Legend of the Galactic Heroes: Die Neue These Second
by Christopher Farris,
How would you rate episode 9 of
Legend of the Galactic Heroes: Die Neue These Second (movie series) ?
It's commendable how well Legend of the Galactic Heroes has kept the pacing of two disparate stories even as it skips between them week to week. Part of it's just sheer story quality, in that both the arc about the Alliance dealing with a military coup and the one detailing the Imperial Civil War are equally engaging. We always want to find out what happens next in both of them, so there's no problem each time we switch from one to the other. But it's also just satisfying on a narratively mechanical level, letting us see the small parallels and wide-spread effects these far-apart events still have on each other, and letting us experience them at an accurately concurrent rate. LOGH is a story that has endured for some time, and solid fundamentals like that are a key reason why.
The other reason for its success, of course, is the analysis the series makes of government, conflict, and the political ideologies that drive those from within. We're back to the Alliance this week, to finish off the story with the coup and see what kind of point we're to make of all this. It's actually handled more quickly and cleanly than you might expect, especially as things haven't gone as easily for Yang's team as they have over on Reinhard's side of the fence. Tying in with the entire theme of confidence in cause and leadership this storyline has ridden on, Yang's first move is to log a more psychological victory: He has Baghdash publicly announce the assertion that the coup was orchestrated by Reinhard and the Empire. It's something of a bluff, albeit one we ironically know Yang is correct in, but it works at sowing discord on the side of the Military Council.
It's a point that's come up in LOGH before and inevitably will again, but it's interesting to see it here from the perspective of the ‘villains’ of this story: What if the cause you genuinely believed in and were fighting for was actually initiated by more selfish desires? The line between the means and the ends is never so clear, and there's an interesting parallel between the Military Council and the man who had been their unknown benefactor, as both Reinhard and the Council seek to seize power from their leadership they see as corrupt. It's likely that Reinhard's understanding of his own ambition is what led him to formulate a plan like this, while Yang's counter of it was able to predict that shaking the faith that nationalism is so dependent on would weaken the Council's resolve and control. All the cognitive dissonance in the world can't hold up when Lynch, the guy they thought initiated their cause with sincere intent, is sneering in their face about how he tricked them.
That ideological loss forms an effective one-two punch in the episode's narrative coming as it does right before a more palpable defeat Yang deals to the coup crew. It is only a little funny that the ‘brilliant strategist’ Yang comes up with a way to defeat the orbital defense system that amounts to just hucking a bunch of rocks at it. But we do get an interesting quick flashback to the founding of the Alliance and its ridiculous ice-spaceships backstory, as well as a truly intense sequence showing the system's destruction. As with the nuclear strike last episode, LOGH DNT demonstrates how harrowing its direction can be when it wants to; The wordless sequence showing the flash of light that results really carries how, in the blink of an eye, the Military Council is left with nothing.
LOGH shows it can still be perfectly fine when it is using its words though, as the breakdowns of the situation that follow continue a streak of effective heavy moments this episode. The clash between Dwight Greenhill and Lynch leads to the sharp, dry depiction of their deaths, and marks a somewhat unexpected ideological declaration: You might expect a series as grounded and pragmatic as this one to have its writing come down against a concept like ‘honor’, but when a diatribe against it is being made by an assured scumbag like Lynch, that might not be so. Instead, the series seems to make the argument that earnest adherence to principles makes for more of that strong leadership and cohesion, and messy manipulations like this coup attempt could have been avoided. Similarly, there's emotional intensity in Dwight's daughter Frederica reacting to news of his death. Much as in previous episode focusing on this side, it's done a consistent job showing the effects of the war on these heroes as people, and seems specifically to be trying to refute the criticism that Die Neue These can feel too distant and sterile otherwise.
On the other hand, there's the confrontation between Yang and the remaining acting leader of the Council, which indistinctly flips between points on what constitutes ‘corruption’ in a government and what the best way to counter that is. There's a key recognition that ‘corruption’ is best defined as an institutional ill rather than one pointed at one viewpoint's least-liked bad actors, but I don't know how well I see Yang's side of accusing his enemies of fulfilling their own criteria for autocracy because he picked out a few qualifying bullet-points from their own implementation. The coup attempt was shown to be a ‘wrong’ path because it was paved by nationalistic bloodshed, not merely because the Council didn't think through the lack of hypocrisy in their motivations. The context seems to suggest that this articulation by Yang was more about trying to convince the other side in-universe rather than for the benefit of swaying the audience, but it still muddies the waters amongst all the other debate points being slung around in the back half of this episode.
Which leads me to the final point of this episode: The introduction of Boris Konev and discussion of the Earth Cult. They've actually been around for a few episodes, but I frustratingly haven't made time to talk about the Earth Cult in my reviews until now. Suffice to say, if you thought Yoshiki Tanaka was coming down hard on nationalism or aristocracy, just wait until you hear what he has to say about religion! It's almost funny, how initially Konev's teardown of the spiritual institutions is being delivered by him as the cynical jerk he comes off as, so we think this may be just one portion of a more nuanced look at the subject. But then it turns out he's actually quoting one Yang Wen-Li, and we understand that this is actually the writing's primary position on the matter. The Earth Cult are another element that are just now becoming clear as an extremely important one to the future story directions of LOGH, and this spiel along with their already-extrapolated connection to the manipulative Dominion of Fezzan quite easily gives away their role as that of antagonistic players.
All this makes for an episode of Die Neue These that wraps up one half of its current story with some genuinely great moments, so it's a satisfying conclusion. The concepts discussed in the wake of that conclusion are decidedly less clear-cut, but as much as I found my own worldview not 100% lining up with what Yang and others were saying, I realized that's the point. This whole story, much like our own cyclical history LOGH is mirroring, is far from over, and the deeper we get into analyzing this fictional war, the more pronounced those points are going to become.
Legend of the Galactic Heroes: Die Neue These Second is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
discuss this in the forum (18 posts) |