I’m not going to fully attribute the seeming upswing in the stylings of Legend of the Galactic Heroes to this episode’s opening showcase of the Rosen Ritter just going to town on Imperial forces with their axes, but it certainly doesn’t hurt. Doesn’t hurt me, that is, for the Imperials it almost certainly stings a bit. For real though, apart from just looking pretty cool thanks to solid use of CGI (including some neat tracking shots), starting with that hacking and slashing does turn out to line up with more of the broader thematics of what this episode is doing. The Rosen Ritter are the group made up of Imperial defectors, and they prove the most effective at dealing with the invaders in close-quarters. Schönkopf even advocates pressing the advantage they gain in going on the offensive, but is dissuaded from doing so. But that’s only because this is intended as a prelude before such strong efforts are initiated on a much grander scale by another super-strong Imperial defector: Merkatz.
Yes, after the last episode came off perhaps too strong in its assertion that no one but Yang stood a chance in this situation, a huge portion of this episode is dedicated to Merkatz stepping up to show just why he was welcomed as such an asset by the Alliance. Instead of conternation over a former enemy taking temporary command, it’s interesting to see how immediately the group at Iserlohn rallies around Merkatz’s leadership, not just on account of needing to find a strategy that works, but out of respect for the absent Yang, who had shown nothing but faith in Merkatz. And to his credit, the arc of this particular episode, rather than focusing on any need for Merkatz to ‘prove’ himself to his new allies, is simply about demonstrating how his approach is distinguished from the Yang and the Alliance, and what it means for his engagements with the Empire.
Merkatz’s moves mirror the aforementioned approach floated by Schönkopf, initially pressing an advantage they gain, not against the personnel forces themselves, but against their retreating craft and the recovery forces there to welcome them. Compared to the likes of Yang, Merkatz’s command style consists of relatively basic, textbook tactics. He pulls them off where others on Iserlohn, like Caselnes, might have floundered on account of his accumulated experience, and the confidence and ability to command respect in order to make that work. It rounds back to his status in the eyes of others on account of his association with Yang, but where Yang’s predictions of the enemy come primarily through his historical knowledge, Merkatz’s guesses are the result of his former own advantageous circumstances: As a Imperial, he has intimate understanding of the personalities and preferences of the commanders he now finds himself fighting.
Merkatz’s combative interactions with the other side of this episode’s focus, Müller, end up playing up those specifications for both of them. It’s not just the style of Müller’s battle plans, Merkatz specifically exploits his willingness to charge in and safeguard his men to open up an advantage to outflank him. It’s an exploitation that perhaps only Merkatz could utilize in this situation, but it’s there to demonstrate how effective basic, smart leadership can actually be; You don’t need to be an unorthodox genius like Yang to win battles. On the other hand, Müller’s efforts aren’t unilaterally portrayed as a failure, with his recovery of the forces still earning praise, even if it’s odd that the show’s narration provides it to him before any of the characters actually on his team do.
Müller’s inclusion, apart from continuing to illustrate the idea of ’heroes’ being on both sides of this conflict, is also one I appreciate in this episode as it approaches another turning point: The Imperials learning that Yang might not be present at Iserlohn. Part of these visits on the same concepts that were floated way back at the beginning of this season, with the Empire’s forces second-and-third-guessing their approach to the situation simply due to how accustomed they’ve gotten to deal with Yang’s tricky tactics. But Müller is shown to be one who really thinks ahead, even questioning the situation the same way I was doing with the narrative last week: “Is any one person great enough for us to panic over whether he is there or not?” In his most compelling realization, Müller invokes Kircheis’s assessment of Yang hardly coming off like a soldier at all, only to leave unspoken between him and Kempff the point of his suspicion: The tactics he just fought, actually those of Merkatz, were the moves of a very seasoned, textbook military commander, apart from those un-soldierly styles of Yang. It’s a further demonstration of how simply the possibility of Yang’s absence of causes fracturing between the approaches of the Imperial army. So it still feels a little overly centralized around this single individual, but this episode’s advancement of that works better because it’s illustrated through the eyes and efforts of multiple others with obvious agency and effects at driving the battle.
That nuance, those little touches illustrating the idiosyncrasies of the commanders involved here, that’s the sort of thing that actually makes this episode a step-up from the previous one, apart from just a bit more dynamism heralded by those axe-action-packed opening minutes. Müller’s ambitions come through in his questioning of how much he should accept his commander’s orders, while Kampff himself caps things off with the known dramatic quantity that is his damningly vague report back to Reinhard. That *gulp* from the soldier requesting says it all, followed by the foreboding flash-over to all the Empire’s biggest names, indicates how well this is about to go over even if you’re not experienced with this story. As Die Neue These has stretched out this Fortress vs Fortress storyline compared to the previous iteration, this particular chapter works well, thanks to a thorough thematic through-line.
Legend of the Galactic Heroes: Die Neue These – Collision is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
Chris is a freelance writer who appreciates anime, action figures, and additional ancillary artistry. He can be found staying up way too late posting screencaps on his Twitter.