Legend of the Galactic Heroes: Die Neue These
by Christopher Farris,
How would you rate episode 11 of
Legend of the Galactic Heroes: Die Neue These ?
I might have been somewhat hard on Legend of the Galactic Heroes last week for the way it laid out this Empire-invasion plot. However, as this eleventh episode progresses, it does become apparent what that setup was building to. The idea that the Alliance was being sent on a clearly futile mission needed to be laid out early, because the nature of the issues they encounter turn out to be different from their expectations, and instead of seeing how things might go wrong, the tension now comes from seeing how Yang and the rest of the army will get out of the unfortunate situation they've been thrust into.
The decision not to elaborate on the Empire's plan from last episode also pays off in ramping up the dramatic tension. It is interesting to see Die Neue These present things almost entirely from the Alliance's side at first, walking straight into a situation that we know the Empire has engineered, but we can only guess at the specifics of it. It makes the iconic moment of an impoverished resident of a ‘liberated’ world asking for food before freedom ring differently than it did in the previous adaptation of this material. There is a divide in presentation that may change how fans of the old show will react compared to first-time viewers. People who have read the books or watched the OVA will already know about the Empire intentionally having the planets surrender their resources to co-opt the Alliance's provisions, but that plan is only explained offhand by Reinhard near the episode's end. The tone of the conversation between the Count and Kircheis does a good job of selling the ruthlessness of the Imperials' tactics. But it still might lack a certain visceral quality, making the Alliance look like victims of poor planning more than anything on first glance.
Watching the functional commanders of the Alliance deal with the incompetent bureaucracy of their leadership is the major focal point of this episode. As with the previous episode, this week trades heavily on the idea that the less practical-minded officers in the Alliance are counting on their presumed ‘Good Guy’ status to carry their actions to victory. Between the discussion of supplies, the insistence of Falk, and the flashes to decisions made by their Council, there's a lot of analysis of a military that fancies themselves heroes succeeding far more on might than right. It's an attitude many citizens of Western democracies may find frustratingly familiar, and the series is clear about which side it takes; Cazerne declares the effort as a battle “too idiotic to die for”. And the short cuts to the situation on the planet's surface are effective in their brief brutality.
But for all that works about those swirling plans and the backdrop of the issues on-planet, Die Neue These's priorities still lie firmly with the commanding decisions of Yang. His main scene in this episode is what drives home the reasoning behind this story's structure, as the tension is driven up not by watching Yang plot beforehand and win like in Iserlohn, but instead by putting him in this idiotic situation, acknowledging it, then seeing how he gets out of it. It's similar to how he proved himself in the battle at the beginning of the series, making for a nice bookend for the season and resulting in a unique case of a war story endorsing retreat as the most sound strategy. It speaks to the tone of LOGH being less concerned with the glory of conflict and more with the relevant historical context.
However, Yang gets upstaged in this episode by another commander, Admiral Bewcock. Bewcock's been one of the more consistent voices of reason, along with Cazerne, hanging around in the background of this storyline, but his confrontations with Falk and another commander show how strong his presence can be when he's truly fed up. In a show that lets titular ‘Heroes’ be defined more by their actions than their attitudes, it's still refreshing to see a character embody the attitude of a truly inspiring leader. Bewcock's challenge to Falk that literally knocks him out speaks to LOGH's continued theme that those unwilling to lead from the front should excuse themselves from grandstanding for their own glory. Even if it ends with our sympathetic Federation teams still stalled by their leadership's poor decisions, it's a strong moment for the series' ideas.
Even with those stronger elements, the pacing and tone of this episode remains uneven. The way the plot jumps around to multiple different participants isn't paced as smoothly as in previous episodes, and the way the Empire's scheme is revealed may be too oblique for some. As well, the ending scene featuring Reinhard's fleet riding off to the final battle for this season has the gravitas this adaptation aims for, but it does go on a little long for my liking. Overall, the resulting episode feels much more exciting and impressive than last week's, despite similar problems with the setup.
Legend of the Galactic Heroes: Die Neue These is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
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