Critic’s Log - Earthdate: June 18, 2013. Review #50: Legend of the Galactic Heroes
In March 12, 2012, I posted my first anime review which was Cowboy Bebop. it was a Sci-fi smash hit set in space. Back in 1999, I saw the Star Wars Trilogy and I am very fond of that Space Opera series, especially the Original Trilogy. I am now into Star Trek and I like how creative and imaginitive it is as well as it being thought-provoking and intellectually engaging. Up until now, I have posted 49 reviews so far (excluding the supplemental reviews I did in the past) up to this point. I have now reached the milestone of 50. Well... This is it! This is the big one... Let’s go where no one has gone before and set out to Space, the final frontier... with LEGEND OF THE GALACTIC HEROES!
For decades, the Galactic Empire has been involved in an interstellar war with the Free Planets Alliance, a conflict that involves thousands of spaceships and millions of soldiers on both sides. Two new commanders enter the conflict with great hopes: Imperial Admiral Reinhard von Lohengramm and the FPA's Yang Wen-li. As they deal with superiors and subordinates, maneuver through complicated political arrangements, plot strategies, and win battles, each will be tested, and ultimately, changed, by the reality of war. All the events that will take place in space, the galaxy and the universe will appear on the pages of history.
To be technical, like My Conquest is the Sea of Stars (the Introductory movie), this anime was made by three studios, Kitty Films, Artland, and Magic Bus. The animation in the movie looks nice and all, I can’t really say the exact same thing for the Main Series of Legend of the Galactic Heroes. I can explain in a reasonable way. The budget isn’t high at first and the quality is at it’s lowest in the first season, but it still looks nice from time to time. It does not take a while to adjust to because this was made in 1988 and ended in 1997... So expect it to look old-fashioned while you’re watching it. When I mentioned that Season 1 has the lowest quality in animation, I am not lying too much about that. This should not turn you away from watching it...because it’s an old anime, there’s not much room to get yourself adjusted to it in time, what you’ll need to get adjusted to is the heavy amount of dialogue and it’s settings. This first season devotes most of its screentime to establish the settings, the story, and its characters for this long epic that is to be witnessed by the viewer. If you can sit through 20 episodes or so, it will start picking up. It will take awhile to get there. Season 2 starts to improve in time, and this is where the story starts rolling on its own pace. Season 3 is where the show starts to look pretty good and become far more interesting.. However, when you start getting into Season 4, that’s when the animation shines. The animation improves over time and this was a good thing back then. Honestly, the animation is good on its own. If there is something I must point out that I commend the creative staff of this anime for making terrific character designs for this anime. The character designs in this show look fantastic.
I can assure you 100% on one thing. The soundtrack is Epic in this show. It makes great uses of classical music from Beethoven, Mozart, Tchaikovsky, Mahler, Chopin, Ravel, Mussorgsky, you name it! It does make the show elegant in its own way. If you think it was cool to hear Ode to Joy in Neon Genesis Evangelion or if it was cool to hear some classical music in some other anime. Legend of the Galactic Heroes entire soundtrack is EPIC CLASSICAL MUSIC! I like listening to classical music from time to time and it’s nice to hear some in this show. The music is used terrifically in this show. I almost forgot to mention that the only musical pieces that aren’t from classical pieces, it’s the opening and closing themes. They really set the mood for all the seasons.
As far as voice acting goes, bear with me because this will take a while for me to bring up the performances in this show. Let it be known that there is no English Dub to this anime. Like the rest of the franchise, it was never licensed in America. This is an obvious reason why no English Dub exists. With that out of the way, I’ll bring up the performances that do stand out. Ryo Horikawa and the late Kei Tomiyama are fantastic as Reinhard von Lohengramm and Yang Wenli. Keiko Han is great as Annerose (Reinhard’s Sister). and Masashi Hironaka is great as Siegfried Kircheis. There are a lot of standout performances in this show. The late Kaneto Shiozawa was terrific as Oberstein, Nozomu Sasaki is also terrific as Julian. Even Norio Wakamoto is in this show and he is fantastic as Reuenthal. Other noteworthy seiyus for this show are Kazuhiko Inoue, Kotono Mitsuishi, Masako Katsuki, Sho Hayami, Toshio Furikawa, Yoshio Sakakibara, Chikao Ohtsuka, Akio Ohtsuka, Aya Hisakawa, Ryotaro Okiayu, and Unsho Ishizuka. Let’s not forget, Yusaka Yara is the narrator of the show and he deserves to be mentioned. There are some currently well-known seiyus in this show which should be a nice treat if you watch enough anime Subtitled that is. When I reviewed My Conquest is the Sea of Stars, I wasn’t joking that there are a shit ton of characters in this show. Well, there are a shit ton of casting roles in this show and I said what I deemed necessary to bring up. Look up the entire cast at your own leisure because explaining all the other well-known cast members would just drag this review much longer and I got other things to go over with this show.
Out of all the things about this anime, the story will be the hardest thing for me to talk about concerning Legend of the Galactic Heroes. I can assure you that watching 110 episodes of this anime was no easy task. This is because this anime is heavy with political and military intrigue. Not to mention there’s more than 100 characters in this show that are tied into character threads with the more important characters. This show somehow made the cast prove their worth in the long run. Or did it? Well, let’s get over the main leads... Reinhard is a political idealist and a military genius and he sets his ambitions to conquer the universe to end the corruption of the universe. His sister Annerose was sold by their father and Annerose was to serve as a consort to the Emperor - Kaiser Friedrich IV. By Reinhard's side is his best friend Siegfried Kircheis and Kircheis vows to follow Reinhard until he accomplishes his goal. However, Reinhard is not the only military genius floating around in space. Yang Wen-li is also a military genius. However, he harbors no great ambitions. Reinhard is affiliated with the Galactic Empire and Yang Wen-li is affiliated with the Free Planet’s Alliance. These two commanders are terrific and they are great opposites that compliment eachother while they are part of a massive conflict in space. The main focus of the show is mainly about Democracy Vs. Autocracy. It is about one form of government against another. Now that I explained this, it should be made very clear that this anime is not a roller coaster ride. It is like reading a long novel. In fact, Legend of the Galactic Heroes was originally a novel series written by Yoshiki Tanaka. There are three things this anime comes with...It is very political, If you think the political moments will slow the story down while you watch this series, keep in mind that it serves the story. it is also has Military intrigue because there is a great amount of detail on strategy. This is also a very intellectual anime. This plays a huge part with our two main leads as well as the many characters connected to them. Every single episode of this show requires the viewers’ attention. This is the hardest aspect of the show for some to sit through. It is very intellectual with its political settings, military intrigue, and the characters’ thoughts, ideals, and political opinions. It also does not hold anything back when something horrific happens. The theme of war is present throughout the series and that comes to no surprise, really, and it tells this story effectively when it can. The portrayal of Humanity is displayed pretty well in this show and there are a lot of characters that are likeable. Reinhard is interesting as the show progresses further and further, for those familiar with historical events. I heard that Reinhard shares many traits with Napoleon Bonaparte, which it’s fair to say that Yoshiki Tanaka probably has a love for history. One of my favorite characters in this anime is Yang Wen-li, I just love his personality. He’s a very smart tactician who doesn’t want a damn medal for his accomplishments. He just wants to live his life in a simple way, I really like this guy. Mittermeyer and Reuenthal are also great in this show.. Characters like Oberstein, Schenkoph, Frederica, and Poplan are also pretty memorable. Julian is also a great. I can honestly tell you that this show was able to contain an elaborate setting and story with well-developed characters, a soundtrack of classical music, and avoiding any fanservice and many clichés ALL IN 110 EPISODES! This anime is very different than meets the eye. This anime is considered to be unrivaled by some, which now brings me to some issues I have with this anime...
This is a minor nitpick because this is to be excused much later on. The animation isn’t all that great at first. it seemed to have a lower budget to begin with on this show. This anime makes up for this because the animation improves over time. I have seen many shows where they either stay consistent from start to finish, or the animation quality in the show diminishes over time. There are few animes I have seen where animation improves over time or stays consistent. I am glad that the animation in this show improved over time.
However... after the show’s completion, it was released on DVD in Japan. not only was it released on DVD, it came with new animation cels in certain moments. These “Re-visions” either made certain scenes look better or they were made to fix errors. A common complaint would be understandable that it can be distracting to see old animation cels and new animation cels being shown back to back. If you end up watching the Remastered Version. You will be dealing with this on Seasons 1 and 2. It seems Star Wars isn't the only Space Opera series with these kind of problems. Now to think of it, Why do I keep thinking of a Star Destroyer whenever I see Reinhard's Flagship "The Brunhild"?
I wonder if Star Wars had some influence over this anime
Maybe I am overthinking this. Anyway, The Remastered Version might not sit well with all viewers of this show... It’s a take it or leave it thing I guess.
One other minor nitpick is that the notable characters that are part of the Terraist Cult are like stock bad guys, that and maybe it would be nice to see a positive side to religion being portrayed instead of just showing the negative extremist side.
However, my last minor nitpick are the scenes where the characters are talking to eachother like in a normal-life situation. I will excuse this completely because it gives the show a sense of realism. This aspect may not sit well with everyone. I was patient to sit through those kind of moments in the show even though this anime is riddled with dialogue.
If I had any problems with this show, it would be pointed at the Narrator at some parts of the show. I personally have no issue with a narrator explaining events that took place off-screen inbetween certain moments. What I did not like about the Narrator of this show is that he strongly hints an upcoming event at times. This was done lightly before Episode 26, and there was even a moment where the narrator strongly hinted an event that would happen on Episode 82. You know what; This is technically a spoiler, but the hell with it! That Narrator’s job is to explain things like events that take place inbetween scenes or recap previous episodes or events. His other job is to not TO SPOIL A F***ING PLOT TWIST! This anime is supposed to be intellectual, and this is not a smart move by the creative staff. Episode 82 should have left an impact to not only just the characters, but the viewers as well. The events in this episode had little impact for me thanks to the narrator! But you wanna know something? the narrator is there to give this anime the feel as if it is being told from a history book. That is exactly the intention in Legend of the Galactic Heroes when it comes to narration. All I can say is that you need to get used to it. Still, there is no excuse for having a narrator spoiling something before it happens.
Now it all comes down to this... I am NOT going to blindly give this anime a 10. Why? Because even though Legend of the Galactic Heroes is mostly terrific, the animation had a few hiccups, and some characters are bounced around in certain episodes, making it harder to follow or care for these characters. However, they are used extremely well. Thank God for the name subtitles or I would be confused as hell. Seriously, those subtitles come in handy. However, I find the narrator's hinting future events a bit questionable. What really does work is the portrayal of politics and war and this is one of the best Anti-war messages portrayed in anime and even other fictional mediums.
However, when I review an anime, I do not fall for public opinion just because of what the majority claims something to be. I also don't buy into the hype that quickly either. Legend of the Galactic Heroes on the other hand is a very underappreciated anime, but deep down inside despite my nitpicking, I don’t have much to hate about this series. This show is actually very good. I can’t lie about that. I commend the creative staff for putting a massive amount of effort in making a show of this scope. The late Noboru Ishiguro deserved to rest in peace knowing he made the what is arguably the greatest Space Opera anime ever made, as well as making the longest OVA series ever made.
This is an epic space opera and this is a show for anyone that likes Science Fiction. This is science fiction taken seriously even though this is an anime that deals with politics, military intrigue, war, and humanity in space.
I strongly believe that everyone has their own opinions and should form their own opinions. When it comes to Anime, I believe everyone has an equal say concerning a specific anime regardless of differences in opinion. In the end, I can’t say that Legend of the Galactic Heroes is required viewing, But I can say that Legend of the Galactic Heroes is for those with acquired taste.
Legend of the Galactic Heroes is unlicensed, as well as Yoshiki Tanaka’s novel series of the same name. A movie prequel with the subtitle “Golden Wings” is also unlicensed, another movie called “Overture to a New War” is also unlicensed, a prequel series called “Legend of the Galactic Heroes Gaiden”, which consists of 2 seasons is also unlicensed. The entire franchise is unlicensed; your only way to experience this series is by watching it online. When this series does get licensed someday (which might not happen), pick this show up if you like it.
*March 2016 Update* I'll be damned, the anime has been licensed by Sentai Filmworks and the novels of the same name have been licensed by Viz Media. Prosit!
With all that said, Legend of the Galactic Heroes is an astounding piece of work. It exceeds with its scope in the story and it has an epic use of classical music. This anime may not have been perfect in animation. This is later excused as this series progresses. With its elaborate political settings, smart military intrigue, social commentary, and intellectual level as well as character development... Legend of the Galactic Heroes is worthy to be called an Anime Masterpiece in its own right. It is also considered one of the Greatest Animes of all time. Regardless of personal opinion from others. I highly recommend this anime to anyone that is into Science Fiction and Space Operas.
I give Legend of the Galactic Heroes a 9.5 out of 10. It is EXCELLENT!
Feel free to leave a comment.
Critic’s Log - Postscript: Well... with this review wrapped up. I have now posted 50 reviews. It might not sound like much, but this is a milestone I was looking forward to. I know that I intend to continue as long as I can. If you have been sticking around on my reviews. I want to thank you. If you went through this entire review, I thank you for your patience and I apologize for making it long-winding, I hope you can fully understand. I want to thank all the friends I have made inside the anime community. (no matter the amount), and I want to thank a good friend of mine (which I will not name by request) for getting me back into anime after I had a brief disinterest and I also thank her for recommending me some shows which turned out to be fun.
I want to give everyone one last message while I wrap-up... This message is to all but at the same time, This message is to you...
Live Long...and Prosper.