The 51st episode of Legend of the Galactic Heroes can easily be divided into two parts. The first would be the determination of the characters on the Alliance side to go into the final battle with no regrets at all. This leads to all sorts of out-of-character situations and changes in relationships between characters. The second half is the start of the battle and the consequences that come from those who lead.
The episode begins with Yang receiving intelligence that the Imperial fleets were dispursing. Yang knew this meant they could no longer wait until their defense perimeter was at its largest, because the Empire would have taken Heinessen by then. Yang tells Frederica that there is a minimal time frame in which they can attack because Reinhard could hold out until the other admirals return, so they are forced into a decisive fleet-on-fleet battle.
Julian walks in and Frederica leaves, but not before Yang awkwardly calls her back before dismissing her. Julian asks what Yang thinks of Reinhard’s strategy, and Yang doesn’t really say anything. So, Julian tells Yang that he thinks it is a blatant trap and wonders why exactly Yang is running into it. Yang says it is a classic reversal of elders restraining young men who get too excited. Yang then asks Julian if he thinks he would lose to Reinhard, but Julian says that is an unfair question designed to quell his objections. Yang then goes on to say that he has always tried to win without fighting, and after Julian expresses surprise that there is a chance of victory, Yang emphasizes that it is a remote chance, but their only one. Yang says Reinhard has invited him to a formal battle, and he hopes to take advantage of his romanticism and pride with minimal effort to gain victory. Julian asks that Yang does not try to do too much, which Yang says he has no interest in doing.
As the battle approaches, the fleet stops off at a supply base for the last 12 hours of R&R they will get before the fight begins. Murai tells the soldiers in a broadcast that they should use this time to leave themselves with no regrets. In a cafeteria, Poplan tells Ivan Konev that has plans for a night of passion. Konev tells his friend that he plans to rest and nothing else. The two bicker over their levels of sarcasm and talents with the ladies before going separate ways.
Frederica applies lipstick in her quarters as she sets off for an epic battle of her own. She runs into Julian as she heads to Yang’s office. He tells her he is heading to the cafeteria as she giddily wonders what Yang has in store for her. In his office, Yang paces nervously in front of Frederica before stopping and calling her by her former rank, her current rank, her last name then finally just Frederica. She responds by saying that was the first time he had called her that since El Facil. She asks him to remember before there is a flashback to El Facil when a young Frederica brings food to Yang. Even then, she has to force him to call her Frederica.
Returning to the present, Yang says that he is 7 years older than her and that there are problems with his lifestyle and that he is about to make an unfair request of her. The battle is close at hand, and he would rather ask her than live to regret not doing so. He then says he wants to get married. She responds by saying that if they pooled their pensions together living arrangements wouldn’t be a problem. She then says that her own parents were 8 years apart in age. Then there is a pause before Yang points out that she never answered his request. She finally emphatically says yes a few times before Yang finds himself unable to find the words to express how he feels.
In the cafeteria, Cazellnu passes Julian a drink which he pounds down instantly. Cazellnu says that it is basically a happy event for both Yang and Frederica because Yang gets to have a bride, and Frederica get to be married to the one she loves. Julian asks what Cazellnu meant by “basically,” and he says it is the same reason that Julian pounded down his first drink, because he has a thing for Frederica. Julian insists that he is happy for the both of them, but Cazellnu warns him that love sometimes makes people forget about respect for others. There is no logic to it, and Cazellnu says he doesn’t want to see Julian become driven by passion because his mind and character are good.
Cazellnu asks if Yang and Frederica would still call each other by their ranks, a thought which Julian dismisses. However, Cazellnu says his wife called him by his rank for a while after they were married. Cazellnu asks what Julian will do after they get married and if he will continue living with Yang. Julian says he can’t get in their way, and he has plans to travel after they get married. Cazellnu asks where, and Julian says to Earth. Cazellnu asks if he is planning to check on the words of the Earth Cult for himself, and Julian says it is something like that.
Well it finally happened. Yang comes off like a normal person in his scene with Frederica. Julian comes off like a spoiled man-child in his reaction though. Despite Cazellnu’s best efforts I found it hard to sympathize with Julian.
The next day, Yang’s fleet approaches Vermillion. Merkatz and Schneider are given a description of the intelligence gathering operation by Yang, who says that he is leaving that in the hands of Murai. He tells Merkatz that he is not that good with intricate operations like that, and that El Facil took away any diligence he had before. Later, scouts discover the Empire’s fleet as it enters the Vermillion system. Rolf Otto Brauhitz on the frontline Imperial ship says there is no point in attacking the scouts, but they should follow to discover where the Alliance fleet is.
Oberstein tells Reinhard where the Alliance fleet is and where the battle is likely to take place. Satisfied, Reinhard calls over Streit and tells him to let the soldiers have three hours of rest and that they will be allowed alcohol. On the Alliance side, Murai orders 3 hours of rest for their soldiers.
Yang tells his officers that they are going to face a military genius in Reinhard, and that if they were at equal strength, Reinhard would come out on top. Schenkopp interrupts to say that he thinks Yang is better than what he thinks he is because he has been able to toy around with 3 Imperial admirals. Yang puts that all down to luck. There might have been more to it, but it was basically good luck. Yang tells all of them that Mittermeyer’s fleet will likely be the first to return, so they have until that time. They will use a tight formation in the battle, and they do have a tiny advantage. The Empire will have to destroy their entire fleet, while they only have to destroy Reinhard’s flagship Brünhild. He says they will go through the battle without sleep, so they must rest before it starts.
After the meeting breaks up, Schenkopp asks Yang if he really thinks he can win. Yang says he wants to win, but Schenkopp says that isn’t good enough. If Yang doesn’t believe in himself than how can he hope to get others to believe. Schenkopp says that it must be hard for someone who believes in righteousness to justify the existence of someone who doesn’t believe in himself in battle, but yet continues to win. Yang answers by saying that he believes it is better to live under the worst democracy than the best autocracy, which is why he fights for Trunicht against Reinhard. Schenkopp says that Rudolf became Kaiser with the full support of the people, and wonders what that says about the state of the worst kind of democracy. He asks if the worst democracy does provide better government than the best autocracy.
At 14:15 on the 24th of April, the battle finally got underway. Fearful that the other had some trick up their sleeve, both Yang and Reinhard opted for conservative tactics at the start of the battle. Reinhard is the first to have issues, as his mid-level officers seem unable to act on their own. Communications are jammed, so Reinhard is forced to use shuttles to relay orders. Yang’s flagship finds itself too close to the front, but he at least is willing to let the ship’s captain, Asadullah Chartian, be in charge of the movement of the ship.
I think this actually says a lot about the Empire’s military officers. It seems that there isn’t much quality at the lower levels, where a lot of them are afraid to act. This may also be down to placing to their placing too much hope in Reinhard and hoping he would be capable of micro-managing the whole battle.
Meanwhile, Turneisen determines that the front line ships should be able to act accordingly to their situation. He sees this as a chance to charge forward and kill Yang in the early stages, though he is questioned at every point of his line of thought to wait for further orders. As Yang’s ship retreats, he questions why they are moving in a direction that make it hard for him to direct the battle before Frederica interrupts him and he rephrases what he said.
Turneisen’s ships push ahead and are obliterated in the crossfire. Reinhard orders his ships to return as Oberstein sarcastically calls Turneisen a hero before going on to tell Reinhard that Turneisen is a man who struggles to see anything that is not right in front of him and therefore should be a man to stay away from. Reinhard says he will keep that in mind after the battle if he is still alive. However, for the sake of survival Reinhard needs him and he orders a shuttle to bring him back.
At least Reinhard isn’t considering it a given that he survives. He has enough respect for Yang that even with all those defense lines, he still thinks he needs every officer to prevent the unlikely from happening.
The final scenes of this episode showcase the horrors of war on both sides. As the narrator goes on to say that commanders are forced to risk the lives of their men. However, as long as those in command are far away from the battle, they must continue to put values and righteousness above the worth of a human life. The narrator goes on to say that what makes Reinhard different from those who are unworthy to rule is the fact he puts himself on the front line so often. On the other hand, Yang constantly has to deal with the guilt that comes with the destruction of life that comes as a direct result of his actions. He has to ask himself if he deserves the happiness that comes with having a family, which is why it took him so long to reciprocate Frederica’s feelings. Even with that resolved, he still couldn’t be comfortable with that thought.
Thoughts: Well I guess Yang can have no regrets now, I can’t see how they can ever have a normal married life…Anyway, that was a very different episode ending to any I can remember from the previous 50 episodes. The narration comes out against war and those who rule in war time. I also read this section as a sort of condemnation of both Reinhard, and to a lesser extent Yang, who throw away lives without considering alternatives. Even if they are considered heroes to those who fight for them, couldn’t there have been a way of avoiding this?