The Spring 2018 Anime Preview Guide
Legend of the Galactic Heroes: Die Neue These
How would you rate episode 1 of
Legend of the Galactic Heroes: Die Neue These ?
What is this?
How was the SimulDub?
Alright, it's Legend of the Galactic Heroes, dubbed in English! Getting the mammoth original show dubbed is still a far-flung pipe dream, but this fresh start gives Funimation an opportunity that works out pretty well. LOGH's setting and story are a mash-up of several cultural and historical influences, so all these commanders barking and bickering in English come across as exposition-heavy as they did in Japanese. There are obviously a ton of incidental voices across these first two episodes covering the Battle of Astarte, but they all sound decently distinct from one another, which is the important thing. As for the main characters, Aaron Dismuke's Reinhard has a particularly youthful tone, which works well in highlighting the character's most obvious personality traits, and he plays well off Clifford Chapin's Kircheis. (And if I may be frank, I think their performances actually dial up the shippable sexual tension between the characters.)
But the main attraction is Ian Sinclair as Yang Wen-Li, who absolutely steals the show. Yang's already the most enjoyable character so far, and from his first faceless broadcast all the way through seeing him in action, Sinclair nails his portrayal. His voice hits all the right notes at the right moments, and he carries Yang's trademark exasperation perfectly. The rest of this show will work fine for viewers who prefer a dub to get all this detailed material across, but Yang is a highlight that makes it worth checking out even for those who were otherwise satisfied with the Japanese version.
How was the first episode?
The biggest fault I have with Legend of the Galactic Heroes: Die Neue These is entirely personal, as I simply have a hard time engaging with these kind of sweeping military epics. I absolutely understand the appeal of watching master tacticians do battle with huge armies (in space, no less!), but all too often I go into series like Legend of the Galactic Heroes wanting to be involved with the operatic drama and just end up walking away feeling confused and unmoved by their dry presentation.
It isn't so much the large cast of characters that bothers me, but the lack of personality and drive of their interactions. Our first named heroes do well enough; Reinhard von Loengramm and Siegfried Kircheis have enough chemistry to at least partially portray the friendship they've built up in their years of service to the Galactic Empire, and their running dialogue throughout the episode was the closest thing this premiere had to an emotional appeal. Outside of this pair, the rest of the characters we meet all blur together in a sea of names and vaguely similar faces that failed to make any impression whatsoever. Enough of the episode was devoted to expositional dialogue between Reinhard and other military personnel that even a Legend of the Galactic Heroes newbie like me could follow along with the basic action, but none of it got me to emotionally invest in what was going on. This resulted in a series of tactical arguments and battle maneuvers that left me feeling hollow.
At least they were pretty battle maneuvers, and if I can get behind any aspect of this LotGH update, it's the crisp coat of paint that has everything looking nice and shiny. The camera was a bit too static during the dialogue scenes for my tastes, but the CG-animated space battles were great fun to watch, with fluid animation and a rousing score bolstering the skirmish. Production I.G. is clearly putting a lot of effort into this production, and even though I didn't much know why one set of spaceships was exploding another set of slightly different-looking spaceships, these combat scenes were the high point of an otherwise somniferous premiere.
Given that the original iteration of LotGH runs for an ungodly number of episodes, I imagine that I could come to care about the war between the Empire and the Free Planets Alliance eventually, even in this version's truncated form. Even if Legend of the Galactic Heroes isn't my thing, it accomplishes what it sets out to do with stately aplomb, hence my positive-skewing score. If you've got an itch for complex and well-animated epic space warfare, then Legend of the Galactic Heroes: Die Neue These will almost certainly do more for you than it did for me.
There's a lot to like about this new adaptation of Legend of the Galactic Heroes. It's a good-looking show, and this episode does a nice job of getting franchise newcomers like me up to speed without unleashing an avalanche of exposition. You get your two big space fleets from two warring nations, you get a sense of which side has more ships and how they've set up their formations, and then it's off to the races. Full-on, large-scale space operas are an increasingly rare thing these days, so a competent series with high production values and well-regarded source material is definitely worth getting excited about. It's strange, then, that this episode didn't leave me clamoring for more.
Part of the problem may be our perspective on the battle. We see most of it from a big-picture view, with thousands of warships scaled down to color-coded graphics on a nifty three-dimensional display. It's a great approach for telling the audience what's going on, but it's not so good for getting us invested on an emotional level. For all the energy blasts and explosions, we never really get close enough to the human drama of being on a spaceship as it gets shot to pieces. There's no blood, no screaming, just a bunch of uniformed soldiers staring at screens and occasionally getting blown up in wide, exterior shots of their vessels. It reduces the combat to a numbers game, and that makes it tough to really get swept up in the moment.
That's acceptable if the focus is going to be on a battle of wits between opposing commanders, but the tactical side of things feels completely uneven until the very end of this episode. Between his grouchy old subordinates and his incompetent foes, Reinhard comes across as the only person here who has any idea what he's doing. This takes away from the implication that he's a talented commander, since he's basically just mowing down idiots. I'm not sure if the audience is supposed to empathize with his Reinhard's boredom in the absence of a worthy rival, but that's how I felt for most of this episode. That could all change now that Yang has made his grand entrance speech and presumably caught Reinhard off-guard, but we won't know if his counter-attack is worth the wait until next week.
This is clearly just the beginning of what should grow into a very big story, and this series has enough potential that I'm willing to give it time to find its footing. What it needs right now is a beating heart; an intense, emotional, personal conflict for the audience to latch onto. Whether that's a sharper focus on the soldiers who are actually doing all the fighting and dying or a dynamic rivalry between Reinhard and Yang, Legend of the Galactic Heroes would do well to add a little more humanity to its wartime drama. Sipping tea and playing armchair admiral is only fun for so long.
Hoo boy am I ever ready for this one. Legend of the Galactic Heroes is a venerable anime institution based on a much-lauded series of scifi novels, detailing an epic war that spans the breadth of space itself. “Epic” is really the operative word when it comes to Galactic Heroes - not only do the franchise's battles take place on the scale of hundreds of thousands of ships exchanging fire, but the scope of its original anime release spanned over a hundred episodes. When you cross that length with the fact that it's several decades old and focused on a bunch of middle-aged men in fancy suits, it's easy to understand why some might find Legend of the Galactic Heroes less than approachable.
Fortunately, this new adaptation seems determined to prove that everything that makes Galactic Heroes great is perfectly compatible with a more modern frame. From its often breathtaking views of space to its immediately compelling storytelling and subtly conveyed reservations about the fundamental nature of war, Galactic Heroes' first episode is a striking statement of purpose, and a fine platform for the drama to come.
This episode's principle goals are setting up the relationship between Empire officers Reinhard and Kircheis, establishing Reinhard's uneasy relationship with his fellow generals, and powering us through Reinhard's first tactical victory. Galactic Heroes' methodical pacing might feel a little slow compared to modern anime, but I really appreciated this episode's thorough articulation of the back-and-forth between Reinhard and his fellow officers. And by the time the central battle got underway, it was already clear how Galactic Heroes will lean on that satisfying “watching the dominoes fall” appeal of shows like Code Geass, with both Reinhard and so-far concealed fellow protagonist Yang Wen-li acting as our resident Lelouches.
As far as the visual execution goes, I was on the whole very satisfied with this episode. The ship CG isn't best in class, but it's not obtrusive, and the extraordinary scale of these battles certainly came through clearly. At times, the CG mixed naturally with the backgrounds and traditional animation to create some genuinely beautiful compositions. I was also impressed by how well this show conveyed information visually, in a variety of ways. Through shots like the opening's focus on an old wooden wagon and the post-battle pans over horrible destruction, I clearly felt this series' antipathy towards its own mass violence, and the way the scale of war tends to soften the barbarism of our actions. Through its clear visual articulation of Reinhard's bridge situation, I was also able to clearly grasp the tactical mechanics of this first battle, along with more welcome illustrations of the scale of this conflict. On the whole, Galactic Heroes isn't the most beautiful of shows, but it still looks quite appealing, and uses smart visual storytelling to bring the thematic richness of the original novels into a visual medium.
Overall, Galactic Heroes feels like a very competent execution of a genuine classic. If this is the level of delivery we can consistently expect, we are in for a long and very satisfying ride.
Of all the big-name titles coming out this season, this one is easily the most ambitious: a new adaptation of a 1980s sci fi novel series which has already seen a 110 episode OVA adaptation. Its first episode clearly shows that this is a total reboot, so no familiarity with the earlier version is required. In fact, everything about the production indicates that it is intended to be fully accessible and appealing to a new generation of anime fans. Whether that's a plus or a minus probably depends on how familiar or not you are with the first adaptation.
One thing's for certain: the franchise is definitely getting a visual update. Whereas the original adaptation harkened back to an old-school sensibility on character design (especially concerning characters' hair), the design aesthetic used here for Reinhard and his chief subordinate is a bit more standard modern bishonen; mix in the uniform design for the Imperial Navy soldiers and the rich coloring and the look reminded me a lot of the 2016 series Alderamin on the Sky. Exterior ship renditions are also done entirely in CG this time around, although this is one of the highest-quality efforts among recent space series in that regard. Overall, the first episode looks very sharp, but no less should be expected from Production I.G.
Story-wise the first episode is clearly establishing the series as an eventual battle of wits and wills between two young men – Reinhard and Yang – which will be played out on a galactic scale. I've always favored very tactical battles of wits, so that premise alone shows a lot of promise. What concerns me a bit is that some of Reinhard's successes in his maneuvers in this first episode depend on the opponent being stupid and/or on illogical behavior. Even with jamming and even if the target isn't expecting an imminent attack, a massive space fleet should not be able to get within firing range undetected on a flanking maneuver like that. Not being more on guard when an opposing fleet is in even the vague vicinity is blatant incompetence for the defender, not overwhelming tactical acumen for the attacker. Granted, incompetence on this level is hardly unheard-of historically-speaking, and using displays of incompetence to give others the opportunity to shine is an anime staple, but relying on that knocks down my regard for the writing a notch. The space battle scenes aren't particularly dynamic, either; they're just displays of massed firepower. They don't hold a candle to the more nimble and thrilling space battles put out over the last decade, or even to more directly comparable space opera fare like Battle of the Stars. That aspect is going to have to get juiced up for the series to not look like a has-been in that regard.
I'm still giving this a mildly positive review because of the good production values and because the premise is right up my alley, but the concerns mentioned above leave me only cautiously optimistic.
This is clearly the start of a sweeping battle epic. With minimal backstory, which feels like a very good decision, we're thrown into a world where people on the ground dress like they're in the 1880s while sleek, vaguely phallic space ships glide through the skies above them. Two rival sort-of nations are waging war among the stars, a third party feigns neutrality (at least, I assume them to be feigning), and more officers than you can shake a stick at grumble about the tactics of young pup whippersnapper Reinhardt and his crazy battle tactics. Of course, Reinhardt's plans work, but no sooner has he lamented his lack of a real rival than he intercepts a call from one offering get the enemy fleet out of his clutches – and judging from Reinhardt's cliffhanger reaction, this new guy with the jaunty hat might pull it off. I have to admit, despite the clear care and beauty of the episode with its highly polished visuals and careful attention to detail in both images and dialogue, I was not thrilled with this episode. It's no doubt worth mentioning that this is my first time with any form of Legend of the Galactic Heroes, but it's already pushing a few of my buttons: too many named characters, too many old guys who look alike, and a grand total of one female character in the ending theme and none in the episode itself. I also felt that there wasn't a great deal done to really make us feel the action going on – yes, we saw (beautiful) explosions and the charred remains of enemy craft, but seeing Reinhardt sit in his comfy chair like the last guy you'd want to sit next on public transportation while directing, “Fire!” is not a thrill a minute. He's a strategist, yes, but in that case I'd have like a bit more strategy shown rather than merely outlined. Simply put, I was bored for most of the episode.
That, however, could very well be the fault of where the show decided to begin adapting the story. There are some details that are very interesting, such as Reinhardt and Siegfried's friendship, which is clearly longstanding, and the name schemes of the two nations' ships are historically neat and potentially significant. The clear resentment by the old guard at being commanded by a young fellow could blossom into something serious, especially since that does not seem to be the case with the other side's command – they're all much more of an age, and skewing younger. Does that say something about the general political structure of the two groups? There must be significant ideological differences for them to be at war in the first place, so that could also become an interesting plot element.
This is by no means a bad episode, and as I said, it really is beautiful and replete with visual details. But it spends too much time talking and doesn't capture any sense of the urgency of the battle. Perhaps that's meant to indicate that the high command whose point of view we're following doesn't have any empathy for their soldiers. I may give this a second episode to show why this franchise is so popular, but as of right now, I'm not hugely excited to.
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