In an episode of Legend of the Galactic Heroes that opens with the entire Geiersberg Fortress having warped its way in front of the folks at Iserlohn, it’s perhaps only a little surprising that the real spectacle is in seeing Yang work his way out of dealing with that pesky government inquiry. The fact that Yang gets out is itself not that surprising, half the series’ main focus that he is, he’s gotta keep commanding somehow at this stage. But there’s still plenty of satisfaction to be had in watching this little sham of a pseudo-trial collapse as the distraction it is. It’s worked as a dramatic device for keeping Yang away from the big battle to drive up the tension, engineered as a device both by the writing and by characters within the plot orchestrating it for their own ends. That makes it entertaining enough in that reliable old LOGH way, though the style with which it formally comes together and resolves might not have the same spice that carried through last week to make this back section of this sub-arc as effective as that previous one was.
To start with, I feel the need to veer into a subject I’ve otherwise touched on less as Die Neue These has gone on. The adaptational sensibilities of the new anime, the choices it’s made in relation to reflecting material from the novels, has shaken itself up compared to the old OVAs several times before. Those comparisons come through extremely clearly in this episode, which lacks a couple key components. First off is any segment of Frederica and Machungo’s efforts to investigate Yang’s whereabouts prompting violent interference from the Alliance’s Patriotic Knight Corps, save for some remarks about them seemingly being as they navigate the hostilities of government bureaucracy. There are still definitely threats by powers-that-be regarding their snooping around, but they’re of the decidedly couched-within-the-legal-system variety. Aside from removing an element of immediate action that the earlier version had, this incidentally winds up demonstrating a raw difference in the state of the Alliance’s democracy at this point of the story, which Bewcock even notes on here. So it’s not so much a change that I feel needs to be addressed as ‘good’ or ‘bad’, rather than simply noted for what a difference a shift like this can make in something like the setting.
Another change is admittedly much lower-stakes, but one I can’t allow to go unremarked-on simply because it was something I was so fond of in the old show: We no longer spend any time with insight into Yang’s choice to drag the Proceedings of the inquiry out as a long as possible before he deploys his resignation, purely out of amusing himself. Alongside the lack of the Patriotic Knight Corps attack, it leaves this version of the story lacking in both kinetic action and lighter levity. That means it fills the space with the perhaps more-expected series digressions on political points, and also may contribute further to Die Neue These‘s reputation as the stiffer interpretation of the material.
So how do things shake out with that particular focus on politics? Around here might be a good time to brush up against the ‘Great Man Theory’ of history that LOGH can be read as playing into. This is an episode that opens with all of Yang’s cohorts declaring his singular presence as the required element to win the imminent battle, after all, pinning their hopes on their Imperial enemies not even realizing they aren’t yet fighting against him. And off where Yang actually is, his conflict is entirely against those stuffy government regulators getting in the way of a brilliant military man like him being able to do What Has To Be Done. It’s definitely ripe for being a storytelling bugbear if you disagree with the idea of history being shaped entirely by the strong will of only a few individuals. As well, the whole structure makes itself pretty clear in its critique of a latter-stage democracy’s ineffectiveness in the face of its own corruption, another place Bewcock specifically comments on regarding politicians interfering in those kinds of military affairs. Thing is, a lot of the examples articulated in the allegory that is the Alliance continue to be as on-point as they were in the 80’s enforcement, detailing how law use fascistic agitators like the Patriotic Knight Corps to quash protestors and obscure their true meaning , the role of a complacent media in spreading those kinds of stories, and of course one of LOGH‘s favorite subjects, the unwillingness of the government-official ruling class to stick their own necks out in service of the war effort they love to trumpet for their otherwise benefit.
So even as clear as it usually is about putting those points out there, this episode does maybe lay it on a bit thicker than usual how much more brilliant Yang is than all these stuffed suits as he taunts them with his facts and logic. Once the arrival of Geiersberg prompts the group behind the inquiry to realize how much they need him, Yang even gets to be the one to deduce for them how suspicious the timing of them being compelled to investigate him was. These bureaucrats are ultimately set up as even more clear strawmen than LOGH‘s usual designated argument-losers, and it comes off as a section where you can hear Yoshiki Tanaka in the text perhaps even louder than normal with his disdain for that kind of leadership he deems ineffectual.
That said, for all the seeming criticism of this style of democracy and the supposition that things would be better if Yang were just allowed to do whatever he wanted, they do pull back in a dinner conversation at the end of this one and explore the other side. It winds up relating back to both Bewcock’s remarks on the limiting of the military’s freedoms, as well as the subject of Reinhard as a ‘Benevolent Dictator’ which has come up regularly, from Yang himself no less, throughout this story. “The reality is that people change.” Not only is this what Yang sees as the issue that stops Reinhard’s rule from being 100% bulletproof, but it’s further confirmed to apply to himself at this point as well. It’s even brought up that Rudolf, the dictator who kicked off this whole mess hundreds of years ago, was himself a benevolent reformer at the beginning of his rule. It feels like a compromising argument the series is making with its own analysis of historical influence: Some exceedingly-powerful individuals may exert more control over the course of things than others (even in a setting like LOGH where there are significantly more than two Great Men among the massive cast), but that doesn’t mean they should be unilaterally allowed to exercise that power. It can feel like an obvious point, sure, but in presenting material that can often get this dense to the audience of LOGHsometimes you really have to pile on that specific kind of clarification.
If the previous few episodes of Die Neue These have felt relatively close to watching the old show, then this one came off more akin to the books. The text and its demonstrations of leadership contrasts, of historical analysis of governmental systems, they’re all there and plenty fascinating to turn over as they’re related to you. And as the way we kind of expect the series to spend time before something like, say, an explosive battle between a couple of Death Stars, it works just fine. But the loss of some of the more memorable flair of previous takes does dampen it a bit as we arrive at this point.
Legend of the Galactic Heroes: Die Neue These – Collision is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
Chris is a freelance writer who appreciates anime, action figures, and additional ancillary artistry. He can be found staying up way too late posting screencaps on his Twitter.