Part 2 of our main characters’ introduction. Episode 4 of Legend of the Galactic Heroes focuses on a child with a passion for history, Yang Wenli. To avoid making the same mistakes in the future, we must first study the past, and according to Yang, if one is to predict the outcome of a future conflict, then he must study the wars of the past.
Japanese Title: 不敗の魔術師
Born and raised inside the borders of the Free Planets Alliance, Yang spent most of his childhood inside his father’s merchant ship. With ample of time in his hands, he chose to spend it by studying history. Naturally, a child’s mind is open to all possibilities, and even the most famous dictator’s ascend to power (Rudolph of the Galactic Empire) felt like ground for honest conversation. How could he be both evil and accepted by the people? How could he rise to power? In a brief lesson of what it means to be human and vulnerable, Yang’s father provided a reason that seems more relevant than ever: people just want their lives to be easy but deny any responsibility of taking matters in their own hands. When things are bleak, they seek a savior, someone to bring hope to the people, and the same someone to take the blame when things go south.
‘I learned from history, that’s all. The basic nature of war hasn’t changed in the past three-four thousand years.’
Having lost his father and with no means to support an academic career, Yang joins the military. There he goes through all classic storytelling tropes in succession. He is the oddball among his fellow cadets. He has just one friend with whom he shares a unique bond. They are both in love with the same girl but he friend gets her in the end. Yang, instead, because of his brilliance, flies through the ranks like a breeze and occasionally meats with his one best friend and the people whom he met on his way to admiralty. In the process, he probably adopted a war orphan, but that’s a story for the next episode.
Unlike anime who try too hard to make clichés work, the tropes of space opera and military drama used here felt, if not fresh, then definitely not intrusive. At least, Legend of the Galactic Heroes is not trying to pretend something it isn’t, and thus leaves everything that has nothing to do with its space opera approach out of the equation. No needless dialogues or slice-of-life moments here, and, thank the Anime God, no awkward comedy.
Nice Name: The award for worst name in the series so far goes to the black admiral of this episode. His name is Sydney Sithole.
Themes & Trivia
Army Nicknames: As someone who has served, I assure you that army nicknames are a thing. I think most of my soldiers in my unit had their own nickname. I won’t tell you mine, but I assure you that it had a more rebellious tone than ‘Empty-handed Yang.’
Chess Tactics: Chess is a game of war and tactics and it is used symbolically in the series as a representation of war and a battle of wits. It is used as such in many anime, from Death Note to Attack on Titan.
Babushka: This is the, apparently wrong, name with which I know this famous Russian nesting dolls. You can see them in the very first scene as Yang is reading his history book. I don’t know if that means Yang has Russian blood in him. A set of matryoshkas consists of a wooden figure which separates, top from bottom, to reveal a smaller figure of the same sort inside, which has, in turn, another figure inside of it, and so on.
Unless I missed an important scene, Yang doesn’t have a purpose other than mastering the art of war and learning from history’s mistakes. He is a history buff, and unlike Reinhard, he doesn’t have an ultimate goal. If we are to have a proper showdown, we need to know what drives Yang forward. Is it his love for Jessica and her fixture on the future? I doubt it. Is it his unshakeable bond to his father? I don’t even know if that bond is so strong. His friendship with Jean? No tragedy there to drive a purpose. What is it you want, Yang? Everybody wants something.
A Soldier Who Reads
I think we need a couple of episodes more to understand this half of our protagonistic duo. Maybe that child who arrives at his door may tie some loose knots.
Did you like Episode 4 of Legend of the Galactic Heroes? Let us know in the comments and don’t forget to check the rest of our Spring 2018 reviews.
The Legend of the Galactic Heroes: The New Thesis – Encounter