feel like it was directed by a screenwriter, it feels like it was told by a professor. Events in anime are scripted, obviously. They’re stories that a team of professional writers wrote in a conference room in an effort to construct an entertaining story. This feels like the telling of chaos theory in a middle to upper level world history course. No nation on either side of the war is really acting like you’d expect them to, and events don’t play out as simply and finally as they do in film. There’s a lot of back and forth between conflicting parties that all have their own unique motives and sets of values. There’s just so so so much social politics that you just don’t see in conventional story telling because, while it’s highly realistic, it’s straight up boring to watch at times. In a phrase, “You couldn’t make this shit up”.

With the unusual yet surprisingly intriguing presentation aside, the story is extremely simple. Humanity within the known galaxy is united under two banners, The Galactic Empire and the Free Planets Alliance. The Galactic Empire was the sole galactic state who’s rule was by a monarch, and the force that would become the Free Planets Alliance rebelled against them in favor of democracy. That’s it. That’s all there is to the story because one hundred percent of conflict and drama the series has offered so far is all things you’d expect. The Galactic Empire suffers from corruption, embezzlement, feudalism, classism, and any other common abuse of power that comes with a non-elected government, and the Free Planets Alliance suffers from poverty, pacifism, protests, riots, mob mentality, desperation for re-election, and any other common disrupts that comes with a nation led by it’s people. There wasn’t a single theme or message in this show that you can’t find in an Introductory Government & Politics textbook, thus I found it to be rather bland. I must give credit where it’s due though, because no matter how formulaic the themes were, they were executed extremely well and to the point.

The strongest aspect of this story by far, as well as it’s only difference between a scholastic lecture, was the characters. The characters in this anime, as well as the dialogue script were extremely strong. Our two main characters are Reinhard von Lohengramm of The Galactic Empire and Yang Wen-li of the Free Planets Alliance. The two both find themselves at the head of their respective fleets, and they maintain a rivalry that is reminiscent of Light Yamagi and L from Death Note, or Lelouch Vi Britannia and Suzaku Kururugi from Code Geass. It’s not only a battle of wits, but a battle of ideology that carries the entire thematic gravity of the show, and I must say it is truly intoxicating to watch. Both men are so multifaceted and complex that you find yourself naturally taking sides in the war, almost like your time spent watching their trials and tribulations was their way of recruiting you into their fleet and proving themselves as a capable leader. On top of their ideologies and charisma, they each have their own forces to support them that are populated with equally well constructed cast members who make both armies feel like they’re actually made of PEOPLE. When you see a starship get shot down in the background you actually feel a small sense of loss, and that’s something that almost no show can do.

Using that last bit as a segue, I’ll finally talk about the space battles. You’re probably already aware of this, but the spaceships are all constructed with CG animation. I know a lot of people will stay away from this show on that fact alone, but if you’ve seen shows like Aldnoah.Zero, Land of the Lustrous, or Re:Creators then you know CG animation isn’t always bad. With that in mind, please trust me when I say that this is some good CG. Seeing as both armies are proper military forces, all their ships have a standard design (with the exception of some of the more decorated Lords’ ships in The Galactic Empire). Given the vey limited models, Production I.G. really took their time perfecting the few designs they actually had to make, and their detailed work clearly shows. No matter what angle the battle is shown from, the hundreds of ships in view all look flawless, and I was genuinely impressed with some of the more dynamic cinematography. Speaking of action, the battles themselves are of an absolutely massive scale, with tens of thousands of ships fighting in formation at a single time. I thought that battles of this size would be impossible to comprehend, but the strong directing coupled with holograms of the battlefield made each encounter easy to follow, as well as giving you a sense of where the battle is actually going. While the space battles look nice, the rest of the show is terrifically average and, at times, underwhelming. I feel that now is the appropriate time to mention that the space battles are the ONLY good CG in the show…I’ll just leave you with that.

In the introduction of this review, I compared this story to a novel I’d be assigned to read in school: a series I’d never finish because the assignment only concerned book one. On one occasion this happened, I’d started to forget about the series along with the rest of my classmates, but there was this one quiet bookworm type that I’d see reading book two at lunch. After months passed and she’d continued through the series, I thought I’d ask her if “it got good or something”. When I asked, she glared at me and snapped, “It was good from the beginning. You guys just weren’t patient enough to read something like this.” After watching these first twelve episodes of such an expansive narrative epic, I think I finally get what she was saying.

Thank you for reading.