37 CommentsAttack of the Backlog / By Shinmaru /

Attack of the Backlog – Legend of the Galactic Heroes

legend-of-the-galactic-heroes-data-disks

Legend of the Galactic Heroes: a story of a faraway future where people still use floppy disks.

After finishing my journey through the JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure manga, I knew another foolhardy adventure would be on the horizon. Why not conquer the insurmountable and hack away at my backlog? Our metaphorical backlogs are endless, but here I speak of the shows on my hard drive and that I own on DVD/Blu-ray that I’ve had around for years and haven’t yet watched. Why haven’t I watched them? Because I’m a terrible fan. It’s basically the Steam problem: so much easy access to so many things that you grab a ton and then have so much on your hands that you don’t know where to start and become paralyzed. (I’m using the royal “you” here. There’s a decent chance, reader, that you are a more discerning, less idiotic viewer than me.) This year I have vowed to chip away at my backlog as much as possible.

I have 12 series on my computer and another four or five on disc. That doesn’t sound like much, but a couple of those are 70+ episodes, a couple of others are near 50 and another is near 40. You never know how long it will take to watch something either. Some shows are more easily burnt through than others by various people. It took me about as long to watch Turn A Gundam (which is 50 episodes) as it did the series I’m writing about first, Legend of the Galactic Heroes (which is 110 episodes).

Yes, when I decided to go at this project full force, I began with by far the longest series in my backlog. Nobody ever said I was going to do this the smart way.

logh-reinhard

For those who may not know the series: Two major forces, the Galactic Empire and the Free Planets Alliance, have been locked in war for centuries. Two figures stand out in this period of history: Yang Wen-li, who fights for the Alliance, and Reinhard von Lohengramm, who fights for the Empire. Both are rising stars in their respective militaries, fighting for vastly different reasons. The two and many others in the Alliance and Empire clash directly and indirectly as the two powers battle to wrest control of the universe from the other.

What struck me frequently while watching Legend of the Galactic Heroes is how thoroughly watchable it is. I mean this as a sincere compliment. LoGH has a particular reputation. When people speak or write about it, they rightfully mention its thoughtfulness regarding politics, philosophy and ethics, or its military conflicts, or the social games involved with gaining and maintaining power and keeping the subjects happy. There’s a lot to chew on, think about and enjoy in this series. It can be dense. I never doubted LoGH would be a good series; however, I wondered whether that density would lead to me taking forever to watch the series because I couldn’t view more than an episode or two in a sitting. But LoGH is hardly a series of lectures with characters talking above the viewers and making them feel stupid. It’s not just that the show tackles interesting subjects, but that it also constantly gives viewers reason to care about those subjects. The ideas are couched in the conflicts that drive the universe. The philosophizing feels personal because LoGH is very good at showing how these ideas inform the identities of the various characters and what drives them.

A quick example: Yang is a crazy good general. In the face of insurmountable odds, he always seems to come out on top by thinking through each battle situation and exploiting whatever he can. He’s promoted often, and eventually, his comrades ask Yang why he doesn’t seek more power in the Alliance. People generally love working under him, and he has his own sort of weird, awkward charisma and charm. Even if the politicians were to grumble, the people would probably accept Yang as their leader without much trouble. So why not? But Yang continually refuses. He believes in the ideal of democracy, even when said democracy is run by corrupt elected officials, and the idea of a military man interfering with the inner workings of democracy rankles him. Everyone knows of the past when military leader Rudolf von Goldenbaum formed the Galactic Empire, but as a student of history, Yang is more aware than most of what unfolded from that. Those are events he doesn’t wish to repeat.

In these conversations you get thoughtfulness about the world the characters inhabit, a sense of what drives them and what their ideals are, and how they think is the best way to conduct themselves according to those ideals. The ideas aren’t theoretical thoughts on a page; rather, they’re given humanity by how the characters play things out. Much of the drama forms organically from the various perspectives of each character. That’s what makes it work so well and keeps things moving. I see a 110-episode series and wonder, “Well, how the hell are they going to keep this engaging for so long??” Then I started watching and realized, “Oh yeah, this show has an interesting, varied cast with a wide range of philosophies and goals. They could keep this going forever!” For me, the pace never drags. It can be slow as far as advancing the plot, but there’s always something interesting going on. Even in those episodes where the plot doesn’t advance all that much, new details color the world, characters and their relationships in fascinating ways. How and why things happen are just as important and interesting (if not more so) than what happens.

logh-everyone-is-salutingAbove all, though, what really makes LoGH super watchable despite having a massive cast — many with ornate names — and an expansive plot is that it moves at just the right pace for the viewer to retain what’s needed for when it’s important later. Anyone who reads my Hunter x Hunter posts knows that I forget basic shit ALL THE TIME. Even when I have literally just watched an episode, I will forget something. I am an idiot. The first time I tried watching LoGH was about three years ago. I got to episode 20 and then halted for reasons that are still unclear. When I picked it up again, I decided to rewatch those episodes rather than read summaries since I thought it would be more beneficial to do that.

I was shocked by how much I retained. “Oh yeah, this is how that battle unfolds!” “Yep, this is when Mittermeyer and Reuental get their space axes and chop people up.” (Yes, there are space axes. They are responsible for many of LoGH‘s grislier moments.) “Oh yeah, this is when that weirdo military guy goes fuckin’ craaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaazy.” And so on. There are little things here and there I forgot, of course, but many events stuck with me. This is in the portion of the series before people generally agree that it gets really good, by the way. What happens throughout is generally memorable, and episodes rarely feature more or less than what’s needed to set up or pay off whatever the dominating plotlines of each arc are. What you see feels important and unfolds at a pace that feels right for a series with this much in it.

LoGH is one of those shows that earns its narrator, as well. He’ll occasionally be a spoilery asshole (though a lot of that is negated if you skip the episode previews like I did), and his foreshadowing is so heavy-handed that it’s probably inaccurate to call it “foreshadowing,” but I really dig the straight-laced presentation that acts as if the series is the universe’s most expansive documentary. It’s a good way to make sure viewers are always aware of the context of events without treating them like children. Most of the time, anyway.

I wouldn’t say LoGH is “easy” to watch, but it’s definitely a hell of a lot more viewer-friendly than I gave it credit for. It seems intimidating from a distance, for sure. I took a long time getting back to LoGH precisely because of that! But the series hooked me in a hurry and always felt inviting. (You know, for being a story about a violent, stupid war.) A good place to start is the LoGH movie, Overture to a New War, which is an expanded version of the show’s first two episodes. It gives more context to what happens in those episodes and is more immediately interesting. If that’s to your taste, then you’ll probably love the rest of the series!

logh-gun-axe

Anyway, have a gun-axe. It’s a gun and an axe!

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37 Comments

  1. Rangi
    Posted March 15, 2014 at 5:01 pm | Permalink

    So if you’re shooting with the gun-axe, its blade is pointed right at your head. Great design.

    • Mr. Anon
      Posted March 15, 2014 at 5:31 pm | Permalink

      I don’t know why it even has a shoulder stock if all you could do with it is cut yourself in the eye.

    • Shinmaru
      Posted March 15, 2014 at 9:26 pm | Permalink

      As much as I enjoyed Legend of the Galactic Heroes, there is a lot of silly/campy stuff in it. That’s fine by me, though. A bit of levity is welcome.

      Also, it would be hilarious if someone shot that gun and accidentally decapitated themselves.

      • Langer
        Posted March 15, 2014 at 10:55 pm | Permalink

        Prime example of silly: http://i.imgur.com/CsVN2.png

        As for the camp bit, well…http://i.imgur.com/66GgQ.jpg

      • Shinmaru
        Posted March 16, 2014 at 3:51 pm | Permalink

        Haha, some stuff in there I don’t recognize. Must be from the sidestory OVAs, yeah? I’ll get to those eventually!

      • Langer
        Posted March 17, 2014 at 2:01 am | Permalink

        They’re all from the series as far as I know, never got around to watching the OVAs myself either, though in fairness, a good few are out-of-context trickery (the best kind).

        The Dusty one just came out of nowhere as a 3 second clip over the standard narration. I remember spilling coffee on myself because it completely caught me off guard.

      • Shinmaru
        Posted March 18, 2014 at 9:12 pm | Permalink

        I don’t recognize the two on the bottom right, but maybe I forgot them!

  2. Nagisa33
    Posted March 15, 2014 at 5:03 pm | Permalink

    I haven’t started this series yet because I got the message that it’s a hard pill to swallow with its complexity and length. This post washes away that overbearing feeling and now I’m not intimidated. Thank you.

    Chipping away at your ever-growing backlog feels good. I watched a bunch of older series recently and one I just finished was Ergo Proxy. Luckily, all the series that I picked have been intriguing and entertaining. None have been a let down.

    • Shinmaru
      Posted March 15, 2014 at 9:28 pm | Permalink

      It’s definitely complex and obviously long, but LoGH does as much as possible to give people something to latch onto. Once the train gets rolling, I found it really easy to burn through episodes despite the heaviness of the themes and content!

  3. Hanasra
    Posted March 15, 2014 at 5:07 pm | Permalink

    So visiting The Cart Driver now will remind of my backlog? What have you done Shinmaru D:
    This remind to started watching LoGH too

    • Shinmaru
      Posted March 15, 2014 at 9:29 pm | Permalink

      The Backlog is ever-present, always waiting to strike from the shadows.

      • Hanasra
        Posted March 16, 2014 at 2:29 am | Permalink

        And not matter what you trying to do, it always grow with each passing time, even when take no heed of Steam Sales. Backlog, the bane of our time.

  4. Mr. Anon
    Posted March 15, 2014 at 5:33 pm | Permalink

    I’m actually surprised you were able to stop watching LOGH after you already got through 20 episodes. I watched a handful at first, was like … eh okay, then watched to episode 14 or so and then was hooked. I basically marathoned the rest over 2 days.

    • Shinmaru
      Posted March 15, 2014 at 9:30 pm | Permalink

      Haha, as I wrote, I’m not sure why I stopped. Maybe I still had that pressure in me. Who knows? But yeah, once it gets going, it’s really addicting. I watched it like I would watch, say, Code Geass, which is really weird to think about.

      • Posted March 17, 2014 at 3:37 pm | Permalink

        Well, Code Geass is basically LOGH squeezed through an exec meeting.

        Personally I find LOGH really good and one of the most complete universes ever animated, but still not worthy of a 10 for the same reason. Sometimes the depth and richness makes everything sluggish.

  5. bokusen
    Posted March 15, 2014 at 6:02 pm | Permalink

    I admit going through the first 20 or so episodes was kind of a slog, but I got hooked somewhere in the late 20s and started really enjoying this series! It’s a breath of fresh air from the usual anime series I see around. I can’t think of another series which got this political, and yet remained accessible.

    I got recommended this series after I asked a friend if they knew any series as philosophical as Kino no Tabi, a series really about the “flaws of mankind” in a way, like that series. And I have to say, the recommendation was spot on. I’m only at episode 32, because I like to savor the series, but watching the ideas it throws around and plays with has been a real treat so far.

    • Shinmaru
      Posted March 15, 2014 at 9:33 pm | Permalink

      Usually when shows get political it’s in the guise of metaphor. I’d imagine a lot of people aren’t too interested in the drudgery and reality of the political process, even when it’s corrupt as shit. It can be interesting, though!

  6. Nazaren
    Posted March 15, 2014 at 6:40 pm | Permalink

    Looks like I’m making another attempt at re-watching this. Your post brought back so many good feels! But, as you pointed out, the amount and detail of information that gets retained concerning this show is higher than most… and that makes it difficult.

    Hopefully, once I make it to 20 or 30, it’ll sweep me off my feet, as it did before. And marathoning works surprisingly well for this show. I remember watching 8-12 (…or 16) a night once it really hooked it me.

    • Shinmaru
      Posted March 15, 2014 at 9:35 pm | Permalink

      I rarely marathon things these days since I don’t have as much time on my hands, and I have more interests, but I banged out 8-10 episodes of this a couple of times. That’s really good for me! I think I got through the first 20 episodes in less than a week. Can’t remember the last time I watched that much.

  7. Scamp
    Posted March 15, 2014 at 9:18 pm | Permalink

    Why yes I would like to marry Yang.

    Also on the subject of tags, the lack of black people is rather bizarre. That infamous scene where Yang sees the one black dude and is all “what is THAT?”. Still unsure whether it was subs error or not but it sure made Yang look like a racist idiot.

    On that note, maybe I won’t marry Yang.

    • Shinmaru
      Posted March 15, 2014 at 9:36 pm | Permalink

      At least the two black guys survive a good, long time.

    • Mr. Anon
      Posted March 15, 2014 at 11:23 pm | Permalink

      The subs weren’t in error there, and neither was Yang being racist, he just has a weird way of phrasing things. “What is that?” should be interpreted as “What is going on here?”, since Louis (I think his name was) didn’t get permission to be on Yang’s ship as far as I recall.

    • Fellow
      Posted March 16, 2014 at 1:20 am | Permalink

      If I remember right, he was saying “what is that?” in regards to Mashengo because he wasn’t even assigned to his ship but was on board anyways. Hilariously racist out of context though. Also, if I remember right, wasn’t there a black admiral or two in the FPA?

      • Shinmaru
        Posted March 16, 2014 at 3:52 pm | Permalink

        Yep, Yang’s superior at the beginning of the series is black. He retires after a few episodes and doesn’t show up much at all until the final arc.

  8. Aethelwulf
    Posted March 16, 2014 at 1:15 am | Permalink

    You were right about it being a very accessible show. I started watching LoGH with my anime club in college, and they were on episode 25 when I joined. Despite the fact I’d never heard of the series before, I was able to pick up on what was happening very quickly and enjoy the hell out of it.

    That club was also responsible for one of my favorite anime-community moments ever. During the final meeting before we broke for summer vacation, the preview (we were in the mid 50s) revealed that Yang and Reinhard would finally meet in the next episode. The entire club collectively released this agonized, pained groan. XD

    • Shinmaru
      Posted March 16, 2014 at 3:53 pm | Permalink

      Oh god, that episode was your first? Yikes! That episode made me pretty sad.

  9. ANON
    Posted March 16, 2014 at 10:14 am | Permalink

    I had the first episode of this one years ago, back when scamp also wrote about it I think. I watched it, and then forgot all about it.

    There might come a time when I’ll finally be able to watch this series, but it is not this day.

    • Shinmaru
      Posted March 16, 2014 at 3:56 pm | Permalink

      Watch it whenever you think you’re ready! Much as I enjoy it when people watch shows I like, it’s always best to watch something when you actually want to watch it.

  10. Turn A Gundam
    Posted March 16, 2014 at 10:32 pm | Permalink

    I am the STRONGEST gundam.

    Two words: Moonlight Butterfly.

    • Shinmaru
      Posted March 18, 2014 at 9:13 pm | Permalink

      You’re a good Gundam. Your mustache is a superior mustache.

  11. Posted March 17, 2014 at 12:21 am | Permalink

    Top pic: “Here’s my porn. It’s vintage.”

    • Shinmaru
      Posted March 18, 2014 at 9:14 pm | Permalink

      So vintage it’s all in ASCII art.

  12. Popka
    Posted March 17, 2014 at 9:24 pm | Permalink

    The first thing that really caught my attention in Legend of the Galactic Heroes was the tank bed, the bed where you can sleep one hour and it’s equivalent to eight hours.

    My god, how I need one of those.

    • Shinmaru
      Posted March 18, 2014 at 9:15 pm | Permalink

      That would be very convenient, and also, I would still find some way to complain that there isn’t enough time in the day.

  13. Billish
    Posted March 18, 2014 at 6:59 pm | Permalink

    I tried watching too many episodes over a short period of time and got stuck by episode 80 something. Kinda screwed myself, I enjoyed the hell out of it but was bored by all that time spent with a story.

    • Shinmaru
      Posted March 18, 2014 at 9:16 pm | Permalink

      If I ever feel like I’m at that point, I just slow down and take a break. I went a day or two without watching any episodes fairly often. But episode length doesn’t bother me too much. There are any number of ways to keep a story interesting, and I don’t think LoGH ever bored me for any unreasonable stretch of time.

  14. Posted March 19, 2014 at 10:22 pm | Permalink

    BUT WHAT ABOUT THE DUELING DEATH STARS?!

    An unappreciated strength of LoGH isn’t just its deep, high-minded exploration of politics, philosophy, human society, etc. but that it makes the subject easily comprehensible and even practical. It teaches by employing both theory and object lesson. And in the end, the story makes you feel really smart and deserving of reaching this grand thesis the show has built up.

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