Oh my god. I’ve finally finished the first part of this behemoth of a franchise. Legend of Galactic Heroes is completely unique. It took more 12 years for it to completely finish, from the opening movie to the final side-stories. It was un-rivaled at the time when it came out, and nothing like it ever appeared again. With amine being as it today, I don’t think there will ever be another series like it. I know that it’s long (it totals a whopping 162 episodes and three movies), however if you have the time to watch it and are tired of anime’s trends towards moe and cheap entertainment: by all means give it a chance.
This is one of those series that actually changed my perception. After finishing this series, my view of how to portray tactical warfare, strategical warfare and politics are completely different. In those three areas, this series just blows every other anime out there out of the water with its complexity, maturity and ingenuity. Instead of basing itself on weird logic, just about everything in this series is carefully thought through and fleshed out. The main cast of this series is intelligent, without being perfect: everyone in this show has his or her flaws to make up for it, ranging from hypocrisy to laziness and temper.
I remember that my biggest criticism for the first movie was that the creators tried to make the main characters smart by surrounding them by rashly thinking officers who can’t see the big picture. This thankfully also got fixed throughout this series. Not by just removing it, but giving it a very deep meaning within the story. Whereas the movie was just a depiction of a space battle, the TV-series has very strong themes about Autocracy versus Democracy, what it means to be a ruler and commander, and what it means to be a hero. The incompetent people who fail at their jobs are used perfectly in order to illustrate how difficult commanding an army can be.
And then, there is the character development. This series has 110 episodes, divided over 4 seasons. All four seasons stand on their own as different, and this particularly shows in the character development, and how the characters think and act. The main cast changes subtly, but significantly, but even the side characters grow throughout this series. And really: the cast of this series is ENORMOUS. What this show also likes to do is take minor side characters who haven’t appeared for what feels like 50 episodes, in order to put them a bit in the spot-lights and show how much they’ve changed.
Now, this series has undoubtedly parts that it does better than any other anime out there. Did it turn into my favourite series, though? For that question, I’m afraid that my answer is no.
At this point, Legend of Galactic Heroes is ridiculously hyped. Let me however clearly state what this show isn’t: it is not a roller-coaster ride. It’s also not a series that is easy to get into, it’s not a series that blows you away time after time, it’s not a series with an impeccable atmosphere, nor is it a series that’s very easy to watch and draw you in.
The storytelling in this series is very composed and polite. It’s so very calculated and the plot twists feel very natural, but I did have to force myself to really sit through such an emormous amount of 110 episodes. The direction delivers its plot twists as they are, and rarely adds extra spices to the storytelling in terms of inventive camera work, or passionate voice acting. The animation as well is very composed: it’s good enough to keep character models consistent, battles interesting, but only one out of 10 or so episodes really goes beyond that. And heck, the episodes with the best animation aren’t the most important ones to the plot, and there is one character death episode that actually suffers from very bad animation. It’s a bit like reading a history book, really: it is incredibly interesting to see how everything plays out, but it still feels like something is missing when you compare it to other forms of entertainment.
110 episodes is really long. Nevertheless though, I still believe that this was the absolute best that anime had to offer until Escaflowne came out.
|Storytelling:||9/10 – For its length, this series actually never drags. The dialogue is truly excellent, the battles are all well written. The direction could have used a bit more bombast though, and is sometimes a bit too composed for its own good. Nevertheless, that composure also has plenty of charms on its own.|
|Characters:||10/10 – Brilliant. The cast is huge, and yet everyone feels different and has his own part in the story. The changes over 110 episodes are immense, and what especially sets the cast here apart is how intelligent half the cast is.|
|Production-Values:||8/10 – Solid, with very few weak moments and the creators have come up with a very inventive way to depict huge space battles, but there are still too many static frames for me to really rate it as 9/10.|
|Setting:||10/10 – In terms of politics, strategy and tactics, this series is completely un-rivaled. An enormous setting that dynamically changes, and reacts believably to the characters’ actions.|