Legend of the Galactic Heroes: Flight

By Yoshiki Tanaka. Released in Japan as “Ginga Eiyū Densetsu” by Tokuma Shoten. Released in North America by Haikasoru. Translated by Tyran Grillo.

So the war’s over and the Empire won… now what? We knew that things weren’t going to begin to slowly wrap up given we still had five more books to go, and so, unsurprisingly, we see that maintaining the peace and holding on to what you have is not as easy as it seems. Reinhard is dealing with assassination attempts, the fact that not all of his underlings are capable and brilliant, and everyone and their brother telling him “you’re the Emperor, now get married and have an heir”. As for Yang, he is now married, but heirs may have to wait, as his very existence seems to annoy people on both sides, none of whom think he simply is retiring peacefully. Which… well, they’re right, he isn’t, but things really don’t go the way he hoped. As for Julian, he makes it to Earth, and finds it ruled by a petty tyrant held up by a group of misguided religious zealots. Insert wry political commentary here.

Reinhard doesn’t get as much focus here as previous books, despite the assassination attempt. Honestly, that attempt, done by Hildegarde’s cousin, seems more narratively designed to separate the two of them for a bit more, as everyone and their brother is telling Reinhard to find a wife and Hilda is the really obvious option. It is sort of amusing seeing him justify not only letting Hilda and her father not be killed/exiled for unthinkingly leading him to the assassin, but even keeping their positions – though the whole scenario does throw into sharp relief how little Reinhard seems to have actually grown up, and how important (still) Siegfried is to him. He’s really good at war, and really good when he has a rival like Yang. When he lacks both, what’s going to happen?

Not that Yang has been removed from the picture just yet. There are some amusing scenes of his attempt at domestic bliss, though given they mostly revolve around “Frederica only knows how to make sandwiches” it’s probably for the best that he’s quickly arrested. There’s a rumor going around that he’s starting a rebellion, everyone thinks that Yang wants to start a rebellion, therefore Yang must be starting a rebellion, even though it’s not quite true. (Yang DOES want to do something, but not for a few years – a plan that gets blown to hell by the events of this book.) Reinhard and Yang always make good contrasts, and here it’s seen by how much Yang is trying to avoid being the face of the opposition. He’s a charismatic leader that could easily be another Reinhard if he wanted, he and everyone else knows it, and he hates the idea.

The romance is not just Yang and Frederica, by the way. Leaving aside everyone telling Reinhard to get married, it looks like Julian has been introduced (somewhat clumsily, I will admit) to his future love interest, who I’d call a tsundere if this weren’t written in 1985. And von Reuentahl seem sto be sleeping with the girl who’s trying to kill him. That’ll go well. You get the sense that the author is trying to move pieces for the final arc, and sometimes they move smoothly and sometimes they hit you in the face. Still, Legend of the Galactic Heroes fans won’t want to miss this. Given this was a mostly politics book, I expect a lot more space battles next time.

Legend of the Galactic Heroes: Mobilization

By Yoshiki Tanaka. Released in Japan as “Ginga Eiyū Densetsu” by Tokuma Shoten. Released in North America by Haikasoru. Translated by Tyran Grillo.

These novels seem to have been alternating between political intrigue and space battles, and as you might guess that means the majority of this volume is the latter. And some fantastic space battles they are, showing off good strategies, the horrors of war (one of Those Two Guys is even killed off), and a battle of wits between Yang and Reinhard. As for who wins, well, as you can imagine, it’s not as clear cut as all that. There is a decisive winner of the war, though, and that leads to the scene that everyone has been waiting five books for, which is Reinhard and Yang meeting face to face. It’s not a very long scene at all, and the two respect each other but don’t really change their mind about much of anything. Still, it’s iconic, and I imagine must be one of the highlights of the anime series. Of course, there’s still five books to go in the main series, so the question is where does LoGH go from here?

Perhaps a romantic comedy? Unlikely, but it’s not an accident that each main character has a capable and beautiful young assistant. That said, Frederica’s feelings for Yang have been far more noticeable, whereas it’s harder to get a read on Hilda (as the two generals mirror each other, so do their aides). Given that, it’s unsurprising that Yang takes the plunge here, with perhaps one of the most awkward proposals ever recorded on paper. It’s still nice to see, and combined with the war being over you sort of hope that Yang gets his wish to settle down, retire, and become a historian as he’s always wanted. That is highly unlikely to happen, sadly. As for Hilda, she’s far more active in the plot, but any potential romance (which, given the differences between the Empire and the Alliance, I expect would be more a political than romantic arrangement) is scuppered by her actions here to ensure Reinhard’s safety, which are very clever, work 100%, and absolutely infuriate him. Reinhard has never grown up in many ways, and it’s never more clear than in the scenes at the close of the battle, where he can’t accept what’s actually happened.

As always with LOGH, there’s about twenty other things also happening. Much to my surprise, the bratty child Emperor has not yet been terminated with extreme prejudice, but he has been made completely irrelevant, which works just as well. Julian is back with Yang, though that also means he has to deal with Yang and Frederica getting together, which (as a teenager with a crush on Frederica himself) is vexing. And there is still politics and intrigue, mostly on the Alliance side – in fact, given this is the midpoint of the series, it seems appropriate that a decisive and crushing final victory… is completely averted, leaving everyone pretty unhappy.

As you may notice, I’ve been trying to be less spoilery than usual, because the joy of this volume really is trying to guess what’s going to happen. Of course, the amusing thing is that the main audience for these novels may be fans who have already seen the anime. That said, if you’re on the fence and you like dense, verbose space opera, you absolutely have to be reading this.

Legend of the Galactic Heroes: Stratagem

By Yoshiki Tanaka. Released in Japan as “Ginga Eiyū Densetsu” by Tokuma Shoten. Released in North America by Haikasoru. Translated by Tyren Grillo.

Well, I did ask for more politics, and we get it here, though there’s not really a lot of political backroom dealing. Instead, what we get is Reinhard sitting back, letting everyone else hang themselves, and then strolling in and taking everything over. I’m still not quite sure we’re supposed to like Reinhard or not, and certainly his casual lack of empathy as he sacrifices people for his own ends can be chilling, but there’s no doubt that at the end of the day he can make the decisions that lead to the Empire gaining power, whereas Yang Wen-Li is never going to be that person (much to Yang’s own relief, I suspect). It can be a bit uncomfortable to read – “what if the Space Nazis were the best option?” is essentially where were’ going with this current plot – but it’s certainly fascinating.

Yang in particular is not having a very good book. He’s back at his Death Star, but the fight that comes to him is just a diversion, and he knows it. Moreover, Julian has been transferred away from him , and though Yank knows that right now it’s the best thing to do, particularly as he needs someone he can trust on Phezzan, it’s not doing wonders for his psyche. Julian is not only the son he never had, but also his minder, and Yang is now required to do things like wake himself up. The horror! Sadly, while Yang can figure out exactly what’s going to happen, he can’t do much to stop it – indeed, the first third or so of the book doesn’t even have him in it. Julian does get to be awesome when he gets to Phezzan, but it’s preventing further damage control more than anything else.

Speaking of Phezzan, the trouble with trying to play both sides against each other in a never-ending war while you sit back and make money off of it is that sooner or later you may get called out by one of the sides. The scenes where The kidnapping of the emperor occur are probably the most amusing in the book, as Reinhard solves almost all his problems by literally doing nothing, allowing the resistance to escape with the World’s Brattiest Emperor, a 7-year-old child with no impulse control and a tendency to bite. This of course gives Reinhard a good excuse to send every ship he has to attack the Alliance, and install an 8-month-old girl on the throne as the new emperor. Even his enemies are sitting back and staring at how much everything just comes together for Reinhard here.

You may notice we have a new translator, though I didn’t see any appreciable difference in quality. A lot of the time Legend of Galactic Heroes is written like a musty old history textbook, and that comes across very well here, though it may annoy some people not used to this sort of narrative. Legend of Galactic Heroes is never going to be a series that inspires obsessive love, but it is noble and staid, and wears its empire building on its sleeve. We’ll see how the chips fall next time. And will Reinhard and Yang ever meet face to face?

Oh yes, and Rupert dies, probably because he’s in a Wagnerian novel series and his name is Rupert.