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.

Legend of the Galactic Heroes: Endurance

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

When we last checked in with this epic space opera, I was saying that this book would show us which direction the series was going to go, and I’m not sure that ended up being the case. Don’t get me wrong, this is an excellent book, with great battles and character examination, but at the end of 300-odd pages I am left with the feeling that not much has changed since we started. Except there are a lot more soldiers dead. Because above all else, Legend of the Galactic Heroes wants to tell us about the folly of war, specifically war for the sake of war. And it does this quite well, whether it be via Yang Wen-li having a long inner monologue about what history has taught us about the military or an evacuation order leading to the deaths of hundreds as panicking soldiers kill other panicking soldiers in their efforts to flee a doomed Death Star.

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Of course, it’s not called a Death Star in the book, but a giant circular battle station that functions as a planetoid for its inhabitants is going to make one think of Star Wars, especially as Japan released this volume in 1984, when that sort of thing was at its height. The plot that kicks off this volume is an ambitious technical general coming up with the idea of building a 2nd Death Star, warping it into position, and then fighting it out with Iserlohn, the old one currently occupied by Yang and his Republic forces. It’s an all-or-nothing plan, and normally Siegfried would be around to try to talk Reinhard into being more sensible. But Siegfried is dead, and while Reinhard is trying to do his best to imagine what the young man would recommend to him (we see this later when he spares the life of another young general), he’s still not very good at it, and spends most of the book unemotionally doing his job and closing himself off from most human contact.

Reinhard and Yang are usually compared and contrasted, and Yang also spends a good deal of this book cut off from his allies. Not by his own design, though, as the Republic have called him in for “a court of inquiry”, which is different from a court martial in that they don’t have to tell anyone or have any actual charges. In point of fact, they imprison Yang for weeks because they just don’t like him, and it drives everyone to distraction – especially the people back on Iserlohn, who are now forced to fight for over a month against the enemy without their tactical genius. The book does especially well in paralleling the Empire and Republic, Reinhard and Yang this time around. They both have corrupt glory hounds, they both assume that people who hold respect and are held in high regard will want absolute power (after all, it’s what they would do). And they both have beautiful young secretaries who have designs on them, though Yang is a little ahead here – he and Frederica are more like awkward teenagers, whereas Hildegarde is having difficulty getting Reinhard to even admit emotion exists after Siegfried’s death.

This was great fun to read, but again, after the whole book we’re mostly in the same place we were. We do learn a lot more about Phezzan, though, which has designs in trying to eliminate one side and prop the other up – as puppets for their economic tyranny. Oh yes, and there’s still the Church. I suspect the next book will have a lot more politics to it. And we get a next book, as Haikasoru have picked up the next three in the series. Great news.