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Friday, May 25, 2012

Legend of the Galactic Heroes: Overture to a New War: War Sucks, But This Movie is Amazing

So let's say you watched the first Legend of the Galactic Heroes movie & your interest is piqued, but you aren't sure if you still want to get into the actual 110-episode OVA series. Well, in December of 1993, five years after the OVA series debuted and during the break between Seasons 2 & 3, LOGH returned to theaters with Die Ouvertüre eines neuen Krieges/Aratanaru Tatakai no Overture/Overture to a New War, a 90-minute retelling of the first two episodes of LOGH. Most LOGH fans who have watched this movie consider it the definitive version of this part of the story, and after watching it I really can't argue that.

The Free Planets Alliance's attempt at taking Iserlohn Fortress from the Galactic Empire ended in a stalemate, and soldiers from both sides return to their homes for a needed rest. Yang Wen-Li and his friend Dusty Attenborough arrive and meet back up with Jean Robert Lap, Yang's old friend, who asks Yang for permission to marry Jessica Edwards, who had been a friend to both of them, and though Yang (& Jessica) looks hesitant at first, he gives Lap permission. Meanwhile, Reinhard von Musel (soon to be promoted to Count Reinhard von Lohengramm) & Seigfried Kircheis head to the mansion where Reinhard's older sister Annerose lives and pay her a visit. The rest only lasts so long, though, as some of the Empire's higher-ups still doubt Reinhard's abilities and have him attempt to take over a part of FPA territory, but this time without his proven officers Mittermeyer & Ruenthal; in their place will be potentially untrustworthy officers that could mess with Reinhard's strategy. The higher-ups also allow this attack to be made known to the FPA, and with Paeta, Yang's commander, wanting to prove his worth after the failed Iserlohn attack, Yang, Attenborough, & Lap become involved as well. After a small confrontation at Iserlohn, this will be the first real battle between Yang & Reinhard.

Much of what made the first movie so excellent applies to this movie as well, but with the added benefit of extra time due to this movie being 30 minutes longer than the first. Though Yang & Reinhard are still the focus, there is one more story being told: The triangle of Yang, Lap, & Jessica. Though it's never explicitly stated, it's obvious that there is love between Yang & Jessica, though Jessica also loves Lap, and the movie does a great job in, solely through facial expressions & purposefully-vague conversation, expressing that Yang knows that Jessica might love him more than Lap, but he also knows Jessica would have a happier & less strenuous life with Lap. It's obvious that Yang gives up on Jessica with a heavy heart, but he never lets it affect his ability to do his job. Focusing solely on the main characters, this movie also introduces Julian, a war orphan that Yang takes in, who brings up his goal of becoming a soldier in two years, when he becomes old enough, & Yang shows signs of being a father figure by initially being against Julian's goal. Over on Reinhard's side, it's revealed that Reinhard wants more power so that he can "free" his sister, who he feels is presently trapped like a bird in a cage. There are also signs that Kircheis has feelings for Annerose, which he does not tell Reinhard, indicating that as much as Reinhard is using Kircheis for his own goals, the same might just be true the other way around.

The biggest reason why this movie is considered the definitive take on this start of the story is because of all of the non-war character development. From what I do remember watching the first five episodes of the OVA series a few years back, the first two episodes focused on the battle, with the segments about Lap & Annerose being told through flashbacks mostly. But even taken together, the first two episodes only amount to roughly 45 minutes, and with the movie being twice that length there's no doubt that the movie tells a much more engaging story. The only negative I can bring up is that the movie has almost no epilogue, since the aftermath of the battle itself happens in Episode 3, but one can argue that the OVA series itself is the epilogue, plus so much more. Of course, one can bring up the slow pace once again, but my stance that LOGH is experienced, not simply watched, still stands. This stance is strengthened all the more in the last portion of the movie, where you go from outright sad & angered over a specific moment during the battle (fans will likely know which moment I'm talking about) to getting intrigued & ready to cheer when you see exactly how Yang puts an end to the battle.

I mentioned in the last review that Noboru Ishiguro directed most of LOGH, and this movie is one of the productions that he didn't direct, though he did work as an assistant director for it. Instead, the duo of Keizo Shimizu (Cobra the AnimationShinsaku Sanada Jyuyuushi) & Kenichi Maeda (this being his biggest work) directed this movie, but Ishiguro's assistance likely was a big help. All the major story lines are given excellent focus and just like the previous movie nothing seems rushed or dragged out. You really start to feel for these characters and this movie's ability to bring out the right emotion from the viewer is just amazing. The animation is also really great, holding up very well nearly 20 years later. The first movie had a slightly older look to it, but this movie removes some of that while keeping a lot of the same style intact. Yuji Ikeda takes the character design & animation direction reigns for this movie, much like he does for the main OVA series itself, and the characters look similar enough to Matsuri Okada's designs from the first movie to be readily identifiable, but at the same time Ikeda's designs work great as well. Again, when music is used in this movie it's all classical works, and just like the first movie it all fits excellently, though there is no one song used throughout the entire battle, like how "Bolero" played in the first movie.

Since I covered the major players' voices in the first movie, here I'll cover the new characters and secondary players. Attenborough is voiced by Kazuhiko Inoue and does a great job keeping the character sound casual-yet-smart, like Yang is. Lap is voiced by Hideyuki Tanaka (Terryman in Kinnikuman, Jin Uzuki in Xenosaga, Leo Aioria in Saint Seiya), and likewise makes the character sound knowledgeable but also slightly aloof when necessary. Jessica is voiced by Mami Koyama (Shaina in Saint Seiya, Lunch in Dragon Ball) and, though I heavily can identify her performance as Shaina, Koyama actually doesn't sound similar to that performance, and I do hope to hear how she keeps up the performance in the main series. Annerose is voiced by Keiko Han (Saori/Athena in Saint Seiya, Luna in Sailor Moon), who does a great job making the character sound content while also knowing that she could have a better life if she knew her little brother wasn't always aiming for something higher. Finally, Sho Hayami voices Fahrenheit, one of the officers that Reinhard is given for the battle, and I only bring him up because out of these given officers, Fahrenheit actually likes Reinhard's strategy and I do hope that he becomes more important as the story goes on.

Legend of the Galactic Heroes: Overture to a New War is another excellent LOGH movie, easily better than the first, in fact. The stories are more focused, the characters get even more development, and the major battle is even more intriguing and emotionally-packed for the viewer. I will agree with the consensus I could find that you can easily watch this movie and then start watching the main OVA series with Episode 3, unless you really are that much of a completionist and just have to watch everything from Episode 1. Admittedly, that still leaves 108 episodes to watch, and even I don't know when I'll be jumping back into the world of LOGH, but at least these movies have re-ignited my interest in this amazing series. But this is not the end of LOGH on this blog, as there is one more stand-alone production that I can review... And, apparently, this third stand-alone proves that not everything Legend of the Galactic Heroes is "gold".

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