My anime binge continues. I just recently finished the second season of Legend of the Galactic Heroes: Die Neue These. The second part of the title means “The New Thesis”. This series is a remake of an older anime series which itself was an adaptation of a series of novels and short stories by Yoshiki Tanaka.
The setting is the far future. Humanity has become divided into three interstellar societies. One is the Galactic Empire, a 500 year old aristocratic institution that considers itself the only legitimate government of humanity. The society resembles 19th century Germany. In fact, the names of characters and institutions appear to be German.
The second is the Free Planets Alliance, a society formed from a rebellion in the empire whose members migrated out and established their own government. This is a representative democracy. It resembles our modern day society, including many its problems: corruption, blinkered politicians, and a military which isn’t always competent.
There is a third power, the Phezzan Dominion, a merchant society that trades with both the Empire and the Alliance, as well as manipulating the politics in both to preserve the war for their own profit. Some members of that society also appear to be associated with a religious movement to return humanity back to Earth. This last faction plays a relatively minor role in the first two seasons, but that role appears to be expanding.
The story focuses around two military geniuses, one in the Empire and the other in the Alliance. Reinhard von Lohengramm is a noble in the empire who, in the beginning, is a rising star in the imperial fleet. In the opening episodes, we see his capabilities as he devastates an Alliance fleet in battle. Lohengramm sees the corruption in the empire and dreams of replacing it with something better, with himself on top.
The other is Yang Wen Li, an officer in the Alliance fleet. In the initial battle, he’s a Commodore that urges the Alliance leadership to use different tactics, but is ignored. When in the course of battle, that leadership is killed or injured, Li finds himself in charge. He then proceeds to use brilliant tactics to save a substantial portion of the Alliance fleet, frustrating Lohengramm from having a complete victory.
Li is an accidental military commander, who joined the military academy primarily to fund his education in history. His greatest desire is to leave the military and become a historian, but events increasingly make that impossible as he finds his career skyrocketing in spite of himself. Much of Li’s brilliance, by his own admission, is simply learning the lessons of history and using them against his enemies.
The story chronicles the careers of these two men and their associates, as well as the political and military course of the war. This is science fiction, but the science doesn’t play a significant role (at least so far). Instead, it’s a philosophical exploration of war, politics, psychology, and history played out in an interstellar space opera setting.
There is a large cast of memorable characters, giving it a feel similar to George R. R. Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire series, including watching a great many of those characters come to a violent end, although the overall outlook doesn’t seem nearly as grim as Game of Thrones.
One theme that seems to run through the series, whether intended or not, is the importance of emotional intelligence. Time and time again we see characters who can’t control their emotions, who engage in wishful thinking, only to be broadsided by reality, often with catastrophic consequences. As noted above, both Lohengramm and Li are military geniuses, but a large part of their genius appears to involve simply being far less vulnerable to those delusions.
Of the two, Li seems much more sympathetic. In the fight between them, I’ll be rooting for him. But in Lohengramm’s other battles with nobles in the empire, it feels natural to cheer for him. Some of this is because the show gives us enough of his background (with the customary anime childhood flashbacks) to develop sympathy for him. And some of it is because even though he appears to be pretty ruthless, he’s better than his enemies.
So, this is a series with a surprising amount of depth. As I noted above, it’s a remake of an earlier series. There is reportedly a third season on the way. I’m not sure if I’ll be able to wait that long. I might have to dig up the original series, or read the novels on which it’s all based.