Legend of the Galactic Heroes Anime Review (2019)

Legend of the Galactic Heroes (銀河英雄伝説 Ginga Eiyū Densetsu), referred to as Heldensagen vom Kosmosinsel (incorrect German, translating to “heroic tales from the cosmic island”) in the opening credits and sometimes abbreviated as LOTGH (銀英伝 Gin’eiden), is a series of science fiction novels written by Yoshiki Tanaka. In humanity’s distant future, two interstellar states – the monarchic Galactic Empire and the democratic Free Planets Alliance – are embroiled in a never-ending war. The story focuses on the exploits of rivals Reinhard von Lohengramm and Yang Wen-li as they rise to power and fame in the Galactic Empire and the Free Planets Alliance respectively.

An anime adaptation of the novels, produced by Kitty Films and animated for the most part by Artland and Magic Bus, ran from 1988 to 1997. There is also a manga based on the novels, with art by Katsumi Michihara. In addition, there are several video game adaptations with the most recent release in 2008 being a real-time strategy game. The series did not receive an official English release until 2015, when North American anime and manga distributor Viz Media announced they had acquired the license to the novels. On the same day, North American anime licensor Sentai Filmworks announced their license to the anime and the anime was later released on Hidive starting on June 20, 2017.

A new anime adaptation by Production I.G ran from April to June 2018, along with a film series that will premiere from September to November 2019.

Summary

In AD 2801 the Galactic Federation is formed, which results in political power moving away from the planet Earth (now named Terra) and the Space Era calendar replacing the Gregorian calendar, with 2801 AD now being SE 1. Rudolf von Goldenbaum, an ex-admiral turned dictatorial politician is elected to power, makes himself Emperor Rudolf I, absolute monarch of the renamed Galactic Empire, and restarts the calendar again, starting the Imperial Calendar on SE 310/AD 3110. Rudolf adopts extremist policies including the suppression of any opposition and the extermination of anyone perceived too weak, such as the disabled and those in poverty, which he carried out until his death in IC 42/SE 351/AD 3151. He also moves the capital of the Empire to the planet Odin, third planet in the Valhalla system.

In IC 164/SE 473/AD 3273, a group of serfs in the Altair star system manage to escape captivity and make “the Long March of 10,000 Light-Years” into the Sagittarius Arm to escape the Galactic Empire, which is located within the Orion Arm. These people set up the Free Planets Alliance, a democratic republic, using the Space Era calendar, founding the Alliance in SE 527/IC 218/AD 3327 on the planet Heinessen. In SE 640/IC 331/AD 3440 the first battle between the Empire and Alliance occurs, resulting in a major Alliance victory. The two realms have been at war ever since.

A third realm is also set up, the Dominion of Phezzan, a planet-state (city-state on a galactic scale) with connections to Terra. It technically remains a part of the Empire and pays tribute, but it also maintains a relationship with the Alliance. Ruled by a domain lord called the “landsherr” Phezzan gains power by acting as both the paragon and trickster, providing the only link between the Empire and Alliance whilst simultaneously playing the two sides against one another.

OLD ANIMATION

Plot

The story is staged in the distant future within our own Milky Way Galaxy, starting in SE 796/IC 487/AD 3596. A portion of the galaxy is filled with terraformed worlds inhabited by interstellar traveling human beings. For 150 years two mighty space powers have intermittently warred with each other: the Galactic Empire and the Free Planets Alliance.

Within the Galactic Empire, based on mid 19th century Prussia, an ambitious military genius, Reinhard von Müsel, later conferred Reinhard von Lohengramm, is rising to power. He is driven by the desire to free his sister Annerose, who was taken by the Kaiser as a concubine. Later, he wants not only to end the corrupt Goldenbaum dynasty but also to defeat the Free Planets Alliance and to unify the whole galaxy under his rule.

In the Free Planets Alliance Star Fleet is another genius, Yang Wen-li. He originally aspired to become a historian through a military academy, and joined the tactical division only out of need for tuition money. He was rapidly promoted to an admiral because he demonstrated excellence in military strategy in a number of decisive battles and conflicts. He becomes the archrival of Reinhard, though they highly respect one another. Unlike Reinhard he is better known for his underdog victories and accomplishments in overcoming seemingly impossible odds and mitigating casualties and damages due to military operations.

As a historian, Yang often predicts the motives behind his enemies and narrates the rich history of his world and comments on it. One of his famous quotes is: “There are few wars between good and evil; most are between one good and another good.”

Besides the two main heroes, the story is full of vivid characters and intricate politics. All types of characters, from high nobility, admirals and politicians, to common soldiers and farmers, are interwoven into the story. The story frequently switches away from the main heroes to the Unknown Soldier fighting for his life on the battlefield.

There is a third neutral power nominally attached to the Galactic Empire called the Phezzan Dominion, a planet-state which trades with both warring powers. There is also a Terraism cult, which claims that humans should go back to Earth, gaining popularity throughout the galaxy. Throughout the story executive political figures of Phezzan in concert with the upper-hierarchy of the Terraism cult orchestrate a number of conspiracies to shift the tide of the galactic war so that it may favor their objectives.

Christopher Farris of the Anime News Network wrote that the novels focus on “personal matters of the main players” instead of being “rote historical accounts”, while the 1988-1997 anime series focuses on “the big picture of the war” with multiple characters chronicled, and the 2018 series focuses “only on the major plays by our two main actors to fit within its shorter, more focused format.”

My Personal Thoughts

I didn’t expect this. In this season of revivals and forgotten sequels, I didn’t expect Legend of the Galactic Heroes: Die Neue These to be one of the better titles. I am amazed this reboot didn’t try to cram 110 episodes into 12. No lies, my expectations were barely above the quality of The Last Airbender movie. Imagine my surprise when Die Neue These (German: The New Thesis) got me with that grand opening, a fleet of ships soaring to the heavens as a spine-tingling aria lifts hope itself.

Even after that good impression, my expectations remained tepid. It looked and sounded good, but story and character matter above all else to me – and when it involves some of my favourite characters in the best story anime has created, no amount of visual flair and evocative music can distract me from what matters.

Like the original Legend of the Galactic Heroes, the story is about a clash of ideologies. Democracy stands on one side – chaotic, corrupt, and idealistic, but free and with great potential. On the other side stands an absolute monarchy, where the people’s quality of life is dependent on the decisions of a single person – prosperity one generation doesn’t prevent utter despair the next. We follow Reinhard, a young commander in the Galactic Empire’s fleet on a steep upward trajectory to greatness, and the thorn in his side, Yang Wen Li, master tactician of the Free Planets Alliance.

One fascinating thing about seeing the same story – any good story – adapted multiple times, is in how it demonstrates that idea and premise alone aren’t enough, that execution matters most. Pride & Prejudice is my favourite classic story, with numerous adaptions over decades of cinema. Despite my love of the story, most of these adaptations aren’t good. Not because they aren’t faithful, but because they aren’t engaging. Give 10 directors the same book to adapt and you will likely see 10 different stories of varying quality.

In the case of Die Neue These, it does a good job of creating an engaging story with interesting characters and tense action. The execution is solid, in essence. However, this anime is in a precarious situation, for it is reinventing one of the giants. Comparisons to the original are inevitable, just as everyone will compare any version of Pride & Prejudice to the BBC’s 1995 miniseries starring Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth.

Die Neue These does have the advantage of releasing two decades after the original’s conclusion. This is long enough for it to have a potential new audience, particularly one that has no interest (at their own loss) of visiting such an old anime. Legend of the Galactic Heroes looks old to the new anime generation. Die Neue These took the idea of the original and brought it forward with all new bodywork and shiny paint, slick against the wind.

Storywise, the largest change is a streamlining of the dialogue-heavy scenes of old and the significant increase in action shots (I suspect the original would have had more action had they the budget for animation). When I talked of execution earlier, the dialogue was one of the original’s key elements to success, so to have it lessened should spell doom for the series.

It doesn’t.

At its core, this is the same story full of scheming, smart strategy, questionable decisions, grey characters, and losses on both sides. Yang is still Yang and Reinhard is still Reinhard. Sure, it’s not as good – not even in the same planetary system – yet it isn’t a disaster. Able to let go of comparisons to the original, I enjoyed this. Honestly, I think the fact that it wasn’t terrible allowed me to relax and go along for the ride. I looked forward to my nightly episode.

Die Neue These does have its share of problems, even on its own merits. The most glaring issue is the speed at which some scenarios resolve. I’m not talking of how the original took its time to go in depth with every character and every thread of its complex political web, while the new trims that down to focus only on major characters. No – you get the sense that an extra episode on a conflict here or there could have fleshed out the strategies and politics employed. And it’s not as though they were rushing to hit a perfect story beat for episode 12, the season finale. Episode 12 doesn’t feel like a point where one would think to leave the audience wanting more. A “down swing” episode is an odd choice on which to end.

I won’t pretend that I love Die Neue These. Most of the great experiences I had towards this series were reminders of watching the original for the first time. I cannot erase the original in my mind.

But this isn’t an anime for fans of the old series, like me. Do you know what people like me do when we want Legend of the Galactic Heroes? We go to the original. I’ve said it many times before: there’s no point in doing the exact same thing again. Look at Psycho’s remake. Take a risk. It probably won’t be as good, but who knows, it may provide something different and interesting. An adaptation doesn’t affect the original either.

I need more seasons (story’s barely started at 12 episodes) before I can give final judgement on Legend of the Galactic Heroes: Die Neue These. I’ve enjoyed it so far. Pleasantly surprised.

Art – High

Die Neue These can do the one thing the original could not – animate everything. As such, we have a lot more action scenes this time. They look good, the spaceships’ CG blends in almost all the time, and the scenes fit the younger, higher energy of this series. I still prefer the refined character designs and classic look of the original, though I have little problem with the art direction here.

Sound – High

With many of the original actors no longer with us or retired, the team decided to go with a completely new cast. I am too used to the originals to prefer the new, but they do a good job. Different this time around is the inclusion of a dub (the original never crossed the ocean). I could get used to a dub easier than I could a changed Japanese cast, as it would be a new experience. However, I can’t say I agree with several of the casting choices. Reinhard in particular doesn’t sound right in English without that calm commanding presence befitting his character. I suppose that if the dub is your first viewing it may be fine. Love the music!

Story – High

An alliance of free planets battles to hold onto their freedom against the Galactic Empire as ideologies clash and heroes rise. This streamlined adaptation of a classic has nothing on the original, but seen on its own targeted at a new generation makes for a solid anime.

Overall Quality – High

Recommendation: If you don’t find the original series engaging because of its dialogue-heavy nature and old visuals, then I do recommend Legend of the Galactic Heroes: Die Neue These. You’ll be missing several key qualities, but you won’t know what they are, so no harm there.

I wiil highly recommend this Anime to Watch and my rating on this Anime 8/10.

You can find Second Season of this Anime also its airing now. Soon i will do Review of second season of this Anime.

銀河英雄伝説
(Ginga Eiyū Densetsu)
GenreSpace opera, military science fiction
Novel series
Written byYoshiki Tanaka
Illustrated byNaoyuki Kato (vol. 1–5)
Yukihisa Kamoshita (vol. 6–10)
Published byTokuma Shoten
English publisherNAViz Media
Original runNovember 30, 1982 – November 15, 1987
Volumes10 (List of volumes)
Novel series
Legend of the Galactic Heroes: Side Stories
Written byYoshiki Tanaka
Illustrated byKatsumi Michihara (vol. 1, 3-4)
Akira Kasahara (vol. 2)
Hiroshi Yokoyama (short stories)
Published byTokuma Shoten
Original runSeptember 1, 1984 – July 31, 1989
Volumes4 (+5 short stories) (List of volumes)
Manga
Legend of the Galactic Heroes: Golden Wings
Written byKatsumi Michihara
Published byTokuma Shoten
DemographicShōjo
MagazineChara
PublishedAugust 10, 1986[citation needed]
Manga
Written byKatsumi Michihara
Published byTokuma Shoten
DemographicShōnen
MagazineShōnen Captain
Original runAugust 1986 – February 2000
Volumes11
Anime film
Legend of the Galactic Heroes: My Conquest is the Sea of Stars
Directed byNoboru Ishiguro
Produced byShaun Clayton
Written byTakeshi Shudo
Music bySetsuo Sasaki
StudioArtland & Madhouse
Licensed byNASentai Filmworks
ReleasedFebruary 6, 1988
Runtime60 minutes
Original video animation
Directed byNoboru Ishiguro
Music byShinsuke Kazato
StudioArtland (all episodes)
Madhouse (eps. 1-26)
Magic Bus (eps. 27-110)
Licensed byNASentai Filmworks
Released January 8, 1988 – March 17, 1997
Runtime25 minutes (each)
Episodes110 (List of episodes)
Anime film
Legend of the Galactic Heroes: Golden Wings
Directed byKeizou Shimizu
Music byTomoki Hasegawa
StudioArtland & Magic Bus
Licensed byNASentai Filmworks
ReleasedDecember 12, 1992
Runtime60 minutes
Anime film
Legend of the Galactic Heroes: Overture to a New War
Directed byKen’ichi Maeda
StudioArtland & Magic Bus
Licensed byNASentai Filmworks
ReleasedDecember 18, 1993
Runtime90 minutes
Original video animation
Legend of the Galactic Heroes: A Hundred Billion Stars, A Hundred Billion Lights
Directed byNoboru Ishiguro
StudioArtland & Magic Bus
Licensed byNASentai Filmworks
Released February 9, 1998 – September 26, 1998
Runtime25 minutes (each)
Episodes24
Original video animation
Legend of the Galactic Heroes: Spiral Labyrinth
Directed byNoboru Ishiguro
StudioArtland & Magic Bus
Licensed byNASentai Filmworks
Released December 24, 1999 – June 27, 2001
Runtime25 minutes (each)
Episodes28
Manga
Legend of the Galactic Heroes: Portrait of Heroes
Written byKatsumi Michihara
Published byTokuma Shoten
DemographicSeinen
MagazineMonthly Comic Ryū
Original runOctober 19, 2006 – September 19, 2012
Volumes4
Manga
Ginga Eiyū Densetsu
Written byRyu Fujisaki
Published byShueisha
DemographicSeinen
MagazineWeekly Young Jump
Original runOctober 8, 2015 – present
Volumes13
Anime television series
The Legend of the Galactic Heroes: Die Neue These Kaikō
Directed byShunsuke Tada
Written byNoboru Takagi
Music byShin Hashimoto
StudioProduction I.G
Licensed byNACrunchyroll
Original networkFamily Gekijo, Tokyo MX, MBS, BS11
Original run April 3, 2018 – June 26, 2018
Episodes12
Anime film series
The Legend of the Galactic Heroes: Die Neue These Seiran
Directed byShunsuke Tada
Written byNoboru Takagi
StudioProduction I.G
ReleasedSeptember 27, 2019 (part 1)
October 25, 2019 (part 2)
November 29, 2019 (part 3)
Films
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