Hi everybody! (Hi Dr. Nick!) Okay, I’m not actually Dr. Nick Rivera, just Guyinthe3rdRow here with this week’s installment of Give it a Shot! This is my first time writing for this feature, so bear with me-especially since this is a doozy to recommend here.
Legend of the Galactic Heroes is a series that is incredibly tricky to try and briefly sum up, but I’ll do my best for you.
Based on a series of novels by Yoshiki Tanaka, LoGH presents itself as a historical account. It actually takes place in a far flung future where Earth is largely a distant memory revered only by a fringe cult. Meanwhile, the rest of the universe has been locked in a sprawling war between two factions: the democratic, but corrupted Free Planets Alliance and the totalitarian Galactic Empire that is steering towards reforms.
One of the biggest strengths of this series, is in keeping with the premise and the historical account aspect, you see a little bit of everything in this universe. Both sides, with their advantages and disadvantages, see fair amounts of screen time, particularly as represented by their two protagonist characters:
For the Empire, we have Reinhard von Lohengramm, a common-born turned noble who has made it his goal to ascend to the throne and reform the corruption he sees in his Empire.
For the Alliance, there’s Yang Wen-li, a humble man who once desired to become a teacher, only to have his studies of history turn him into a tactical prodigy and subsequently a reluctant hero to the FPA.
Besides these two characters, each faction, along neutral organizations, have dozens of extra characters who have their own plots and developments that are unfolded over the course of this setting.
I’m not kidding when I say this show treats its events as history- there are even episodes framed as in-universe documentaries that show you the history of the LoGH universe. The minor drawback to this narrative conceit is that it does mean certain events, which the narration treats as already recorded history, are foreshadowed quite a bit. At the same time, they’re often written and directed well enough that, even if you see the twists coming, they still bear the same emotional punches.
In a weird way, the series I keep wanting to compare this to-and who knows, this may be a selling point for some of you- is A Song of Ice and Fire. I see it as its science fiction cousin. Both are stories set in a fully realized fictional world, albeit with some cultural elements we can recognize (the most overt in LoGH being the overly Germanic elements present in the Empire’s aesthetic and culture,) and both concern themselves with large scale wars as well as smaller power plays and the rise and fall of rulers. Neither side is necessarily good -a big theme of the series is the question of a corrupt democracy vs a benevolent dictatorship- and they explore these themes through the numerous individuals great and small caught up in games of power. Also, no one is completely safe in either setting. I tell you this as a warning now, don’t be surprised if some of your favorites don’t see the end of this series – I was actually surprised I still had one alive when the credits rolled.
The one big drawback to this series -and unfortunately it’s a biggie- is the fact that as of now, it remains an unlicensed series. This certainly isn’t for lack of trying, mind you. Back when they were still in business, ADV had been in talks to bring the series over, and Bandai Entertainment even went so far as to assemble a test dub when they made a bid for it. Sadly, neither got the rights and both companies have since folded. The show has gained something of a reputation as a white whale of licensing: sought after, but elusive and hard to nail down. Which is a shame. There are honestly no other anime titles quite like this out there. Besides its unique story and scope, even the behind the scenes nature of the show is one of a kind: a 110 episode direct to video series with an all star voice cast the likes of which would be unlikely to be assembled in this day and age.
EDIT 7/2/15: Aaaaaaaaand never have I been so glad to eat my own words. As of this year’s AnimeExpo, it has been announced we may be getting Legend of the Galactic Heroes over here after all, with the novels released by Viz’s Haikasoru label and Sentai Filmworks releasing the anime.
…SO NOW YOU WILL HAVE NO EXCUSE!
The result is a show that can truly be defined as, much as I hate to use the term, epic. It’s a show I still hope will someday get a proper release over here, because it really is an under-appreciated classic in the US. If you like anime, or even if you’re not into anime, but still looking for a good science fiction story, this series still has the potential to entertain.
I could honestly keep going about the merits of this show (no, really, I could – it’s got a LOT going for it) but I’m sure someone would be forced to stop me at some point. Again, I REALLY hope some day we’ll see this get an official release here. It’s a unique breed of series and one that really has to be seen for one’s self.