- Entertainment and Media
The Greatest Space Opera of All Time
Three years ago I was hungry for any television show I could get my hands on that wasn't just another cash grab pumped out for easy profit. I wanted something which didn't treat me like an idiot, and also at this time in my life I was in a spiral of depression. I read a thread on a forum suggesting readers check out an older anime called "Legend of the Galactic Heroes", a space opera set in our universe, but far in it's future. The show takes place in an unstable universe where two sides jockey for complete power, this is usually a cliché trope of anime or sci-fi in general, "the battle of good vs evil", but in LOGH, it is done in a manner that's very believable. Characters rise from obscurity to positions of power, commit follies or atrocities and have ugly falls. There are brilliant and brave generals who believe in equality and truth, but end up dying in battle ingloriously and politicians written so realistically you'd think it wasn't a show.
At the beginning of the show, we're thrown into the middle of a war between two groups: The "Free Planets Alliance" and the "Galactic Empire". The Alliance is a democratic collective that controls one side of the galaxy and has equal military might to the imperials. Their battleships are built in a streamlined fashion and are ruled by an elected council of politicians. The Imperials are based on Imperial Prussia of 19th century Europe, they wear dark black uniforms with emblems and serve a Kaiser. Both sides suffer from the same problems at first in the show, the Alliance is corrupt and it's politicians don't care about the consequences of their actions, they don't care how many people they send to their death in war, it's only a statistic to them or a lost vote. The Imperials have the same problems with corruption, promotion within their military is not based on merit, but royalty and aristocratic power.
The main hero of the Imperial side is a young man with blonde hair whose sister serves as the Kaiser's concubine. Because of this relationship, he is promoted quickly within the military and is allowed to command many thousands of men in a fleet. But he detests the position of his sister, and decides to plot to overthrow his Kaiser. Very quickly he makes friends with competent men who serve under him and help him win battles. Aristocratic fleet admirals come to feel jealous of his status and plot to kill him by sending him in battle against impossible odds, but he wins and is soon a hero.
On the other side of the galaxy is Yang Wen-li, a commodore in the FPA navy. He is a tactical genius in the series, and believes in democratic ideals almost to a fault. Much of the early parts of LOGH deal with him seeing firsthand the corruption of the government e.g. paramilitary groups are used by politicians to attack dissenters. He becomes a hero after successfully evacuating civilians from a planet under attack, and partially saves his fleet from total destruction. Politicians in the FPA decide to invade Imperial territory as an excuse to get votes for an upcoming election despite objections that they risk economic meltdown. An invasion is launched despite objection from the military, disaster befalls the fleets invading and almost all are destroyed or captured. In one of the largest battles ever in space fiction, the battlefield encompasses 9 star systems and involves over 30 million men and women. The FPA is only spared further damage from the Imperials as they find out that the Kaiser has died of natural causes and they must return to settle matters involving his political heir.
Reinhard Von Lohengramm returns to the Imperial Capital and a political struggle breaks out deciding who the Kaiser's heir is, in reality two camps are vying for direct control using their children and relatives as puppets. Lohengramm instigates a military coup within the Alliance in order to buy time to finish the civil war. The entire civil war in the empire is epic in scale, not just a battle between people, but cultures. Reinhard wants to change the status quo of the Empire and ensure that promotions are based on meritocracy and not just lineage. At the end of it, Lohengramm wins and the Royalists are defeated ensuring their time is ended. In the FPA side, Yang Wen-li restores the democratic government and defeats the military coup, but in the end the Alliance is further weakened by the fighting.
Battles in Legend of the Galactic Heroes are beautiful and titanic in scope, thousands and thousands of star ships firing at each other in unison, commanders going down with the ship all set to amazing orchestrated music. There's hundreds of characters in the show with different personalities, and they're not black and white stereotypically written, you come to feel what they feel and enjoy their thoughts. One of the arguments fought over in the show is what is the better government for people, a dictatorship ruled by a benevolent ruler, or a corrupt democracy where the government mistakes are the folly of the people electing their leaders?
The series stretches 110 episodes with 3 movies and is based on a series of books by Yoshiki Tanaka, there are also a series of prequel episodes. It's an old show, but there have been re-releases with some HD retouches, unfortunately most DVD or Bluray sets will ring you $2000-$4000, so obtaining the series can be a problem. Seeing this show changed my outlook on a lot of things though including politics. It's a good watch if you enjoy politics or history, highly recommended or just want to see giant Star Wars-esque battles.