After so long spent following the preparation and pulling off of that scheme to kidnap the Emperor out of the Empire, it only makes sense to follow things back over to the Alliance and see how that news shakes out after it goes public there. Legend of the Galactic Heroes seemingly knows we missed him and the others at the Alliance, and allows us to simply catch up with how things have been since we last saw them. Yang shows Julian a funny little historical essay he’s drafting. He goes to a Space Denny’s and gossips over Schönkopf and Poplin’s intersecting dating lives. He reflects on Julian’s rising reputation in the Alliance military, as his adopted son grows into his own potential in the organization. All this, which includes also checking in with Julian and some other characters, is nice at this stage, especially thinking about how far Die Neue These has come since its very first episodes where it was pointedly cutting a lot of this seemingly less pertinent, daily routine stuff. But we need that to set the tonal stage here, to capture that vibe of going about our lives before a bombshell news report drops and suddenly those daily lives are upended.
The tenor of Job Trunicht going on television and announcing to the galaxy, with everyone including the Alliance military hearing it for the first time, that he has had his government welcome the kidnapped-into-exile Emperor, sets the stage for the news-induced disarray our Heroes have to deal with. Can you imagine what the Twitter feed must look like in the wake of this announcement? What’s interesting about the framing on this end is that, apart from the initial shock factor, all the folks we follow in the Alliance military don’t seem to need all that much of a hand-holding walkthrough of the implications of the situation. Even a drunk Poplin is demonstrably able to predict what Reinhard’s next move in this climate is going to be. It’s an aside that speaks to the broader point of the Alliance characters now: Pretty much everyone at Yang’s table can see what is being done, for what political capital, but they can’t directly call it out as such, still needing to navigate the situation according to the ‘rules’ being entertained by their higher leadership.
This foments a couple of the big ideological conversations that make LOGH the show it is. One culmination is Yang and Schönkopf discussing that aforementioned political paradox: freedom of speech versus freedom of thought. The point in this case is less about potential state retaliation for contentious conversation, and instead about the overall consequences to society and institutions. Speaking truth to power regarding the obvious political pawn status of the little Emperor would be the ‘free’ thing to do, but would it in this moment only undermine the ‘freedom’ of the united Alliance for now? It marks Trunicht’s surprise announcement as something of an ideological out-flanking, coercing Yang and the military into having to go along with it, because they recognize that dissenting would only lead to more of that fracturing which Reinhard is counting on to fuel his own growing influence.
This speaks to another broad concept explored in this episode, as we come back to one of Yoshiki Tanaka‘s favorite subjects: The sharp, sensible people of the military dealing with the impulses of clueless politicians. Not only is it both historically and narratively fitting, from the point of the crumbling late-stage democracy that the Alliance is supposed to represent in-story, but I also think it comes off less over-reverential than this idea has previously in LOGH. It works a little better here in the way the idea is spotlighted, the argument being one that Schneider is espousing to Merkatz in-narrative. And within this narrative, we, like everyone else on the Alliance side, know the point is true. That point, in this instance, is not that the government leadership should have stepped aside and let Yang and the military make all the decisions; rather, they’re showing that said government making decisions that so drastically affect the positions of people like Yang and Merkatz without so much as letting them know beforehand speaks to how disinterested that leadership is in actually leading at this critical juncture.
The humanizing touches for the group we’re designed to sympathize with persist across all this, even past that introductory daily-life follow-along. Schönkopf’s ruminations on the freedoms of the Alliance prompts a little flashback to his childhood arrival into that interplanetary nation, and how he was immediately aware of how he was seen as an immigrant, a defector. What does a ‘free’ country gleefully welcoming a symbolic dictator mean for someone like him, who already lost a homeland once before? Even if you don’t agree that they’re as unilaterally correct in all terms of leadership as the writing might make them out to be, the collective found camaraderie of Yang’s military crew at least makes them come across as more cohesive than the higher-ups that disregard them to dump the effects of their impulses.
There’s a wonderful moment in this episode where Julian shoots Yang a glare before the latter looks to pour himself a drink at this pertinent morning meeting, only for him to do it anyway and just pass the booze around to everyone else. They could definitely use it at this turning point, and it also nearly comes off like a parallel version of those toasts Reinhard is always rallying his own men with. It won’t fly in official capacity, but here at least, these commanders can be open and direct in discussing the implications of all the higher political decisions being made without them. If I continuously underrate Tanaka’s writing of military personnel as the arbiters of correct strategization, I also routinely round back to appreciating his writing of all of them as people at the same time.
After the necessarily more stringent sequences over several episodes of the Empire side of things putting in paperwork and seeding future negotiations, it’s an enjoyable contrast to come back around to the Alliance side and see them treat this climactic kick-off more as the start to a particularly exhausting work week. Reinhard was speaking in far-flung portents in front of thunderstorm-shook windows about the future of his ambitions, but over here we just get Schönkopf letting Yang know he thinks this new declaration of war is ‘a pain in the ass’. It’s those kinds of contrasting aspects I still enjoy so much about Legend of the Galactic Heroes
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Chris is a freewheeling Fresno-based freelancer with a love for anime and a shelf full of too many Transformers. He can be found spending way too much time on his Twitter, and irregularly updating his blog.