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I’ve finished the first batch of Legend of the Galactic Heroes episodes and I just have to say…wow. This show just blows me away. The characters, the story, the music, the pacing - everything is just perfect. This is one of the few anime that I would really call artistic as the themes and arguments it brings up are still relevant to this day, and indeed are relevant for all time. Several episodes got me thinking about various things, so I’m just going to go through and point at the stuff that interested me:

In ep.3 you got this great “with us or against us” speech by Truniht, the secretary of defense for the Free Planets Alliance. After his speech he’s immediately set upon by Jessica Edwards, a widow who had lost her husband in the previous battle. She asks Truniht where he was during the fighting and where was his family, or the families of any other politicians. For this action she is later attacked by the PKC, an illegal yet tolerated ultranationalist paramilitary group, but fortunately she is rescued by the quick actions of Yang Wenli. Living in America it’s easy for me to draw parallels between these events and the Iraq War, especially in the early years of the war. However, in truth these events could be related to any war, which is really what makes LOGH so fascinating.

In ep.4 it’s a very minor thing that caught my attention. There’s a brief ceremony where Reinhard is honored for his bravery in front of the Kaiser and other military officials. It is essentially a closed affair for the elite. Contrast this with the Alliance ceremony in the previous episode, which is a huge spectacle used by Truniht for political gain. It starkly contrasts the two societies governments and the way the leaders interact with the citizens.

In ep.5 (I promise I’m not going to go through every episode; the early ones were just awesome) we see Kircheis put down down a noble rebellion on Kastrop. The funny thing is that the noble runs the place like ancient Rome! Everyone wears togas and laurel wreaths and there’s pillars every where. When Kircheis does put down the rebellion the nobles followers, dismayed by his increasingly erratic behavior, stab him all at once just like Julius Caesar. The whole thing is just an ironic shout out to Caesar! It’s also a clever critique of dictatorship in an already autocratic society. Whether this is a foreshadowing for later events I don’t know, though a few minor nobles later on also get killed in a similar manner but replace daggers with lasers.

Ep.11 has another fun historical reference in the character of Marquis Benemunde, a noble who was once favorite of the Kaiser but is now forgotten as Reinhard’s sister Annerose takes her place. She concocts an elaborate planned, helped along by nobles who also despise Reinhard, to kidnap Annerose and poison her. To poison her Benemunde uses poison from her ring, a reference to Lucrezia Borgia from the Italian Renaissance. I only actually know this from Gankutsuou. After her plan is foiled she is allowed the “honor” of killing herself instead of being executed and is force fed her own poison. It’s all very medieval and brutal but also fascinating to watch. I also found it funny that in the Empire common thugs wear capes and masquerade masks. Are we really in the future?

Ep.18 features another ironical historical moment as the nobles rebel against Reinhard and fight for liberty, equality, and fraternity. Actually they’re just protecting their own skins, but the whole thing sure does look like the Tennis Court Oath that officially started the French Revolution.

LOGH has a lot of little characters that show up to provide a different view of things and put a human face on the often ugly facade of war. Ep.22 features the two most human guys that show up for thirty seconds in anime ever. The noble Littenheim is losing the battle and chooses to run away, but his escape path is blocked by his own supply ships. Instead of just going through them, since space is big and all, he instead opens fire on them. Right before this we get a scene with two guys, one of them showing a picture of his wife and newborn twins to the other, commenting on how he wants to go home and hold them soon. Both of them are then killed in the attack by their own forces. Now that’s just brutal right there.

Ep.23 features the greatest character conflict so far. Reinhard has to decide whether to prevent or not a noble nuclear attack on a planet. If he allows it then the nobles are basically finished as no good soldier will fight for them. But he’ll also be sentencing two million people to death. Like my favorite Star Trek episode “In the Pale Moonlight” everything is done perfectly here, with Reinhard’s reluctance, Oberstein’s machinations, and Reinhard’s acceptance that he’ll just have to ignore Kicheis’s opinion. A brilliant episode all around.

Ep.24 has the greatest weapon ever: chunks of ice shot at near light speed. Yang Wenli’s idea to get around an expensive automatic defense satellite is to just shoot ice really fast at it. It’s such a simple idea but the way the episode uses it is awesome. A real Crowning Moment of Awesome for Yang Wenli and ice. Also, more Antonin Dvorak used here.

Big spoilers here, but ep.26 is really the most surprising episode so far for me, as it basically kills of Kircheis, Reinhard’s best friend and heterosexual life partner. I’ve really tried to avoid spoilers for LOGH so I had no idea this was coming and I just assumed that Kircheis would survive seeing as how integral he was to Reinhard’s character. The effect this has on Reinhard is just devastating, as he immediately goes into a deep depression and by the time he comes out of it he’s definitely a different person. His eyes are drawn much colder and I really have to give credit to the animators for making me feel unsettle in his presence. This is now a guy who will either use you or kill you.

These are just a few highlights that I jotted down while watching, but really everything has been perfect so far. It’s just impossible to say everything that is so great about this series, from its very human relevance to all the historical shout outs for history buffs like me. I’m a quarter of the way on my journey and I’m definitely looking forward to more.

And for those who think LOGH might be boring, just look at all the gratuitous violence you’re missing. Real men in space fight with axes, after all.