I am now halfway through Legend of the Galactic Heroes.
I’ve been hooked pretty much since episode 1! It’s an excellent anime so far. A lot has happened over the course of 55 episodes – but there are three aspects in particular I want to talk about here.
I also want to try and avoid spoilers, just in case there is anyone else out there that really wants to watch Legend of the Galactic Heroes, but is still on the fence because of it’s length (110 episodes).
So let’s talk Ginga Eiyuu Denetsu (Legend of the Galactic Heroes)!
First, I’d like to shower some praise on the anime. I think that the best part of the anime is it’s length. You may think that 110 episodes is too many, or tedious. But it doesn’t feel this way at all in practice. Legend of the Galactic Heroes isn’t like other long anime, like One Piece for example. Recaps are at an absolute minimum. In fact, majority of the episodes so far don’t spend ANY time on recaps, and when they do, it’s restricted to around a minute or so.
And there is no “filler”. Or at least that’s the feeling I get. Every episode something happens that is either important or interesting. Off the top of my head I can’t think of a single episode that didn’t materially contribute to the overarching story. And that’s what makes the length of Legend of the Galactic Heroes so great: it feels like a real epic story due to its length.
The outcome of the war between the Alliance and the Empire isn’t decided in one battle. The anime is much better than that! Instead, there are many, many conflicts. You get a real feel for the balance of power between the two factions as the anime progresses.
It reminds me of many Paradox Grand Strategy games that I’ve played and love. Not only is there an external conflict between two warring factions, but there are also many, many internal issues that arise and need to be dealt with. Both factions feel alive, rife with victories and defeats, internally and externally. The war, and the internal politics of the factions have a lot of depth.
It feels nice watching the anime knowing that everything won’t be decided in a single moment. You get a feel for “winning battles” versus “winning the war”. Huge difference between the two, and the anime provides that perspective. Large developments are introduced, and the anime can then process them down over many episodes. The longevity just provides this great sense of scale for everything. It’s a feeling I don’t think I’ve experienced before in anime. Much different than a 12 episode anime, and even a long running shounen anime.
The length allows Legend of the Galactic Heroes to not only fully develop major characters, but introduce new characters as it goes. I could be introduced to a new character on episode 56, and it would still work out because there is still so much time for the anime to do its thing.
The Battles Are Amazing
Next, I’d like to shower some more praise on the anime. While very minimalist, the battles really impressed me. The anime (which started airing in the 80’s) manages to really give a great sense of scale in the battles – with some real efficient animation. Two fleets consisting of ten thousand (or more) ships battling it out? The anime can handle it. By creating the perspective of a very zoomed out battle, the anime uses thousands of tiny triangles / dots for the ships, and uses lines for the lasers. It sounds cheesy, but it actually really works well. I have absolutely no criticisms of the animation that went into the battles. See for yourself:
Of course, much of the anime shows us the battles from within the capital ships of the commanders in charge, with diagrams on display to show us the positioning of allied / enemy ships. Which is also very nice. So we get a good balance of watching an overview of the battles like the pictures above, and we also get that view from the leader’s perspectives as you can see here:
And this doesn’t even touch on the tactics involved in these battles – watching two opposing commanders form strategies and counter-strategies on the fly. It’s all very engaging! I feel like I’ve taken a crash course in space fleet tactics just by watching the battles that have taken place so far in this anime.
The battles in Legend of the Galactic Heroes just flow very well, and kept me very interested and excited – all without over the top animation or raw action. Simply put, the battles in this anime are brilliant. Absolutely brilliant.
And The Politics! Fantastic.
Finally, I’d like to take this opportunity to shower Legend of the Galactic Heroes with some more praise.
Make no mistake, Legend of the Galactic Heroes is an anime about war. It’s not an action anime. Far from it, actually. The anime is very political.
Legend of the Galactic Heroes digs deep into politics, which naturally, are a very important aspect of war. Leadership and military decisions are inherently political. Considering the anime is an epic story revolving around war between two factions with different forms of government, it only makes sense that politics play a very large role in the anime.
We get a lot of drama and political situations within the two factions. Many are general issues that a nation at war has to deal with. But then there are other problems, problems that are directly tied to each faction’s form of government.
And this really has been a major focus of the anime so far: Democracy versus Autocracy.
Legend of the Galactic Heroes does an excellent job at showing us both of these forms of governance at work. It shows us the upsides, and the downsides of both. In my opinion, it has provided a very balanced perspective.
Which I think is great, because especially today people have quite the tendency to cling to their personal opinions and take offense to opposing ideas. I think that if this anime aired today, it would probably cause quite the stir with Western media for it’s balanced portrayal of both Democracy and Autocracy.
I think we all have a good idea as to the flaws of Autocracy. All it takes is one bad ruler in a line of many to ruin everything, or really oppress the people. All it takes is that one person in the royal lineage to potentially bring an entire kingdom / empire falling down. Or even the lack of such a person, with a succession crisis. Not to mention the many aristocrats battling each other for favour with the ruler, or conspiring against him. Too much power in the hands of one person can be an absolute recipe for disaster.
It’s very easy to see the downsides of Autocracy when we look at history.
And so it’s also easy to believe that Democracy is just inherently better than Autocracy. After all, we’ve moved past kingdoms and empires. But Democracy isn’t perfect either!
Here is a great quote from one of the characters on the Alliance, Fleet Admiral Bucock:
“No, its citizens have turned over rulership to politicians, instead of participating in it!
The people have democratic principles on their lips…
…but can’t spare the effort to safeguard it!
The collapse of a government is the sin of its rulers and leaders.
The collapse of a democratic rule is the sin of every citizen!”
Legend of the Galactic Heroes really drives home the two biggest problems in a democracy: the lack of real participation by the people, and politicians.
See, with kingdoms of old, the people were always inherently invested in politics. If a ruler completely turns against his people, they would gather their pitchforks and overthrow him. Nobles would gather their personal levies, group together, and put the ruler in their place. People were more invested in politics, because they really had no choice. If the ruler is grossly out of line, it is up to the people to do something about it. They didn’t have many other options. Sometimes the people of a kingdom would even invite a neighboring kingdom to invade if things got very bad. Because no matter what, action needed to be taken in those situations.
Democracy isn’t quite like this. It’s easy for people to opt out, and not pay attention to politics. It’s easy to just vote for the same party over and over without thinking about it. It’s easy to become disinterested in politics, and unwilling to take action if needed. And when this happens, politicians are left with all of the power.Politicians who may only be interested in the paycheck, and getting re-elected. Politicians who may be more interested in their own personal power and welfare than the peoples. Politicians who are more interested in maintaining appearances…
When this happens, who is to blame if the politicians start to fail the nation they are supposed to serve? Ultimately, the blame lies with the people. This is what Fleet Admiral Bucock is getting at in the above quote.
This is the message Legend of the Galactic Heroes is conveying in respect to Democracy and it’s flaws. It’s a very real and important message.
It brings up interesting questions, like this:
And then there are questions like this:
In the end, Legend of the Galactic Heroes doesn’t provide an answer. These are questions that don’t have an objective right or wrong answer. Some characters will stick to one principle, others to another.
I really loved this aspect of Legend of the Galactic Heroes. It really provides some interesting questions to think about. I found it very interesting, as these are questions that are still very relevant today.
And this was really an aspect of the anime I loved, because I found it so interesting. The anime’s portrayal of both the benefits and faults of both forms of government was very well done.
Of course, I am only halfway through! So I’m excited to see what direction the anime goes with all of this.
And this concludes my halfway post of Legend of the Galactic Heroes. I’m not sure how much I’ll want to write in the final post, so I guess we’ll see what happens first. Maybe I’ll dive into spoilers for the final post.
I guess the bottom line here is that if you enjoy strategy, power & politics, and military in anime, Legend of the Galactic Heroes is a strong recommend. I am amazed and impressed at how great this anime is – and how well it holds up even today. The length may be daunting, but I think it’s an anime absolutely worth watching. The anime is true to its name for sure.
Until next time!
Thanks for reading.