Aloha and thanks for making your way to Anime Parlay. I’m The Captain and if I didn’t know any better, I’d say this show was created specifically for me with my tastes in mind. I’m talking about the Legend of the Galactic Heroes reboot fresh from this season. My wife had the opportunity to watch this episode with me and she couldn’t believe a show like this could exist. Not in a good way. Piled with sarcasm because it was what she called “John Austen”; Jane Austen for men. I admit, I love the drama in this show but there is so much in the subtext. Today, I’m hoping to look past the plot and into the examined.
I’m ready to get into it but not without a hardy SPOILERS AHEAD! If you’d like to experience this show organically, come back some other time. These are my opinions/observations ahead and come from my perspective and experiences. We’re rocking the “LeVar Burton Promise” meaning you don’t have to take my word for it. I encourage you to check this show out and come up with your own takes. Bring those back here and we’ll discuss. That’s a healthy way to do that. Anyway…
How the OTHER Side Lives
This week’s episode focused on the backstory of the young protagonist Wen-li Yang. When Yang was a boy, he lived on his father’s interstellar tradeship and spent his time devouring history books. Something that Yang was always curious about in his reading was how the people of the Galactic Empire could allow someone as cruel and corrupt as Emperor Rudolph to become their leader. His father tells him it’s because people wanted an easy life. Yang wouldn’t understand what his father meant by this until much later in life. His father would be taken from him before that in an unfortunate accident that renders Yang homeless and broke.
Against his personal desire, Yang decided to enroll in the Free Planets Alliance Officer Academy to further his education on the government’s dime. Smart! When Yang isn’t at the local library, he’s passing his military exams in unconventional ways. In one simulation, Yang forces his class’ top student to lose the simulation simply by sending a small group of ships to destroy his opponents’ supply ships (Which results in an automatic loss for the person who lose those supply ships). Although Yang lost in a military sense, he managed to pass the simulation by exploiting a “win-condition” that wouldn’t be considered a real life option. The dude thought outside the box! No harm, no foul in my opinion. Won on an “Air Bud” rule!
As the Episode goes on, Yang graduates and continues to serve in the Alliance. At one point, he eventually get’s placed on an outpost planet called El Facil. It’s here where Yang makes a name for himself by saving 3 million civilians from a Galactic Empire attack. How’d he do it? Passively, of course. The top military officials on El Facil decided to save their own skin and took off without protecting the civilian population. Cowards. However, the Galactic Empire intercepted the fleeing Alliance fleet and began to engage them in combat. This bought Yang enough time to board 3 MILLION people into escape space crafts and send them in the opposite direction of the battle saving ALL OF THEM. Holy balls! This earned Yang a two rank promotion and the title “Hero of El Facil” (which Yang doesn’t care much for).
Lt. Commander Yang’s newly minted promotion lands him in a beautiful residential neighborhood with fellow Alliance officers. Here, he runs into an admiral whom he had met at the academy he attended. The Admiral helps Yang get moved in and settled before asking about his future. Yang doesn’t express any explicit plans to get married or settle down but the Admiral presses Yang with a proposition. In the Free Planets Alliance, a law is passed that allows orphans of fallen military members (and their families) to be adopted by current military members. The goal of the law is to find homes for the children who have lost their families and hope the military influence from living with an active-duty military member encourages that child to one day enlist. They’re trying to get those kids coming and going. The Admiral describes it as a “medieval apprenticeship”, like a knight acquiring a squire. Yang accepts and sure enough, a boy ward shows up on his doorstep. Roll credits!
Me and Yang, One-in-the-Same!
I see myself in Yang for so many reasons. Our Dad’s have always been working-class citizens: Yang’s dad being an intergalactic tradesman and mine being a semi-truck driver. We grew up poor. Obviously had to make our own fun by reading or writing. The thing that really got me was Yang joining the military to get his education. One of the few reasons I decided to serve was to have access to college. It was interesting to see similarities to the US and Alliance government’s for offering financial assistance for commuting a set amount of years to military service. Unfortunately, if you’re poor or lower/working class in these societies, sometimes serving is the only way to move out of that way of life. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have some buyer’s remorse about the whole experience but it has yet to be seen if Yang will to. So far, he seems like he’d rather not be fighting. I get it dude.
How to Make a Dictator
One of the most interesting points the episode makes is Yang’s inquisition to how the people of the Galactic Empire allowed Emperor Rudolph to take over. Rudolph is so often portrayed as evil, how could someone like this person become the leader? Yang poses this question to his father who has this to say:
“It’s because the people wanted their lives to be easy.”
Like I mentioned before, it wasn’t until Yang gets older that he was able to fully expand on what his father was trying to say. Later in the episode, Yang explains what his father meant before by adding this:
“Rather than solving their problems on their own, they were waiting for some superhero or saint to show up and take it all on single-handedly. Rudolf took advantage of that. Now, remember this. It is the people who create the dictator who have the greater responsibility. Even if they don’t actively support him, standing by silently makes them equally guilty.”
If you’re not feeling that shiver down your spine, you weren’t paying attention. Look how Yang describes Rudolph. He didn’t simply take over because he was evil. He only had to play the part. Fill the role as savior and sweep over the masses. Doesn’t that sound a lot like America’s President? “Only I can solve the problems in our country! Trust me!” A lot of people, willingly or at the very least full of false placed hope, voted for our current disaster in the Oval Office. It’s just eerie to hear in an anime set WAY WAY in the future. Who knows what the future holds for Yang or the United States. We brought it on ourselves, regardless. Hopefully, those who don’t support our Dunce-in-Chief continue to speak out and denounce him. If Yang is right, that’s the only way to stop the US from becoming the Galactic Empire…wait…
The War Machine
Something else that struck me as off was the whole orphan adoption program in the Free Planets Alliance. Like I mentioned before, they want this orphaned kids whose parents died in battle, to live with a military foster parent in hopes they’ll eventually enlist and fight. Seriously? It just sounds like to me their grinding as many human lives as they can to fight. Doesn’t matter where, I guess it’s just easier to pluck humans that have nothing else going on.
It just reminded me that scene in The Last Jedi. Love it or hate it, the dastardly DJ explains to Finn that it’s all a machine. I see no difference in Galactic Heroes. The Galactic Empire breeds for superior soldiers. The Free Planets Alliance will take any body to fill a seat. The War keeps grinding on. For fuck’s sake. What’s the end goal here? Is peace just a pipe dream in this show? I guess I’ll just have to find out. My advice, listen to DJ. He’s got it figured out.
“Bad guys…Good guys…Made up words. Live Free. Don’t join.”
That’s all I have for insight and thought on Episode 4 of The Legend of the Galactic Heroes. I was really excited to see the Alliance this episode if only because their way of governing is more my speed. However, it looks like their just as dedicated in proliferating life to continue their war efforts. Not sure how that makes them objectively better than the Galactic Empire but at least it’s not eugenics. Yikes. War is not good. Thanks for reading and stay tunes for Episode 5 next week. Adios!