krpalmer: (anime)
[personal profile] krpalmer
When I joined my university's anime club, more than a few years ago now, members in the know were talking up a series called Legend of the Galactic Heroes. By the time I graduated, the club had started showing the series "fansubbed," and I did find its austere military-political space opera set to classical music interesting. In the years that followed I learned more about the series, but the sense did also build the time when it might have been licensed for an official release over here had passed; even its invocation as a way of showing just how refined your tastes were, or how much better anime had been once upon a time, seemed to fade away.

Then, all of a sudden it was announced the series had been licensed at last; what was more, another announcement declared the first of the novels the anime had been adapted from were to be translated. The conditional nature of "first" did lead to some dark suspicions that would be all we'd get, but as we keep waiting for the anime to show up the very first novel has been released. I did take longer than some to get around to reading it, but I have now read it.

As I was doing that I was thinking back and hoping ahead to the anime, but I was reflecting a bit on science fiction itself too. The novel's cover, possibly easier to show in mixed company than those of Yen Press's light novels (although apparently taken from a Japanese edition, even if the starships on it didn't look like the anime's), might have helped there. For a collection of reasons, some more unfortunate than others, I don't read as much science fiction as I once did, but even so those old experiences might have helped me speculate what an SF reader with no interest in (or even awareness of) anime would make of the novel without whatever bonus points "a lengthy, thoughtful story in visual form" (I do remember that in the 1990s, it was awfully easy to imbibe a novel-reader's disdain for SF movies and TV) might have added.

For what I do know of science fiction these days, there was sort of a feeling this kind of space opera is a bit old-fashioned. My more troubled speculations on the reason for this run to the suspension of disbelief that can invoke casual interstellar travel having become either too difficult or just too easy through much invocation to be worth it. However, I could at least think that these days efforts have been made to think up strange new societies, which only added to that "old-fashioned" feeling. Perhaps, though, I'm willing to forgive someone trying to think whole systems of worlds all by themselves when the real world has had a lot more people contribute to it over a lot more time. In any case, this story's speculative content might be less about extrapolation than exploration of ideas closer to now. The number of "interstellar governments" that are aristocratic empires pure and simple can sort of irk me a bit; Legend of the Galactic Heroes does at least pit its "space Prussians" against a corrupt multinational democracy, although its meditations on that conflict depend on the force of its personalities.

I had noticed some complaints about the translation of this novel. There did seem an odd flavour to the prose, somehow familiar from some other works I've seen translated from Japanese, but I did seem to get through the novel with much more ease than the light novels from Yen Press (for all that I've read ten volumes of Haruhi Suzumiya and seventeen of Spice and Wolf...) However, I did find myself thinking the novel was fond of dispensing background by stepping back from the characters and monologuing, just the sort of thing that gets called "info-dumping." I might have been more amused by that than anything, though; I am interested in seeing the next instalments of Legend of the Galactic Heroes, however many there'll be.

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