Legend of the Galactic Heroes: Sunset

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

And so the Legend of the Galactic Heroes comes to a close. (There are five volumes of short story collections also out in Japan, but they don’t seem essential to the narrative.) The story ends because the two sides finally come together and try to negotiate a compromise between Empire and Federation – Parliamentary Democracy, which is presented as the best of both worlds, mostly. But you could also argue that the series is ending as the author is running out of characters to kill off. This is a doom-laden book, with a bunch of the main cast given their final moments. Some go out fighting, like von Schönkopf and Merkatz, nobly in battle. Some die like villains, taking out swathes of others as they succumb to a brain tumor (Rubinsky). Some appear to die almost because the author forgot to kill them off and they were running out of pages, like von Oberstein. Hell, even von Oberstein’s DOG, the one thing that made him vaguely human, is dying. And then there is Reinhard.

I’m not really spoiling anything by talking about these deaths, as the book is still written like a history textbook from the future, so frequently talks about “this was the last time he would visit this planet”, etc. That said, you’d have to be reading the series with very narrow vision not to realize that Reinhard wasn’t going to make it to the end of it. Honestly, he hasn’t been the same since the death of Yang Wen-Li, and he knows it. What’s more, it may be his fatal flaw that finally kills him off. No, not the disease that he’s had for ages that finally gets a name but might as well be “Love Story disease”. Instead it’s his leaping off to battle against Julian’s forces one last time, despite knowing that he’s running a fever and choosing to hide it from everyone. The end of the war means peace, which means no more battles, which means that Reinhard is pretty much going to be out of his depth – something he admits at his deathbed, as he notes Hilda will be a much better leader as she’s the politician.

There are several cool space battles, including one where Julian and company essentially storm Reinhard’s ship as if it were a boat to try to get to him and negotiate, and another where we see Annerose, Reinhard’s sister, protect Hilda from terrorists (don’t worry, she doesn’t die). But for the most part the best moments are the speeches and dialogues, as with most of this series. A lot of the book discusses von Oberstein, whose methods continue to sacrifice the few to save the many, but in the worst, least honorable way possible, to the point where other Admirals try to punch him. He’s an unpleasant person but a great character, and I wish his death had more impact – perhaps the anime improves on this. Oh yes, and Julian and Katerose hook up, though her lack of presence in the final big scenes reminds me that LOGH tries to give us some good female representation but struggles at it.

I’m very happy that we were able to get the entire series out here in North America. It’s a classic, though admittedly more known here for the epic 80s anime, and worth reading to see how authors who aren’t Leiji Matsumoto handle a Wagnerian space opera sort of story, albeit one with a dry historical filter. A noble finale.

Legend of the Galactic Heroes: Upheaval

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

Yang Wen-Li may be dead but Legend of the Galactic Heroes goes on, even if Yang’s ghostly presence hangs over much of this volume. Julian is trying to do things the way he thinks Yang would have wanted to, even to the point of hearing Yang’s dialogue in his head. He’s still got revenge on his mind, but it has to take a backseat. Much to his frustration, the fight against the Empire also has to take a back seat – he has in mind now trying to get the Empire to become more of a parliamentary democracy, but that’s a long-term plan, and also unlikely to happen with Reinhard in power. So Iserlohn is placed in a bit of stasis this volume, with its most dramatic decision being that of letting the Empire’s fleet pass by unmolested so that it can attack von Reuentahl’s fleet, as the long-foreshadowed rebellion is finally upon us. Oh well, at least it looks like he might be getting a tsundere girlfriend soon.

The “rebellion” is interesting, as it’s a setup, von Reuentahl knows it’s a setup, and yet he goes along with it anyway, partly as he’s fairly sure he wouldn’t be believed if he denied it but partly because, without Yang there to be the noble enemy, there’s nothing really stopping von Reuentahl from attacking the next best military genius – Reinhard. Of course, the joke is on him, as for once Reinhard allows himself to take a back seat and let Mittermeier handle things. They go about as well as you could expect, which is to say very badly for von Reuentahl, who can’t even bleed to death quietly in his office without being presented with his newborn child, the product of yet another love affair. This leads to one of the most bittersweet moments in the series, as a dying von Reuentahl asks the child be raised by childless Mittermeier and his wife. I wish it hadn’t gone this far, but at least there’s some good coming from it. Oh yes, and Trunicht was finally killed. That was great, he deserved it.

The book is not all doom and gloom, though it is mostly serious as always. After being verbally attacked for the massacre that happened about 7 books ago, Reinhard is in a mood and feeling depressed, and asks Hilda to stay the night with him. We don’t see the love scene that follows (though it’s made clear that they’re both dorky ignorant virgins, so it can’t have been that breathtaking), but we do get the aftermath, with Hilda fleeing back home saying “WTF have I done?” and Reinhard immediately showing up to propose. This whole section is actually very funny, and it’s nice to see Reinhard as a lover is about 1/100th as successful as Reinhard the military genius. That said, Hilda is “lucky” enough to get pregnant after this one-night stand, so after taking care of his little rebellion Reinhard proposes again, and this time Hilda accepts. Like most LOGH romances, this has been both obvious and incredibly slow burning, so is very satisfying to finally see.

The main story ends with the 10th and final volume next time. (There are more books with additional stories, but it’s not clear if those will be licensed.) With its huge cast getting smaller and smaller, what fresh new deaths await? Or can we finally achieve peace?

Legend of the Galactic Heroes: Desolation

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

Before we discuss the events of the second half of the book (which I will spoil out of necessity), let’s talk about the fairly normal first half. Reinhard is headed with his entire fleet towards Iserlohn, and Yang and company are doing their level best to try to at least slow them down. There are a few more times when we see Yang being the master tactician and manipulator that he is, and a lot of the Empire’s finest being hotheads when they shouldn’t be. The stage is set for Reinhard and Yang to negotiate terms. We even get one last debate, in Yang’s head, about the need for democracy vs. a dictatorship. Yang is well aware that Reinhard is a kinder, gentler dictator, and that forcing democracy is likely to make people far more unhappy than they would be under the Emperor’s hand. But it’s notable that the Empire only seems the better option because of these circumstances, and we’ve also seen Reinhard’s petulant side as well. Plus he’s STILL not married. What of the future?

But in amongst this, you’re getting the foreshadowing. LOGH is many things, but subtle it ain’t, so we get several scenes showing us the Church setting Yang up to be assassinated (using a character I had honestly forgotten about – this cast is too damn big) and setting the audience up to expect another near escape like Yang had a couple of books ago. But then we get things like “this was the last time the two would ever speak”, and you start to realize what’s going to happen. And then it does. Yang is killed on his way to the peace talks. Not even in a pitched gun battle or anything, but shot in the leg and slowly bleeding to death. Given that it’s a series about the horrors of war, among other things, it seems fitting, but everyone agrees this was not the way that Yang should have died (Frederica’s dream of the death of Yang as an 85-year-old grandfather is possibly the most heartbreaking thing in a heartbreaking book.)

As you can imagine, the rest of the book deals with the fallout from this. Iserlohn is devastated, of course, and many of their allies flee. The cause is kept alive, with Frederica on the political side and Julian on the military side, but both agree they’re only doing this because they know it’s what Yang would do; Frederica’s saying that she’d be happy to let democracy go hang if it meant getting her husband back is chilling. And the ominous foreshadowing is not done yet. Mittermeier and von Reuentahl also get a “they would never speak again” foreshadowing, and I suspect the latter is going to turn on Reinhard soon, or at least be made to seem like he is. And Reinhard spends much of the book in bed with a high fever… not the first time this has happened. He’s been ill QUITE a bit, which is another reason he’s being pressured to marry. With the Republic in tatters, is the Empire far behind?

There’s two more books in the main series, and lots more to resolve. It’s hard not to leave this book feeling depressed, though, and I will admit that most of the reason I read this was to read about Yang Wen-Li. Like his family and allies, I’ll continue to read the books, but also like them, I’m not looking forward to it nearly as much. A well-written equivalent of a drive-by gangland killing.