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Monday, May 14, 2012

Legend of the Galactic Heroes: My Conquest is the Sea of Stars: Epic Right From the Start

Legend of the Galactic Heroes... Ginga Eiyuu Densetsu... Heldensagen vom Kosmosinsel (even though that translates to "Heroes of the Cosmos")... No matter how you say it, this is one of those anime that you've heard of, period. Whether it's because of its record as the longest OVA ever produced or simply the occasional talk of how epic & awesome it is, LOGH is one of those animes that is nearly-100% agreed to be a "masterpiece". But when you consider that the main 1988-1997 OVA series itself is 110 episodes long, not to mention that there are two side story OVA series (1998's A Hundred Billion Stars, A Hundred Billion Lights & 1999's Spiral Labyrinth) that add another 52 episodes, it's natural that many anime fans might be a good bit hesitant to get into a 162-episode epic like this. If only there was a production that was short enough yet very accessible for potential newcomers to watch... Oh wait, there is! The main OVA series started in December of 1988, but on February 6 of that same year the very first LOGH anime was released, and it's a 60-minute movie that not only makes a great entry point for newcomers but is actually the first piece of LOGH that should be watched at all. This is LOGH: Waga Yuku wa Hoshi no Taikai/My Conquest is the Sea of Stars.

In the 35th Century war has spread out to the infinite vastness of space. For the past 150 years the Galactic Empire has been fighting the Free Planets Alliance for control over the galaxy, and there looks to be no end in sight yet. Within the Galactic Empire a young man by the name of Reinhardt von Musel has been promoted to the rank of Admiral, a move that many higher-ups believe only happened because his older sister is the wife of the Kaiser of the entire Empire, giving Reinhardt the nickname "The Admiral in the Skirt". Within the FPA there is a Commodore called Yang Wen-Li, the "Hero of El-Facil", who currently is the strategic adviser of a FPA admiral, though Wen-Li's unconventional strategies are usually ignored. After a battle in the gaseous planet of Legmiza resulted in the destruction of a FPA fleet at the hands of Reinhardt, save for the flagship that Wen-Li was on due to his realization of Reinhardt's plan, the FPA decides that Legmiza was a fluke Empire victory and still decides to attack Iserlohn Tower, one of the Empire's strongholds. This battle will be the first true war confrontation between Reinhardt & Wen-Li, a confrontation that is only the beginning of everything.

This movie's greatest quality is that, at only 60 minutes, it has a lot to take in and nothing really seems rushed. Though Reinhardt & Yang Wen-Li are the major focuses in the movie, there are also scenes involving other people who remain semi-relevant throughout the movie. For example, there are scenes involving Wolfgang Mittermeyer & Oskar von Ruenthal, two commanders under Reinhardt, where they talk about what they and the higher-ups think of Reinhardt, but in the end they admire their admiral. There are also a few scenes involving two grunts, a newbie & an experienced one, who operate a couple of the guns on one of Reinhardt's ships, and talk about how whether they live or die in battle comes down to two things: Luck & their admiral. It's these little scenes, which also involve what they all do during their one-day leave before the upcoming battle at Iserlohn, that really help flesh out the world of LOGH. They may not have as much importance as that of the main characters, but you get a basic feeling of understanding them and you feel like the upcoming battle isn't just between two smart people but rather involves regular people and you feel that their jobs can be just as important in battle, if needed. If there is one negative that I can bring up it's that the movie, much like the series in general, is very slow-paced. But that's simply the way this title works: You don't simply watch LOGH, you experience it

But what about the leads? Yang Wen-Li is an interesting character in that he is a strategic genius when it comes to battle, but he actually doesn't care for war in the slightest. When he studies videos of human history, he comments that war is such a big part of history that he might as well be studying war. He understands his place & really feels that he should just do a salary-worthy job, but when he sees that he might have a strategic equal in Reinhardt, Wen-Li suddenly feels a little more interested in actually putting himself into a war strategy. Wen-Li is obviously portrayed as the simple-but-lovable "good guy", but Reinhardt von Musel is in no way a "bad guy". Reinhardt's goal is to go up the ranks and become a grand leader, but at the same time he knows that the most important thing in reaching his goal is the men he has under him. He's mentioned as knowing the name of every one of his men, no matter how low the rank is, and when he talks of his men he really gives off a feeling of benevolence; you really believe that he does care for each of his men and that he cannot ever be a "bad guy". A great example would be during the battle at Iserlohn, where Reinhardt gives an order to fire at the enemy, but the commander of this ship tells Reinhardt to respect his position & that Reinhardt should focus on being the fleet commander; Reinhardt then apologizes for his outburst and for going over his ship commander's authority. But there's also a third main character, and that's Siegfreid Kircheis, Reinhardt's second-in-command & confidant. Kircheis & Reinhardt are usually of one mind when it comes to strategy & their men, but Kircheis never goes above Reinhardt; Kircheis' main goal is to help his friend attain his goal. It's easy to see why these main characters have become so well remembered & respected just by watching this movie.

Almost as important & memorable as LOGH's main characters is the music. LOGH doesn't really have a main music composer because the series is filled with classical music, and believe it or not it all fits in perfectly with the way the title works. Grand shots of gigantic ships being accompanied by classical music that you might not know by name but will easily recognize upon hearing is just one of the great things about LOGH, as it really adds to the epic feel that this war should be giving to the viewer. In fact, the entire battle of Iserlohn in the movie happens while the classical song "Bolero" by Maurice Ravel plays, and it fits in perfectly, even while laser cannons are firing and ships are blowing up. Having "Bolero" play keeps the battle feeling like a true strategically-paced battle and not just stuff blowing up simply for the sake of it.

This movie, like most of LOGH, was directed by the legendary Noburo Ishiguro, who directed titles like Space Battleship Yamato, the original Macross, Orguss, & Megazone 23 Part I, and it's very sad that he died this past March, since Ishiguro loved coming to North America and seeing how anime is appreciated over here. Ishiguro knew how to pace this series & he truly made LOGH an experience. This movie alone was written by four men, but with the names of Masao Maruyama (co-creator of Madhouse), Yoshiaki Kawajiri, Takeshi Sudo (writer of Nadesico & Baldios), & Yasuteru Iwase (producer of the Barefoot Gen movie & Cyber City Oedo 808), it's no surprise that this movie could handle so much of Yoshiki Tanaka's original novel in comparatively little time. The character designs were handled by Matsuri Okada (ShuratoCalifornia Crisis), but that doesn't mean that the likes of Wen-Li, Reinhardt, & Kircheis aren't memorable at all. Okada's style really gives the characters a European style to the Empire's soldiers, while the FPA soldiers tend to have a more multi-regional look them. Ishiguro's studio Artland did most of the LOGH work, but Madhouse did help out with this first production, and though there is a bit of aging here, the movie still looks great, with the battles themselves still looking just as grand as they likely looked back in 1988.

It's kind of impossible to really go into detail when it comes to the voice cast of LOGH, as so many known names have been involved with this series, but I'll cover a few for this movie. Yang Wen-Li is voiced by the late Kei Tomiyama (Tochiro in Arcadia of My Youth & Galaxy Express 999, Susumu Kodai in Yamato, & the original Duke Freed of Grendizer fame), and he does a great job in keeping Wen-Li aloof yet serious. Tomiyama unfortunately died in 1995, and he was replaced by Hozumi Gouda (Chirico in VOTOMS, Leorio in the original Hunter X Hunter anime), and hopefully Gouda did a great job with Wen-Li as well. Reinhardt is voiced by Vegeta himself, Ryo Horikawa, and does an excellent job in staying a calm, cool-minded leader. Kircheis is voiced by Masashi Hironaka, with this being his most-identifiable role, and he does a similarly great job as that of Horikawa, keeping calm, cool, & collective. Rounding out the rest of the main cast is the late Hirotaka Suzuoki, Norio Wakamoto (Ruenthal), Katsuji Mori (Mittermeyer), Kazuhiko Inoue, & Issei Futamata.

Legend of the Galactic Heroes: My Conquest is the Sea of Stars is the perfect intro into the series for newcomers, especially since it is the actual beginning of the story; the movie even ends not by saying "The End", but rather by saying "The Beginning" in German. This is only the start of the story that the 110-episode OVA series tells, but if one was to watch this movie and still wasn't sure if they feel up to watching the OVA series, there is a second LOGH movie... And, luckily, it tells an alternate version of the first two episodes.

1 comment:

  1. Hello!

    I've seen it just recently and I'm preparing for the OVA. Movie is quate the ride, I liked it alot. Great entry for the series and classical music adds another layer of enjoyment. The Bolero piece is magnificent, as if the sheer power of the piece puts you in the somewhat slow and beatiful dance of the thousand space ships. Also it contributes to the ironic everlasting battle, that is almost always destined to happen - that the one hour movie was implying.

    Smart dialoge, smart characters (well there was one stuped commodore, and his higher commanding officers), interesting story, kind of familiar and close to, in terms of social standings and state of affairs, but grand and on an epic scale.

    I love it, can't wait to start watching the OVA.

    Btw, do you have any idea, what the initial credits in german say? It seems I couldn't find any translations, and my knowledge of german stayed undeveloped/unpractised (7-8 years ago).