I warned you all this would happen!
Okay, no I didn’t but after the old Give It a Shot piece, this was a pretty safe bet.
As I’d outlined within the edits to that article, much to everyone’s surprise, last year publishing company Haikasoru announced they had acquired the rights to translate and release Yoshiki Tanaka’s Legend of the Galactic Heroes novels over here. As of this point, volume 1 has officially been released, with two and three already on line for preorder.
So has it been worth the wait? Let’s find out!
For those still unfamiliar with the world of LoGH, here’s the long and short of it – it’s a far-flung future; humanity has long since left the mined out husk that was Earth behind and colonized new worlds. The universe is now locked in a seemingly constant war between two factions: the pseudo-Prussian Galactic Empire and the democratic, but often crooked Free Planets Alliance.
In the middle of this war, two figures are thrust to the front – for the Empire, the young and ambitious Reinhard von Lohengramm, who seeks to rise to the throne and reform his government; for the Alliance, the tactically gifted if shiftless Yang Wen-li, who strives to bring an end to the war as soon as possible while contending with enemies in front and behind.
What follows is a story of sweeping space fleet battles, political maneuvering, and power plays behind the scenes. A story that, to its credit, actually still reads fairly well translated into English.
For those already familiar with this through the anime adaptation, this version of events is similar enough, but with enough differences to keep things interesting. First off the bat is the universe’s history, which the anime held off on discussing until well over fifty episodes, here outlined in a 30-page prologue from the beginning of the Space Era up until the first salvos of the war.
The other main standout, besides several secondary characters who were cut from the adaptation (sorry Lao, you did your best), is in how the novel presents some of the events compared to the anime. Given the latter was presented likely with fans of the series already in mind, it felt no problem with filling in some scenes that Tanaka had previously left out to maintain some mystery – in this first novel, the details of Yang’s strategy to capture an Imperial space fortress provide a good example of that. Which, admittedly, presents a bit of a problem with the adaptation in hindsight, but not a heavily damaging one.
Fortunately, this also means the books still have an extra hook to keep new readers interested as well.
There are a couple of smaller issues with the book, but fortunately, many of them are minor in the long run. The prose, for example, while largely good, occasionally has the tendency to get overly flowery (the physical descriptions of Reinhard are particularly guilty of this, albeit not as bad as, say, how much the Vampire Hunter D novels would harp on D’s attractiveness).
Besides that, and some typos that came in this first print run, the only other issue I can really say I have with this is born out of how some of the fleet battles are written. The scene is set well and Tanaka (and translator Daniel Huddleston) give you a clear picture of what’s going on for the most part, but there’s a tendency to jump perspectives during combat without denoting it by a break of any sort which can be jarring. Things like, for example, being on the bridge of a doomed Alliance cruiser and suddenly one of Reinhard’s admirals is speaking as it moves to their ship, all while seeming presented in the same flow of text. Again, not a deal-breaker, but it can sometimes play Hell on the flow of action, which is especially a shame here as the book otherwise keeps that pace well. For a small example of the abrupt scene shifts:
Staring at the simulated model on the screen, Lieutenant Commander Lao said admiringly in Yang’s direction, “I’ve never seen a battle formation like this.”
“I’d imagine not…It’s a first for me, too.”
But Yang’s words were only halfway true. Back when humanity had lived only on the surface of a backwater planet called Earth, this kind of formation had appeared on battlefields any number of times. Even the brilliant tactics employed by Count von Lohengramm had precedent on ground wars. Since ancient times — for better or worse — military geniuses inevitably took the stage during eras of war, turning on its head what had been orthodox tactical thought until their arrival.
“Look at this miserable excuse for a battle formation!”
The enraged cry rang out on the bridge of the Brunhild. Reinhard suppressed his voice and snarled. “Won’t this mean a battle of attrition…?”
All in all, this book makes a good first step into the larger world of LoGH. For fans, this will prove a welcome expansion on the setting – as comprehensive as the anime is, the book allows still more looking into the minds of the main players which provides some additional insights to their actions – while also being accessible enough for newcomers to get in on the series.
With volume 2, Ambition, slated to come out in June, now’s as good a time as any to get started on this. I won’t claim it will be the greatest thing ever written, but it’s certainly still showing promise to be a series well worth following.
-Some bumps aside, fleet combat moves at a good pace
-The opportunity to get more of a look at the thoughts of the cast gives this an extra level for fans of the anime to get something new from it
-First run has a few typos that will need to be fixed in later additions
-Some occasionally flowery prose may take some readers out of the moment
-Abrupt perspective shifts in combat sometimes prove jarring