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  • Forfatterens bildeStephanie

Ginga Eiyuu Densetsu - Did it really have to be that long?

It took an abnormally long time to complete watching this for me. Usually, I finish 12 episode series in less than a day, after all they only take about 3-4 hours to watch through. For 24 and 39 episode series, it tends to take two or three days. 50 episode shows take me about 5-7 days. But Legend of the Galactic Heroes is another beast entirely. It's dense. Like, really dense. Now I enjoy a lot of slow moving dramas. Akage no Anne, Ashita no Joe, Versaille no Bara? They're some of my favourite shows. But it most certainly is possible for a show to be too slow, and too long winded, and I feel that no show better fits that description than Ginga Eiyuu Densetsu, otherwise known in english as Legend of the Galactic Heroes. It seems that LotGH has somehow managed to gain this mythological status, probably because it’s the show that all the supposed «eltists» seem to love so much. A 110 episode political war drama about the merits of a flawed democracy in comparison to an authoritarian regime with a virtious leader. Seems great, and you know what, it really is. I'm not here to deny that it's a good show, except for a few aspects. It does a good job of explaining why these characters are doing what they are and why you should care, which is a lot more than most works seem to be interested in explaining. The visuals are also really great, the character designs are striking and memorable, at least for the main cast that is. As for the hundred or so side characters, well they just sort of blend together after a while. The battles are admittedly, pretty cool, and is probably the most talked about part of the series. Large scale spaceships and tens of millions of soldiers fighting in space, I mean what, apart from GunBuster of course, could be cooler than that? The spaceships are detailed and while you don’t really get to see anything from the more low level soldiers, except for a few dog fights here and there, some axe combat and a few terrorist attacks, it’s not really supposed to be the focus of the series either.

In the far future, The Galactic Federation and The Free Planets Alliance are fighting in a 150 year long war. But all of this is soon to come to an end, for a young, up and coming military officer, Reinhard von Lohengramm and Siegfried Kircheis have their aims set on conquering the entire galaxy. In their way are many obstacles, rich nobles cling to their unjust wealth and power, secret cultists plot to overthrow governments, and most dangerous of all, the Free Planets Alliance Admiral Yang Wenli, a military officer with unsurpassed tactical skill. A clash of ideology and strategical prowess is about to unfold.

The show can be fairly hard to follow. As in, it's dense. Sometimes it’s easy to understand whats going on, sometimes not so much. Some of the time, the fact that it's so dense is to its detriment. No, I'd even go as far as to say that most of the time, it is to its detriment. To be clear, that's not to say that a piece of media being dense (in the context of information and emotion) is bad. One of my favourite books is 'Wuthering Heights,' or at least, the 100 pages of it that I read through before realizing that at the rate I was going, I'd probably spend another month on it. No, 'Ginga Eiyuu Densetsu' is dense in a more negative way. Instead of being filled with expressive writing and detailed insights into the emotions of the characters, which it occasionally does have, just too little of in comparison to the more frivilous aspects, the show much rather prefers to introduce (literally) hundreds of named characters to you, and have them talk with often obtusely written dialouge for 24 minutes. Dialouge scenes can be fun to watch, and they can be entertaining, I especially loved the dialouge scenes where Yang Wenli was interrogated by the Free Planets Alliance. People love watching debates in real life, after all. The show has tons of exactly just that, but it also has just as many, if not even more dialouge scenes that are extremely boring to sit through. So many episodes are just characters talking and talking and nothing of importance happening! But the good thing is that the show is enjoyable on an episode to episode basis. Even when I didn't completely understand what’s going on, I could still watch the next episode and enjoy it, simply because the production, visual presentation and voice acting is all done so immaculately well. You won't need to slog through it, rewatch it eight times, climb to the top of Mount Fuji, contemplate about it for five decades, learn latin, open your third eye, before finally, the heavens open up as an angel descends down to you, granting you access to

a n c i e n t K N O W L E D G E

Not that a show like that even exists, Serial Experiments Lain is just bad and is only saved by its visual presentation. Whoops, wrong show. Anyways, good shows are good from the first episode, and each episode is also good on an individual level. Now, not every show is going to be 'Kino no Tabi 03', but they can try. A show can have as much political intrigue and high level concepts as it wants, but if it isn’t fun to watch, is it even worth it? Now luckily LotGH has a strong visual presentation, is fun to watch episode to episode, and while slightly confusing, is indeed a well structured show. I am quite confused at how they managed to turn ten light novels into a 110 episode OVA though.

And now, let's discuss worldbuilding, and why it doesn't really matter. The characters in this story command armies with millions of men, they soar through space on enormours spcaeships, and yet the architecture is looks extremely baroque. Not to mention the fact that the cars are straight out of the mid-twentieth century. But you know what? That doesn't matter, not one bit. It's pure aestheticism. Why does it look like that? Well, why it shoudn't it, it looks damn awesome! That's not to say that the show as a whole is pure aestheticism though, the series most definitely has themes, and it explores them fairly adequately. Now, why did I only say that it explores its themes "fairly" adequately?

It has to do with the ending. The main theme of the story is this: What's better? A corrupt democracy, or a good dictatorship? Throughout the course of the series, many characters ask themselves this question. I myself, ended up agreeing most with some old guy on the side of The Free Planets Alliance whose name I can not remember (for obvious reasons). I do however, remember what he said, that while the Job Trunicht administration of the Free Planets Alliance may be corrupt, and while The Lohengramm Dynasty of the Galactic Empire may be better in comparison, giving up democracy is wrong. The series itself, while presenting Lohengramm as being the pen-ultimate, virtous dictator, still reminds the audience of many problems he has, among them his inevitable death. What happens to a one man team when that one person dies? Reinhard himself has many troubles in his personal life, from his often weak mental state to his over reliance on a few people, which in turn makes him weak. And in the end, Reinhard does die. Sadly, we do not get to see what happens after, although I do think it's for the better. The show finished saying what it was trying to say, and continuing the storyline further woudn't really have any meaning.

Although, the ending is quite weird. The whole show is about a dictatorship masquerading as a democracy fighting against a dictatorship which has no qualms about it being just that. In the end, when the democracy has perished, the ones that remain of it just manage to compromise. And they get to live on, I guess? I don't understand it. It feels weak, and it's also kind of lame. The most memorable moments of the series is when the great men lead great armies in pursuit of furthering their great cause. So having the two sides just decide to co-exist? I think it's kind of lame, and isn't really satisfying either. You can do a story chsowcasing how both sides commit atrocities in war stories, that's the entire point of season 1 of 'Uchuu Senkan Yamato', and that show did it flawlessly.

Before I conclude this analysis, there is one very important part of this series that I have yet to touch open, and this is quite a controversial opinion of mine: the series has a probk\lem with diversity. There are barely any black or female characters. The two black characters featured prominently are bodyguards, and the female characters are always relegated to a supporting role, as a secretary or assistant to one of the main characters (who are all male). This, to say the least, is not a progressive view of women. This series is canonically set in AD 2801. Over 800 years from now. The characters fight in large scale battles, most of which take place in spaceships, with very little close quarters combat taking place, except for when a ship or fortress is being captured. So why is it, that all the female characters have supporting roles? Why does the galactic empire only have male fleet admirals? It doesn't make any sense. I posted about this on Reddit, and what I got was purely negative response. Doesn't seem like anyone sees eye to eye on me in regards to this issue. But I do think it's important to bring it up, because the show really does have a male-centric and chauvinist world view. And remember, am I saying that LotGH is a bad show because of this? Well, yes, I am, it was definitely a leading factor in causing me to score the show an eight instead of a nine out of ten. But that doesn't mean i'm blind to the other positive aspects of the show, I did just spend most of this talking about how much I love it. And I do, but it does have problematic aspects to it, and to ignore that would be wrong. I'll now go over some criticsm I recieved, and refute it.

"It's a Japanese novel series from the early 80's of course there is no diversity."

Well, the 110 episode OVA series started in 88, the exact same year as GunBuster, which is also a sci-fi epic with aspects of military fetishism. And yet, woudn't you know it, GunBuster has well written female characters that actually have an impact on the story.

"Can’t tell if trolling or not, the military and government is always dominated by men much less a dictatorship."

I can't deny that (apart from Jeanne d'Arc exisiting in the 1400's), but this comment misses the point. The story is set in 2800. Considering that most of the battles take place inside space ships, and the fact that women don't have worse cognitive abilties than men, I don't see why women coudn't be fleet admirals or have higher positions than just "secretary." Of course there is shown to be close quarters combat fought double-bladed axes of all things, but even so, handguns that fire deadly lasers exist in this show, so I don't get why women coudn't be part of this too.

"You forget that it's from a story written by a Japanese dude several decades before this one. Not to mention even today most societies and especially militaries are pretty male-dominated."

Again, GunBuster came out in 88, and has female characters with influential positions in that universe's military. The second part of this comment, about how most societies today are male dominant is invalid because LotGH doesn't take place in the contemporary universe, it's set in 2800.

"I mean for the Reich it's pretty clear that it's a fascist government based on racist and sexist ideals so I don't think it should be that surprising coming from that side, even after the limited reforms Reinhard makes. [...]"

If the amount of military fetishism made you come to that conclusion, then I can't deny your reasoning, but is this ever stated? I got a few other comments claiming that the Galactic Empire practices eugenics, but either I missed that detail completely or it's stated in other related media, not in the 110 episode OVA i'm discussing.

I could be completely insane, but I think it's more just valid criticsm of a show that includes outdated gender stereotypes. That doesn't mean I dislike the show as a whole, it's just one aspect that I dislike. And it's not like a piece of media absolutely has to include a diverse cast of characters for me to enjoy it, to refrence some media outside of anime, the movie "Goodfellas" has female characters that are relegated purely to be the wives of the main male characters, they have no other role than that But that's because the movie is critising this, the treatment of women in the movie is shown to be bad. When the main character hits his wife and cheats on her, when he's never home, it's presented as a bad thing. In LotGH, when the female characters are presented purely as assistants or housewives to the more dominant male characters, that's not presented as a bad thing, far from it. It's embraced and shown as a good thing. And I don't like that. I do want to clarify though, that my problem isn't with the lack of female characters, it's about the fact that the show has badly written female characters. Take the Quentin Tarantino film 'Reservoir Dogs' for example. No female characters, but it doesn't bother me. Why? Well first of all, it's out of the scope of the story. It doesn't need any female characters, because it's a story about a group of men carrying out a robbery by request of some gangsters in Los Angeles. However in LotGH, you have badly written female characters. Female characters that reinforce outdated gender stereotypes, that portray an old and archaic view of what women should do and be. And that's wrong, not to mention that it probably says something about what the author thinks too.

In conclusion, the sheer scale of the military conflicts presented in the show are likely going to be enough to satisfy most viewers. However, what truly makes the show stand out is the fact that it has many other layers to it beside this. It takes great care to balance having not only large scale battles, but also spending ample time on philosophical musings, calm slice of life moments, as well as building emotional depth and detailed character relationships. While there are 110 episodes, and that can certainly make it feel exhausting to watch at times, especially when binging the show, it does put a lot its runtime to good use, as it constructs a detailed and nuanced conflict with well written characters. Although it has a less than positive view of women, it does have enough positive aspects to it that outweigh those negative ones, and it will definitely one that will continue to be known as the penultimate military war drama of anime; a prime example of mature and interesting writing - most of the time, that is.

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