Saturday, January 11, 2014

Galactic Heroes War Tactics

About two years ago, I gave a presentation about a particular Anime, Legend of the Galactic Heroes to an unassuming audience who wouldn't be aware that a title exists.  I managed to get my hands on a copy of the recording from my partner who covered Death Note.  Death Note's concept is easy to grasp with a few select key sentences (there's a secret diary where if you write a person's name in it, that person will die), but Galactic Heroes is trickier to get a handle on.  It could best be described as War & Peace (or Romance of the Three Kingdoms) in Space.  Because of its subject material and lack of flash in showing action, it's often been referred as the definitive Space Opera, but is more likely to be known as "that boring Germans in Space Anime".

LoGH is a large part of why I found the updated version of Battlestar Galactica so dull, because a single season of BG portrayed only a fraction of the kind of sophistication and ideas that a single episode of LoGH could.  If there was ever an Anime that was suitable for being shown on HBO, Galactic Heroes would be IT.   Unfortunately, because of its intimidating length and age, it's highly unlikely it'll ever be licensed, which is just as well, since it's hard to think of an official version that isn't as faithfully translated as the fansubbed version is.

The amount of characters (often introduced while they're talking, leaving you very little time to read their names and what they're saying without pausing all the time) and lack of recapping makes enjoying the series something of an uphill struggle.  I know, because when I was first introduced to it, I had a lot of trouble following the plot, because there was so much talking going on, and so little happening.  The narrative kept shifting between two perspectives, something that happens often in other shows.  The difference is that there is equal amount of attention paid to both sides.  One episode would be devoted to the Free Planets Alliance, another would focus on the Empire.  Most other shows would divide their attention between the two with interlacing shots of both, but this would be considered confusing enough on its own, and people would pay more attention to the dictatorship than the corrupt democracy.  At least this way gives a more rounded outlook.

For beginners, I would recommend starting out with the 4-part OAV Valley of White Silver (also called The White-Silver Valley) since it presents the drive behind Reinhard's motivation to take control of the Empire.

As for the content of the speech I gave, it focused on the differing war strategies employed on both sides, without any of that distracting plot elements getting in the way.  But I had to contend with an element that could cause me to lose my audience - myself.  I've been told that when I try to retell a comic I've read, I tend to talk faster than usual, since I'm visually replaying how I read it in my mind, and I'm in a state of heightened excitement in trying to convey that sense of enjoyment to others.  This is made more difficult with the lack of visuals on hand to fully grasp the elements of the visuals with just base descriptions alone, which oftentimes fall short of capturing the full extent of the comic in question.  Even when I have pictures handy, I still tend to talk in a strange voice, reminiscent of the kind of "inner voice" I give my characters, which sounds different from my natural voice.  In preparation for my little speech, I was told to slow down my talking considerably so the audience would be able to fully comprehend what I was saying.  To that end, I emulated The Judge from Cerebus by mimicking his deliberate manner as best as I could.  Quite a feat for someone who's never seen the movie the caricature (Little Murders, a play by Jules Feiffer) was based on.

But even speaking carefully is still no guarantee that everyone'll understand what I'm saying.  That's why I have to take extra insurance and provide a script of my speech available to people in the audience.  What follows is the transcript I used for those who can't understand certain key words I use at certain intervals.
Some words may have changed from the final draft, since one of the things I tend to do is improvise upon a presentation.I don't like much rehearsing for a speech since I feel it takes away some of the spontaneity and
of the presentation, and the constant repetition for something I intend to show only once can grate upon my nerves if I'm forced to remind myself of the actions every single time I make a mistake.

Contents of the speech after the cut.



Good evening.  Today, I'll be talking about the war strategies implemented in Legend of the Galactic Heroes.  Galactic Heroes is an ambitious Anime about a war between two opposing philosophies - a crumbling Empire, and a corrupt Democracy.  The war has been going on for 150 years, and only recently have two men shown up who may turn the tide on this never-ending battle.

On the side of the Empire, is Reinhard von Lohengramm, an ambitious young man who yearns for power.  On the side of the Free Planets Alliance, is Yang Wen-Li, a rather laid-back historian with little motivation who never intended to fight in the first place.

For the time being, I'll be focusing on the first two episodes.  All future examples will be subtitled, so if there's any time that you don't understand what's on the screen, don't worry - I'll explain in due course.

AS of now, the battlefield looks like this:

The Empire has a force of 20,000 ships, while the Free Planets Alliance has a force of 40,000 ships divided into three fleets, the 2nd, 4th and 6th fleets formed into a pincer attack.  By all accounts, it looks like the Empire is an extreme disadvantage.  But there is a way around this.

What is Reinhard planning?  Let's find out, shall we?

The Democracy was expecting the enemy to play by the rules and wait accordingly.  They weren't expecting the Empire to jump into the fray before they were ready.  Earlier, Yang tried to convince his commanders that it would be wiser to combine their forcers rather than split them up.  The generals only seeing victory were overconfident in the plans, and didn't see the flaws in their layout.

The Democracy had a higher number of ships than the Empire.  But if those numbers are split up, they'll be easier to pick off.

However, while the Free Planets Alliance is now at a disadvantage, there's STILL a way to win:

By the time the 6th fleet's caught up with the remains of the 4th fleet, the Empire is already picking off what little there is left of the 2nd fleet.  If they hadn't let sentimentality get to them, they COULD'VE succeeded.  It's Yang's failure to convince his higher-ups the persuasion of his arguments that constantly gnaws at his core.  Yang only recently gets a chance when the commander of the feet gets caught in an incoming explosion and is critically wounded.

Now, Yang has to fight off the Empire with what few ships he has left.  What possible strategy could he use to counter the enemy's position?

So far, it doesn't look promising, even though Yang seems confident.  Can you tell what he's planning?

While it looked like the Democracy was being torn apart, they were actually intentionally splitting themselves up to a better position in the Empire's backside.

Now, the Empire is forced with no other recourse but to move ahead and try to get behind the enemy's position.  To simply turn around and attack would be suicide.

In the end, the battlefield looks something like this:

Thus far, the best that both sides were able to agree to was a stalemate.  If Yang was more involved, the outcome of the battle would've been very different.  These two ment will continue to fight against each other using various strategies in future episodes to come, but I think I've made my point with this demonstration.

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