Legend of the Galactic Heroes: Die Neue These Second
by Christopher Farris,
How would you rate episode 6 of
Legend of the Galactic Heroes: Die Neue These Second (movie series) ?
As Legend of the Galactic Heroes charges headlong through its second phase, it's interesting to note how streamlined the story becomes between all its myriad adaptations by this point. The original LoGH OVA had some pretty distinct differences from the source novels at its outset, and Die Neue These has also put its own spin on the progression and pacing of events. But as of now, things are lined up very tightly, with the episodes/chapters divvied up at a strictly-matching ratio and even sharing titles across all of them. This certainly isn't a bad thing, as this section of the story can be confirmed as a place where LoGH really gets going, making this an arc worth telling as effectively as possible. But it does stick out in comparison to some of the experimenting even the more textually-focused DNT was doing early on, and indeed, makes any of the diversions it does take even more apparent.
In all those respects, the most immediately-notable part of this eighteenth episode is Reinhard's team's conflict with the character of Ovlesser (a transliteration I don't agree with, but who am I to argue, I messed up Reinhard's name for the past two reviews). Most of the other parts of this episode that don't involve Ovlesser are about setting up the fight with him, and he's an appreciable spectacle to behold. I had lamented the excising of the axe-fighting scenes back in DNT's first season, but this episode more than makes up for it. This is something this series hadn't tackled until now: Close-range melee fighting that's about as far away as one can get from huge-scale spaceship fleet battles. It looks pretty good, if a bit murky in some places, but that's the grimy, inglorious aesthetic that sells this part of the war. The soldiers all do battle in cool-looking, bulky power-armor, giving way to brutal shots later of that armor, heaving and bloodied, still locked in combat after too many hours. The intensity of the combat scenes carries over to Mittermeyer and Reuenthal's confrontation with Ovlesser, where instead of a simple bait-and-trap as in previous versions of the material, we get a full, fast-paced fight scene worthy of Die Neue These's pointedly slicker presentation.
All this works as a confrontation that was set up, but it's notable here that this isn't the first time we've met Ovlesser, and for once I'm not referring to remembering a character from the source material. No, here in Die Neue These, we were actually introduced to the big lug back in Episode 16, seeing him with the other nobles and recalling an earlier meeting with the retired Muckenberger. At the time I glossed over the scene, but in light of this being Ovlesser's episode, it stands out more in retrospect. It gives the character an established characterization to have slightly more stakes as he's turned loose in this battle, rather than simply being presented as a force of nature, an obstacle for Mittermeyer, Reuenthal, and ultimately Reinhard to surmount. It's notable in how Ovlesser has been given more sides to his personality now, still coming off as a less-intelligent man, but able to compose himself in the presence of someone he respects, like Muckenberger. This undercuts the berserker nature of the character that was such a force previously, but is brought back around rather well for his demise at the end, wrapping effectively with the idea that DNT is hammering on regarding Reinhard's capacity for inspiring leadership- We actually get to see this as the last thing Ovlesser recalls before he's killed by his own side, directly contrasting with the failure of leadership and trust that caused Ovlesser's fellow nobles to gun him down. It's not necessarily better or worse than previous versions of the story, it's simply a distinctly different take on the material.
Speaking of Reinhard's leadership, the surrounding elements of this episode continue to be constructed around that theme in one way or the other. We get more examples of the Nobles' attitudes thanks to their status foreshadowing their undoing, seeing them volunteer to lead a charge they're thrilled by the thought of but which Merkatz immediately explains, for our benefit, why it won't work. This all results not just in more failings of inspiring leadership for the Nobles, but in a reduction of cohesiveness as well. That's another general element of army effectiveness this episode keeps returning to, showing things like Mittermeyer and Reuenthal being more effective than their opponents simply because of how well they and their men work together. Conversely, seeds of doubt are planted in their own familiar functionality when they see even their storied commander Reinhard can succumb to emotion. That sets up some key weaknesses that may prove relevant as the story goes on, but here it feels like too little of a concession to the more monotonous parts of this episode: As often happens in LoGH when we get to see Reinhard's side fighting anyone but Yang, it comes off a little too much like a one-sided showcase of how amazing his team is.
To that end, Ovlesser makes for a decent enough challenge for these particular Galactic Heroes, meaning the episode winds up satisfying to watch. The new material for him does make some elements of how his story goes down feel more uncertain than they would otherwise, but they also seem specifically seeded to bear out stronger character development for the players involved here, something I'd been critical of DNT for previously. At the end of the day, this is still a faithful presentation of one of the stronger parts of the LoGH story, with just enough twists to make it it's own and keep everyone interested.
Legend of the Galactic Heroes: Die Neue These Second is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
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