Ginga Eiyuu Densetsu is a somewhat odd series, in anime terms. It began as a series of novels in the 80s, got adapted into a manga and, over the course of the late 80s to late 90s, it was turned into a 110 episode OVA. The odd part being that it was released as an OVA. For those of you who don’t know, an OVA is a direct to video/ DVD release rather than one that runs on a televised network. Usually OVAs are pretty short, running somewhere from an episode to maybe a dozen. A hundred and ten episodes is virtually unheard of from an OVA. Why was it an OVA? I have no idea. It’s possible that its content was deemed unbroadcastable at the time but I really don’t know. Let’s take a look at this insanely long OVA.
The basic story is that two forces, the Imperial Empire and the Free Planets Alliance, have been at war for centuries and the plot follows their conflict and struggles with a focus on the politics and stratagems. So, how competent is the execution? The short answer is it’s not but allow me to extrapolate. The first issue is that the strategies used in this shouldn’t work. They’re really basic and rely on the other side being incompetent. The first strategy you see is “get all our ships together and hope that their fleets are far enough apart that we can take each one out individually before they can meet up.” It only works because the enemy is stupid enough to disperse their units far enough that it can work. There’s another strategy that basically comes down to putting on enemy uniforms and using one of their ships. So, these guys have been at war for centuries and no one has ever tried disguising themselves before? For that matter, they don’t keep track of their lost ships or have any kind of code words to identify their own soldiers? The future is dumb. That leads to another issue, since the strategies are pretty much all ones that shouldn’t work you can usually tell which ones will or won’t based entirely on whether it was one of the main characters who came up with it rather than based on any merit in the strategy itself. If either side had a single person who had read and understood Sun Tzu’s Art of War this would be over in five episodes.
The political “intrigue” also falls pretty flat. Its big downfall is the narrator. Yes, this series has a narrator. The narrator likes to tell you what the impact of any political discussion is going to be and even spoils death scenes. Just to make sure they leave as little impact as possible. Even putting the narrator aside, a lot of the political points they make are either stupid or get contradicted by the series. To give an example of the first, they have a criticism of the Alliance’s leaders that “they aren’t going out and fighting” and the series acts like it’s a brilliant and poignant point, but it’s not. Any war effort needs people to take care of getting resources, oversee distribution and hundreds of other administrative details that you couldn’t do while also fighting. Furthermore, you don’t want your leaders going into the fray because of the potential for social disarray if a bunch of those leaders were to just get killed all at once. Do they really think that social chaos would be good for the war effort? The future is dumb. This series also advocates the idea that war leads to societal advancement and society stagnates under peace. That’s another particularly stupid one. Society doesn’t stagnate in times of peace. It advances technologically and socially. Quality of life goes up and social problems are gradually taken care of. Frankly, the societies presented in this series could use some social justice advancements given that their gender roles have regressed back to roughly the 1950s. The future is stupid. Moving onto a contradiction, towards the end when it looks like peace is coming one of the characters discusses how “if only they’d been able to just talk so many lives could have been spared” which is fair enough but not even five minutes later he says that he’s going to return to being a soldier and fighting. Yes, if only your sides could just talk, you know, rather than planning for the conflict to resume. Why is the future so stupid? Even putting the major issues with the politics aside, it’s just dull. The scenes drag on far longer than they need to, especially since the narrator has already told you how it’s going to turn out in most cases.
The characters in this are pretty flat. Most of them are defined by a couple basic traits or an archetype. Like the guy who doesn’t talk or the aggressive guy. Even with over a hundred episodes to work with, none of them ever get around to becoming fleshed out or developed in any substantial way. The female characters have it even worse since they get to be defined by their relationships to the men around them, usually their love interests. If the characters were compelling the series could have at least had some emotional investment but they aren’t. They’re boring.
The art in this is really badly done. The characters tend to have these flat, emotionless expressions or look dully surprised. I remember one death scene in particular where one of the characters was looking at a dying loved one and their facial expression was what you’d expect from someone who had been staring at a computer screen too long and was tired, not the expression of someone losing a loved one. The action scenes are really bad too. The space combat scenes can be summed up as “phallic ships fire at each other. Some get destroyed. Cut to one of the major characters standing in their bridge and either giving orders or reacting while looking strangely emotionless.” After a while they all start to look the same and kind of blend together. The land-based battles are even worse, somehow. You get a lot of scenes where soldiers are firing shots at people who are charging with melee weapons and somehow miss every single shot. Cobra soldiers are better marksmen than these clowns. Making one side incompetent because you want the soldiers on the other to survive doesn’t make the surviving squad look bad-ass. It just makes the action sequence look lazy. Characters will also go cross-eyed for no reason and a lot of the movements just end up looking stilted and unnatural. The art is also a problem when it comes to death scenes. There are quite a few that are supposed to be dramatic but end up being done in such an over the top way that they end up being humorous instead. Like Toga Guy’s. (That isn’t a spoiler. He dies very shortly after showing up and it’s obvious from the moment he appears that he won’t survive.)
(This is apparently a comfortable lounging position. Seriously, try sitting like that.)
The voice acting is the best part of the series. It’s not the best, but the actors do a good job of emoting and delivering their lines. If the art actually gave the characters expressions that matched the dialogue it would be far more effective, but at least the actors were putting an effort into it, even if they were the only ones involved with the OVA who were. The music is pretty mediocre. It’s not bad, but it’s not good either.
The ho-yay factor is a 2/10. There are some scenes where Kircheis and Reinhard look like they’re more than friends. There’s also a scene about the Empire’s history that involves a gay Kaiser, but that’s the extent of the homo-eroticism. There really isn’t much.
That’s Ginga Eiyuu Densetsu. It’s actually pretty painful. Sure, you get the occasional scene that’s over the top in a funny way, but most of the time it’s just slow and boring. Any potential for dramatic tension is lost thanks to the narrator, the strategies are idiotic. The politics are asinine. The characters are flat and the art is really bad. My final rating for this is a 2/10. I would not recommend slogging through this one. Well, that’s the last review of March. The request queue going into April is: Shinsekai Yori, One Outs, Doki Doki Precure, Sword Art Online and Shingeki No Kyojin. Next week I’ll look at none of the above and check out Muteki Kanban Musume instead because I really need a laugh. I’ll get back to the queue after that.