Seventeen years after the last episode of the Legend of the Galactic Heroes Gaiden OVAs were released, Production I.G. has a new animated adaptation of the long running and well-loved space opera written by Yoshiki Tanaka. I’ve watched all of the OVA, movies, and side stories, and now we shall see if this new series would convey the same sense of grandeur and splendor as the original.
The known galaxy is divided into three distinct camps all vying for power. One side is the Goldenbaum Dynasty of the Galactic Empire, the other the Free Planets Alliance, and the third is the Dominion of Fezzan, a supposedly neutral state. The Empire and the FPA have been at odds with each other in a long brutal war that spans several decades, though a rising star in the Empire seeks to change that.
On the Imperial Flagship Brünhild, the young blond-haired commander, Reinhard von Lohengramm, and his red-haired adjutant, Siegfried Kircheis, discuss the upcoming battle between their expeditionary force and the three FPA fleets arrayed against them. The two have already figured out their plans but nevertheless accept an audience of the admirals below them.
Headed by Admiral Städen, their concerns over the force composition are taken into account and Reinhard explains that they will be delivered a victory granted they follow his plan. Dismissed, the Admirals can only scoff at his plan while one, Admiral Fahrenheit, was shown his place due to being the youngest of the subordinate Admirals.
In the Free Planets Alliance side, this same thinking has taken hold, and having thought their numbers would force Reinhard’s Imperial Expeditionary Fleet to turn tail and run, they instead charged at the Alliance’s Fourth Fleet. Through jamming and swiftness of action, the Alliance Fourth Fleet is quickly decimated, each individual Alliance fleet being lesser in number to the Imperial Expeditionary Fleet. Thus Reinhard reveals his plan to destroy their forces piecemeal rather than whole. Leaving the shattered survivors, Reinhard orders the fleet to head after the Alliance’s Sixth Fleet, a decision that Siegfried had already figured out and had marching orders drawn up for the fleet.
In the Alliance’s Sixth Fleet flagship Pergamon, Lieutenant Commander Jean Robert Lapp tries to get his commander, Admiral Moore, to react to the appearance of the enemy fleet from their 4:30 position. Moore scoffs this off, as he believes the enemy to still be fighting the Fourth Fleet, and that they and the Second Fleet are rushing to their aid, but Jean counters that they must’ve moved the battlefield already.
Not loving any bit of Lapp’s estimation that the Fourth Fleet has already been defeated, he sprouts off nonsense but is stopped when the opening salvos from the Imperial forces slam into his flagship. Rushing to the bridge, Moore orders the fleet to turn. Lapp disagrees, indicating they should run, maneuvering around and taking the Imperial forces from the rear. Such a prospect would lead to heavy casualties and Moore doesn’t take the advice, turning down his adjutant’s insight.
Back on the Minerva, Admiral Merkatz comments on the battle, noting that the young Admiral, whom many have derided as only using his sister’s influence as a way to advance, had a point, and quoting an ancient general from the days of an pre-space Terran nation, remarks that ‘Old soldiers just fade away’.
The Alliance Sixth Fleet flagship suffers damage to its sensor suite and the bridge is darkened by the lack of anything on the screens. Reinhard sends a surrender message to the Pergamon that Moore doesn’t accept, but rather orders his bridge to be released from the internal armor. Saying that he’d rather be judged an incompetent rather than a coward, he intends to fight being able to see his opponent. With no response from the flagship, the Brünhild and several other ships launch projectile munitions which burst into armor-piercing flechette, piercing what shielding the Pergamon had and destroying the bridge and all hopes of organized resistance.
Admiral Fahrenheit reports in, stating that the remaining Alliance fleet had gone to the operational area that once belonged to the Fourth Fleet, and he suggests that they head on over to destroy them. Reinhard agrees, and the forces finally clash. Siegfried though hopes they’re able to defeat all of them. It isn’t that he doesn’t trust him, but wonders if the enemy has someone like him on their side. Reinhard is amused by it, and if someone like that would appear, he would like to meet him on the field of battle as well as see them face-to-face.
Just then, the communications officer on the bridge announces they’ve intercepted an enemy message directed to the second ship. Its speaker is Commodore Yang Wen-li, the acting commander of the Second Fleet due to the incapacitation of Commander Paetta, after the flagship Patroklos. He reassured the fleet to remain calm and follow his orders. While they might be losing at the moment, all that matters is that he wins in the end. With that, he orders all ships to focus on fighting their counterparts until he can give further orders.
Siegfried is in awe at the transmission but Reinhard seems annoyed at such words. Reordering his forces into a spindle formation, they quickly drive though the Second Fleet’s center, seemingly defeating them. But Reinhard is unable to pin down this feeling of unease. But as his forces drive further into the Alliance formation, he gets it, just as the scene cuts to a shot of Commodore Yang Wen-li.
I know a lot of people are disappointed. To say that I am not is a lie, but to say I’m as disappointed as some is to be untruthful. There are things I don’t like about it, mostly in the ‘bishiefied’ character designs. While pretty-boy effect on say, Oskar von Reuenthal, Siegfried Kircheis, Reinhard von Lohengramm, and Oliver Poplan makes sense, to remove the gravity of age from a character like Willibald Joachim von Merkatz, Sidney Sithole, or Alexandre Bewcock is a missed opportunity.
The ship design of the standard Imperial ships though, graceful and beautiful as they are wonderful, but that is until you look at their rear. I’m not sure what is going on with their engines, but it works for a degree. I am liking the ‘new’ designs of the FPA vessels, as it kept the blocky, almost Spartan construction. The trailing section from the main hull, no doubt the crew and storage section, seem off, but while I do like it, I still feel it is unnecessary sort of redesign from the OVA’s design. A design I am not going to like at all is Dusty Attenborough’s Triglav, the weird ship with three noses, in-universe a design study on maximizing forward firepower. That said, loving the fact FPA ships now have shields, and many things have been given a ‘modern’ refresh. Things are touch screen rather than a futurist view from the 1980s, personal holographic devices exist, and ECM and ECCM is a thing as well as inter-linked battle space management (which can be jammed as the Fourth Fleet found out).
I am loving the Valkyrie design, the little fighters gaining a speedy looking remake, though the Spartanian fighter hasn’t been fully shown apart from Poplan downing a Valkyrie in the opening. But overall, the ship design gets a meh, and the execution of the CGI is a bit atrocious. This is Production I.G. for crying out loud! The CGI shouldn’t be in a standard that makes Arpeggio of Blue Steel look good. I’ve heard it compared to Vandred-levels of ‘old ass CGI’. Now, Vandred was great when it aired, but the standard of CGI has increased, Macross Frontier comes to mind for that. But the execution in LOGH is kind of sad.
Music wise, the opening is done by SawanoHiroyuki[nZk]:Uru (the singer being Uru), who sings Binary Star. Binary Star follows the OVA’s theme convention of an English OP and a Japanese ED. That said, the Ending is not as ‘amazing’ as one might expect from LoGH. The original singer of ending songs is Ogura Kei, a well noted singer in the Japanese ‘enka’ genre, which is almost analogous to American Country and Western music. The feeling Kei gives with his songs help shape the viewer’s emotion, especially when something of significance happens. The ED itself is really uninspiring, being a side-roll of the characters which just brings back the bishie-ness that annoys most of my friends.
The biggest crime, music wise, to me is the use of ‘orchestral’ music when compared to the soaring works from the OVA and movies. Wagner, Dvorak, Tchaikovsky all lend pieces to the original that convey the actions of the battles portrayed and give gravitas to every endeavor. They overpowered the action, maybe letting one hear the lasers shooting when characters were talking but was always there, in your face.
I barely heard the music during the battle, being a simple piano track that seemed like it was made for the scene rather than being selected for the scene.
But I should reel back that criticism, I’m sorry, but there was just a lot of good from the original airing when compared to the new series.
I also do hope that the series doesn’t always focus on Reinhard, one thing the OVA did to try to bring the narrative in full circle is to show ALL of the viewpoints, from that of the lowly soldiers on either side, the political and religious machinations of Fezzan, and the stark differences between the Alliance and Empire and of Yang and Reinhard themselves. To have it all on the side of the Galactic Empire would be a waste and would take people by surprise if the machinations of Fezzan and the bumbling of the Alliance isn’t shown alongside Reinhard’s rise to power.
I give the first episode a bit of a pass with some hope, since the same episode in the OVA alternated between Reinhard and Yang as well as giving some time to Lapp. Which leads to my next point. Yang at this stage is already known to Reinhard and Siegfried as the ‘Hero of El Facil’, the man who manages to coordinate the evacuation of the planet of El Facil’s three million civilians as his colleagues were busy running for their lives.
In the remake, Yang is an unknown to the Imperials, let alone Reinhard, but I think this omission helps set up the intense rivalry that has become the hallmark of the franchise. Another hallmark of the franchise is its scale. The number of ships involved, the distances, and time was often put in great detail when the narrator explains how long a battle happens or when timestamps appear showing the length of time.
For example, the skirmish at the Iserlohn corridor between the Yang fleet’s training cadre and the border fleet under the Galactic Empire. The sense of time where Attenborough is trying to hold out long enough for reinforcements is often shown through timestamps or the characters worrying about fuel or what have you. There was none of that here, leading to a friend noting that it was ‘fast’. Nothing against it, but I would like some timestamps to at least SHOW how much time and distance happened between each of the Imperial Expeditionary Fleet’s battles.
I’m getting too ranty now, but if one were to do a TL;DR of my thoughts?
Not bad but not good, needs music by Tchaikovsky, timestamps, and make old characters seem old.