Western fans of Japan’s epic scifi anime Legend of the Galactic Heroes have been waiting decades for an official English release. They’re finally getting one this year, but that’s not all! The original novels by Yoshiki Tanaka are coming too, and io9 has an exclusive preview.
Legend of the Galactic Heroes began as a sprawling, 10-novel scifi series released between 1982 and 1987 in Japan. The books told the story of two rival military commanders in the far future, Reinhard von Lohengramm and Yang Wen Li, and their clashes as part of a bitter interstellar war across the Stars between Galactic Empire and the Free Planets Alliance. The series exploded in popularity when it was adapted into animated form, but neither it nor the books ever managed to come to the West. That changes on March 8, when Viz Media releases the first three novels (followed by an eventual release of the anime by Sentai Filmworks).
Interested checking out in Japan’s pre-eminent space opera? We have an excerpt from the first novel “The Battle of Astarte”—the very first look at Legends of the Galactic Heroes’ long-awaited Western debut!
“All ships, open fire!”
Whether that order came before or after, no one could tell. A flash of light strong enough to make people think their retinas had been fried stole the vision of all who were on the bridge.
With a lag of half an instant, Patroklos’ body was jostled by an explosive burst of energy, then tossed and turned in every direction.
Noises of things falling over and objects colliding overlapped with the screams and shouts of anger. Not even Yang was able to avoid falling down. He took a hard blow to the back and had the wind knocked out of him. As his helmet communicator picked up a chaotic jumble of noises and voices and a fierce flow of air from the surrounding area, Yang straightened out his breathing and covered his sightless eyes with the palms of his hands—protecting them, albeit after the fact.
And who needed a dressing-down over that one? Failing to adjust the screens’ photoflux capacity was not an easy blunder to forgive. If this kind of thing kept happening, it would be a wonder if they didn’t lose.
“...this is aft turret! Bridge, please respond. Awaiting orders!”
“—engine room. This is the engine room. Bridge, respond please...”
At last Yang opened his eyes. An emerald fog hung over his whole field of vision.
He sat up and noticed the person lying next to him. A thick and sticky, deeply hued fluid covered everything from his mouth down to his chest.
“Commander,” Yang said in a low voice, staring closely at the vice admiral’s face. He planted both his legs firmly and got to his feet.
A fissure now ran through one section of bulkhead, and the air pressure was dropping rapidly. It looked like a few who hadn’t had their magnetic boots switched on had been sucked out. The opening, however, was being rapidly sealed by a vaporized bonding agent blown against it from the self-repair system’s operations gun.
Yang looked around the bridge. This was a mess; hardly anyone was still standing. After confirming that his helmet communicator still worked, Yang started giving out instructions.
“Commander Paetta is injured. Would a navy surgeon and paramedics come to the bridge, please. Operations officers, find out how badly we’re damaged and begin repairs—you can report in later. Please hurry. Aft turrets, all ships are already in combat, so you shouldn’t need any particular instructions—perform your assigned duties. Engine room: did you say something?”
“I was worried about things on the bridge, sir. No damage here.”
“Well, thank goodness for that.” There was a note of sarcasm in his voice. “The bridge is operational, as you can hear. Now I want you to calm down and focus on your duties.”
He took another look around the bridge.
“Is there an officer here who isn’t injured?”
One man stepped forward with a slightly perilous gait. “I’m all right, Commodore.”
“You are, um . . .”
“Lieutenant Commander Lao, of the staff officer team.” The small-eyed, small-nosed face peeking out of the space suit’s helmet looked about the same age as Yang. In addition, two astrogators and one operator raised their hands and stood, but that was all.
Yang slapped his helmet over where his cheek was. The Second Fleet’s leadership had been essentially wiped out.
A naval surgeon came running in with a team of paramedics. Quickly and efficiently, they checked out Vice Admiral Paetta and told Yang that a broken rib had punctured his lung when his chest slammed into the corner of a control panel.
“He’s had some pretty bad luck,” the doctor opined unnecessarily. On the other hand, one couldn’t deny that Yang’s luck had been good.
“Commodore Yang...” Vice Admiral Paetta called his young staff officer, assailed by torments both physical and mental. “You take command of the fleet...”
“You’re the highest-ranked officer who’s still in one piece. Show me...what you’ve got as a tactician...” The vice admiral stopped speaking suddenly—he had lost consciousness. The navy doctor called a robot car that served as an ambulance.
“He thinks highly of you, doesn’t he?” said Lieutenant Commander Lao, impressed.
“Does he? I wonder.”
Lieutenant Commander Lao, unaware of the clashes of opinion between the vice admiral and Yang, gave a doubtful glance at that answer. Yang walked over to the comm board and flipped on the switch for external communication. It seemed the machines were built more sturdily than the people.
“Attention, all ships. This is Fleet Commander Paetta’s next-in-command, staff officer Commodore Yang.” Yang’s voice raced through the empty spaces, piercing the void.
“The flagship Patroklos has taken a hit, and Commander Paetta is seriously injured. On his order, I’m taking over command of the fleet.”
Here he paused for the space of a single breath, giving his comrades the time they needed to recover from the shock.
“Don’t worry. If you follow my orders, you’ll be all right. If you want to get back home alive, I need you to remain calm and do as I say. At the present moment, our side is losing, but the only thing that matters is to be winning in the last moment.”
Hoo-boy, even I’m talking awfully big. Yang was smiling wryly, but only on the inside; he didn’t let it come to the surface. In the position of commander, you had to puff out your chest even when you felt like hanging your head.
“We’re not going to lose. All ships: concentrate on destroying your targets one by one until I send further instructions. Over.”
That transmission was being monitored by the imperial forces as well. On the bridge of the flagship Brünhild, Reinhard raised his finely shaped eyebrows slightly. “You’re not going to lose? If they follow your orders, they’ll be all right? It seems the rebel forces have people who can spout a lot of bluster, too.” A cold glint like that off a shard of ice sheltered in his eyes. “At this point, how do you intend to make up for your weaker force? ...Hmm, never mind. Let’s just go with ‘Show me what you’ve got.’ Kircheis!”
“Regroup our ranks. Tell all ships to assume spindle formation. You understand why?”
“You intend a frontal breakthrough?”
“Correct, as I’ve come to expect from you.”
Through Kircheis, Reinhard’s order was transmitted to every vessel in the imperial force.
But for his helmet, Yang would have taken off his beret to scratch through his black hair at that moment. When there was little difference in force strength, the most effective tactic for the attacking side was either the frontal breakthrough or the partial encirclement. He’d been guessing they would choose the more aggressive of the two, and it looked like he’d managed to hit the nail on the head.
“Lieutenant Commander Lao.” “Yes, Acting Commander, sir.”
“The enemy’s assuming a spindle formation. They’re going to go for a frontal breakthrough.”
“A frontal breakthrough!”
“They’re in high spirits after wiping out the Fourth and Sixth Fleets. The imperial force probably won’t even think of anything else.”
Lieutenant Commander Lao glanced forlornly toward Yang as he provided his commentary. The faintheartedness in the alliance force—of which Lao’s expression was representative—was the real fruit of the empire’s aggressive tactics, Yang reflected.
“How do you plan to counter it?”
“I’ve got something in mind.”
By Yoshiki Tanaka
Translated by Daniel Huddleston
© 1982 by Yoshiki Tanaka