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Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Legend of the Galactic Heroes: Golden Wings: LOGH by Way of Yaoi Star Wars

With the two Legend of the Galactic Heroes movies out of the way, let's go back a few months to December of 1992. The main OVA series ended its second season at the beginning of the year, but that didn't mean that LOGH would be in hibernation. In between the end of Season 2 and Overture to a New War a 60-minute OVA was made... And, boy, does it both please & disappoint. LOGH: Ougon no Tsubasa/Golden Wings is a good idea that overall does work but at the same time is marred by some questionable production choices.

Yeah, they finally got the German correct for this OVA!

A young Siegfried Kircheis notices that new neighbors have moved in next door to his home: The Musel family. Siegfried instantly falls in love with the daughter, Annerose, and quickly becomes best friends with the son, Reinhard, giving the three a seemingly perfect childhood life. But that soon changes when Annerose is sold to the Kaiser of the Galactic Empire for 500,000 credits by her father, who hasn't been the same since his wife's death, and Reinhard decides to become a soldier so that he can rise up in the ranks and one day save his sister. Kircheis joins Reinhard in order to help him out, as well as for his own personal feelings towards Annerose. After graduating the academy, Reinhard quickly becomes the captain of a destroyer at the age of 16, with Siegfried being his second-in-command. But many higher-ups in the Empire doubt Reinhard's abilities, and Susanne von Benemunde, one of the Kaiser's women, becomes jealous that Annerose is the new "Countess" and plans to have Reinhard killed with the help of an officer named Krumbach. And among all of this is a coming invasion by the Free Planets Alliance to take over Iserlohn Fortress, this being the fifth attempt by the FPA.

The thing about Golden Wings is that many of the things it does is both good and bad. I appreciate the added backstory for Reinhard, Kircheis, and even Annerose, but at the same time the whole assassination idea gets a little convoluted, especially since the whole part with Krumbach happens because the initial attempt by Captain Hader, Reinhard's superior, failed and Krumbach is initially brought in to interrogate Reinhard & Kircheis. There's actually a fair amount of blood and violent imagery, including a quick shot of a hanging near the end, which follows the violent style some OVAs took in the 90s, but at the same time it looks a little odd to see this stuff in LOGH. I do like how the OVA tries to keep the epic feel that LOGH simply exudes, but at the same time it kind of goes a little too far. The final confrontation between Reinhard & Krumbach is easily the biggest example of this, as it feels nothing like a LOGH confrontation and instead feels like a sci-fi movie. In fact, the main problem with this OVA is that it doesn't actually feel like LOGH all the time... It feels more like Star Wars.

Now, yes, LOGH has been called "The Star Wars of Anime", but Golden Wings seems to take that idea too seriously. The previously mentioned Reinhard/Krumbach confrontation actually feels a little like those moments when Luke Skywalker is in imminent danger but is able to find a way to save himself, and there's even a moment when Reinhard is hanging onto Kircheis' hand as he hangs above a seemingly bottomless pit before falling a little and grabbing a pipe, slightly like the end of The Phantom Menace. Then there's the fact that every gun in the OVA is a laser gun, when I'm sure normal guns have been shown in the LOGH universe, and, in the easiest sign of stealing from Star Wars, Iserlohn Fortress looks like the Death Star, right down to a giant hole where the Thor Hammer (read: the Death Star's planet-destroying laser) fires out of. I could understand using some elements of Star Wars, but Golden Wings goes into outright stealing from the movie. The only thing missing is an equivalent to The Force.

There are two smaller issues as well with Golden Wings. First, the fact that this OVA focuses on Reinhard & Siegfried means that Yang Wen-Li obviously would have no real importance here, yet he's shoehorned into this OVA, being on one of the flagships in the FPA's assault on Iserlohn. I'm going to be honest here: Yang, as well as Attenborough, have absolutely no importance in this OVA. Outside of a couple of lines where they talk about the battle, everything they say is effectively the same old stuff they said in the two movies. They have absolutely no real purpose for being in this OVA, with the only thing you honestly learn from their inclusion being that Yang already had his position and nickname "The Hero of El Facil" when Reinhard became a destroyer captain. The other issue is more of a nitpick, but this OVA ups the yaoi undertones between Reinhard & Kircheis. Now, yes, considering how close they are as friends it's understandable that yaoi fanart & doujins between the two would be made, but this OVA purposefully has Reinhard do things, like touching Kircheis' hair, that really serves no purpose but to make yaoi fangirls squee (yaoi fangirls still say/go "Squee!", right?). Now, to be fair, these shots are harmless in the end, but it's just a little annoying that the studio so blatantly added these moments for no reason other than to please yaoi fangirls.

Probably the biggest reason why Golden Wings suffers, though, is because Noburo Ishiguro had seemingly nothing to do with this OVA. From what I can tell, Keizo Shimizu, from Movie 2, was the sole director of this OVA, and if Ishiguro had little to nothing to do with this production, then I'm sure Shimizu was simply aiming for the stars with this but got burned a little; it's a good thing Ishiguro helped out with Movie 2. The character designs are another thing to bring up, as this OVA was apparently based on a manga story that was made back in 1986, drawn by Katsumi Michihara. Michihara, in turn, is known for two things: Adapting Yoshiki Tanaka's space operas (she's currently doing the manga version of Tytania) and drawing yaoi manga; we now know why this OVA has those yaoi undertones. Michihara's artwork is not bad by any means, but it's definitely a different beast than Matsuri Okada's original designs, with characters having larger eyes, an even more pronounced bishonen style, and even some differences in characters' looks. For example, Attenborough in the main OVA series has blueish-green hair, while in Golden Wings he's blonde. The biggest problem with the character designs, though, has got to be Krumbach, who's male but has the pale-skinned face of a Yoshiaki Kawajiri evil female... The fact that he wears lipstick doesn't help, either.

Another thing to bring up is that Golden Wings has absolutely no classical music in it. The music that's in the OVA is okay and is appropriately orchestral, but it's just not LOGH without classical music. The ending theme is "Futari wa Mita Yume ~TWO OF US~", and it's a nice-enough slow song, appropriate for the series. The biggest change though, outside of the character designs, is that the voice cast was completely redone for this production. Though this makes sense, since everyone is younger in this OVA, some of the choices were not the right ones, but that's not to say that everyone does a poor job. Hikaru Midorikawa voices Reinhard, and tries his hardest to sound like a young Ryo Horikawa, generally doing a good job. Also, Etsuo Yokobori (Aaron Terzieff in Gundam Unicorn) pulls out a fair Attenbrorough and Hiromi Murata (who's not know for anime voices) delivers a good Annerose. But the other two returning characters unfortunately drop the ball. Takehito Koyasu voices Kircheis, but aside from the very beginning and very end he really doesn't try to sound like a young Masashi Hironaka and instead just sounds like himself. Granted, Koyasu does a great job as Kircheis, but it's a little sad to see that he didn't try to do what Midorikawa did and do a younger version of the character's original voice. The worst casting choice, though, is that of Yang Wen-Li, performed by Yasuyoshi Hara, this being his biggest role in anime. The main problem with Hara's Yang is that it sounds too deep. Hara tries his hardest to do a slightly higher pitch so that he sounds a little like Kei Tomiyama, but in the end his voice is just too deep for Yang, and since this is a prequel to the main series it just doesn't work. The rest of the cast is fine, with Kouji Ishii (Yamazaki in the King of Fighters series, Taiga in GaoGaiGar) in particular doing a nice job with Krumbach.

Legend of the Galactic Heroes: Golden Wings has a lot to like about it. The added backstory for Reinhard & Kircheis is great, and the overall story is still followable and works out well in the end. But there definitely are problems with this OVA, as well. The parts with Krumbach takes the story into a direction that isn't, from what I can tell, is traditional for LOGH, there's too much ripping off of Star Wars to just ignore, the little moments that serve nothing but to please yaoi fangirls are too blatant to simply shake off, and Yang was so utterly useless in this story that he should have just not been included in the first place. Still, Golden Wings is worth watching, even if you're a newcomer to the LOGH franchise. It might not be the "gold" that the series usually is known for, but it's still a respectable "bronze". Just lower your expectations a little going into this one and you should be fine.

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