One of the biggest events to hit 2018 is the anime remake of the legendary story titled Legend of the Galactic Heroes (LOGH). Written by author Yoshiki Tanaka, LOGH is a novel series that took five full years to complete. It inspired a critically acclaimed OVA series in 1988, a manga, multiple video game adaptations, and even a musical. Almost thirty-one years later, LOGH continues to resonate with both anime fans and international readers. So beloved is the series that the announcement of the 2018 remake brought in not only anticipated excitement but also angry outcries from fans who feared that the new anime adaptation will ruin the love they held for the original OVA and give newcomers a subpar version of what they deemed as a perfect adaptation.
However, the mere fact that a novel series that has existed for THREE decades is still capable of drawing such powerful emotions highlights one of the most important and successful element of LOGH’s storytelling: timelessness.
LOGH takes place in a futuristic world where intergalactical travel is fairly common. The story focuses on two major warring factions: the monarchic Galactic Empire and the democratic Free Planets Alliance. The heart of the story lies within its two protagonists: the ambitious, young, smart but caring Reinhard von Lohengramm of the Galactic Empire and the nerdy, sharp, and strategic Yang Wen-li of the Free Planets Alliance. Though the Galactic Empire and the Free Planets Alliance had been warring for centuries, it is with the entrance of these two characters that the course of history begins an abrupt turn.
It’s hard to imagine how a typical plotline that was written so long ago can still be important and relatable in 2018 internationally. The 21st century saw some of the biggest changes in both culture and living standards through the Information Revolution that is largely still considered ongoing. Trying to compare the style and culture of any country in the late ‘80s to the way people live today would be like trying to compare apples and oranges. So how and why is LOGH still so relatable when life has changed so much since its last publication?
The answer lies deep within the plot and themes. LOGH is more than just a war novel series where the audience is meant to support one side. Rather, LOGH explores something deep within human nature that has existed since the BC era: humanity’s natural pursuit for stability and peace through the creation of governments. And governments, despite the centuries spanned, still have the same fundamental core values because the pursuit for stability has never left the heart of human nature no matter the advancements in technology.
But wait, some of you may say, there’s obviously a government that works and a government that doesn’t. Most countries have adopted democracy as its government system. So in this case, it should be expected that the Free Planets Alliance would be a “good guy” that faces against the dictatorship of the Galactic Empire. But that precisely is the reason behind LOGH’s geniusness in its craft of storytelling. Through this series, the readers are forced to see that the two opposite governments are ironically quite similar, and both are just as successful and unsuccessful at the same time. And as bad governments are always happening around the world no matter the time and place, LOGH successfully opens our eyes to not only see both sides of the coin, but also to admit that democracy sometimes just isn’t the foolproof government we believe it to be.
“Why aren’t you standing?” (Source)
“This is a free country. We have the freedom to not stand if we don’t want to. I’m only exercising that freedom.” — Yang Wen-li of the Free Planets Alliance (Source)
As someone from the United States, I instantly thought back to the outrage towards NFL football players when they refused to stand for the national anthem, and I know many others online noticed and thought the same thing. I am also sure that readers and viewers from other countries will also think back to events that occurred in their home countries as well. The case in point is that despite all the bravada that democracy seems to preach, it also fosters a community that can talk down on people who refuse to follow the status quo. The government uses its freedom from dictatorship to bolster a sense of increased patriotism which in turn only encourages negative reactions towards those who question the government and its politicians, making it almost as dangerous as the dictatorship democracy preaches against.
This is further illustrated by LOGH’s use of extremist groups who use violence in the name of patriotism that are secretly backed by certain politicians in the democratic government. LOGH’s particular plot point of the elected politicians who choose to continue a war for the sake of reelection and not anything to do with the actual Free Planets Alliance itself is a painful punch to the stomach as we cannot help but think about the politicians we helped elect into office as well. For all we know, maybe the very politicians whom we believe to represent our values were only searching for votes for the sake of their careers.
On the other hand, do not forget that dictatorships and monarchies are largely responsible for some of the biggest successes in world history. From Alexander the Great to Emperor Tang Taizong and Queen Elizabeth I to Emperor Justinian, there are a number of rulers with extreme powers who elevated their countries higher than before and brought peace and prosperity for their people. These rulers helped advanced their countries and empires so much that the countries’ standings in the world today based on economic powers could’ve been drastically different if these rulers did not exist. In fact, it is because of the rulers’ vastly disproportionate powers that these gifted individuals were capable of helping their people to new heights never reached before. They could make the choices that they knew were right, even if the people weren’t quite ready to accept them yet.
Basically, what LOGH focuses on is something that has rung true in history since the beginning and will continue to ring true as the years go by, regardless of the changes in culture or living standards. Governments will always exist in humanity’s pursuit for stability. It will always have its flaws, no matter the format. Monarchies and dictatorships brought the rise of hateful rulers who dragged their countries and people through the mud, but it has also brought in heroes who literally saved their countries from the brink of economic despair. In just the same way, democracy helps bring power to the people and allows the citizens to have a hand in choosing its future, yet it also inherently promotes people to make bad decisions and vote for politicians who do not care a bit about the people or the country itself.
LOGH’s acute interpretations of the two governments and its journey following two opposing heroes who want what’s best for the people is what ultimately makes this legendary story into a timeless classic. Perhaps years in the future, where galactic travel is just as easy as getting into a car, a reader can still pick up a LOGH book and still find references in its materials to their government and people.