The 81st episode of Legend of the Galactic Heroes sees the battle for the corridor resume as Yang takes on most of the 2nd-tier Imperial admirals in consecutive battles. In the process, he has to deal with a devastating loss of his own. Ultimately, the conclusion of the battle is shaped away from the battlefield rather than on it.
The episode begins with the return of Yang’s forces to Iserlohn. They are clearly exhausted from the constant battles, but morale remains high due to the psychological effect of forcing the Imperial forces into a temporary retreat. The next morning, after Poplan and Attenborough engage in their typical banter, Yang says they have little choice but to go on the offensive because of the difference in numbers.
After launching the attack late in the day, Yang runs into resistance provided by Müller, who Yang says is living up to his Ironshield nickname. At the same time he thinks about Müller, Steinmetz and Fahrenheit and he believes they fought out of loyalty to one man, Reinhard. At the same time, he hopes that Julian is not fighting for him, but rather for democracy.
I think this was a rather strange position to take for Yang. The reason he is still able to fight is because he has men who fight only for him and not some government body. If they had really wanted to fight for democracy they would have been fighting with Bucock and Trung all those episodes ago.
The battle continued, and Yang’s strategy appeared to be working in breaking down Müller’s fleet using mines and artillery fire. In the midst of this, a report of Mittermeyer’s death was delivered to Reinhard, which stirred an emotional response out of Reuenthal, but Mittermeyer was quick to send a message confirming he survived.
The next day, Reinhard made a change in strategy for the battle. After announcing Steinmetz’s posthumous elevation to Fleet Admiral and Hilde’s appointment, he stated that they would use brute force in fighting Yang. After the meeting Hilde confronts him by accusing him of chasing down Yang and cornering him when he posed no threat to his power. While Reinhard admits she would be the only one who would say that to him, he does not appreciate the sentiment.
The next day, the Imperial forces moved on their new plan. They attacked in waves which attacked then quickly retreated. This was exactly the strategy Yang feared, but even returning to Iserlohn was not an option because Müller could quickly move on it.
While Yang was having trouble finding the time to formulate a strategy, Hilde and Emil were concerned about Reinhard’s health. After delivering food to him, Hilde stops Emil and they talk about how he has barely eaten. She thinks he may have a fever, while Emil thinks it could be the excitement of the battle.
Most of this season has seen Reinhard seemingly fatigued from something. At this point, it’s become obvious that something else is wrong with him. The excitement of the battle would inevitably make it worse, which is why I don’t find the timing of it convenient.
After 30 hours, Müller’s fleet had to pull back due to fatigue and mounting losses, but they were quickly replaced by Eisenach’s fleet. They moved quickly to try to surround Attenborough’s retreating fleet, but ultimately were caught in a pincer maneuver and were forced to surrender. Although he did leave openings in his retreat, Eisenach could not get Yang to bite, because he was more worried about resupply and replacing injured soldiers at the front.
With Yang’s fleet nearing its limit, they were quickly attacked by the fleets of Mittermeyer’s subordinates. The fleets of Büro, Bayerlein, Sinzer and Droizen were quickly pushed back, which delayed the arrival of the next line of attack which was Bittenfeld and the remnants of Fahrenheit’s fleet. Bittenfeld pushed his own flagship forward in the battle and while Yang was able to surround his fleet, the reduced number of ships in command meant that the Black Lancers were able to do tremendous damage. Ultimately, Bittenfeld had to retreat without defeating Yang, but the damage had been done.
The attack had destroyed the Shiva which was commanded by Fischer. This was of great strategic importance because much of Yang’s success in fending off the Imperial forces was because of Fischer’s navigational skills. It also left Yang’s fleet vulnerable to a full frontal assault, but the Empire was not attacking because they had a concern of their own.
Reinhard had fallen ill and had to be treated by a team of doctors. Hilde tells Mittermeyer and Reuenthal that the best reason they can come up with for his illness is fatigue. Reuenthal laments that the body of someone who gets nourishment from war is unable to handle the constant excitement. He recommends that they withdrawal from the corridor, which they ultimately do. Mittermeyer is furious at the fact that while the Empire can conquer all of the galaxy that they cannot conquer one man.
Yang, meanwhile, tells Attenborough not to pursue and then notices that Frederica is struggling to stand up. He confirms that she has a fever and tells her to rest before ordering her to do so when she initially hesitates. Julian prepares to take over her role when they receive a message from Reinhard offering a ceasefire and negotiations.
Yang did not respond to the initial request for a ceasefire because he wanted to return to Iserlohn and recover from the consecutive battles of the past week. Upon their return to Iserlohn, soldiers began collapsing from exhaustion all over the fortress, which leads Schneider to comment on the trouble they would be in if the Empire returned, before he collapses in an elevator himself.
For the Imperial forces, many of them are forced to accept the fact that Reinhard wishes to negotiate even though they want to keep fighting. Bittenfeld remains confident that the talks will collapse and the war will resume.
Thoughts: This episode had the feel of a final encounter of sorts. It was one last battle between Yang and the Empire which was fought to a conclusion that no one really wanted. It seems about right that the Church survivors would arrive in the chaos and do their damage on Iserlohn with no one able to stop them, which I hope doesn’t happen. Reinhard’s seeming weakness lately also further sets the stage for conflict amongst the Imperial admirals in the final season, but that is still at least a few episodes off.