In addition to its remake, Ginga Eiyuu Densetsu—or Legend of the Galactic Heroes—has continued to endure for the past three decades. In addition to its remake, the franchise includes its original anime adaptation and its source material, the hit novel series by Yoshiki Tanaka. Some of you readers probably know Tanaka as the author of the original Arslan Senki novel series. So, what are the qualities that make this franchise endure?
It Knows How to Showcase Conflict and Challenge Our Beliefs
Whether it’s in novels, film, art, music or animation, the stories need conflict as their foundation. The conflicts(s) can be external and/or internal. Legend of the Galactic Heroes takes conflict to a grander scale like no other. In the second season of Die Neue These, it is portrayed on both sides of the galactic war. Not only do viewers get to see the external conflict between the Galactic Empire and the Free Planets Alliance, they also get to see the internal conflicts within both nations as they relate to the main characters.
The external conflict is simply a war between autocracy/imperialism and democracy/republicanism, but the franchise takes this trope to new creative heights that have yet to be replicated. Pop culture traditionally portrays imperialism/autocracy as bad and democracy as good. Real-life history has more than enough examples to justify repeating this storytelling method over and over, but Legend of the Galactic Heroes is willing to do more than play devil’s advocate. Through Reinhard, the leading character representing the Empire, viewers can see how the system he lives under has been used to benefit the noble class and how it motivates him to want to change the Empire. Contrary to a majority of would-be conquerors, his quest for galactic domination is authentically for the benefit of mankind, and through Reinhard’s journey, viewers see how autocracy can actually be used for good since a ruler can enact change immediately without the approval of, lets say, legislative or judicial branches of government—which are meant to bring checks and balances—while there are those who believe that such inclusions hinder progress. It all comes down to if a ruler serves the people as opposed to the elite, then maybe autocracy can be a good thing.
From the point of view Wen-Li, who represents the Alliance, he knows that democracy is heavily flawed and that it can be exploited. However, he believes it’s the best system that gives power to the people. Through these two leads, viewers can get an idea of how two different systems work for better or worse. For Reinhard, his upbringing has taught him to take everything by force as he slowly fights his way to becoming the emperor. As for Wen-Li, he is willing to work within the confines of his system’s bureaucracy knowing that they can make the wrong decisions. With neither man willing to compromise their views, a rather unique conflict arises where they earn each other’s fear and respect. The fact that Legend of the Galactic Heroes challenges this tried and true conflict between belief systems that no other art form has copied since is a true testament as to why it endures.
Hong Kong’s dispute with China over their respective sovereignty has been one of the biggest news stories of 2019, to the point that it has been met with violent clashes and other international controversies. Just midway into the second season of Die Neue These, we see how certain groups within the Alliance Military have splintered from the chain of command to impose their rule on the Alliance’s home planet of Heinnesen. Due to this group imposing martial law and even admitting to limiting free speech laws on civilians, it has fired up the citizens to peacefully demonstrate at a stadium to state that they won’t be controlled. In the chaos, the soldiers that are siding with martial law open fire on the unarmed demonstrators and Jessica Edwards, a politician siding with the people protesting, is brutally killed for standing up for what she believes in. Tragically, not only do we see people dying for what they believe in in Hong Kong, but with the Syrian Kurds as well.
As reported on Hong Kong, what was meant to initially be a peaceful protest, has now turned into anarchy as people are being lit on fire! Through both the Hong Kong protests and these events in Legend of the Galactic Heroes, we see how government enforcement clashing with rightfully angry and yet non-violent protestors is always a recipe for disaster.
The legendary American sci-fi author Ray Bradbury famously said that sci-fi stories are about things that can happen. Many of Jules Verne’s works when they debuted in the latter half of the 19th century were merely visions and as of 2019, mankind has achieved what his novels foretold—as we have gone to the moon and now have the internet. As to how it relates to Legend of the Galactic Heroes, it expands that notion in more ways than can be included in a book. Even centuries into the future and long gone from Earth, humans are still at war over differing ideologies.
This was true long before the birth of Christ and, tragically, those reasons for conflict continue to this very day. Even if mankind migrates to space hundreds of years from now, that hunger for power or to impose one’s views on another is never going away. The lust for power is never going to go away no matter when and where mankind can go. The most tragic thing about this series is that Reinhard and Wen-Li could have been friends in another life, and this quality is ultimately why the series still holds up.