In the distant future, space is divided into three political entities: The Galactic Empire, the Free Planets Alliance, and the neutral Dominion of Fezzan. Reinhard von Lohengramm, a High Admiral in the Galactic Imperial Navy, uses ruthless tactics and aggressive strategies to fight back against Free Planets’ forces and outsmarts them at every turn. However, the FPA have their own tactical genius, Commodore Yang Wen-Li, and when he takes over the fight Reinhard finally finds himself a worthy opponent. As the war unfolds the two will clash in a way that will change the course of history.
(This review will contain some minor spoilers for the first couple of episodes of both Legend of the Galactic Heroes adaptations.)
Straight off the bat, I have to admit something: I haven’t finished the original anime adaptation of Legend of the Galactic Heroes, but I have watched about forty episodes and will one day continue and hopefully complete it when I can finally use Hidive on my PS4. Luckily everything that will be covered in this initial 12 episode series will be material that I have already seen so it’s pretty easy for me to compare the two. So how does the brand new adaptation compare to the 110 episode epic?
If I’m honest, I have some real worries about the pacing. From what we have been told, Production I.G. plan to adapt the whole of Legend of the Galactic Heroes in a twelve episode anime series, followed by three ninety minute movies. To do this they would have to move at a clip, cut a lot of extraneous content, and think carefully about how they’re going to make the material engaging without fully immersing you in the world like a long-running epic can. Despite all this, the premiere’s pacing was downright glacial. While this does mean we get a good introduction to Reinhard and Kircheis (more on him later), it also means that we’re one episode in and still in the middle of the first of many battles, and the most we’ve seen or heard of Yang is his voice over the telecom and the back of his head during the very last shot of the episode. This worries me: we’re one episode in and we’ve only caught a glimpse of the second protagonist of the show. Even with the movies that will be coming out later on there’s no time to be coy about putting Yang in the spotlight.
When I started watching the original Legend of the Galactic Heroes I watched the separate prequel OVA that covered this whole battle as well as a few flashbacks to pivotal moments before it happened. It was about an hour long, maybe ninety minutes, and we saw both sides of the conflict in great detail. We met Lapp, who was featured in this episode for approximately two seconds, we learned about him, his fiancée back home who he and Yang had known for years, his friendship with Yang, and finally his death, which all helped to establish Yang as an unwilling participant in the army’s plans for him as he gets thrust into the spotlight of command. Even if we see the two of them briefly next episode, it’s unlikely that their relationship will be portrayed with the same nuance because there’s just no time.
Luckily, the time we spend with Reinhard and Kircheis isn’t wasted. We get a good taste of their dynamic because we spend the majority of the episode with them. They are professional when they are briefing the other captains, and when they’re alone Reinhard convinces Kircheis to drop the professional facade and
flirt talk with him as an equal rather than a subordinate. The two have known each other since they were children and have a great deal of history, and I’m pleased that this wasn’t skipped over because their relationship is such an important aspect of the story that needs to be built up properly for the pair’s actions to make sense as the tale progresses.
In terms of visuals, there are some distinct positives and negatives. One thing I really like about the new adaptation is the use of CG during the battle scenes. The ships look pretty good and they move fluidly, and by using computer animation they are able to show more action during the naval battles. In the original anime the most you would really see was the ships floating menacingly towards each other and firing off a bunch of lasers while remaining mostly static, whereas we get some decent choreography in this episode while they show Reinhard planning his manoeuvres. It makes the battles more engaging to watch which will be helpful to a lot of viewers who want a bit of eye candy while the monologues keep on going in the background.
What really lets the new adaptation down for me is the character designs. There are some I can deal with. Yang looks fine, Reinhard is okay once you get used to him… but Kircheis. What have they done to you, my sweet child? They have taken this gentle, curly haired giant and made him into a doppelgänger for one of the characters from Kuroko’s Basketball (I think his name’s Seijuurou Akashi?) and I hate it. The new design couldn’t get more generic, and it doesn’t help that his voice actor, Yuuichiro Umehara, seems like he’s phoning it in as well, completely robbing Kircheis of his character. I understand that they had to update the character designs for the modern audience, but they could have done a way better job than this. Every character’s hair is about one tenth as fluffy and dramatic as it was in the original show. How was that not a priority? If anybody ever asks you what the opposite of a glow up is, just point them to the below images of Kircheis. What a travesty.
Another difference between the two adaptations of Legend of the Galactic Heroes is the soundtrack. In the OVAs the soundtrack was pretty much entirely classical music from the likes of Beethoven, Brahm, Bruckner and many more. Even the openings and endings had a classical score rather than any specifically written pieces for the anime. The new adaptation trades that in for a score by Hiroyuki Sawano. Both choices work really well for their specific adaptations so I can’t say I have a problem with the change for the new series; in fact, I really like how Sawano has reined himself in so that his soundtrack doesn’t overpower the rest of the production. My favourite piece of music so far was the one used in the battle because it really created a sense of urgency in a way that the classical music of the original wasn’t always able to. The opening and ending animations also now have actual songs rather than more classical pieces, which still feels kind of weird to me. I’m not used to seeing these characters and hearing gentle j-pop songs behind them and it’s going to take me a while to get used to it.
Even though I’ve had a while to think about it, I’m still not sure how I feel about Legend of the Galactic Heroes: Die Neue These. I can see the potential but I’m having such a hard time wrapping my head around how they can possibly fit this much story into such a small window. Will it find a way to make it work, or will it crash and burn? I think I’m going to have to write more about the show as it airs because I can already tell I’m going to have a lot of thoughts that I need to get out without resorting to ranting and raving about it on Twitter for hours on end. Regardless of the overall outcome, at least the new anime will undoubtedly attract new viewers to Legend of the Galactic Heroes; it’s a fantastic story that deserves the recognition it receives, but I do hope that people who enjoy it consider checking out the previous anime or the original novels rather than treating this as the be all and end all.
- Battle scenes are more engaging than the previous adaptation, good use of CG for the battleships
- Soundtrack complements each scene well without becoming overwhelming
- Reinhard and Kircheis’ rapport helps to keep long expository scenes engaging
- Character designs are generic and at times unattractive
- Short episode count gives me deep concerns about the pacing