Warning: We assume that you have watched the first two seasons of Legend of the Galactic Heroes (the first 54 episodes) before reading this. We will not spoil anything major in the third season but everything and anything in first two seasons is fair game.
We have just passed the halfway mark in Legend of the Galactic Heroes. I can’t say that I has any clue that season 2 would end like it did but that shows you why this anime is considered a classic. We have lost great charaters, learned about some new amazing people, and seen everyone one else grow over the course of the first two seasons. The way the game is being played has been utterly changed but the quality storytelling remains.
It’s rather obvious at this point that you are fully gripped by Legend of the Galactic Heroes to make it this far. But that is completely understandable. Legend of the Galactic Heroes always has an ending that leaves you enraptured, it isn’t a cliffhanger but more of the opening of a new door, and then from the very start the next arc intrigues you about what can happen next. The emotional investment in the series was quite high for me going into part three, it is a series that really takes the characters and solidifies them in your mind, but with that comes some difficult moments as well. Legend of the Galactic Heroes part three does so much in terms of making this series one of the most memorable anime ever.
In many other series the events of part two would have been the end of the story with either the Empire triumphant. The third season begins with the Alliance government being controlled by the Empire with full awareness that they are a single incident way from being completely annexed into the Empire. Yang settles into retirement while trying to secretly orchestrate the rebirth of democracy under constant surveillance by the Empire and the Alliance. At the same time Reinhard must contend with the fact that it is harder to control a galactic empire than it is to form it, especially since he excels and lives for battle more than administration. And the entirety of the cast must deal with the increased activities of the Earth Cult as they see a unified galaxy as an important step toward their mad dreams.
I have to agree that the ending to part two was really shocking only because you think it would be reserved up till the very last moments of the series, but as Legend of the Galactic Heroes goes on to prove this story is about Reinhard and Yang and where they are leading things so until they have any permanent plans the story is far from over. I was also struck by how Reinhard’s victory comes about, he acknowledges his impending defeat and possible death at the hands of Yang, but the rug is pulled out from underneath them both when the Alliance government steps in. Both of them end up grappling with the repercussions of this and as per usual change the face of the galaxy in the process.
Season three is Yang’s time to shine. While he has never been ignored, at times he plays second fiddle to Reinhard’s story. Yang is forced to change plans for long term rebellion into an impromptu rebellion and then constantly revise this plans due to various dealings with officials in his own government. At the same time I think everyone will find Yang and Greenhill utterly adorable. With Yang so busy we finally see Julian coming into his own. He starts going on solo missions and even gain’s his own unusual and definitely amusing romantic interest. Oliver Poplan also becomes Julian’s sidekick/mentor after the unfortunate death of Ivan Konev. More than ever it seems that Yang is fighting an impossible battle with every possible card in the deck stacked against him. Can he pull off his special brand of magic once again?
With a lot more Yang on the screen, it’s no wonder part three is my favorite above all the others. But the now-rebels have plenty of strong personalities who can engage the extra screentime with ease and really deserve to have it. We get to see a more personal side to many characters and really see some relationships flourish. Things have gotten even more complicated for our laid-back commander what with him and his colleagues under strict surveillance, Julian still away, and rebellion brewing things are rocky indeed. Yang’s attitude doesn’t fully change, but I think you can see him maturing even more about his situation and certainly feeling the pressure after his own government decides to bow to the Empire. Even though Yang truly doesn’t desire power, he realize the needed for leadership and reluctantly becomes the head of a major coup. As things start to heat up with Merkatz’s surprising (atleast to the Empire) resurrection from death and the many other people scattered across space coming together solidify Yang’s ability to plan for the long-term.
On the other side of the galaxy Reinhard and his supporters must figure out a way to integrate the newly conquered Alliance into the Empire as quickly and smoothly as possible while dealing with internal squabbles, dissidents within the Empire, and the shadowy Earth Cult. Reinhard seems to have more problems than ever and is a bigger target now that he is in charge of most of the galaxy than when he was trying to come to power. This is even more exasperated by the machinations of the Earth Cult. With Phezzan being under the direct thumb of the Empire, devious schemer Rubinsky has to go underground to continue his sinister activities while the rest of the Earth Cult gains some much needed attention as they violently try to further their twisted goals.
Reinhard is dealing with a personal anguish of sorts as he grapples with “defeating” Yang. He is both risen to the power he has desired but feels like he cheated his way to the top. And he can’t persuade the calm Yang over to his side when they finally meet in those climatic moments at the end of part two. Equally vexing for our blond Kaiser is his elevation as a ruler and being removed from frontline commander of fleets. Once again, there is a lot of personal issues that Reinhard has to contend with this part. This season has a heightened sense of conspiracy and the tension between close members of Reinhard’s staff start to expand. All of these issues go on to inform much of the next part’s events.
The meeting between Yang and Reinhard at the end of season two is considered one of the most intense and amazing parts of the series. Reinhard wishes to meet with the man who came within a hair of killing him and win this amazing man to his side. Yang just wants to go home and politely turns down the generous offer. This quickly turns into a gripping conversation that in many way encapsulates and makes clear all the political themes and questions of the series. I know everyone in the room was on the edge of their seats when this scene played out. If you did not need the build up of the previous scenes to make it as powerful as it is I would use this as the example as to why you should watch the series.
With three chapters closed in the narrative of Legend of the Galactic Heroes a lot has happened and many philosophies have been put on the table for the viewers to judge. This is one of the strengths that guides the series, it shows us the thinking, the people, and the events but does not deign to judge them for us, but rather let’s us decide what we believe in. I think part three will go down as probably the most memorable and dividing part of the series.
If you were shocked by the end of season two than the ending of season three will show you that this series still has some surprises left in it. There will be a mixture of feelings at the end of this season in anyone watching. I am sure some people will have to take a break while others will race ahead to find out what will happen next.