I was recently reading a thread about the quality of Legend of the Galactic Heroes (LOGH). In this thread, the original poster was complaining that he did not like it for various reasons. After much arguing, those involved came to the conclusion that it just was not for him. The reason? It focused too much on areas that he did not like (such as the narrative and the scale of the story) but it feel short on areas that he considered essential (such as character development).
Before I continue, I must commend this person for being so civil. Instead of turning his thread into a shouting match, the original poster provided reasons for his arguments. In other words, he elaborated on what he claimed. Believe it or not, that is rare. It is, quite frankly, a bit surprising to me when a person actually thinks about what they are saying in an internet argument.
Anyway, that got me thinking. Watching such a series is no quick endeavor. At 110 half-hour episodes, it took me a couple months to watch. Even if a person watches the first 26 episodes, I would argue that they have barely cracked the surface of the series. During those 26 episodes, nothing has happened compared to the next 52 episodes.
Even with its length, its praises are sung by those that have finished it. I myself consider it one of the best anime ever made. Over at MyAnimeList, LOGH is ranked #9 (man, I remember years ago when it was ranked #2 – that was the catalyst for my interest). Among those that have watched it, it would be incredibly easier to find those that consider it a masterpiece than those that consider it to be “OK,” forget about “bad.”
Considering the length and its reputation, how can a person gauge with reasonable accuracy that they will like LOGH?
Well, I have a simple solution. Try to read this, from the Wikipedia page History of Soviet Russia and the Soviet Union (1917–27):
Displeased by the relatively few changes made by the Tsar after the Russian Revolution of 1905, Russia became a hotbed of anarchism, socialism and other “radical” political systems. The dominant socialist party, the Russian Social Democratic Labour Party (RSDLP), subscribed to Marxist ideology. Starting in 1903 a series of splits in the party between two main leaders was escalating: the Bolsheviks (meaning “majority”) led by Vladimir Lenin, and the Mensheviks (meaning minority) led by Julius Martov. Up until 1912, both groups continued to stay united under the name “RSDLP,” but significant differences between Lenin and Martov thought split the party for its final time. The need of political dominance began between the Mensheviks and the Bolsheviks. Not only did these groups fight with each other, but also had common enemies, notably, those trying to bring the Tsar back to power. Following the February Revolution, the Mensheviks gained control of Russia and established a provisional government. Though this lasted only a few months until the Bolsheviks took power after the October Revolution (also called the Bolshevik Revolution). To distinguish themselves from other socialist parties, the Bolshevik party was renamed the Russian Communist Party (RCP).
Did you skip that, skim it, or try to read it but nearly killed yourself from boredom? Then, I can safely say that LOGH is not for you. (if you did not like reading that because you do not like Russian history, but love reading things like that about other countries, then LOGH might be for you).
The narrator of the series talks almost exactly like that. To me, watching it was almost like watching a documentary. In fact, one of the characters spends a couple episodes watching a documentary.
Yes, there are battles. Yes, there is violence. But, even more importantly, there is a lot of talking. A lot of little things happen, but anything substantial will take time. The pacing is slow and can be heavy in exposition. In other words, it is like reading a history book.
It does, in a way, remind me of Tale of the Heike, a Japanese war epic about the downfall of the Taira clan. Like in LOGH, the pacing is slow. In addition, there are a plethora of characters that exist only to prove a point or to move the action. I remember early on, there is a chapter about a women named Gio. I do not want to get into her story, but she does not make an appearance ever after that chapter. Within the context of the story, her entire purpose was to show Taira no Kiyomori’s growing arrogance and that he is somewhat of an asshole. Beyond that, nothing else is given about her and she is never mentioned again. There are many characters like that in LOGH, in which their only purpose is to serve as some sort of plot device or to expose something about the setting or its characters. Honestly, sometimes it can be a little bit overdone; meaning, some people’s bad characteristics are exaggerated to drive home the point.
Another thing that LOGH tends to get praised for is the scale. The series focuses on everything related to the war, and not just the rivalry between Reinhard and Yang Wen-li. Politics, economics, religion, culture, and ranks of military are looked at. Not only are there episodes about the admirals and their civilian leaders, but there are also episodes about the pilots, the infantrymen, the gunners, and, heck, even a couple episodes about an agriculturalist. With such a scope, we do get some interesting perspective of a galactic war that have never been covered; however, the series also jumps around a lot, and none of that is ever really looked deeply into.
In short, LOGH is about the scale and it feels like a history book. Does that appeal to you?