Legend of the Galactic Heroes Part 2: Unification

WARNING: We assume that you have watched the first season of Legend of the Galactic Heroes (the first 26 episodes) before reading this. We will not spoil anything major in the second season but everything and anything in first season is fair game.

With the first season over it is clear that the story of the Legend of the Galactic Heroes has just started. Both protagonists have faced numerous challenges from within and without. Reinhard and Yang are now both famous and infamous with everyone in the galaxy and have become key figures in their respective sides. Both men have made great gains but have lost someone they cared for. Both sides have been irrecoverably transformed and the winds of change still blow strongly in this troubled galaxy.  So we continue with part 2 of our review of Legend of the Galactic Heroes.

After a “season” of Legend of the Galactic Heroes there is just no way to really slow down or take a break. The idea that it is broken into parts is really for discussion only and not as an indicator of stopping points. The politics, relationships, and battles only become more complex and grandiose as the series flows ever forward; add on top of that the kinship you start to feel with the characters and it should be obvious why it becomes an addiction. Thus we started episodes 27-54 with both fervent curiosity and heavy hearts.

The Galactic Empire and Free Planets Alliance have both weathered civil wars orchestrated by Reinhard. The Empire is now united behind Reinhard and his ambitions but the Free Planets Alliance controls the planet of Iserlohn which is one of the key corridors between the two powers. Both sides have been weakened by their respective infighting and have been changed in almost unimaginable ways. With Reinhard essentially ascended to the throne of the Empire the seemingly endless battle between the the two the superpowers cannot play out as it has in the past.

In the first season we see the series build these alliances and conspiracies, friendships and rivalries, victories and tragedies which sit as the foundation of everything to come. With the death of Reinhard’s biggest obstacle, the Kaiser, and the tragic loss of his closest friend, Kircheis, you start to realize that Legend of the Galactic Heroes doesn’t pull any punches. The Earth Cult which has rumblings in the first season starts to take on a more prominent role starting in this part which in turn also pushes Julian into the limelight a little more. As for Yang, he of course has his hands full as the weight of democracy always seems to fall on his shoulders. Once again Reinhard and Yang find themselves pitted against each other even though the world around them has altered considerably and what results is a series of confrontations where the true meaning of victory is challenged.

Reinhard is nowhere near the same man he was at the start of the series. He has gone from the scorned genius tactician in a corrupt bloated military weighted down by incompetent and decedent nobles to the most powerful man in the Galaxy ruling over an Empire making strides towards reform. But Reinhard will forever be shaken by the death of Kircheis. He has lost an invaluable resource, a gentle confidant, and most importantly his greatest friend and ally. Kircheis’ death will influence the rest of the series and don’t think that the narrator or the cast will ever let you forget that. Oberstein and Hildegard will try each in their own way to takes Kircheis place but neither will ever be a true replacement. Yang on the other hand has moved up in the world but is still as trapped in bureaucracy and politics as he ever was. Whereas Reinhard has the power to move people and resources where he needs them to be, Yang is always forced to work with one hand tied behind his back. This will be made extremely clear in this season more than ever.

Okay, can we just talk about the death of Kircheis another minute? Insanity is a hidden rocket launcher in a corpse and a laser ring! Insanity is Kircheis taking that on and going to his maker in epic fashion! Insanity  is somehow Legend of the Galactic Heroes pulling it off and creating an incredibly emotional scene that resonates beyond Reinhard and has the audience mourn Kircheis. Reinhard’s road seems to be forever maimed by potholes with the death of his best friend and conscience the biggest. At the beginning of this season we get to glimpse who Reinhard may have become if not for Kircheis’s council. And his confidant’s final words asking him to take hold of the universe become his mantra for remainder of the story. Yang seems to step in the way of this mantra as much as he possibly can. Even though democracy continues to get a beating, and Yang comes up against some of the worst examples of its abuse, he forever holds to its true meaning. Many will continue to think Yang is looking to take over, and the man can’t help but draw people towards him, but he still takes the role of defender.

As easy as it is to see the evolution of Yang and Reinhard everyone else is changing or making new connections as well. Julian continues to see growth under Yang but is clearly still in the shadow of his mentor.  With the sad death of Jessica Edwards it gives Frederica Greenhill an opportunity to grow closer to Yang both professionally and romantically. The defection of Merkatz to the Free Planets Alliance is a vital resource to Yang and Merkatz will makes him self irreplaceable thorough out the series. Also Schenkopp grows closer to Yang and keeps trying to convince him that only my taking control of the Alliance can he save it. On the Empire side we we also learn more about Reuenthal and Mittermeyer and get some foreshadowing on the roles they will go on to play in the rest of the series. We of course we still see some growth in the minor characters who are still playing a vital role in universe.

One of the things I enjoy most about Legend of the Galactic Heroes is the wealth of personalities in both factions. In fact, it’s one of the things that makes it so hard to choose a side but truly my heart lies with the Alliance. One of its strengths is the diversity of ages, there are wise old-timers like Bucock and the surprise defector Merkatz; stolid contemporaries of Yang like Schenkopp and Dusty; and the eager younger generation like Poplan and Julian. Julian continues to be the unsaid follower in Yang’s footsteps, and as he departs from his side on his own mission we start to solidify who he is. Julian is smart and capable but he shows his young age and Poplan takes on role of big brother guiding him but also teasing him. Each of these people are able to bestow some kind of wisdom on Yang even if it is only to make him laugh or relax. Reinhard’s support system is a bit different but certainly essential as well. The biggest changes come from Oberstein and Mariendorf, Oberstein with his cold logic who has behind the scenes influence and Meriendorf with her nurturing guidance who helps to retain a benevolence in Reinhard.

In season two we get delve more into the merits and flaws of democracy and monarchy as experienced through Yang and Reinhard. We see the flaws in a corrupt democracy with the bureaucracy, politicking, and the inability to act quickly. In the Empire we see near instantaneous sweeping reforms, unity, and heightened sense of purpose. But through Yang we are reminded while the Empire may flourish under Reinhard all it takes is one despotic or incompetent ruler in the empire to wash away all that Reinhard has accomplished just as quickly. But this all is discussed in much greater details and passion at the end of this season in an episode many people consider the best in the story.

The end of this season is particularly interesting because it is probably the most enraptured you’ll be. In a way it’s a perfect halfway point and very satisfying. Even as you start to better understand Legend of Galactic Heroes, by no means does the series start to become predictable. The turns the series takes are measured and deliberate and it’s a sight to watch it unfold. Legend of the Galactic Heroes continues to deliver a character driven, political and tactical drama that is pure addiction.

As with the end of the first season the second sends on a tremendous galaxy shattering event. Even more so than the first season the balance of power has shifted and I was immensely curious to see how they were going to continue the series after the events of season two but you know it is going to go somewhere that is logical and builds on the threads presented. Legend of the Galactic Heroes stays one of the smartest anime you will ever see.

Part 1 / Part 3 / Part 4 / Name Guide

6 thoughts on “Legend of the Galactic Heroes Part 2: Unification

  1. Daryl Surat says:

    Your description of “insanity” makes me take note that the line between insanity and Metal Gear Solid-caliber loyalty is a thin one indeed. An oft-neglected detail of that whole rocket launcher scenario is the fact that Oberstein ran in front of Reinhard to serve as a human shield, without really stopping to think about whether or not him taking a surrogate rocket to the chest would actually save anyone, given Reinhard’s proximity. “I give my life, not for honor but for you (snake eater)” would certainly make for a fine epitaph, but fortunately the red-headed stepchild screwed up Captain Harlock’s aim.

    Perhaps we need a word to describe this meeting point between insanity and dedication. Oh right, we already do have one: “otaku.”

  2. karry says:

    “tragic loss of his closest friend, Kircheis, you start to realize that Legend of the Galactic Heroes doesn’t pull any punches. ”

    Weeeell, if Reinhard had died in episode 3 or something, that would make your point. As it is – cant say i agree. And the most annoying character in the show by far, Julian, actually survives the whole thing. Drat.

    • reversethieves says:

      @karry
      I would disagree with your disagreement. I have to get to know a character for their death to have an emotional impact. I argue that it is often harder to kill off a character the viewers have know for a long time rather than some character you have only recently been introduced to?

      How many times have you see some new crew member show up and pal around with the crew just to die later in the episode. I think this is cheaper because the entire main cast is still alive and some random cannon fodder character has been killed to artificially show you how anyone can die. Most of the time it merely reinforces the idea that the main characters have plot armor and are protected. Only when someone you have invested time and emotions in gives you that same punch when they are gone.

      Slightly off topic but related question: What series then do you think pack a punch with character death? Macross? Victory Gundam? Crest of the Stars?

      – Hisui

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