This week, Legend of the Galatic Heroes: Die Neue These gives us the first episode fully devoted to developing the backstories of both the main characters on the Imperial side, as well as the universe at large. While this does help solve some of the issues I have had with Die Neue These‘s minimal attempts to endear you to the characters thus far, there are several ways that they could have saved precious time while still portraying the events clearly and giving the viewer a full understanding of the characters’ motivations.
Despite still being far from perfect, episode three is easily my favourite of the new series to date. We finally get to spend a decent chunk of time with Reinhard and Kircheis where they aren’t going on about tactics, and we are also introduced to a key player for the story going forward in Oberstein. However, to do so the anime used up a whole episode, the same as the OVA (where this material was covered in episode four), despite the fact that they could have trimmed down the content quite effortlessly and shown what the pair got up to next.
To give a brief summary, this episode we pick up right where we left off after a short narration at the beginning that fleshes out the history of their universe and how the Imperials and the FPA broke off into two factions and entered into the one hundred and fifty year long war. Reinhard is promoted to Imperial Fleet Admiral, and Kircheis was also promoted accordingly. The two meet Oberstein, who seems subtly disapproving of the regime, and afterwards they discuss whether it is safe to trust him. The next half of the episode is dedicated to the pair’s childhood, and establishes their goal of rising up the ranks to save Reinhard’s sister, Annerose, who was taken away to become a mistress to the Emperor.
Maybe I’m more fond of this episode simply because it introduces some character designs that don’t look incredibly generic and inferior to the OVA? Compared to our good friend Kircheis, Oberstein gets an absolute glow up and some actual expression in his face. You can actually get a hint of his personality just from looking at him, which makes this more successful than most of the other designs in the show. Annerose also looks decent, although her insanely thick, blonde caterpillar lashes do freak me out a bit. The difference is especially prevalent when either of these characters is standing next to the most disappointing character design of all time, which is that of Siegfried Kircheis.
Maybe it’s just that new Oberstein is kinda hot in a depressed, nihilistic way. Oh no. That’s my type.
The soundtrack was also used well in the flashback sequences to set the tone without being completely overpowering. It all had a decidedly melancholy feel, of bygone days before the empire tore apart even Reinhard and Kircheis’ lives, which helped to lend the scenes a sense of nostalgia for the time spent with Annerose. It’s just unfortunate that there was literally no background noise for Kircheis and Oberstein’s conversation earlier in the episode, which was extremely noticeable due to the long pauses. That choice took me out of the scene a bit, because there were long stretches of silence where they would just stare at each other impassively, and I kind of wondered whether my stream had actually stopped working.
The flashback sequence of Reinhard and Kircheis’ childhood really helped to finally contextualise both the closeness of their friendship and their ultimate goals, and there were some interesting framing choices and character animation throughout that helped to heighten the experience. I loved the scene where Annerose embraces Reinhard before she has to leave their home forever. After she sweetly accepts her fate, the camera focuses first on Reinhard’s hand clenching, then his teeth, and finally the camera zooms out to show his full face contorted with rage. It perfectly establishes how he feels in that pivotal moment without a word being said. I wish there were more scenes like that in Legend of the Galactic Heroes, as it would make a nice change from two heads talking at each other for two thirds of any given episode. It was a point where the episode decided to show, rather than tell.
Unfortunately the flashback isn’t perfect. I know I keep harping on about how much time they have, but I felt it ever more keenly during this episode’s flashback. We really didn’t need to see Reinhard and Kircheis’ first day at the military academy, because the material based there isn’t that interesting and the montage they included right after was enough to give you the general idea. Some of the school scenes earlier on also could have been shortened, and altogether this would have added a few precious minutes where they could have added some extra material to the end of the episode of what takes place after the event at the Imperial Palace. We are most likely going to be focusing on Yang (and going back to episode three of the OVA) next episode, so we will have to wait even longer to actually get the ball rolling on the assembly of Reinhard’s squad and the main conflict of the series. Let’s bear in mind that we’re a quarter of the way through the TV anime by this point, and although I can see them wanting to save a lot of the flashy battles for the movies there is still plenty to be done.
Ultimately, while I don’t think that Die Neue These is going to turn into anything great, this episode showed that if they had more time then this could be a pretty successful adaptation. Why couldn’t there be twenty-four episodes and three movies? It would really make the world of difference, and I wouldn’t be feeling so anxious while I watch the creators fritter away valuable time. I’d like to know who wished for a new LOGH adaptation on a Monkey’s Paw, thereby dooming the longtime fans to never be satisfied with it.
Lastly, for this week’s “Most Underutilised Character” Award, I am nominating… Kircheis! There weren’t a lot of characters introduced this week who got their screen time as utterly decimated as Lapp did last week, so I kinda just went with our boy Siegfried because I’m still super mad about his terrible character design. At least he looked vaguely cute as a child!