Legend of the Galactic Heroes: Die Neue These Second
by Christopher Farris,
How would you rate episode 11 of
Legend of the Galactic Heroes: Die Neue These Second (movie series) ?
It's easy to guess at the beginning that the ketchup's about to hit the fan in this episode of Legend of the Galactic Heroes, even if you're unfamiliar with previous iterations of the material. The framing of Kircheis's entrance into the post-victory ceremony, with special mind paid to him having to check his gun at the door, is pretty effective foreshadowing. That's not necessarily a bad thing; all this portents serves to set the mood for this episode's shocking opening act so the intentional tonal roller-coaster can follow through. More than the end of the Imperial Civil War itself, this key event represents the shake-up that shapes Reinhard's path through the galaxy he's already a legend in. This is it, viewers, the death of Kircheis.
I actually already knew that Kircheis's death was a major, key event in the LOGH story back when I first watched the original anime, but the fact that it comes so relatively early on in the story and the intensity with which it and its fallout were presented made it an outstanding piece of entertainment regardless. And after all my trepidation over Die Neue These's choices last week, I am happy to report that it's firmly back at its best for this part, as it absolutely needed to be. The pacing, from where this episode opens to how it gets its plot racing as Kircheis's death becomes an unraveling point, plays a bit differently from how the old episodes put things together, but is every bit as deft in its structure. Even if you do know it's coming, when it's coming, the feeling the opening of this episode evokes is a successful “Oh no, we're doing this now, aren't we?”. That's the mark of a well-executed plot twist: That whether you know it's happening because of previous knowledge or clear foreshadowing, it still elicits a strong response from the audience.
If I had one quibble with how the whole thing is put together, it's a very minor one of weapon presentation. Ansbach just whipping a whole bazooka out of the coffin to try to blow Reinhard away is perhaps more over-the-top than even DNT's blockbuster ambitions should reach for, and does a bit to undo the seriousness over the whole situation. There's a reason the text and OVA made a point of him wielding a somewhat smaller weapon. But that's out of the way quick and everything else about the scene is so on-point that it's hard for me to worry about that one issue. Here the more cinematic style and glossy, modern production on DNT serve to make this version of Kircheis's sacrifice the most definitive, in my opinion. They even think to get Reinhard to his side immediately, as if to make up for lost time depicting their bond in the previous episode.
A lot of what we're given in regards to Reinhard and Kircheis as they're ripped from each other here seems to be in service of that kind of apology tour. Or perhaps it was a purposeful directorial choice to demonstrate that these two didn't realize how important they were to one another until one was lost. There's a lot of choices you can make in interpreting LOGH's actual text. But either way, with Kircheis off to Valhalla, Reinhard's stoicism gets to completely melt down for an episode, widening the show's emotional range along the way. Sure, we all know that Mamoru Miyano can act, but this is easily his strongest stretch in this particular role, as it should be. And the presentation has been dialed up as well, including a somewhat uncharacteristically artsy flashback Reinhard gets to revel in late in the episode, with some open emotional communication between him and the ghost of his dearest friend. He and Kircheis get to showcase some real tenderness between them, and now when the surrounding cast remark about how serious their relationship was it works because we're seeing that backed up in the performances. The other cast members feel like they have a real role to play here beyond just describing their relationship as well, following up as they do on their previous concerns that their seemingly-invincible Marquis can be hindered by all-too-human foibles.
LOGH DNT in fact uses that to segue to its broader turning point utilizing Reinhard's entourage. One coup leads directly to another as the story makes clear that even the most personal tragedies can be turned to political gain by those shrewd enough in the setting. Chiefly orchestrating this, naturally, is Oberstein. He's a character I'll always go back and forth on, being a pointedly unlikable snake of a schemer, but still so darn effective for Reinhard's ascent when he wants to that it's hard not to be impressed sometimes. It's amusing to see that same reaction reflected in the other members of the fleet, and arguably Oberstein himself. His manipulation of Reinhard using his sister makes him come across as knowing that his job is to be a pragmatic jerk a lot of the time. So perhaps it matches up with his character to be unlikable, since the approval of his teammates nor viewers like me seems to be important to him. These Heroes all have their role to play.
And the way the coup of Reinhard's fleet in the Empire is directed solidifies the point of the pacing in the previous portion. The whole thing feels like an inevitable steamroll of a ripple effect, spilling out from Reinhard's grief and his allies' attempts to make the most of it as soon as they can. It's fleeting turning points shown off with rapid editing and punctuated with snappy quotes on the nature of power and acquiring it. This works because, idea-wise, there isn't much we haven't heard already from Legend of the Galactic Heroes- This is just one of the most quick and brutal direct demonstrations of it.
For good or for ill, this episode is about old ways on all sides firmly dying. Reinhard's attachment to Kircheis was an important one, and the advice offered by his friend may have put the Marquis on a different path from his imminent dictatorship. But the story couldn't move forward like that, and without this loss his own men wouldn't have been spurred into action clearing the way as they do here. Even Reinhard's sister Annerose finds herself making a point of moving on, dividing herself from her brother for the time while making clear that for her, as for everyone in the Empire, he represents the future. As such, this episode represents LOGH itself moving into a future, with the civil wars resolved and the conflict between Reinhard and Yang set to resume at a new stage. Apart from the stagnance of the previous episode, this one makes a strong case for the turbulence Hilda espouses at one point during it. In that respect it actually compliments that preceding episode in a way that makes me retroactively appreciate it a bit more, and represents this version of LOGH playing to its strengths.
Legend of the Galactic Heroes: Die Neue These Second is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
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