Legend of the Galactic Heroes: Die Neue These Second
by Christopher Farris,
How would you rate episode 12 of
Legend of the Galactic Heroes: Die Neue These Second (movie series) ?
The cyclical nature of the politics depicted in Legend of the Galactic Heroes means they're tailor-made to feel depressingly relevant at any stage in our history, be it 1982 or 2019. Still, it seems perhaps too especially salient at the beginning of this episode of Die Neue These, as Yang muses on what fate might deservedly fall a supposed democracy that keeps putting a man like Job Trunicht in power. It's a valid question, of whether a society that seemingly makes decisions like that which could destroy itself has earned that destruction, or if as Yang describes, evils like Nationalism are but a too-contagious disease that seeps out from individuals like Trunicht- a cancer from only a few cells that eventually kills the whole nation it plays host to.
It's perhaps an overt metaphor, but it's Yoshiki Tanaka's, not mine, and delivered at least in-character by the literary-minded Yang. And it kicks off a primary through-line for this episode that forms a coda to the tied-together story arcs we just got through (as well as, seemingly, this second season of the show). That means this one feels like more of a talky tracking trajectory of takes than a proper story beat, spending a lot of time expositing the central ideas of the story and the latest status quo. That's even down to an ending narration that bluntly spells out for us what the Alliance and Empire each gained and lost in the season of anime we just watched. But in the context of LOGH and as preaching-to-the-choir as this second season has come into being, it does feel more like a victory lap than a straight recap.
Since the Empire got a format-jostling two episodes in a row previously, it's only fair that we're visiting the Alliance's side for the lion's share of this one, especially as the plot is poised to bring the two sides back into direct conflict in the next part of the story. That's what leaves us with Yang and his continued anti-nationalist mutterings. On a personal level, he's stuck with the realization that the side he's been fighting so hard for is barely the lesser of two evils, and questioning how long he wants to stick with it. There's definitely some sympathy points from my side of the world regarding the mood of simply wanting to retire and run away from a crumbling republic, but those of us who aren't Yang have less concerns about huge swaths of the population, however indirectly, counting on our efforts. It forms what core of a conflict is present in this episode, Yang considering how he should fulfill his role in the Alliance for now.
As much as I've made no secret of sympathizing with Yang's political views more than Reinhard's, I'll say his directions in this episode lay out some personal flaws for Mr. Wen-Li. It was alluded to during his conflict with the Military Coalition, but Yang's feelings on societal change seem fatalistic to a fault. He's all too ready to accept that better things aren't possible in the current state of the Alliance's democracy, thinking the best thing he can do is ride it out and affect what little change he can. It reeks of the kind of moderate centrism that stymies change in real-world democracy. Yang's always been portrayed a realist, pointedly understanding that everlasting peace is an impossible goal, but this feels a darkened swerve into cynicism.
Granted, it's also portrayed as but one stop onto more potential long-term character development. Unbeknownst to Yang, we see the political leaders of the Alliance discussing their feelings on the commander, revealing that far from any military might he exercises, they primarily see him as a political threat. This concept, that Yang holds more ability for upheaval than he gives himself credit for, plots a course that could see him rise to meet Reinhard in rank as the story goes on, though it means we're still stuck with him grumbly resigning himself to inaction even as recent episodes have presented him as still being Tanaka's most clear-cut political mouthpiece. It does form an interesting contrast with Reinhard: The newly-minted golden-haired dictator has the philosophy that he is the future, that he must change and unify the Empire and everything else around him. Conversely, Yang resigns himself to working within a system for what he sees as the least-worst result. It achieves somewhat of a balance to the portrayals of personal politics apart from the aforementioned tracts. But it also clearly leaves us off on incomplete development of these Heroes and the sides they fight for, walking towards a future that's as uncertain as whether this remake will get a third season.
Most of the other moments of storyline that make up this episode fall into that same feeling: Progressive, but notably incomplete. The biggest casualty, in my opinion, is Merkatz's defection. His meeting with Yang passes as a mere hi-then-bye, the presentation registering as a footnote what seemed to be set up as a major turning point just a few episodes ago. This is, again, down to LOGH's historical-style realism in presenting such elements, and it's safe to say Merkatz still has a major role in the coming story. It just seems that perhaps some of the pomp and circumstance from other parts of this episode could have been afforded its occurence, especially representing as it does the biggest ‘crossover’ this season between the Empire and Alliance storylines. At least thankfully the same can't be said of the main note this episode ends on: Reinhard bidding farewell to Kircheis at his grave. All the emotion the last episode presented their parting with is still present here, and Die Neue These even opted to keep in the detail of Reinhard's locket containing a lock of Kircheis's hair! ‘My Friend’ indeed.
The nature of this second book of Legend of the Galactic Heroes Die Neue These meant that the respective plots of the Alliance and Empire felt too separated at times through it. They affected each other in indirect regards, but the lack of true clashes from the sides meeting meant the show's treatises on conflict could feel distant and nebulous. This wrap-up at least ties an ideological battle between them at the end in how it signs off, for now, on Reinhard and Yang's character development, and in spite of some of the odd pacing or presentation hiccups, it still feels like a strong finish. The actual lack of current resolution to so many of those conflicts doesn't register as much of an issue as it might in other stories either, because as this series and our own history it's mirroring prove time and time again, nothing is ever really over.
Legend of the Galactic Heroes: Die Neue These Second is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
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