Tag Archives: Ginga Eiyuu Densetsu

Legend of the Galactic Heroes: Die Neue These – Anime Review

Japanese Title: Ginga Eiyuu Densetsu: Die Neue These – Kaikou

 

Related: Legend of the Galactic Heroes (original series)

Similar: Mobile Suit Gundam: The Origin

Code Geass

Rose of Versailles

 

Watched in: Japanese & English

Genre: Science Fiction Action Drama

Length: 12 episodes

 

Positives:

  • Faithful to the original’s ideas.
  • Beautiful.
  • Great music.

Negatives:

  • Too condensed.

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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.

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Awards: (hover over each award to see descriptions; click award for more recipients)

Positive:

Great MusicStrong Lead Characters

Negative: None

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Legend of the Galactic Heroes: Overture to a New War – Anime Review

Japanese Title: Ginga Eiyuu Densetsu: Arata Naru Tatakai no Overture

 

Related: Legend of the Galactic Heroes (main series)

 

Watched in: Japanese

Genre: Science Fiction War Drama

Length: 1 hr. 30 min. movie

 

Positives:

  • Emotion conveyed without words.
  • Theme of opposed power.
  • Great final battle.
  • Excellent audio, as always.

Negatives:

  • Overlap with the series’ start.

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In the previous film, My Conquest is the Sea of Stars, admirals didn’t like this young Reinhard Lohengramm upstart gaining glory. They dismissed him, saying he wouldn’t get far. Now he’s on the path to admiral. The position is within his grasp, which rankles other power players due to his royal family connection since his sister married the Kaiser.

For Yang on the opposing faction, we see a more personal side of him, as being a hero in the war requires personal sacrifices. One scene has Yang relinquish his feelings for a woman, and hers for him, when his friend proposes to her. There’s no dialogue – visuals and music convey this emotional moment alone, reminiscent of the final battle from the previous movie.

The villain this time is a warmonger working behind the scene to profit off the war and make sure it goes on forever.

Overture taps into the same themes from early in the main series – command and power. Reinhard was given executive power to override any dissenters, whereas Yang can’t do anything without approval from above. This theme plays out several times to significant effect on the soldiers depending to their commander’s competence, ending in a great battle. I like that these movies use their time to give more perspective from the lower ranks. It builds the society a little each time.

This is more of the franchise I know and love. The writing is engaging, the characters complex, and the conflict ripe. To detail these would be to repeat my Legend of the Galactic Heroes review, so read that for the full picture.

Overture to a New War is the lead up to the start of the series, ending in the show’s first battle, though with a few changes. As such, this is a good taster of what Legend of the Galactic Heroes has to offer.

Art – High

A slight improvement over the main series.

Sound – Very High

The acting and classical soundtrack has not missed a step.

Story – Very High

Overture to a New War tells of events just before the start of the main series, adding a new villain and emotional challenges for Yang. This movie doesn’t deviate in quality from its parent story.

Overall Quality – Very High

Recommendation: Overture to a New War is a great place to start the venerable series if intimidated by its runtime, though events have added significance if you know what is to come.

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LOGH: My Conquest is the Sea of Stars – Anime Review

Japanese Title: Ginga Eiyuu Densetsu: Waga Yuku wa Hoshi no Taikai

 

Related: Legend of the Galactic Heroes (main series)

Legend of the Galactic Heroes: Overture to a New War (sequel side story)

Similar: Code Geass

 

Watched in: Japanese

Genre: Science Fiction Action Drama

Length: 59 min. movie

 

Positives:

  • Visually engaging and strategic battles.
  • Upgraded art from the series.
  • More micro world building.

Negatives:

  • Little new information from the main series.

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Just a short review today of My Conquest is the Sea of Stars, prequel to Legend of the Galactic Heroes. This movie describes the first conflict between the two legends of the series, Yang and Reinhard.

We open on a battle above a Jupiter-like planet, and immediately the high budget and art quality shine to show us a visually engaging conflict. Yang is only an adviser at this stage, having to work under an incompetent commander. In typical Yang fashion, he and his best friend Attenborough are far too relaxed about the commander not taking the advice to avoid the planet’s volatile atmosphere.

For Reinhard’s part, he has to contend with a superior who takes issue with how fast Reinhard has risen up the ranks, especially with Reinhard’s relation to the king’s wife. The admiral plots to get him out of his hands at the Iserlohn Fortress as soon as possible. Commanders loathe this young upstart, intertwining politics and strategy in the same battle.

Being back in this universe amongst these characters makes me comfortable, like going home for the holidays and relaxing with loved ones after a busy year. The nostalgia of seeing several major characters at the start, before all the changes the series puts them through tempts me to start the series again (No! Have to get through unwatched series first!).

Sea of Stars changes things up by giving us a perspective from an ordinary Imperial soldier. He isn’t anyone important nor will he have a notable impact on the war, but that’s what makes his perspective so interesting, oddly enough. Throughout Legend of the Galactic Heroes, we see Yang and Reinhard’s grandeur, yet to the ordinary person, these heroic achievements aren’t the biggest deal when trying to live life day to day. Politics don’t really matter to a grunt in the cockpit. It’s fascinating to hear what he and fellow soldiers think of the people at the top. He doesn’t care about Reinhard’s controversial background, just whether Reinhard can keep him alive to get home tomorrow.

This lower level perspective also allows for more world building, as we follow soldiers on the streets during downtime. Sea of Stars doesn’t feel like a waste. The team took the opportunity to add more to the already rich franchise, rather than take the lazy route and rehash all we already know.

My Conquest is the Sea of Stars is a must watch – the climactic battle where music tells the entire story earns your time alone. No words, no sound effects – just the action and music weaving an emotional conflict.

Art – High

This takes the art from the main series up a notch with more animation and colour depth, thus allowing for visually engaging battles.

Sound – Very High

Same quality acting, writing, and orchestra as Legend of the Galactic Heroes. I loved the use of nothing but music for the finale’s atmosphere and emotions.

Story – Very High

My Conquest is the Sea of Stars details the first encounter between those two heroes who would become legendary. With focus on a superb strategic battle and world building from the soldiers’ perspective, this prequel is a great addition to the epic series.

Overall Quality – Very High

Recommendation: A must watch after Legend of the Galactic Heroes. While you can watch My Conquest is the Sea of Stars standalone, as it doesn’t spoil anything, its significance and much of the larger context comes from the parent series.

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Awards: (hover over each award to see descriptions; click award for more recipients)

Positive: N/A

Negative: N/A

Legend of the Galactic Heroes – Anime Review

Japanese Title: Ginga Eiyuu Densetsu

 

Related: In recommended viewing order, all are prequels (none included in review):

Legend of the Galactic Heroes: My Conquest is the Sea of Stars

Legend of the Galactic Heroes: Overture to a New War

Legend of the Galactic Heroes Gaiden: Golden Wings

Legend of the Galactic Heroes Gaiden: A Hundred Billion Stars

Legend of the Galactic Heroes Gaiden: Spiral Labyrinth

Legend of the Galactic Heroes: Die Neue These (new version)

 

Similar: Code Geass

Rose of Versailles

Mobile Suit Gundam

Game of Thrones (TV)

 

Watched in: Japanese

Genre: Science Fiction War Drama

Length: 110 episodes

 

Positives:

  • Endless depth to the characters and story.
  • Unpredictable conflict and developments.
  • Masterclass in dialogue and performance.
  • Galaxy building.
  • Orchestral and operatic score.
  • Riveting to the end.

Negatives:

  • Art and sound show their age in the first season.

(Request an anime for review here.)

How do I talk about Legend of the Galactic Heroes? How do I tell you this is anime greatness without overhyping it? When someone says x movie is the best movie ever made, it never lives up to expectations, even if it is the best movie because of how our brains equate “best” to mean “flawless.” And if we find a single point we don’t like, our cynical brains say, “This is the best? Pfft, didn’t anyone else see he was wearing a Rolex in medieval warfare? Unwatchable!” So, when you read this review, don’t believe anything I say until you see it for yourself. I don’t want overhype.

In an alternate future, the Galactic Empire ruled the stars until several planets rebelled and formed the Free Planets Alliance in the name of democracy. This decades war with tens of thousands of ships and billions of lives on the board has no end in sight. Both sides believe victory is at hand with the rise of their respective heroes – Reinhard von Lohengramm, young, arrogant, ambitious, on the Empire’s front line and Yang Wen-Li the miracle strategist of the FPA.

Legend of the Galactic Heroes is a space opera of epic proportions with so many characters, so many threads, and so much conflict that it’s tough to simplify. In essence, take Star Wars but from the perspective of the commanders rather than the pilots and Jedi, while also dealing with the political complexities of Game of Thrones. The Alliance draws parallels to the UK, USA, and East Asia, whereas the Empire has a more WW2 German and European aristocratic design. As if leading millions into battle wasn’t enough, Yang and Reinhard have to manoeuvre the political landscape of aristocrats plotting for maximum profits in war, politicians using any opportunity to gain favour, factions within factions, and even military superiors threatened by their rise through the ranks. Galactic Heroes throws conflict from all sides at its protagonists. Their mettle tested, inexperience crushed, relationships strained, kindness seared by enemies, the reality of war will change them.

The greatness of Galactic Heroes dwells in its handling of the conflict, particularly between Yang and Reinhard. I’m sure we’ve all seen stories where the author favours their protagonist to the point of unrealistic wins for said protagonist. That problem doesn’t poison this narrative. With two protagonists on opposing sides, such favouritism isn’t possible. A win for Reinhard is likely a loss for Yang and his allies or vice versa. And you never know who will win a given battle. Such unpredictability and masterful plotting keeps the audience leaning forward, hands gripping armrests as a character could die at any moment. The first episode kills what I thought was a major character.

Furthermore, the dictatorship versus democracy motif isn’t so black and white. The easy road is to paint one side as evil while the other shines like a monastery of saints. The hard road means to balance both, using no black or white, just grey across all players in the game. “Who is right?” is a complex question to answer when everyone has flaws. One detail that stuck with me is the Patriotic Knight Police of the Alliance, who will beat anyone that disturbs the peace and “unity” of the Alliance’s democracy – “You are free to say anything you want as long as it’s what we like.”

The quality is even more impressive once you realise Galactic Heroes is ninety-five percent dialogue. You wouldn’t imagine such a dialogue heavy story could be this riveting – in most cases, dialogue dominance does result in boredom – however, this dialogue is so sharp, so lean that every line builds the world, builds character, or advances the plot. You must pay attention.

Galactic Heroes’ overarching plot is a slow one, as is the case in real life war and politics. To offset what could be poor pacing, short stories occur episode to episode. For example, we may see how Reinhard deals with a gluttonous noble in one episode, while the next may dive into a moment of history and build the world with richness that makes loremasters foam at the mouth. A personal standout was the rise of the first Kaiser and how the public gave him ultimate dictatorship, free rights sacrificed for what they believed was the greater good. He then executed 20,000 people on mere suspicion of planning his assassination. The next emperor killed 500,000,000 in an uprising and exiled another 10,000,000,000 relatives by association. Galactic Heroes draws on real world events for its conflicts with an attention to detail rarely seen in fiction – “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” These writers studied their history.

Longer story arcs often focus on a ship-to-ship battle, where fleets dot space like stars in the night. Though these battles have plenty of action, our view is still from the bridge alongside the commanders – imagine spectating a real-time strategy game. Seldom do we fly out with a dogfighter. That said, important pilots enter the story later on for us to follow.

A most interesting battle occurs early when Yang has the task of capturing Iserlohn Fortress, an artificial and impenetrable planet thanks to its Death Star-like weapon, Thor’s Hammer, capable of wiping a fleet in a single shot. Every battle has complex strategies that keep the audience riveted throughout.

Galactic Heroes has its flaws, of course. Outside of its age, my main complaint would regard some of the minor characters. After a hiatus for several dozen episodes, some important yet unmemorable characters crop up once more and I ask myself, “Who is that again?” for a few episodes. It’s a problem because context is everything with such complex dynamics, where a detail as simple as a character’s faction alignment can change all meaning in their words. The immense crew of memorable characters makes this particularly noticeable.

Alright, I have talked enough. I could go on for days if I don’t stop myself and this is already my longest review by fifty percent – didn’t even touch on the cast of a hundred characters, the planet dedicated entirely to banking, Reinhard’s sister being married to the Kaiser, religious elements, and so much more. I don’t like to set ‘my favourite’ anime in stone without giving it time to simmer as I deconstruct every facet for a while, but I expect Legend of the Galactic Heroes to claim the throne when all is seen and reviewed. I didn’t hold this back for my 200th anime review for no reason.

Art – High

The art starts old (not 70s hair old) and the animation is a little wobbly. However, the show goes for so long that the art improves significantly. In fact, you can see the difference between old and new within the same scene as it switches shots in season one. Like a lot of older sci-fi, much of our technology is more advanced than predicted, but Galactic Heroes uses a coherence of style and society to draw us in regardless. I would recognise these characters instantly.

Sound – Very High

Along the art’s vein, audio quality starts feeling old but soon improves. I love the Austrian influenced orchestra and opera, which sounds like attending a war with Mozart playing on one side and Beethoven on the other. The actors are perfect throughout, thanks in no small part to the phenomenal script (see how many industry veterans you recognise in their early days). Outside some occasional Engrish music (for the Alliance national anthem, oddly enough), I have no complaints.

Story – Very High

Two factions of opposing ideologies war across the stars as their leaders crumble around them, giving rise to two heroes who will shape the conflict like no other. It is difficult to capture into words the grandeur and depth of Legend of the Galactic Heroes’ story. Characters, conflict, or story, there is little to improve.

Overall Quality – Very High

Recommendation: A must watch. Legend of the Galactic Heroes is phenomenal in every way and should be experienced by all. However, this is a demanding anime. If you can’t dedicate the time and focus to pay attention, it’s simply not worth trying. Also, do keep its age in mind when you start.

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Awards: (hover mouse over each award to see descriptions; click award for more recipients)

Positive:

Deep NarrativeEngaging DialogueExtensive Character DevelopmentGreat MusicGreat OP or ED SequenceHoly S***Phenomenal VillainRiveting ActionStellar Voice ActingStrategicStrong Lead CharactersStrong Support Characters

Negative: None