subarukun: (GinEiDen Wenli Lohengramm and Julian)
I’m currently rewatching Ginga Eiyû Densetsu (Legend of the Galactic Heroes) and it makes me remember why I love it so much! Ever since I discovered Star Trek when I was really, really small I’ve had this very special love for epic Space Opera and loved it even more when it came with complicated politics and interesting characters. So GinEiDen obviously was destined to be one of my favourite sci-fi anime’s of all time. (Of course, it’s a novel series first, but I’ve never come around to read them. Not, yet. I will one day!)

Ginga eiyû densetsu is a complicated space opera with a cast so big it’s hard to keep track of everybody. But that is also what I love most of all about it: It has complicated characters and many of them. The story is set in a distant future where humanity has spread through part of our galaxy and Earth isn’t relevant any more. Terraforming seems to be a simple endeavour in this future.

The history of space is shaped by the perpetual conflict between the Galactic Empire, a society modeled after the Prussia, but uses many element from the 18th century, and the Free Planets Alliance, founded by refugees who had fled from the Empire to built a state based on democracy and freedom. Under these circumstances two military geniuses start their way up the ranks, who will shape history.

At the start of the series both Empire and Alliance have already existed several hundreds of years and both are in a state of inner decay. The Imperial family has become weak and the aristocracy is leading a life much like in the days of the Ancien Regime. On the other hand war politics and corruption have undermined the democracy in the Alliance. Both sides have an abundance of incompetent imbeciles in leading positions and hungry for more power and profit.

In the Empire Reinhard von Müsel (later von Lohengramm) decides that he has to get into a position of power to change what is wrong with the Empire. His decision is shaped by personal reasons: Although he is from a family of lower nobility, his family is poor. He lost his mother at a young age and his older sister came to be something like a mother to him. But then she is sold to the Emperor by his father. So he sets out to make a military career for himself and one day overthrow the ruling dynasty and conquer all of space.

In the Alliance Yang Wen-li lost his father, finds out that he is left without any money and tries to follow his dream to study history. But the only place where he can do so without money is the military academy. So although he doesn’t really want to become a soldier at all, he starts at the academy and through changes in the system is in the end forced to give up his history studies and stay in the army. (Suffice to say that I loved him from the start. I always prefer the reluctant heroes!)

Normally the storylines alternate between what is going on in the “Galactic Empire” and what is happening in the “Free Planets Alliance” and occasionally a third story line is introduced. Considering that the first novels were written in the early eighties and the first anime episodes were produced in the same decade, I think it’s okay that the storytelling is actually not as dynamic as it would probably be today. (Sometimes it takes two to three episodes until the story changes focus again.) Although it takes a while to get used too the story teller who tells part of the story like it’s an historical account and thus often uses foreshadowing or even spoils some plot twists. ^^;

There is a lot of amusing German fail going on and although I should be used to it by now I always crack up when the title screen says: “Heldensagen vom Kosmosinsel” (which would be grammar fail in its own right, because this would have to be “Heldensagen von der Kosmosinsel” to make any sense - which even then it still doesn’t. It means something like “Heroic Saga of cosmos island” and I have no idea whatsoever where the “island” part came from in the first place.) But there are other amusing instances that make me chuckle every time (from “die Bauarbeit Minsiterum” and “Das Gästehaus der Regierung” to many funny Names and transcriptions, typos and some imperial soldiers in the Waga Yuku wa Hoshi no Taikai movie/Legend of Galactic Heroes: My Conquest is the Sea of Stars singing Schnaps, das war sein letztes Wort, a famous German Karneval song about someone who drinks himself to death).

In Japan many fans focus on Reinhardt and Siegfried, and they certainly have that special dose of epic friendship and tragedy that makes fangirls swoon. On top of that there is they are both pretty much geniuses. Personally I always liked Kircheis a bit more and would have really liked to know how everything would have turned out if he hadn’t died. I do love the relationship Reinhardt has with his sister and the secret/not so secret love between her an Kircheis.

My favourite characters are:

1. Yang Wenli - I love him, because he is forced into his role by circumstance and even reluctantly comes out on top, because he is a brilliant strategist. I love his strong believe in democracy and the people around him. He really is the genius who never wanted to be in the spotlight and that’s what I love about him. My all time favourite character! He does have some faults that make him more human, too, which is always a plus. (Although someone on TV tropes is making him out to be the worst kind of alcoholic. I wouldn’t claim he isn’t possibly having a problem there, but the way it’s presented he is not exactly Haymitch from Hunger Games.) I love his mentor/pupil relationship with Julian and his relationship with Federica is just sooo wonderful. (I do tend to slash him with many others like Shenkopp anyway. :P )
There is also this whole arc about civil war in the Empire that leads to von Merkatz and Schneider, who were both loyaly fighting for the Goldenbaum dynasty, to seek refuge with Yang while he is still holding the Iserlohn Space Station, and I always thought that a very interesting relationship, because in the end Yang is also inspiring the old soldier.

2. Walter von Schenkopp (Walter von Schönkopf) - He is really one of these slightly rouge characters I tend to go for. He was brought to the Alliance as a kid and as a ex-citizen of the Empire he has a big grudge. He also isn’t dealing well with authorities, tell Yang he’s an idiot more than once and is a badass fighter. I like complex characters like him who can be loyal to their friends while coming across as the worst kind of loner.

3. Oskar von Reuenthal - Oh god, childhood trauma and resulting unstable relationships aside, Reuenthal is probably one of the only characters on the Empire’s side who could be a real danger to Reinhard’s genius, and at least at the beginning he is thinking about it. But his friendship with Mittermeyer is epic. He is really smart and messed up, but I love him.

4. Reinhard von Lohengramm - I really think he could have been crafted into a better character if Tanaka had chosen a different perspective at times, and his megalomaniac tendencies leave me completely unsympathetic. But there is his friendship with Kircheis, the love for his sister, his willingness who protect the people he cares for and even to respect his enemies that always win me over at least a little.

5. Wolfgang Mittermeyer - He is the one with the humble family background who makes it to the top of the army. He is loyal to both Reinhard and his best friend Reuenthal till the end, a brilliant leader, and he is also a devoted, wonderful husband. It’s hard not to like him.

6. Jessica and Frederica and Katerose von Kreuzer - I do love them. I seem to prefer the Alliance women, though the only women with interesting roles on the Empire side are Annerose (Reinhard’s sister) and Hilda anyway. Hilda starts out pretty badass, but I was a bit annoyed at her changes in the last season of the series. Well. Jessica has a lot of tragedy surrounding her, but she is someone who doesn’t just give up. After the death of her fiance she becomes a political activist. She is also Yang’s first love. Frederica is his second and the lucky woman who finally makes him give in and admit it. She is also a competent soldier and generally awesome. Katerose/Karin is the illegitimate daughter of Schenkopp and they meet for the first time in the last third of the series. She is angry and doesn’t want to have anything to do with him at first. She is also a pilot and the right kind of feisty.

But there are so many interesting characters that it’s really hard to make a comprehensive list. Here is an overview, but with a slight emphasis on the Empire.


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