Warning: We assume that you have watched the main series of Legend of the Galactic Heroes (the original 110 episode OVA) before reading this. We will not spoil anything major in the Gaiden series but everything and anything in the main part is fair game.
The first gaiden series looks at the rise of Reinhard and Kircheis after they decide to overthrow the Emperor but before the beginning of the main series. Some of the tales of their dangerous but meteoric rise through the ranks is mentioned in passing before this but here we see a younger and less developed duo. During this time it is made even clearer than it was in the main series how vital the cool-headed Kircheis was to a reckless young Reinhard.
If you’re like most people who sat through 110-episodes of Legend of the Galactic Heroes, you probably didn’t want it to end. Lucky for us there was plenty of story to still be told. In this first gaiden installment, we go back a little ways to see Reinhard’s entry into military service of which we only glimpsed from the original OVA.
The first gaiden is broken up into four stories. The first story shows Reinhard and Kircheis as a pair of ground-pounders who have survive as tank troops on ice planet with a commanding officer who is trying eliminate them as part of lager political machinations. The second story has Reinhard and Kircheis acting as military police trying to solve the case of a series of murders at a school. The third story is Kircheis on getting caught up in investigating a drug ring while he is alone on vacation. And the last story Reinhard finally gets to do what he does best with a series of related space fleet battles between the Alliance and the Empire. In this story we also get to see what Schenkopp is doing on the Alliance side of the battlefield. We also get a late appearance by everyone’s favorite alcohol loving historian.
Even though these are mini-arcs, we don’t skip around in time wildly so it feels like a consistent flow. The first arc provides a lot of fun seeing Reinhard and Kircheis be strategical in more physical combat rather than an intellectual vein. It is an obvious place for them to start in the ranks, but at the same time feels like a departure from who we’ve come to know them as. From there we see their progress up the ladder with more large-scale space combat, meeting the right people (many wonderful cameos throughout), and pissing off just as many folks along the way. Each step in the stories brings them closer to their ultimate goals of climbing to high enough rank to change the Empire.
If you remember anything from the original Legend of the Galactic Heroes series it is that after the first arc everyone seems to gain a catchphrase. That phrase would be, “This would all be different if only Kircheis was still alive.” The gaiden series provides greater context for this oft mentioned statement. This is undoubtedly Kircheis’ chance to shine in the series. He is the first major character to die so despite his omnipresence due to his absence later in the series it can seem at times we hardly got to know him especially since the first arc of the story is dedicated to developing both side of the conflict. It is not that Kircheis was an undeveloped character in the original series. By the time he died we knew who he was. This series just expands on what we already knew. His little solo adventure gives you good perspective on him when he is outside of Reinhard’s shadow for a bit. Plus I am sure the fans were hungry for these stories that were only mentioned in passing before.
These stories also helped remind me why I nicknamed Reinhard “Dennis the Menace” in the first place. He is more hot-headed, and he issues some amazing lines about people he meets, but he has this youthful quality about him that exudes know-it-all. While Reinhard does have growth in the original OVA, it is more apparent here with each promotion. It was also refreshing to see him outside of the military on a few occasions. Because we know the death of Kircheis, this OVA is also a rather melancholy endeavor as we watch him become the man behind the man. Other encounters are enlightening like Ulrich Kessler’s with Reinhard. Yang shows up a time or two but doesn’t really get much play till the final arc of the series. Though this may have more to do with the death of Yang’s original voice actor than anything else, and admittedly his replacement sounds extremely different. Again, we are privy to Yang dealings before anyone trusted him, in fact he is utterly ignored at this point in time. But this is also his big chance to show he isn’t a slacker after all. Very glad to see Dusty with Yang as well.
There are a bunch of minor antagonists for Kircheis and Reinhard to deal with in their rise to the top. Without a doubt the most vile of blackguards is Herman von Luneberg. Lunebrug is such a villain he serves as a foil for both Reinhard and Schenkopp during the last story. The man rapes his way into a marriage for goodness sake. You spend the story sitting on the edge of your seat waiting for him to get what he deserves. At the same time Reinhard has to butt heads with Richard von Grimmelshausen. At first it seems like Grimmelshausen is a senile and incompetent old man but we soon get clues that there is more to the old man than meets the eye. The the real question is what is he plotting and whose side is he on.
As per usual the narrator likes to say rather ominous things, but booyah narrator we already know the outcome from these meetings! Still there are many a turn of phrase that are chuckle worthy, like someone offhandedly mentioning Andrew Fork moving up and being extreme. Sadly we see Reuenthal and Mittermeyer only in passing. And of course it is endless fun to hear Reinhard or Yang wondering “who is that man?!” when finding themselves locked in combat.
If Kircheis and Reinhard fight for survival in the tundra with a broken tank does not sell you on this series in the first part then nothing in the series will hook you. I am sure that the two detective stories contained within this series did not hurt Narutaki’s enjoyment in the least. I would go into them more but we will examine those cases as detective stories in their own No Case to Small segments. The last story is the longest of the series and clearly shows how utter incompetence on both sides made sure the war could keep going on forever had visionaries not stepped in. You could say that the gaiden series does not really add anything new to the series. It merely expands on characters and stories already present in the first series. But since this episodes are the same masterwork quality as the original story any fans of the original will happily welcome this expansion of the vibrant tapestry that is Legend of the Galactic Heroes.
I want more Legend of the Galactic Heroes but with each series completed I come a step closer to the end. It is bittersweet because it is so good! The quality of this gaiden series is right in line with the main story, as if you never left, and very satisfying so any LotGH fan should pick this up without hesitation.