Legend of the Galactic Heroes: Die Neue These Second
by Christopher Farris,
How would you rate episode 8 of
Legend of the Galactic Heroes: Die Neue These Second (movie series) ?
This Empire-focused episode's ominous title of ‘Tragedy’ may initially have you thinking we're already heading for one of LOGH's most especially famous tragic moments. But then you remember that this is Legend of the Galactic Heroes, and horrible things happening during wars is just something it depicts all the time. We just saw a bunch of protesters get massacred in a stadium last episode, after all. So what this episode is actually all about showing is the progress Reinhard's force makes in taking out the nobles, with the titular tragedy being the kind of compromise he'll have to make to ensure these wide-reaching victories moving forward, even as he already massively outclasses his current enemies.
Boy does Die Neue These want you to know how awful an army the coalition of traitorous nobles is too. It's as much in service of the show making its usual points about the nature of effective and ineffective leadership as it is about giving wins to this episode's focal heroes as we close in on the finish line of this civil war: Kircheis goes up against a particularly self-interested loser named Littenheim and beats him without really having to do anything. There's an odd amount of buildup to how he might utilize the dissatisfaction of a couple of comrades both named Konrad to strike a decisive blow against Littenheim, but then it turns out the guy was so hated by others on his team that they take him out before Kircheis even has the chance.
The writing's obvious general disdain for nobility has never been obfuscated, but it's really escalating in this episode in how obvious it's made that they never stood a chance against Reinhard. Every move leader Braunschwig and his uncoordinated underlings make is punctuated with raw narration over it, generally explaining what a bad idea it would turn out to be. Absent that effect, we otherwise get Merkatz, the one person on their side with a clue, commenting on how he's resigned himself to fighting a losing battle on behalf of these buffoons. Merkatz's usual dissertations on the illness of privilege are repeated, but he does take us to some interesting new places this time: He postulates that the military failings of the aristocracy are rooted in the complacent lifestyles they've been allowed to lead; They never had to adapt or change to keep succeeding in their lives thus far, and now a quick thinker like Reinhard is running circles around them. It's a solid way of starting commentary on what Reinhard represents for the Empire: Reforming them by forcibly changing them out of their old ways, with him specifically leading them into the future.
That narrow focus of events does render this episode feeling a little repetitive at times. It's very much locked into a cycle of 'The nobles try something stupid, Reinhard's side nails them for it, rinse, repeat'. What keeps it working is that even as it dutifully depicts all this, the show seems to understand the angles to make it effectively entertaining. As much as LOGH's writing has its trademark hate of nationalists over in the Alliance side of the story, even those jerks came off with a little more nuance and sympathy in their portrayal than these bad billionaires. The whole thing is dedicated to making you not just think these guys suck, but that they suck so bad you're happy to watch Reinhard curbstomp them over and over. Their idiocy and egos contrast with other parts of the show for maximum effect: Mittermeyer is one of Reinhard's elite commanders, but he's not so prideful that he won't feign a retreat to draw the nobles into a trap, while they completely fall for it due to their own overinflated egos. Last episode saw Christian from the Alliance's military coup take umbrage at being compared to historical LOGH Big Bad Emperor Rudolph, while here Braunschwig willingly invokes a kinship with him. These are supposed to be unsympathetic villains, through and through.
And how far one would be willing to go, and what to prioritize in defeating such villains, is how the series springs a hard hit at the end after so much clear triumph for Reinhard's side. It's an exercise in pragmatism that only the cold Oberstein could have concocted: Allow the nobles to perpetrate a massive nuclear strike on their own territory of Westerland, then broadcast the act to turn public opinion against them. It's not actually too unlike the coup coalition dealing with outcry after the stadium massacre last episode, except in this case it being allowed to happen at all comes down to Reinhard's decision. It's a very big-picture conundrum the story tries to sell us, distinctly all laid out in Oberstein's unfeeling way. In fact, the point of this plotline across the board is to show how Reinhard's decisions are affected with someone who decidedly isn't Kircheis there advising him, and how a rift between them and continued absence may affect his leadership style into the future. On a macro level for us, the viewers, it shows how even a war a side is soundly winning can be disrupted with drastic tragedy because of a few people's misguided decisions. And it makes for a strong, dramatic finish to an episode that drew us in with simpler entertainment value through the beginning of it.
There's still a question of how this act will define Reinhard's character in Die Neue These in particular. The novels and the original anime actually diverge notably in how intentionally Reinhard went along with Oberstein's plan, and this episode thus far cuts around the exact moments the decision was made. DNT has generally stuck closer to the text, but the ambiguity still intrigues me, and a bit more nuance would lend itself to a more popular portrayal of a well-loved character like Reinhard. That and how the show can portray the emotions of him and Kircheis over this when they reunite will be a major litmus test for handling some of the story's best content to come.
Legend of the Galactic Heroes: Die Neue These Second is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
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