‘Fortress Against Fortress’: Fanboying About LoGH 33 & 34

Julian as Biggles
Julian: GAR & Biggles – In Space!

Legend of the Galactic Heroes‘s opening two episodes of space warfare made it clear how the series’ military confrontations look and broadly function: fleets line up and manoeuvre, space fighters are sent in and beam weapons are fired en masse. Interestingly, because both sides’ spaceships are submarine-shaped, they’re much easier to hit from the side than from head on, so whenever we see a fleet taken in the flank the results are literally explosive.

Given the show’s compelling heroes and the gripping political upheavals, I did not expect much variation on this theme. Writing about the show before I remarked on how gently the spaceships were introduced and established, so I gave up hoping for eye-popping spaceborne action. Trust the Legend, then, to blow me away with a multi-episode battle-stravaganza, only enhanced by the usual liberal helpings of human drama and political machination.

How awesome is the Death Star? Very awesome. I know that, you know that and indeed your mother knows that too (I asked her yesternight). The Legend (and the original novels were written in the early Eighties) takes the Death Star concept of a big, spherical fortress with a huge laser and – true to form – gives it its own unique spin (ah-ha). The sea of liquid metal as an outer shell allowing friendly ships to pass through and carrying floating gun turrets isn’t just a cool concept: it also makes for wierdly beautiful spheres of shining metal in space. That’s not the best thing, though.

The Eye
Apparently, the Lord of Mordor sees all.

The best thing, and the thing that clearly distinguishes the Legend from Star Wars, is the very fact that there isn’t just one of these fortresses. They’re evidently unusual but not unknown, as the previous siege of Geiersberg during the Lipstadt conflict established (I now realise it was setting us up for this larger battle). Furthermore, as one of the Empire’s admirals points out, Schaft’s plan isn’t an out-of-the-blue technological development but a logical progression: with a fortress like Iserlohn in your way, it makes a kind of sense to bolt lots of engines onto your own fortress and try to fight fire with fire.

The Legend can go for episode after episode without any violence – on a human scale – at all, but when the axes are handed out things get quite bloody, quite fast. This is the mark of violence which is graphic yet not gratuitous. (Black Lagoon‘s violence is both, while Seirei no Moribito‘s is neither; Bleach is bloody but not especially graphic, yet extremely gratuitous – it’s heartily enjoyable sword-porn.) Or, to put it another way, the violence is bloody because real violence is really bloody, rather than because the animators wanted a sanguinary money-shot every episode. I said ‘quite bloody, quite fast’, because ‘speed’ and ‘red’ are the two key words to describe the Legend‘s martial encounters. The impact of speed imparts shock – and this is where it is similar to Seirei no Moribito – and so does the flow of blood.

Of course, a viewer such as myself is perfectly capable of enjoying the violence as though it is gratuitous.

This particular battle’s own close-combat encounter, between everyone’s favourite bred-from-the-genes-of-Chirico-Cuvie shock troops, the Rosenritter, and enemy boarders, is especially speedy because both sides are mounted on what can only be described as space-bikes. The sudden clashes between the two sides as they raced over the molten surface of Iserlohn reminded me of the way Malory describes (in a rather stylised way) tournaments – which is fitting, given that these are the Rosenritter. Then there’s the way the gouts of blood from the casualties freeze as they spill out into the cold, unfeeling vacuum of space. (I apologise; I must be feeling poetic today.) These guys always bring me the best violence. (Poetic and geekily referential.)

Moving up in scale somewhat, these fortresses’ presence in this battle also allows for some exciting fleet tactics, with fleets sallying in and out of Iserlohn and at one point chasing each other around its surface. The siege as a whole reminded me rather of the Battle of Alesia, although Kempf is certainly no Caesar, which may be why he loses. Iserlohn is Yang’s home, and this was really Yang’s battle: it’s sway was decided by his absence and then his presence. It was also his pupil Julian who made the crucial suggestion which lead to victory, and his ‘Guest Admiral’ Merkatz who executed Julian’s plan, vindicating Yang’s work as an adoptive father and his decision to trust the Imperial defector. And it was (yet) another telling comment on the series’ two governments that Yang was absent because he’d been hauled home by politicians who feared his power (perhaps rightly – I have yet to watch beyond Episode 34), while Reinhard was absent because he didn’t want to be associated with the campaign if it failed. Lohengramm’s advantage indeed.

Admiral Yang\'s Magic

Anime, in my experience, is not exactly bursting with massive battles. It could be the effort required to animate them, or the competing attractions of personal, heroic violence, or some reason beyond my comprehension. At any rate, I consequently treasure those moments – frequently when a long show is drawing to a close – that action on a vast scale erupts. Hence, in part, my affection for Char’s Counter Attack, which gets down at the very beginning to the kind of battles which usually appear only once per fifty episodes of Gundam (hooray for feature film budgets). Hence, too, my ecstatic reaction to the clash between Iserlohn and Geiersberg: it doesn’t get much better than this.

14 responses to “‘Fortress Against Fortress’: Fanboying About LoGH 33 & 34

  1. Since I hate political sci-fi and could never watch a show that long, I’ll be vicariously experiencing this show through your awesome blog posts. That battle sounds bitchin as all hell.

  2. It’s okay to be poetic when talking about Legend of The Galactic Heroes as it itself is poetic.

    @21stcenturydigitalboy: Your loss unfortunately. Legend of The Galactic Heroes is not you typical political sci-fi series though. It’s so much more detailed than any other sci-fi anime out there that you wouldn’t even believe it without seeing it for yourself. It’s also the only anime series I would ever truly consider epic, because it really and truly is in all senses of the word.

  3. One thing I didn’t like about this battle, if I remember correctly, was the classic “Daddy will be home right after the battle” speech. That never seems to work out.

  4. Awesome isn’t it?

    I don’t remember this battle very well but you’re right, the fortress are better than a deathstar.
    There will be more epic battles.It’s only the beginning.

    The thing that suprised me is Lohengramm’s lack of enthusiasm for the plan.I don’t remember his reasons, but I didn’t find it very convincing.Perhaps the plan failed precisely because Lohengramm wasn’t in command.

  5. One of my favorite parts of the battle is how multiple people on both sides were like “Why didn’t they just crash the fortresses together?” There’s always simple answers like that in LoGH, and nobody ever does them because it’s not honorable.

  6. @ 21stcenturydigitalboy: While I’d have to chime in with Kaioshin that obviously everybody should watch this, I’m very glad to hear that you enjoyed my post, and were able to get some idea of the battle – which is indeed bitchin’ – from it.

    @ Kaioshin Sama: Good point. Few anime justify poetry quite as much as Legend of the Galactic Heroes does.

    @ bakaraptor: Yeah, once Kempf told his family that I guess he was marked for death. It’s a bit of a cliche, but at the same time I suppose a lot of real fathers have to say similar things to their children.

    @ ZeusIrae: Awesome it is. I’m glad to hear bigger helpings of awesome are on their way!

    If Lohengramm had been in command, I imagine he would have won, since Yang was absent. You’re right that his lack of enthusiasm was a little odd, but perhaps it was because he couldn’t go because of the risk of the multiple-warp engine setup failing. Or maybe Oberstein was manipulating him.

    @ jpmeyer: Yeah. It’s only at the very end, when he’s absolutely desperate, that Kempf comes up with the idea, and Yang has a countermeasure prepared in any case. Desperation leading to dishonourable actions was picked up by the scenes of the Imperial troops retreating, fighting to get into the lifeboats and so forth, too.

  7. lol, well, like I said, I’ll be fine with just reading about it. I can’t even get around to shows I want to watch which are as many as 50 episodes, and political sci-fi is, by FAR, my least favorite genre. Having more details just means I’ll never remember everything that goes into it (I have trouble enough remembering the names of characters in most series much less the name of planets and machines.)

  8. LoGH makes an effort by displaying each character’s name on-screen the first few times they’re seen, but it can get pretty hard to keep track of things. At least with your average 50-episode Gundam series there’s (usually) a central cast of a few pilots and crew that the show’s following, but ultimately I suppose with the Legend‘s scope there’s no real way of getting around the problem . . .

  9. But Rosen as in Weiße Rose.

  10. Hmm, I hadn’t heard of the Weiße Rose, but after looking them up that sounds plausible. Though the Rosenritter are more violent . . .

  11. just started watching legends, and just finished the 34th episode; damn is this show is just so… perfect!

    likable characters, realistic combat, steady progression, intellegent politics and great animation… in one show?

    my eyes are bleeding joyous tears of gold!

  12. I’m still slightly surprised by the extent of the Legend‘s achievement, and I’m pushing up towards the 50s (trying not to watch it too fast). Like I said, it doesn’t get much better than this.

  13. how wonderful! political sci-fi is actually my FAVORITE genre.
    i’ve just finished the 11th episode, and while it’s not “war and peace”, I kinda like it. it’s slow, but it doesn’t have filler. so far, every episode is important piece of puzzle.
    but… i don’t like its characters all that much. sure, this good guy from alliance is likeable and the ‘blonde empire guy’ has some intensity, but they just don’t seem like people i’d cry for. but, time will tell.
    and I really hope they’ll kill off kircheis as quickly as possible. this is guy is too sweet for that kind of show. he seems like taken straight from some yaoi (well, it’s absolutely obvious that reinhard and kircheis are more than just friends. i have nothing against gay relationships, but this one is just too cute. i like watching relationships that have some kind of conflict in them)

    anyway, as I previously stated, I really like it. space opera is the coolest genre imagineable, and I’ve ran out of star treks, babylon 5s, fireflies, farscapes and rest of those magnificent space shows. LOGH has to fill that gap.

    (sorry for bad english BTW, it’s not my primary language)

  14. It’s not War and Peace, true, though it is similar in some ways – they both, for example, overtly make a statement about the nature of history (‘In every place, in every time, the deeds of men remain the same’).

    I suppose the relationship between Reinhard and Kircheis is there if you want it to be, never confirmed or denied. There are certainly some hilariously caption-able scenes between them.

    If you like space opera that much, be sure to look out for Tytania, an anime space opera which is supposed to start airing October 2008: it’s based on another series of novels by Tanaka, who wrote the original Legend of the Galactic Heroes, and the anime adaption is directed by Ishiguro, who directed the Legend adaption. There’s no guarantee that Tytania will be good, but I think we can be helpful.

    And don’t worry about your English: it’s perfectly understandable!


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