Legend of the Galactic Heroes: Die Neue These Second
by Christopher Farris,
How would you rate episode 10 of
Legend of the Galactic Heroes: Die Neue These Second (movie series) ?
I feel like I've gone back and forth in my opinions of Legend of the Galactic Heroes: Die Neue These's hotly debated emotional elements. More than just a disparity with what the previous anime did with this narrative and with these characters, there are things DNT is doing in a vacuum that make it seem like it's holding back. The biggest sticking point is of course the portrayal of the relationship between Reinhard and Kircheis. This episode sees the most pressure yet put on the pair, but the choice to have their connection seem more sterile and distant than others the series has put on display hampers the overall effectiveness of what should be the core here.
I don't want to get too far into the weeds regarding interpretations across the LOGH story of what Reinhard and Kircheis's relationship actually is, but regardless the text itself makes the important point here: These two are incredibly fond of each other, that fondness affecting their choices and decision-making processes in a way that both are aware of and welcome. The story, this episode especially, makes a big thing of telling us all about this, by having both men reminisce on this fact as well as several scenes of their comrades remarking on this about them as if it were obvious. The problem is that while expository dialogue and descriptions may have communicated that point enough in text form (especially the novels' dryer narrative style) simply being told about this connection doesn't come through when we're getting it in an otherwise lush visual presentation. And visually, these two come across as distant and curt with each other regardless of whether they've been expressing their fond trust in each other or witnessing an emotional wall built up between them in the wake of the increasingly uncompromising acts of war they've been party too.
It's frustrating because this seems to be a choice of portrayal made specifically for Reinhard and Kircheis, as other parts of the series, and indeed this very episode, prove that DNT can show warmer connections between people when it wants to. This whole episode is less a contiguous narrative and more a collection of important moments, final turning points for all the characters involved in this civil war here at the end of it. That's not necessarily a bad thing, given how LOGH has always at least partially occupied the style space of a historical documentary, but it does feel odd that this big story arc comes to a close not on some grand, wrapped-up finale, but merely a series of doors being closed. Though there is actually a little more to go with this story, as we'll see.
A lot of what we're shown here is still more demonstration of how the privileged pride of the aristocracy leads to their downfall. We're pretty much out of mid-level noble villains to make this point, so we finally get to seeing the main ones who started this go down. Flegel particularly makes an absolute fool of himself, desperately calling anyone who will listen to try to arrange a one-on-one duel for victory in lieu of an actual strategic space-battle. He pitches it as a question of honor, which is an interesting counterpoint to the more sympathetic version of ‘honor’ espoused by Dwight Greenhill last week. The idea here lines up with that pretty well, though: The Military Coalition's adherence to principles argued that if they'd been more thorough in doing so, the conflict may have been avoided. Flegel's invocation of ‘honor’ here sees him trying to avoid a conflict he knows he can't win, with everyone including his own men arguing that his assured loss is the reason his question of ‘honor’ doesn't matter at this point. That's a clever evolution of points LOGH reaches for through otherwise repeating itself. Less-so in that regard is how Flegel gets taken out by his own men mutinying against him because of what a colossal jerk he's being. We've seen that dance here before.
The other major antagonistic players see their own endings. Most interesting is probably the short scene between Scheider and Merkatz. Not only do these two get their own oddly heartwarming scene in the wake of the episode's chilly presentation of the Reinhard/Kircheis scenes, they also set up interesting ideas for the future. Merkatz defecting to the Alliance is made clear as a huge shake-up, and shows what an influential figure Yang is all this way on the Empire's side of the story. He represents hope even to old Imperial commanders like Merkatz, a show-off of powerful leadership styles that this series loves so much. Meanwhile, big bad boss Braunschweig gets sent off by his subordinate Ansbach, a character you might not have initially expected to be so important (definitely still keep an eye on him). Braunschweig's downfall is perhaps more expected presentation of his self-preserving, cowardly noble style, but it still makes the core ideas of this conflict clear: Reinhard's rise was inevitable in the face of what the Old Ways have done to the Empire. The previous guard should, at this point, accept their downfall with dignity in the face of the rules changing.
But even with all those strong points in those scenes, I keep coming back to the scattered presentation off them this episode, and how they were clearly supposed to be held together by the emotional core of Reinhard and Kircheis, only for that connective tissue simply to not be there. So many characters keep telling us how much these two love each other, and whether they think that's good or bad for their command structure (guess what side Oberstein is on), but as it all comes to a head we really don't see that bear out. Contrary to how some may regard it from afar, Legend of the Galactic Heroes isn't an emotionally dry story, as some scenes in this very episode attest to. But the storytelling in DNT has made some clear choices in the portrayal of this particular relationship, and more than an odd distraction, it becomes a clear weakness at this specific point.
Legend of the Galactic Heroes: Die Neue These Second is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
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