If you’ve been around long enough in the anime community, you’ve probably heard of the 1982 classic Legend of the Galactic Heroes and its reputation of being a masterpiece that precedes any anime. However, if you’re the new kid in town, you’re probably confused as to how such Shakespearan greatness has gone under your radar.
Fear not as I will detail out why you must watch what is considered to be one of the greatest anime out there.
With an expansive and captivating 110 episode long rich plot, Legend of the Galactic Heroes takes the viewers on a journey of what is considered to be the greatest narrative in anime history. This obviously means that the anime is known for its great in-depth approach to the characters, their development, and the timeline that the series unfolds itself.
The series starts in the year A.D. 3596/ I.C. 487 (Imperial Calendar) where we’re shown a glimpse into a distant future and the conflict between two galaxy superpowers, namely the Galactic Federation and the Free Planets Alliance.
Both the two space powers have been in a persisting conflict for over 150 years with the oppressive Galactic Federation having extremist policies and a dictatorial politician as their ruling emperor while the Free Planets Alliance was a democratic republic formed on the planet of Heinessen to battle the suppressive federation.
Additionally, the presence of a third neutral power called the Dominion of Phezzan which engages in trade activities with both the Federation and the Alliance complicates the tension between the two superpowers.
Over the course of the immersive narrative, both opposing parties witness several misfortunate incidents or conspiracies orchestrated by the Phezzan so that the scales may be tipped to favor them.
The series showcases the life of Reinhard von Lohengramm and his rise to power to free his younger sister Annerose who has been taken in as a concubine by Kaiser Friedrich IV, the kaiser of the Goldenbaum Dynasty.
Driven by the bitterness of the fate of his sister, he struggles to end the corrupt Goldenbaum dynasty and defeat the Alliance to unify the galaxy. The kaiser, however, was considered an indifferent leader when it came to the future of the Galactic Empire but he was aware of Reinhard’s hatred for him.
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On the other hand, Yang Wen-Li, an officer in the Free Planets Star Fleet was simultaneously outperforming his subordinates which advanced him to the top of his fleet. A genius prodigy, he was well known for his intelligence in military strategy and demonstrating herculean tasks of getting out of seemingly impossible situations.
This eventually led him and Reinhard to be arch-nemesis.
This intricate plot encapsulates some of the most iconic moments in anime history. Multiple other characters are brought to life apart from the main characters and each one is given a backstory that is interrelated to one another. The series goes on to explore the immaculate chronicle of the Galactic Empire and its interdependent characters.
Seasons and Episodes
Officially Legend of the Galactic Heroes has 110 episodes over 4 seasons which aired over the course of nine years from 1988 to 1997. The series was adapted from a novel series of the same name published by Tokuma Shoten and also ran for 4 volumes between September 1, 1984 – July 31, 1989.
Apart from the original running anime, the series had multiple other films, OVAs, and manga adaptations. The expansive universe had a total of 162 episodes including the prequels and OVAs and also 3 films.
Legend of the Galactic Heroes: My Conquest is the Sea of Stars was the first adaptation of the original novel series. This was followed up by the second adaption which was the tv series, Legend of the Galactic Heroes. The third and the fourth installment were Golden Wings and Overture to a New War, the prior being released in Japanese cinemas.
Legend of the Galactic Heroes Gaiden was then released as a prequel to the main series while The New Thesis premiered from April 3rd to June 26th, 2018, and ran for 12 episodes.
Legend of the Galactic Heroes – Main Characters
Reinhard von Lohengramm
One of the two main protagonists in the series along with Yang Wen-Li and the emperor of the New Galactic Empire. He usurped the ruling Goldenbaum Dynasty during the Alliance-Imperial War to cripple rising corruption and politics within the dynasty.
However, his main motivation to eradicate the rule of Kaiser Freidrich IV was when his sister was taken in as a concubine by the emperor. He was well known as a military strategist and quickly climbed the ranks at a very young age. By the age of 21, he was already admitted to admiralty and consequently seized the powers of the nobles during the Imperial Civil War.
The fall of the Empire and the nobles made him the highest in command in the Empire. From there on, they set on to change the entire political system of the Galactic Empire. He made multiple economic, social reforms and set many new policies while simultaneously abolishing the old oppressive system that existed under the previous dictator.
He died at the age of 25 due to a strange undefined disease that was named the ‘Emperor’s Sickness’ after doctors failed to diagnose his condition. He was considered to be the greatest Emperor in history.
Yang Wen Li was the second protagonist of the series. He was considered to be archrivals with Reinhard von Lohengramm due to their very similar roles in their respective empires. He was also known to be one of the greatest admirals and was quite often compared to his arch-nemesis when it came to imposing military strategies, economic policies and other tactics.
Despite being a genius prodigy, Yang was quite humble and only joined the Free Planets Defense Force Command Academy so that he could receive free education.
The leader of a democratic republic, he believed in the freedom of the people and was motivated to take down the Empire but that often meant that he wavered in moments of leadership to maintain the democracy of his people.
He was often spotted admiring and acknowledging Reinhard even though they were rivals from different nations. He respected him and complimented his decisions in different strategic situations. He bled to death en route on a cruiser which was boarded by the members of the Terraist Church who committed the assassination.
Hildegard von Mariendorf
She was the Chief Advisor of the New Galactic Fleet and was later crowned as Empress after she married Richard von Lohengramm. Hilda was the daughter of Franz von Mariendorf and belonged to a noble aristocratic family.
She was crucial in assisting Richard to usurp the Empire by gathering allies among the liberal numbers of the royalty. She was known as a refined young lady who was fascinated with imperial policies and tactics and was recognized for her unique and independent ideas.
After the death of Richard von Lohengramm, she became the ruler of the New Galactic Empire.
Siegfried Kircheis was the most trusted ally and companion of Richard von Lohengramm. He served as a top admiral in the Galactic Fleet and was mostly seen with Richard throughout the entire series. Kircheis served a very important role in the succession of Richard and even died protecting him.
The adopted ward of Yang Wen Li, the young teenager was often seen taking care of his guardian’s well-being and needs due to his unkempt manners and lifestyle. Later in the series, however, he gains relevance as he becomes the commander of the Iserlohn Republic’s military and displays his skilful tactics on the battlefield.
Why should you Watch Legend of the Galactic Heroes?
Legend of the Galactic Heroes might not be eye candy as compared to the modem animes released in today’s time. Many people take one look at the old and outdated animation and immediately turn away even though they see it on every single Greatest Animes of All Time list.
Moreover, the slow pacing, length, and direction make it unappealing for several people. However, what lies under the 1980 hidden gem is truly mesmerizing when you witness it unfolding right in front of your eyes.
What anime fans fail to realize is that the series encapsulates a narrative line so rich that many people consider it to be life-changing. As Gigguk (a popular anituber) puts it, “Anime won’t be the same once you have watched Legend of the Galactic Heroes”.
The expansive storyline that seduces the viewer as it slowly unfolds every single episode, has been up for much debate as to the best classic show. More often than not, the series feels more so like the novel coming to life with the old animation. I would definitely recommend this to all avid fans who want to experience the feels of an old classic narrated in its most raw form.
Legend of the Galactic Heroes New Season
An official remake of the series was under production in 2017 and was released on April 3rd, 2018 under the title Legend of the Galactic Heroes: The New Thesis. The production was done under Production I.G with Shinsuke Tada as the director and Noboru Takagi as the script supervisor.
Oko Kikuchi, Iwao Teraoka, and Katsura Tsushima were in charge of the character designs. The series ran for 12 episodes followed by season 2 Legend of the Galactic Heroes: The New Thesis Stellar War which premiered in Japanese theatres as three films of four episodes each.
Even though the remake has been out for a while, a lot of people still recommend watching the original series. However, a 24 episode sequel to the series has been announced.
When it comes to similar anime, few can match the comprehensive storyline of Legend of the Galactic Heroes. Here are some other anime series that I believe to have an extensive narrative and are considered by many to be classics:
- Akira (1988 Film)
- Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion
- Neon Genesis Evangelion
- Cowboy Bebop