By Yoshiki Tanaka. Released in Japan as “Ginga Eiyū Densetsu” by Tokuma Shoten. Released in North America by Haikasoru. Translated by Matt Treyvaud.
And so the Legend of the Galactic Heroes comes to a close. (There are five volumes of short story collections also out in Japan, but they don’t seem essential to the narrative.) The story ends because the two sides finally come together and try to negotiate a compromise between Empire and Federation – Parliamentary Democracy, which is presented as the best of both worlds, mostly. But you could also argue that the series is ending as the author is running out of characters to kill off. This is a doom-laden book, with a bunch of the main cast given their final moments. Some go out fighting, like von Schönkopf and Merkatz, nobly in battle. Some die like villains, taking out swathes of others as they succumb to a brain tumor (Rubinsky). Some appear to die almost because the author forgot to kill them off and they were running out of pages, like von Oberstein. Hell, even von Oberstein’s DOG, the one thing that made him vaguely human, is dying. And then there is Reinhard.
I’m not really spoiling anything by talking about these deaths, as the book is still written like a history textbook from the future, so frequently talks about “this was the last time he would visit this planet”, etc. That said, you’d have to be reading the series with very narrow vision not to realize that Reinhard wasn’t going to make it to the end of it. Honestly, he hasn’t been the same since the death of Yang Wen-Li, and he knows it. What’s more, it may be his fatal flaw that finally kills him off. No, not the disease that he’s had for ages that finally gets a name but might as well be “Love Story disease”. Instead it’s his leaping off to battle against Julian’s forces one last time, despite knowing that he’s running a fever and choosing to hide it from everyone. The end of the war means peace, which means no more battles, which means that Reinhard is pretty much going to be out of his depth – something he admits at his deathbed, as he notes Hilda will be a much better leader as she’s the politician.
There are several cool space battles, including one where Julian and company essentially storm Reinhard’s ship as if it were a boat to try to get to him and negotiate, and another where we see Annerose, Reinhard’s sister, protect Hilda from terrorists (don’t worry, she doesn’t die). But for the most part the best moments are the speeches and dialogues, as with most of this series. A lot of the book discusses von Oberstein, whose methods continue to sacrifice the few to save the many, but in the worst, least honorable way possible, to the point where other Admirals try to punch him. He’s an unpleasant person but a great character, and I wish his death had more impact – perhaps the anime improves on this. Oh yes, and Julian and Katerose hook up, though her lack of presence in the final big scenes reminds me that LOGH tries to give us some good female representation but struggles at it.
I’m very happy that we were able to get the entire series out here in North America. It’s a classic, though admittedly more known here for the epic 80s anime, and worth reading to see how authors who aren’t Leiji Matsumoto handle a Wagnerian space opera sort of story, albeit one with a dry historical filter. A noble finale.