An enormous, sprawling 110-episode (plus side stories) Space Opera originally released to home video (making this the longest-running OVA of all time, although it was later shown on TV). This is in Japan, of course, as neither the anime, nor the manga, nor the huge series of novels written by Yoshiki Tanaka which spawned the franchise have ever been released in America. (A noble yet feeble attempt at licensing a dub version of the anime was made many years ago, but no one bit, and thus the only way the series is accessible in English nowadays is through Fan Subs.)The meat of the story is this: sometime in the 36th centurynote The narrative of the main series takes place between January 3596 and July 3601, humanity has spread out amongst the stars and has split off into two great superpowers which are now sadly engaged in a decades-long knock-down, drag-out war with each other. Fighting in the forces of the Galactic Empire (whose government is based on 19th century Prussia,) is an ambitious young noble named Reinhard von Müsel, better known by the name granted to him later, Reinhard von Lohengramm. Fighting for the opposing Free Planets Alliance (a government which resembles a crumbling, bloated 20th century democracy,) is Yang Wen-li, an easygoing historian who reluctantly joined the military because he was broke. Together, these two men (both tactical geniuses) are destined to commit great deeds, eventually becoming the series' titular Galactic Heroes.The story is played very straight and seriously and is crammed with detail. (It's also crammed with characters, from the big players at the top of the government to the lowly farmers and grunt soldiers at the bottom who get everything done. There's so many, in fact, that each episode always shows a character's name when he first shows up on screen in case you forgot who he was.) At times, this can become confusing—to the point where one really needs a scorecard of some sort to keep all of the character's names and ambitions straight. Also, the pace of the story can be very slow. It's possible to watch an episode where the heroes prepare for an invasion, skip ahead three episodes, and find the heroes still preparing for that same invasion.A new anime adaptation is in production, and the only thing known as of this edit is that it is not a remake.
This show provides examples of:
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Absent Aliens: There isn't even any sign of alien flora or fauna on any of the planets.
Save for the greenery on Heinessen before the first settlers of the FPA arrived there
The Ace: Yang Wen-li is a subversion. Yes, he is sometimes lazy, and likes to hit the bottle pretty hard, but if he's leading a battle he WILL win. Period. Even Reinhard von Lohengramm, who has gone through the humiliation of ONLY being defeated when Yang's involved, sees him as a worthy opponent instead of an enemy.
Yang may be The Ace in anything involving using your head. He hates warfare but ends up being the best tactical genius of the entire series. Walter von Schönkopf commented that even though Yang hates being involved in politics, if he were forced to participate he may very well be a political genius as well.
Yang is a unique case in that he actually isn't an ace, but one of his main tactics is relying on the fact that everyone sees him as one. Most of his battle tactics are generally quite simple in design, it's just that everyone in both sides is in such awe of him due to being the "miracle" at El Facil (a situation where he merely followed his heart/gut instead of protocol) that the majority of his opponents think he's constantly second-guessing them and planning around them in Chessmaster fashion. The reality is he's not, he's merely doing the equivalent of mentally recalling his studies in the history of naval warfare, looking up what strategies counter the ones the opponent is using, then applying that. One could argue that if everyone wasn't always so hesitant to engage him due to his reputation, he wouldn't be nearly as dangerous.
Julian may also count. His legal guardian is Yang Wen-li and it is not an understatement to say that he has learned a lot from his legendary foster father. Also, unlike Yang, Julian is a genius when it comes to man to man combat as well.
Siegfried Kircheis, more so than any other character in the show. Seriously, the guy is a military genius possibly greater than even Reinhard or Yang, excels in close combat (being able to fend off Schönkopf even if it's just for a moment) and is mentioned to be an even better marksman than Reinhard. He was the only person in the show Yang had no counter to, and the latter only narrowly escaped because Bittenfeld charged without being ordered to. And then he serves as Reinhards conscience and is all around one of the nicest people in the entire story. No wonder that his death lastingly affects the entire course of the story heavily and no wonder that "If only Kircheis was alive" has become a memetic phrase.
Kircheis also has the singular honor of not having lost his fleet engagement with Yang.
In the novel, Reinhard claimed, upon his meeting with Yang that if Kircheis was alive, they would be looking at Yang's corpse today. Yang had no rebuttal.
Alternative Calendar: The Empire uses a calendar that began with Rudolf von Goldenbaum's coronation, the "Imperial Calendar" or in gratuitous German, "Reich Calendar" (RC) With Reinhard's coronation they take the opportunity to reset the calendar and begin a new era. The Alliance resurrected the calendar used by the old Galactic Federation, the Universal Calendar (UC).
Ambition Is Evil: Played both ways. Yang Wen-li is directly compared to Rudolf von Goldenbaum. Both are/were brilliant yet frustrated with current conditions, but Rudolf's ambition drove him to declare himself Emperor. As an inversion, Reinhard's ambition that stems from his desire to reform The Empire and protect his big sister is shown as a positive trait. He doesn't live long enough to succumb to Motive Decay, though.
Yang lacks ambition for power, money, and things like that and he is shown to be more humane and moral than Reinhard. Reinhard is a virtuous guy but sometimes his ambitions make him do some more questionable things.
Ancient Conspiracy: The Terraist Church has apparently been using Fezzan to manipulate both the Empire and the Alliance for over a century. Subverted in that in the end it doesn't really work.
And Then What?: Becomes a very prevalent theme of the story towards the end.
Animal Motifs: One of the games has two little omake parodies of the Momotarou story, one for the Empire's side and one for the Alliance's side, in which the characters are wearing animal costumes (with the exception of Reinhard and Julian who play the role of Momotarou). In the Empire version, Kircheis is a dog (and can't say anything other than "Yes, Annerose-sama/Reinhard-sama"), Reuenthal is an eagle, Mittermeyer is a wolf, Bittenfeld is a tiger and Oberstein is a bat. In the FPA version, Attenborough is a dog, Schönkopf is a monkey and Poplin is a hawk(?)... and Karin is the Queen of the demons.
In the series proper there are quite a few, too. Mittermeyer's title of Gale Wolf and the Lohengramm Dynasty's winged lion, just to name two.
Animation Bump: Episode 7, the first capture of Iserlohn Fortress, is noticeably better produced and animated than all preceding and many later episodes.
Anyone Can Die: Characters die, often unexpectedly, regardless of their minor or main status. Of the speaking roles in the 1st episode only a few characters live to see the finale (A number don't make it past the second episode).
Armchair Military: Many of the Alliance army's top brass who got there by smooching posterior. In the Empire under the Goldenbaum dynasty, many nobles got command positions because they were from the right families.
Artificial Limbs: Cybernetic replacement limbs for amputees are apparently quite common in the setting, but offer no obvious advantage over natural ones. Wahlen gets one of these when his left arm had to be amputated due to an assassination attempt.
Ascended Fangirl: Frederica Greenhill joined the Alliance military in part due to Yang's exploits in El Facil. To work alongside and eventually marry him must have been a dream come true for her.
Authority Equals Asskicking: Played straight AND subverted. In both sides of the conflict, there's people who use their authority for heavy loads of badassery and people whose authority is actually a detriment to their society. Reinhard von Lohengramm, Yang Wen-li and their subordinates are examples of the former. Job Trunicht, the former Imperial nobility and some particularly incompetent military officers on both sides are examples of the later.
Awesome McCoolname: Not the characters, but the ships. You would think that having over 10,000 ships in even relatively small fleets would lead to them being designated by numbers or boring callsigns, but most of them have pretty cool names.
Badass Adorable: Julian starts the series as a cute boy, ends it as a blond-haired pretty boy. You would never suspect the things he can do with an axe, ESPECIALLY if you push his Berserk Button.
Let's reminisce about some of his achievement, shall we?
Joining the army while still in his teens.
Taking down myriad enemy fighters and a battle cruiser on his first actual space flight, which was during a training exercise.
Serving as Yang's liaison in Fezzan and managing to escape the planet during an imperial invasion and capturing an enemy ship while doing it.
Being commissioned as a lieutenant while still in his teens.
Going to Earth and not only assisting in the taking down of the Terraist Church’s headquarters and revealing many of their conspiracies, but also doing it WHILE SUFFERING FROM DRUG WITHDRAWAL.
Participating with the Rosenritter in taking Iserlohn a second time, and distinguishing himself in said battle.
Becoming Yang Wen-li's successor after his death. Them's some big shoes...
Avenging Yang Wen-li's death with his own hands.
Badass Army: The Rosenritter, General Schönkopf's motley crew of infantry badasses. They're so infamous, they've actually gotten out of ambushes by saying "We're the Rosenritters" and the enemy turning tail.
Badass Bookworm: Yang Wen-li. He had dreadful grades in the military academy, but that's mostly because he never wanted to be a soldier, he wanted to be a HISTORIAN. And in practice, he's formidable on BOTH accounts: he's a strategic genius without equal and his knowledge of history allows him to second-guess the enemy's motivations and strategies easily.
Yang is -by his own admission- quite inept when it come to actual combat: Julian is way closer to the definition: he is quite the bookworm -thanks to his foster father influence- but you do not want to face his fury
Badass Normal: When the Rosenritters board his flagship, Oskar von Reuenthal comes face to face with Walter von Schönkopf. The former is a career naval officer wearing only his regular uniform and carrying a service pistol, the latter is the battle-hardened commander of an elite unit of infantry with a fearsome reputation wearing powered armour and wielding an axe. Reuenthal still manages to dodge or parry all his attacks and cleave the axe in half with a shot from his pistol.
Batman Gambit: Almost everything Yang and Reinhard do is based on their ability to predict what the other side will do. Example In order to take Iserlohn again (taking advantage of the trap he left the first time) Yang proceeds to send contradictory fake orders to the commander, on the assumption that the commander will believe that the real orders are the ones to stay in the base (they aren't, but even Yang doesn't know that). He further assumes that the commander will assume it's a trap to get him to leave the fortress (it is; he does), and that he will leave anyway in an attempt to trap Yang's fleet (which he assumes Yang will send to the fortress as soon as he leaves; he does) between the fortress and its defense fleet. This all happens. The only thing the commander failed to realize, is that Yang planted a code in the fortress the last time he abandoned it, which allows him to disable the fortress, and capture it.
Barbie Doll Anatomy: In one of the historical documentary episodes, the naked bodies of fallen soldiers have very conspicuous shadows obscuring their crotches. At least people have nipples, even though they are rarely seen.
Beam Spam: Alliance ships are particularly prone to this tactic, having up to eighty beam cannons mounted at the bow.
The theory among fans is that the beam cannons on Imperial ships are more powerful where the FPA relies on multiple, but less powerful, beam cannons, which would explain the 6 cannons on Imperial battleships in comparison to the 32 cannons on FPA battleships.
In fact, this is due to the Alliance's preference for large numbers of medium-range cruiser-caliber guns on their flagships, whereas their battleships prefer eight large-caliber, long-range cannons, putting them on par with Imperial battleships. Some long-range flagships are built, with range rivaling that of their Imperial counterparts.
Bearer of Bad News: During the Admirals meeting in the wake of Kircheis's death and Reinhard's Heroic BSOD, one of the admirals asks about delivering the news to Annerose. Cue the awkward silence. Thankfully for them, Oberstein already did it.
Same with delivering the news of Yang Wen-li's death to Frederica. Julian and Schönkopf first ask Ms. Cazerne to do it for them, but she insists that Julian will have to do it himself. Julian's reluctance to spitting the matter out is what tips off Fredericia to what news he brings: it is the only thing she can think of that would be that difficult for Julian to speak up about.
Better to Die than Be Killed: Alliance Vice Admiral Borodin, during the Battle of Amritsar, upon finding out that his fleet has been reduced to eight ships, pauses only momentarily before using his service pistol to blow his own brains out.
Merkatz was going to do the same before Schneider talked him into defecting to the Alliance instead.
Beware the Nice Ones: Yang is a nice guy and a great drinking buddy, who does not like war and does not even enjoy being good at it. No matter what you do to him, his worst reaction will be a snarky remark. It takes no less than 73 episodes (four years in story), to finally make him snap: the result is bloody. Yang's foster child Julian is also guilty of this: he starts as a cute boy, but he knows kung-fu and heaven take pity of you if you push his berserk button. Also, the very ladylike Annerose smashes a would-be assassin's face with a thrown statuette when he threatens her and Hildegard.
Mittermeyer, who is pretty laid-back most of the time, snaps spectacularly when he realizes who set Reuenthal up for betrayal.
Big Damn Heroes: In such a series, this trope is inevitable. One notable example happened in episode 22 during the later stages of the Imperial Civil War, when Willibald Joachim von Merkatz sets off with the last of the Lippstadt Alliance’s forces from Geiersberg Fortress to rescue his Miles Gloriosus superior (and leader of the Lippstadt Alliance) just before his ship was destroyed by Reinhard’s forces.
Bishōnen: Loads of 'em, including our two main heroes, especially in the manga.
Julian is stated to be one; he has a "pretty face" and girls squeal over him. The squealing is explicitly shown during his stay in Fezzan.
Bittersweet Ending: Not THE ending to the series, but A ending: during Reinhard von Lohengramm's coronation as Kaiser of the Empire, he was heartbroken that the two people he most wanted to be there with him, Siegfried Kircheis and his sister, were not present.
The actual ending is rather bittersweet, too. What with Reinhard dying, finishing the chain of Kill 'em All, and Mittermeyer's "You too, Felix?"*sniff* This is also present with a peace treaty signed, but the question of whether the Empire will begin incorporating constitutionalism into its political structure left open. This troper suspects, however, that Hilda being Hilda, the answer will eventually be "yes," which would probably be the best possible thing for humanity.
Bling of War: Apparently the guiding principle of the Empire in Legend of the Galactic Heroes; its highest-ranking admirals sport full capes (in unique colors!) and field marshals' batons.
Their insignia are embroidered on the uniforms. In real silver thread. It goes from rather simple patterns for junior officers to the ornate tapestries just short of the flak vest for admirals. You see, the Empire really dug that ceremony thing.
Blood Knight: It's subtle but Fahrenheit himself is a self-admitted one. In the Overture to a New War movie, as his fleet is moving to attack, he declares that he doesn't care who gets the glory for this victory as long as he gets to fight and lead men into battle. Some have considered him to be a more quiet and reserved Bittenfeld.
Then again, he became a soldier so he wouldn't have to starve...
Boarding Party: Occurs several times, from taking Iserlohn Fortress by a ruse, to several more direct approaches. Combat can be assumed as vicious, and the boarding party's success is variable, since due to the usage of Seffle particles (an explosive gas-like particle that prohibits the use of ranged weapons in its presence) the favored weapon for most infantry engagements are two-handed battle axes. Except when Walter von SchönkopfOr his favorite student, protégé, and eventual son-in-law Julian Mintz is commanding. His success as a boarder can be only compared to his fame as a ladies' man.
Boisterous Bruiser: Bittenfeld has elements of this, being the aggressive leader of the Black Lancers and of muscular build. But his attitude and habit of attacking without orders does earn him the dislike of some admirals, namely Wahlen and Oberstein.
The dislike between him and Oberstein is mutual - it escalates to the point where Bittenfeld physically attacks him.
Schönkopf also loves taunting his enemies right before sending them to their grave.
Booby Trap: How Reuenthal and Mittermeyer catch Ovlesser.
Reuenthal: The best way to capture a beast is to use a trap. And such a clichéd trap was enough to catch a simpleton like you.
Boring, but Practical: The designs of the Alliance ships are more blocky and utilitarian than Imperial ships, but they are formidable and you underestimate them at your peril.
Broken Pedestal: Ashbey for the Alliance is revealed to be a subversion. Yang's investigation into his backstory as well as the use of history in vilifying/vindicating figures becomes a major plot point.
Bunny Ears Admiral: you would never guess how deadly this social misfit, borderline alcoholic, unable-to-keep-his-own-house-in-order-without-the-help-of-his-foster-child slob can be when he is not commanding his army.
On the Imperial side, Eisenach is a mild example of this. He speaks so rarely that some of the other admirals assume he is mute, and commands through gestures that his adjutant translates into spoken orders.
Chung Wu-Cheng is a bit of one as well, supporting sound military advice with examples of popping stale bread in the oven to freshen it up.
Camp Gay: The sales assistant in the clothing store Julian visits on Fezzan.
The Casanova: Olivier Poplin and Walter von Schönkopf turn this into an outright contest. Walter's been at this long enough to have an illegitimate daughter, Katerose von Kreutzer, in the same fleet.
Reuenthal is also infamous for this, though less so in the anime than in the novel.
Casual Interstellar Travel: Partially averted; though large fleets move through space with seeming ease, it does take quite a bit of time. Reinhard's flight from Urvashi to Fezzan is stated to take three weeks.
It is also stated that the logistical cost of building and maintaining such fleets is enormous: The Empire has several gigantic fleets and artificial worlds/fortresses that would make Emperor Palpatine nod approvingly, but at the price of leaving many of its planet underdeveloped; the Free Planet Alliance does not fare much better: while its GDP per capita is nearly twice as big as the Empire, the constant state of war is taking the best engineers and the most apt workers away from civilian life, not counting the huge amount of resources spent on maintaining the Alliance's fleets: Fezzan is the most prosperous planet in The Verse precisely because it does not have to spend so much of its resources to build and maintain huge starfleets.
The Chains of Commanding: Whether in the military or politics, many of the major characters feel the burdens that come with leading armies and whole nations to costly battles.
Chaste Hero: Both Reinhard and Yang remain this until fairly late in the series, even though they should have had plenty of opportunity to engage in romance earlier.
With Yang it's strongly implied that he loved Jessica Edwards, but didn't pursue her after she chose Lapp.
It is also implied that Yang was attracted to Frederica Greenhill early in the series but doesn't return her feelings because he felt that with all of the blood he's shed and all the orphans and widows he's made, he didn't deserve familial happiness.
Reinhard has Kircheis, extremely talented and utterly loyal to his Reinhard-sama. Reinhard trusts him so much that he goes as far as saying that talking to Kircheis is the same as talking to him. Later, Hilda becomes Reinhard's Chessmaster Sidekick and she manages to beat Yang at his own game, saving Reinhard in the nick of time, and demonstrating that she is the smartest Chess Master in a series full of them, way to go, Fräulein.
Yang is also at heart a Chessmaster Sidekick: he could become the Alliance chairman: his popularity is so high that he would probably be elected in a landslide, and he would make a better leader for the Alliance, (simply because, he actually listens to those beneath him), but nope, he chooses to not be in charge.
Childhood Friends: Reinhard von Lohengramm and Siegfried Kircheis had a bromance as epic as the title of the show. Their shared childhood memories were commonly shown in flashbacks.
A Child Shall Lead Them: Erwin Josef II, who ascends the Galactic Throne at the age of five after the death of Friedrich IV. Also, his successor, Kaiserin Catherine, who is only 8 months old at the time of her ascention. Neither of them stay in power for very long, however.
Technically, Reinhard's son Alexander Siegfried. But the real power lies in the hand of Kaiserin-Regent Hildegard, and Reinhard explicitly asks her to remove their son's right to rule or to move to democracy if she finds it necessary.
Civil War: On both sides, practically at the same time. The Empire's resulted in a change of regime that invigorated its stagnant society. The Alliance's resulted in needlessly lost human life and a weakening of the morale of its populace and military.
Color-Coded for Your Convenience: In the Imperial military, medical personnel can be recognised by their white uniforms, and the rarely seen female staff wear blue, possibly indicating that they are considered auxiliaries rather than full-blown soldiers. Oddly enough, both naval personnel and ground forces wear the same black uniforms.
Also, Bittenfeld's fleet are referred to as "The Black Lancers" and the hulls of their starships and ground vehicles are painted black rather than the standard dark grey. No other Imperial fleet does anything similar (though custom colored ships exist, such as Reinhard's Brünhild and Müller's Parcivale, both shiny white, and Kircheis' Barbarossa which is red).
Probably slipped by unnoticed, but that one scene in Episode 17 got me: when Kircheis and Yang are signing the exchange of POWs, Kircheis uses a red pen while Yang uses a blue pen — as per their hair colour.
Conscription: Both sides resort to drafting soldiers to keep their numbers up, but in an interesting subversion, the Empire actually has a much easier time getting volunteers to join after Reinhard von Lohengramm assumes control of the Imperial military.
Cool Ship: Main characters (particularly in the Empire side) get their own custom Shiny-Looking Spaceships, the most obvious ones being Reinhard's bright white flagship, the Brunhilde, and Siegfried Kircheis's bright red flagship, the Barbarossa. On the Alliance side, the most unique example in Nguyen Van Thieu's flagship, the Maurya, which is seen painted with tiger stripes. Now consider that these ships are about 800 to 1000 meters long...
Corralled Cosmos: Regions of space that are "untraversable" for one reason or other restrict fleet movements, which in turn affects both strategy and tactical maneuvering.
Curtains Match the Window: Played straight with most of the characters. Subverted with Oberstein, whose clear blue artificial eyes top the sundae of his creepiness.
It's interesting that in the books Oberstein has light brown eyes. Granted, blue electronic eyes look way creepier.
Dangerous Deserter: Yang Wen-li is seen as this after he escapes from prison and reunites with the Merkatz fleet. This is another testament to the Alliance government's utter stupidity.
Days of Future Past: High technology abounds, but The Galactic Empire looks more like Versailles than The Future. The people running it also tend to dress like 18th century aristocracy. You'll also see people dressing in togas and in 20th century fashions —which you'd think would have become quite passe by the 35th century.
The Empire's Prussian fashion sense has a distinct cause - its founder was a German FanBoy.
Even better: Both Reinhard and Hildegard, possibly other characters as well, are seen to write with quill pens. Retro fashion is one thing, but that particular choice seems rather impractical. The relatively broad strokes of the letters seem to rule out this being normal pens that look like quills, and in any case normal fountain pens are seen elsewhere.
Dead Partner: When Yang's old friend and mentor figure of sorts Alexander Bewcock gets killed during a desperate battle he has started to give Yang enough time to organize his own troops, Yang reacts by crushing a plastic goblet and by stopping being lazy, and when a character that has remained undefeated against the local galactic empire despite VERY unfavorable odds while being drunk half of the time and sleeping the other half stops being lazy, going after him is not recommended.
Also, Kircheis whose death sends Reinhard into his first Heroic BSOD.
And there's Mittermeyer who does his best to take Reuenthal's death in stride, but he still cries on the way home, to the shock of his officers.
Death Is Dramatic: Played very straight. If a character that's not very important dies, it's only barely acknowledged. When a MAJOR character dies, the character's death can be felt throughout the entire series, i.e. Siegfried Kircheis.
Defensive Feint Trap: A favorite tactic of the Alliance. Yang Wen-li's so great at using them that Imperial admirals facing him actually consider RETREATING when he goes on the defensive.
Subverted in that they're a lot less useful than most, seeing they only seem to be effective at longer range.
Delaying Action: Another favorite tactic of the Alliance. In fact, the Empire much prefers starting with the advantage and keeping it than using lesser numbers in any situation, although they will use it if needed.
Democracy Is Flawed: The show spends a lot of time showing that democracy at its best is nowhere near as good as the best that can be done with an iron fist, but it also is unlikely to sink quite as low. The Free Planets Alliance is corrupt to the core, but people still can talk about it without being sent to GULAG. The Empire is becoming a great place to live, but this follows a period of despotism.
Depraved Homosexual: One of the Goldenbaum emperors kept a choir of teenage castratos. He eventually eloped with his favourite singer and was never heard from again.
Not so much: this emperor might actually have been the most sympathetic member of this wretched family: he did not like his role as a supposedly ruthless emperor, refused to go along his chancellor plans for an arranged political marriage and eventually abdicated from the throne to be with his boyfriend
Despair Event Horizon: The would-be assassin who tries to kill Reinhard for failing to save the population of Westerland suffers this when Oberstein takes responsibility for the affair and informs him that NOT letting it happen would mean that the Lippstadt war would have dragged on for longer and at least five times as many people would have been killed. The assassin kills himself in his cell the very next day.
Deuteragonist: Yang Wen-li is the second viewpoint character and thus fits the role of deuteragonist.
There's a painful subversion as well: mortally wounded and resigned to die, Reuenthal keeps clinging to life to see his dearest friend Mittermeyer one last time. Finally he dies only an hour or so before Mittermeyer arrives.
Dress-Coded for Your Convenience: Alliance=20th century Western-style civilian wear and beret-borne military uniforms. Empire=19th century Prussian-based military uniforms and noble wear. Fezzan=20th century European-style evening wear.
Driven to Suicide: Susanna von Benemünde, Duke Braunschweig, Helmut Lennenkampf, Admiral Borodin, Oskar von Reuenthal (and his mother), Hans Eduard Bergengrün... This series drives many people to off themselves.
Dropped a Bridge on Him: Jessica Edwards, who gets her head bashed in by the footsoldiers of the coup d'etat at a political rally. She effectively becomes a martyr for the cause and later we see a statue of her in Heinessenpolis.
Drunk with Power: Rudolf von Goldenbaum could be interpreted to be this; he originally ran for public office in order to reform the old Galactic Federation, and it is certainly possible that his despotic and eugenistic tendencies developed later.
During the War: When the series started, the war was already going on for over 150 years.
Earth That Used to Be Better: Though it straggles into Earth That Was territory. By the time the series takes place, Earth had long since become a derelict backwater, most people in fact not paying much attention outside of it being humanity's homeworld. The backstory explains why things got that way.
Easy Logistics: Generally averted: the starfleets are dependent on regular resupply and both sides are adversely affected when the opposition shoots down their supply fleets during the invasions of enemy territory.
Elite Mooks: The FPA's Rosenritters are a group of these, formed from exiled, disgruntled Imperials. Though in general, this trope applies to those wearing powered armor.
End of an Age: At the end of the series a peace treaty is concluded and the galaxy apparently enters an era of peace and stability under the Lohengramm dynasty. Characters even talk about how there will be little need for heroics and derring-do in the years to come.
Entitled Bastard: The defining trait of the pre-Lohengramm Dynasty Imperial nobility (with few exceptions).
Eternal English: though Translation Convention renders speech as Japanese, the written languages of the Empire and Alliance appear to be badly spelled German and English respectively. It is not terribly likely that any language used by an interstellar civilisation around AD 3500 will resemble any language familiar to contemporary audiences.
French is used comically out of place during episode 93 (3:48). Reuenthal is fuming, but the text he is watching has absolutely no link to the situation: it is the beginning of a book about the NSUAP (the infamous Nazis).
Et Tu, Brute?: The effect of Reuenthal's rebellion on Mittermeyer and Reinhard.
Everyone Is Single: Seems to apply to most of Reinhard's admiralty: Mittermeyer is the only one to bring along a spouse to Reinhard's wedding. This is odd given that Eisenach is stated to be the father of a small child, and the rest of them except possibly Oberstein should be highly desirable as husbands considering their positions and ages.
Explained later in the show: Reinhard's admirals generally felt they should not marry if their Kaiser is still single.
Expy: Rudolf von Goldenbaum is a clear Hitler expy.
Oberstein is arguably an expy of (a loyal and reined-in) Maximilian Robespierre. The aforementioned loyalty and dedication to country are what keep him from becoming just like his distant predecessor.
Even more so of an Irish revolutionary Theobald Wolfe Tone. Given Tanaka's massive knowledge of history, that's not improbable.
The aforementioned Goldenbaum emperor who suddenly abandoned his power and status in order to be with his male lover could be an expy of Lucius Cornelius Sulla.
Reinhard, Kircheis and the relationship between them bears many striking similarities to that of Alexander the Great with hisBFF, Hephaestion. Check it.
Reinhard himself shares many traits with Napoleon Bonaparte. Not so much with a love for cannons, but rather on his military and political acumen which not only make him both a hero to the Empire and a threat to his superiors. But also gain enough influence to become Emperor himself.
Not to mention Reinhard himself has a scene much akin to Napoleons return to France, in which he lays himself before the betraying troops and tells them only one man can kill him. Feels an awful lot like "Let he who has the heart fire upon his Emperor."
Fallen Hero: Oskar von Reuenthal. Particularly tragic, since he did not rebel against Reinhard out of genuine malice or ambition, but because he was framed and was too proud to accept punishment for a crime he did not commit. His death is arguably the most senseless and undeserved in the entire series.
Ambition and pride had a lot to do with it, though. This had been brewing in him ever since Reinhard challenged him after Kircheis' death.
Fan Disservice: Episode 40 largely consists of Julian reading up on galactic history during a long flight. At one point, the material he studies has a number of pictures showing the slide of the old Federation into decadence. They have quite a bit of nudity. And it is not the good kind.
Fanservice: The sexual kind is almost completely absent, though episode 89 shows quite a lot of Fräulein Mariendorf.
A Father to His Men: Any officer worthy of the role in the series exhibits this, but it's much more evident on the Alliance side, where protocol doesn't get as much in the way of the relationship between officers and the soldiers under their command. Yang Wen-li is this trope.
He had some good role-models: Sidney Sithole, Alexander Bewcock, Dwight Greenhill....
It's taken to a whole new literal level after Julian formally enlists, making Yang both his superior officer and legal guardian.
The Federation: The old Galactic Federation was this at first, which turned into a bloated, decaying mess by the time Rudolf von Goldenbaum came into the picture. The Free Planets Alliance further down the line plays this straight for the most part, at least in theory anyway.
Feudal Future: The Empire. Justified, since its founder specifically modelled it on Prussia (with a dash of the the Third Reich). Reinhard's reforms means that it ceases to be this, however, and more resembles 19th Century Austria crossed with World War I Germany.
The nature of FTL travel makes for some difficulties in managing interstellar territories. This has led to federal autonomy in the Alliance and the justification for feudal nobility in the Empire.
Fiery Redhead: Bittenfeld and Katerose. Averted with Kircheis and Eisenach.
The Final Frontier: Humanity's made some impressive gains in exploring and colonizing the stars. But over time, expansion exponentially decreased as various factors began hindering further efforts.
Final Speech: Many characters got the opportunity to speak in an extended length before their demise.
Flaunting Your Fleets: The first actual scene of the main OVA series after the opening narration depicts the 20,000-strong Galactic Empire fleet under the command of Reinhard von Lohengramm. This was later matched by a similar close-up on the fleets of his opponent, the Free Planets Alliance.
Flower Motifs: Orchids tend to show up around Kircheis and Annerose.
Also, in a case of the Japanese writers having done the research, there are a few instances of the language of flowers being employed (or intentionally misemployed) in the Empire. For example: after having made a callous remark on a sensitive topic the night before, Reuenthal brings to the Mittermeyers yellow roses, which are a symbol of friendship and apology.
For Want of a Nail: One of the recurring themes in the series, where seemingly minor events cause a huge impact on history. What if Kircheis had been armed during Ansbach's assassination attempt and survived instead of died? What if the supply depot Muller attacked had fought back instead of surrendering, so that he couldn't rescue Reinhard? What if Hildegard hadn't persuaded Mittermeyer to attack Heinessen to force a ceasefire, or if Yang ignored said ceasefire? What if Yang hadn't allowed the "Imperial escorts" on his ship so that they couldn't assassinate him?
Besides In-Universe events, sometimes the narrator or one of the characters will comment on how some tiny insignificant detail had changed history.
Foreign Language Theme: All opening themes in this series (including the Gaiden prequels) are sung in English.
Foreshadowing: Arguably, Yang eventually passing his mantle on to Julian was foreshadowed from the very first episode. Just watch the closing credits.
Ivan Konev talking about how a funeral is something that everyone experiences. He dies later on in the episode.
Forever War: At the beginning of the series, the war between the Empire and Alliance has been waged on and off for over 140 years, with no party able to gain a decisive advantage until the first capture of Iserlohn.
Four-Star Badass: Many. This series' most distinguished characters tend to be high-ranking officers in their respective army, at least Admiral or above. There's a REASON they got that far. The most literal example of the trope, however, would be General Schönkopf, commanding officer of the Rosenritter, an elite assault infantry regiment recruited from exiled Imperials. Facing him in battle is a DEATH SENTENCE.
Oskar von Reuenthal, the only man to fight Schönkopf head to head and live to tell the tale. No wonder he's one of Reinhard von Lohengramm's elite admirals.
Freudian Excuse: Reuenthal is a textbook case of Oedipus Complex. Most of his issues stem from the fact that his mother hated him. Later he becomes sexually involved with a woman who wants to kill him, and remarks how similar she is to his mother.
Gallows Humor: Poplin's conviction that he'll never reach the age of 30 is one of the series' running gags.
Gambit Pileup: Yang, Reinhard, Oberstein, Reuenthal, Rubinsky, Trunicht, De Villiers... most of the time the chain ultimately leads back to Yang, Oberstein or Rubinsky.
Gambit Roulette: Subverted. The Terraists are an ancient cult that has been secretly manipulating the universe. When they try to put their plan (which involves predicting the action of every major player in the universe) into action however, it fails as often as not and They end up being controlled by a member who doesn't care about their religion. Then they all die.
Gender Flip: Rubinsky is a black woman in the manga adaptation, named Adriana Rubinskaya. Her personality is the same, though, and she's just as bald as his male counterpart. (She's a lot prettier, though. The mangaka, Michihara Katsumi turned him into a woman because she was fed up with drawing men all the time.)
Gender Is No Object: The Alliance has quite a good deal of females in its ranks and in positions of influence.
General Failure: Distressingly common in the Alliance's officer corps; in fact, aside from Yang's allies and subordinates, this trope would seem to fit most of the Alliance's brass. The same applies to most of the Old Guard nobles in the Empire as well; those who are not either ally themselves with Reinhard eventually or flee the country.
Generican Empire: The two opposing factions are known simply as the Galactic Empire and the Free Planets Alliance.
Genki Girl: Marika von Feuerbach, during most of her appearances.
Geodesic Cast: At the outset of the show, you have Reinhard von Lohengramm in the Empire, a highly principled strategic genius of an admiral with strong ethics, who has a close right-hand man, a close right (left?) hand woman who later becomes his wife, and a group of admirals who are loyal to him and question the prevailing social order since they are trying to serve better ethical principles (honor, loyalty, transparency and relative equality) than the ruling aristocrats. Over in the Free Planets Alliance you have Yang Wen-li, a highly principled strategic genius of an admiral with strong ethics, who has a right-hand boy, a close right (left?) hand woman who later becomes his wife and a group of officers who are loyal to him and question the prevailing social order, since they are trying to serve better ethical principles (honor, loyalty, transparency and democratic equality) than the ruling bureaucrats.
Glory Hound: SUPERFICIALLY the motivation behind many politicians' and officers' support of the war. The politicians, however, have less idealistic reasons, and the officers don't last long...
Most participants of the Lippstadt Rebellion are glory-seeking dilettants, starting with Braunschweig, Littenheim and Flegel.
Godwin's Law: Except that instead of being compared to Hitler, people are compared to Rudolf von Goldenbaum, who is essentially Hitler IN SPACE.
Good Republic, Evil Empire: Subverted... and how! Sure, it takes a regime change to fully subvert this trope since the Galactic Empire isn't precisely a bowl of peaches at the start of the series, but the Alliance starts out as mostly rotten and stays that way.
It is actually played straight, but in a very subtle way: The Alliance is at the lowest point of its decadence at the beginning, while the empire gets a new, competent, charismatic, popular leader who crush the former rotten imperial nobility and put better, more honest people in charge of his administration and reach its apex. Even so, the Alliance at its lowest, with less people, a smaller territory and less resources is more prosperous than the empire at its peak and manage to fight its militaristic enemy to a standstill and it takes dozens of plans and the Alliance leaders screwing up with their best admiral at every turn to finally allow the empire to have the upper hand
In reality, the show doesn't take a true stance on which form of better. Really, it shows the positives and negatives to both sides, but doesn't single one out. Like Yang said himself, there is nothing inherently wrong with a dictatorship, it just matters who the dictator is.
Yang Wen-li even goes so far as to say that if the Alliance was formed to oppose a ruthless dictatorship, and that it is now a BENEVOLENT dictatorship, that there's no real reason for there to be an Alliance anymore. Considering the dreadful state of the Alliance government and his position within it, those are words DANGEROUSLY similar to treason. But then again, it's Yang Wen-li we're talking about.
And on the other side, during the third season, Reinhard states that he would never have won if the idealistic people who still believed in the founding principles of the Alliance had been allowed to lead. What is interesting here is that it is stated that the empire was decadent because it was ruled by aristocrats who believed to be the embodiment of value and greatness, and became better once Reinhard, who was a lot more cynical even about himself, but also way more competent took over, while the Alliance which still had some efficient politicians and intellectuals among its leaders (Trunicht was a full fledged Smug Snake, but was way smarter that the Empire's nobility) but their lack of idealism was what caused the Alliance downfall. In other words, the Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism is actually the most important plot point of the whole series, as it resumes the ideological differences between Yang (for whom idealism comes first, even if it means serving worthless elected officials) and Reinhard (who values efficiency above all else even at the risk of crossing the Moral Event Horizon): Brilliant
Gory Discretion Shot: Horribly, horribly averted. In the Battle of Vermilion, a great number of gory mook deaths are shown, including soldiers' guts exploding out of their bodies and them trying to hold them in, and legless soldiers dragging their bloody torsos across the ground, trailing their guts, all while whimpering for their mothers. This only further cements the opinion that this show is not for the faint-hearted.
Government in Exile: Some defeated Imperial nobles attempt this. Reinhard von Lohengramm does not approve.
The Iserlohn Republican Government is a good example.
Gratuitous English: Plenty of examples in the Alliance, but special mention goes to their National Anthem, with lyrics entirely in Engrish.
My friends, let us sing a song
Sing along, ring a bell, liberty!
Oh hail! Liberty bell!
True freedom for all men.
Gratuitous German: on the Empire's side, German being the language spoken there. "Feuer!" "Neue Land," "Kaiser," and "Sieg Kaiser! Sieg Heil!" complete with what looks suspiciously like the Hitler salute. As mentioned before, the Galactic Empire was founded by a German (or, more specifically, Prussian) Fanboy. The title screen for this series isn't even initially in Japanese, but (horrible) German: Heldensagen vom Kosmosinsel, which translates roughly into "Hero myths from the cosmic island" — the additional "Blind Idiot" Translation-ness of using the wrong grammatical case is sadly untranslatable.
Grey and Gray Morality: Neither The Empire or the FPA are inherently better or worse than the other as both sides have valid points and often suffer from the same problems.
White and Gray Morality: While the war between the two nations is full on gray, the conflict between Yang's group and Reinhard's group can be seen as this.
Guile Hero: Yang Wen-li is a textbook example: Smarter than any Chessmaster or Magnificent Bastard in the series, managed to control a personal Badass Army of one million soldiers, overthrew a junta with insulting ease, fought Reinhard to a standstill while being hopelessly outmanned and outgunned, raised his foster child to become able to keep working for his cause after his death, and yet, still obviously a good guy.
Yang is so good at this that every foe he faces in the series fights him extremely cautiously, expecting him to pull off some incredible tactical stunt out of nowhere. Half of the time, their hesitance is exactly what he's expecting, giving him enough time to pull off one of his brilliant gambits in the first place. Which means he uses his reputation to make his reputation work, so his reputation grows, so it can continue to work. He usually does this against forces over twice his size, and fully half of his victories are stated to be "impossible" ones by enemies and allies alike. It's remarkable that he never lets it go to his head.
Hair Colors: Most characters have plausible hair, except for green-haired Attenborough and grey-haired Müller, who is stated to be the youngest of Reinhard's admirals.
Happily Married: Wolfgang and Evangeline Mittermeyer are like an oasis of peace and love.
Also, Alex and Hortense Caselnes/Cazenellu/however you spell it Cazerne. And both Yang/Frederica and Reinhard/Hildegard, for as long as it lasts...
Heroes want Redheads: Katerose von Kreutzer as a romantic interest for Julian in the latter half of the main series.
History Repeats: While not everything repeats, the series does make a point to emphasize how some things remain constant despite the changes. "In every time, in every place, the deeds of men remain the same" become significant words over the course of the series.
Honor Before Reason: Yang is a democrat: he serves the democratically elected alliance government, period. Even if he did not vote for the people in charge, even if they are a bunch of Smug snakes, even if their orders are stupid: they've been chosen by the people, they are in charge even if this means to capitulate after winning a battle and having his nemesis at gun point.
Reuenthal also follows this principle when he decides to rebel against Reinhard, even though he knows perfectly well that he's been set up.
That being said Yang has his limits to such principles. When he was asked "what if the people choose to give up their choice and rights to a dictator, of their own will?", his answer was merely "then I don't know what to think anymore."
Huge Guy, Tiny Girl: The historical document that Yang listens to while researching Bruce Ashbey's 730 Mafia specifically refers to this. Vittorio di Bertini (9th Fleet admiral) is described as a huge intimidating (but gentle) scarred man. The document directly calls this out, referring to his wife being half his height.
Humans Are White: The Empire seems to be all light-skinned European folk with German names - for a reason. The Alliance is dominated by the same light-skinned people, though with a number of dark-skinned and black people and some East Asian types (including Yang himself). Their names suggest a wide variety of ethnic origins but the culture seems to be quite uniform, although there are traces of the original nationalities as seen by the presence of Italian cuisine and Chinese trinkets.
Hyper Competent Sidekick: Subverted, in that, while Siegfried Kircheis is this to Reinhard, Reinhard is nowhere near ineffectual (he's the most formidable character in the series, in fact). The first time Kircheis's fleet of 2000 is sent out, it's completely on its own against a ring of satellites that decimated a fleet twice their size in seconds. The second time, he has a force of 40,000 against 50,000 enemy ships. He wins both times with minimal effort and almost never losing the soft smile on his face.
And what about Hilda? having the only person able to outsmart Yang has his lover/wife/right-hand-man/heir was what allowed Reinhard to emerge victorious and alive during the second season. In fact, having Hyper Competent Sidekicks is Reinhard's MO and what differentiates him from the rest of the petty nobility of the Empire: they want servile underlings, he wants efficient officers. Reinhard even goes as far as forgiving blunders from his officers and merely requesting they do a better job next time to prove themselves. His officers are more than happy to oblige.
"Outsmart" is perhaps too strong a term since Yang, being who he is, is most likely already aware of this option but it is one of the many disadvantages that Yang cannot or will not do anything about. Reinhard is also aware that that is the most efficient path to victory but his pride and his worthy opponent complex wants a direct victory against Yang. He felt he had lost, in terms of tactics, to Yang in all of their previous encounters and wanted to prove to everyone and to himself that he could beat Yang. If he wasn't confident he could win then he wouldn't had faced Yang but Hilda realized that the chances of Reinhard losing to Yang was high and took the appropriate actions.
I'll Kill You!: Lang learns the hard way that Mittermeyer is not as laid-back as he usually seems like.
Even the cultured Mecklinger briefly acts like this towards one of the doctors tending to Reinhard.
Improbable Age: Played straight and subverted. Reinhard and Siegfried not only made it to the admiralty at age twenty, they also had their first commands at fifteen or so and were apparently able to make the decision to enter the military academy at age ten without having to get approval from their parents (it's kind of justified in that their country is in the middle of a war). There is also the Alliance practice of letting 15-year olds like Julian and later Katerose pilot starfighters and participate in combat, although this too is consistent with several historical aristocratic societies. However, in the story Reinhard and Kircheis' military career is treated as extraordinary, and the FPA tends to be strapped for soldiers (in fact, it's an in-story problem that most of their youth die at the battlefield).
The Imperial admirals seem rather young to hold such high rank: Mittermeyer is 32 or 33 at the end of the series, Oberstein 38, and none of the others seem to be older than them. This is however explained in-series: as a young officer, Reinhard hand-picked his allies who were young officers themselves. (The story of when and why Reuenthal and Mittermeier pledged their alliance to him is a good example.)
Yang is a subdued and peaceful man who despises war. He figures that the more often he wins, the sooner the tide of war will change and he will be able to quietly retire. He is also one of if not the deadliest of military commanders alive, and his superiors soon find him indispensable on the warfront.
Reinhard, whose military career was fast tracked because of the Kaiser's love for Annerose, is despised by all sorts of nobles and high ranking military officers who take every opportunity to send him on suicide missions as an attempt to be rid of him. However, through his tactical genius, emerges victorious from every assignment and earns even more influence. Those who are smart recognize Reinhard's talent and get out of his way. Those who are not... well.
Further compounded by the fact that without Reinhard at the helm, even the unintelligent and outdated tactics used by the Alliance before Yang Wen-li had any real authority would have given the Empire a run for its money. This is possibly the one thing that kept the Empire from being outright conquered by the Alliance's crusade. Thus, by attempting to kill Reinhard, those imperial officers were inadvertently saving their nation.
Reinhard originally joined the military and aimed for power to free his sister Annerose from the emperor. Friedrich IV knows and approves of his ambitions, including to become emperor - and died before Reinhard had gained enough power to move against him. Making him about the only person Reinhard wanted to defeat but never could (even Yang was eventually defeated).
Yang is a tactical genius who recognizes the value of strategy. Reinhard is a brilliant strategist who places greatest value in military conquest. As a result, both men envy and admire each other. If circumstances allowed them to combine, they would be the most powerful force in the universe.
Merkatz is an elderly admiral who has spent the greater part of his life fighting against the Free Planets Alliance. He ends up becoming the leader of an independent military force fighting for the restoration of democracy.
Bittenfeld once comments during a strategic discussion that it mightn't even be necessary to deal with Yang's fleet to attain victory if they simply attacked the Alliance's capital planet, Heinessen. The other admirals promptly shoot him down. A few episodes later, however, this is the method which Hilda uses to save Reinhard's life and bring the Imperial forces their complete victory over the Alliance.
Doubly Subverted, when Bittenfield criticizes Oberstein's decision to use political prisoners to get Julian to surrender.
When a new space fortress is named "Drei Admiralsburg" ("Fortress of the Three Admirals") to honor the three KIA admirals, Bittenfeld half-jokes that if another admiral were to die soon, they'd have to rename the fortress "Vier Admiralsburg". Guess what happens a couple of episodes later?
In episode 103, Bittenfeld says that since Oberstein lived all his life at the desk of the Ministry of Military Affairs, he should die at his desk as well. In the end?.. Ahem. Bittenfeld might be the author's favorite Ironic Echo.
Time and time again, Mittermeyer, the "Gale Wolf," demonstrates the remarkable swiftness of his fleet. However, he arrives too late to speak with Reuenthal one last time before the latter's death, a fact Reuenthal bitterly but amusedly lampshades.
ISO Standard Human Spaceship: The Alliance ships follow roughly this aesthetic, while the Empire ones are more streamlined and sleek looking.
It's Raining Men: The fleet under Grillparzer drops airborne forces onto the base at Urvashi.
Kansas City Shuffle: The tactic used by the Yang Fleet to successfully re-capture Iserlohn Fortress.
Karma Houdini: Job Trunicht for most of the series. In episode 98 Reuenthal finally gives him what he has coming - a laser bolt to the heart. Well aware of both his hypocrisy and his tendency to dodge responsibility for his crimes.... and feels not one whit of remorse for any of it.
Kill 'em All: the author, Tanaka Yoshiki is not nicknamed "Mass Murderer" for nothing. By the end of the show, most of the main cast is dead.
Kill It with Water: Occurred in the backstory during the Sirius War when the Black Flag fleet decapitated Earth's leadership by flooding their Himalayan command bunker. Also occurs when the very same bunker, now headquarters of the Terraist Church, is invaded by Imperial troops.
Kinetic Weapons Are Just Better: Averted to a degree. The Empire is shown still using solid ordinance and miniguns in ground campaigns (though mainly attached to armored vehicles), while the Alliance is also seen utilizing conventional-looking firearms in some scenes. But for the most part, both sides make gratuitous use of lasers in their arsenals.
King Bob the Nth: Most of the Galactic Kaisers. The highest ordinal mentioned in the series is Kaiser Otofried V, the father of Friedrich IV.
Last Name Basis: Most characters, especially in the Empire. Even close friends such as Reuenthal and Mittermeyer never call each other by first name. Kircheis calling Reinhard and Annerose by first name is a rare exception.
A well-earned exception, natch.
Also, when Hildegard pays a visit to Annerose the latter quickly suggests they switch to First Name Basis. Hildegard happily obliges. Reinhard and Hilda attempt to do this, but find it much too awkward.
Also, with the exception of his father (in a flashback scene in the side stories) nobody ever refers to Yang by his first name (Wen-li), not even Jessica and Lapp, his friends from military academy.
This one's a cultural thing - in Chinese culture (from where Yang obviously takes his name and presumably heritage), referring to someone by their given name only is simply never done outside of one's family. Familiarity is demonstrated by addressing someone by their name without their given name (note that those not close to Yang always call him 'Yang Wen-li') or any sort of honorific (Mr, Mrs etc.), or sometimes with some sort of nickname.
Averted with Julian - even after becoming military commander-in-chief of the Iserlohn Republic, he is still often addressed only by his first name by his older acquaintances.
Last Stand: More common on the Alliance side, but seen on both sides.
Law of Inverse Fertility: Mittermeyer has no child and wants one, while Reuenthal has one and didn't want it. Reuenthal lampshades this every chance he gets. Also, Hildegard gets pregnant the very first time Reinhard beds her, something they certainly hadn't planned on.
Libation for the Dead: Reinhard poured a glass of white wine onto the glass windows in the Alliance National Museum of Art which he appropriated as his headquarters after he conquered the Alliance against the setting sun as a sign of respect to those who have died due to the war.
Limited Wardrobe: Reinhard apparently has only two outfits: a fancy uniform with a voluminous white cape and, when bedridden, pyjamas. He never wears anything like the formal civilian wear used by his ministers while in public, even when functioning as the Prime Minister prior to his coronation or as the head of state afterwards - he seemingly always emphasises his role as a military leader. The only exceptions to this rule are flashbacks, a scene where he goes horseback riding and another during his honeymoon with Hildegard.
Same with Reuenthal whom we never see in anything else than his military uniform, even when he serves as the governor of the old FPA territories.
Merkatz and Schneider keep wearing their old Imperial uniforms even after throwing their lot in with the Alliance and later the Iserlohn Republic. This is almost lampshaded in one of the later end credits, showing a hypothetical picnic between the Alliance-side cast. Everyone is dressed casually except Merkatz and Schneider, who are still in uniform.
Luke, You Are My Father: Rubinsky and his councilor, Rupert Kesselring. Slightly subverted in that Rubinsky knew all along Kesselring was his son, but acknowledged it as a sign of respect to Kesselring on the anniversary of his mother's death. Rubinsky also acknowledges that he appointed Kesselring his councilor not out of nepotism, but out of genuine respect towards his abilities.
Luminescent Blush: Hilariously, Reinhard and Hilda in episode 89. Reinhard also does this in a side story where an older man offers him a drink and he must turn it down because Reinhard and Kircheis are still underage. Also, in the fourth season, Julian and Karin.
Macross Missile Massacre: The Alliance tries this against Iserlohn during their sixth attempt to capture it. It actually does considerable damage and leaves a hole in the station's defenses, but Reinhard's counterattack ensured that they couldn't exploit it.
Mad Scientist's Beautiful Daughter: Invoked by Poplin when they go to Earth. Boris Konev promptly shoots him down by saying that he "should write for children's TV anime".
Manly Tears: While mourning Reuenthal, Mittermeyer shocks his subordinates by weeping openly on the bridge of his flagship.
The Masochism Tango: Reuenthal and Elfriede, although it's doubtful whether they even love each other or not. (She is a vengeful member of a noble family that was part exiled, part massacred at Reuenthal's order. He is a misogynist with self-destructive tendencies who sees his own mother in her. They meet when she tries to kill him.)
Meaningful Name: So many of them: Reinhard means brave and cunning, Hildegard means "battle stronghold", Julian means youthful, etc. Many Imperial characters are named after German cities/towns/regions.
Wen-Li is transliterated as 威利 (Wei Li) in the Chinese edition of the series. (In the Japanese original his name is written in katakana.) "Wei" can mean "power", and "Li" can mean "sharp".
Just the most obvious ones on the Imperial side:
Reinhard von Lohengramm: aside of the meaning of "Reinhard", Lohengramm is derived from Lohengrin, just one of the Richard Wagner references in the story.
Siegfried Kircheis: Siegfried is another Richard Wagner reference, this time of The Ring of the Nibelung. (Note that Reinhard's flagship is named Brünhild, after Brünnhilde, Siegfried's love in the opera.)
Wolfgang Mittermeier: in addition to a common given name, the name Mittermeier further emphasizes the character's middle-class origins. Wolfgang also hints at his Animal Motif (a wolf, unsurprisingly).
Oskar von Reuenthal: "Reuenthal" could be translated as "Valley of remorse." On a lighter note, his son ends up being named Felix.
Even some Imperial flagships have meaningful names/Theme Naming: Reinhard von Lohengramm has "Brünhild," red-haired Kircheis has "Barbarossa" ("Red-beard"), Wolfgang Mittermeyer, paragon of male virtues, has "Beowulf", Tall, Dark and HandsomeTragic Hero Reuenthal has "Tristan", orange-haired, yellow-eyed, short-tempered Bittenfeld has "Königstiger" (the German name for the Bengal tiger, but often translated directly as "King tiger"), artistic and wise Mecklinger has "Kvasir" (in Norse Mythology Kvasir was the wisest man in the world and the mead of poetry was created from his blood), and Eisenach, the Silent Admiral who is famous for communicating through hand gestures, has "Vissar" (misspelling of "Vithar", son of Odin who was famous for being always silent).
The Men First: The best officers on both sides of the conflict ALWAYS make their soldiers' lives their first priority. Many of the greatest military victories in the series happen with almost no loss of human life, Siegfried Kircheis being the best example (as in winning a battle with NOT A SINGLE LIFE LOST on his side).
Mildly Military: A nice subversion: The Alliance, and especially the Yang Fleet are very casual: you will see them throwing parties, drinking alcohol during strategic meetings, going after every girl they meet, and making fun of their leader's (lack of) sex life in front of him. Do not take this for a lack of competence or discipline: they know the horrors of war, and have chosen to enjoy life as much as they can between battles. When the battle starts, you're quick to remember why they were handpicked by Yang.
Military Maverick: Yang Wen-li, though never reckless, almost never adheres to Alliance convention. Which is good, because those who do are invariably shown to be incompetent, inflexible morons. The entirety of the Rosenritter regiment are also mavericks, of the more reckless sort. Bittenfeld is also rather reckless, both as fleet commander and in personal interactions.
A Million is a Statistic: Subverted, the series tries its damn best to make you see how awful and tragic the death of the average soldier is. The officers in the army also constantly show that the deaths of their subordinates weight on them heavily.
Narrator: After the encounter called the Battle of Astarte, the survivors of the Imperial Fleet numbered 2,450,000 and the Alliance, 4,060,000. However, compared to the Imperial Fleet's 150,000 casualties, the Alliance's numbered ten times as many, 1,500,000.
Minovsky Physics: This series goes one better with Seffle particles, which are invisible, directional, and extremely flammable even in vacuum.
Modern Stasis: Civilian life in the Alliance seems to be rather like this. Aside from wall- or deskmounted picturephones and personal vehicles with optional autopilot, their material culture seems to be very similar to what you would find in first-world countries during the 1980s, down to the hairstyles and fashions. The Empire meanwhile, despite its more archaic aesthetics being reminiscent of the 18th and 19th centuries, is in a similar situation. The main series takes place in the 3590s.
The flashbacks detailing the backstory suggest that humanity in general somehow reached a socio-cultural plateau at some point in the future history, which would explain why fashions and to a degree technology seem stagnant.
Mood Whiplash: The beginning of the third season is VERY mellow compared to all that happened before: Reinhard is emperor, and has to deal with the duties of a ruler and administrator instead of soldiering, and Yang is married and retired, but constantly living under imperial surveillance. This is only temporary, as the war eventually flares up again and places both men into the environment they are most suited for.
My Country, Right or Wrong: Played around with, though tending more towards the "if wrong to be set right" kind. Yang Wen-li in particular, while quietly disdainful of the current FPA leadership is a staunch believer in democracy and his country's ideals as laid down by Heinessen himself. Still, when the nation he serves ceases to be his benefactor, he's quick to abandon it. He also admits that given different circumstances he would have happily served the Empire and that the Alliance may have reached the end of its very purpose in light of Reinhard's reforms.
Necessarily Evil : Oberstein's modus operandi. The worst thing about it is that his ideas all work.
Next Thing They Knew: Despairing in the aftermath of the second attempt on his life, Reinhard asks Hildegard to stay with him, telling her that he can't bear the thought of being alone that night. From the context it is clear that he is looking for emotional support, not lusting after her. The next scene takes place the following morning with Hildegard waking up in bed next to Reinhard.
No Challenge Equals No Satisfaction: One of the primary reasons why Reinhard von Lohengramm wants to battle with Yang Wen-li whenever the opportunity arises. Having climbed to the highest military rank by his early twenties (and later crowned himself emperor), all that is left for Reinhard is wanting a good challenge from the one of the most brilliant tactical geniuses in the whole galaxy. The Battle of Vermilion is a prominent example: he is so disappointed that his victory was handed to him from outside the battlefield that he could not bring himself to thank Hildegard von Mariendorf, who engineered his victory, even though her plan had saved him from the brink of defeat and possible death.
No New Fashions in the Future: If they're not stuck in the 18th century, they've got a serious case of '80s Hair: Frederica Greenhill sports a mullet, while Adrian Rubinsky dresses and looks like Telly Savalas.
Admiral Willibald Joachim von Merkatz bears a stunning resemblance to Charles Bronson.
Fashion is very odd in general: Imperial farmers seemingly wear 18th century peasant wear, urban civilians sometimes wear the same late 20th century styles as the Alliance, other times late 19th/early 20th century styles. The late 20th styles were also in fashion cirka 500 years earlier when Rudolf von Goldenbaum established the Empire and seemingly even when the first world government was established on Earth in 2129, some 1400 years prior to the events of the series. And there is also the matter of the 18th century styles remaining in fashion since Rudolf deliberately introduced them, although Reinhard's rule shakes this up somewhat with a shift into 19th century ones.
Obfuscating Stupidity: Grimmelshausen in the side stories. On the surface he is a frail old man suffering from dementia who is indecisive and over-catious when commanding his fleet. In his more lucid moments, however, he reveals that he is fully aware of his own lack of talent and that because others consider him a harmless fool they act indiscreetly around him, enabling him to gather plenty of incriminating evidence of the nefarious deeds of the High Nobility. Grimmelshausen entrusts Kesler to deliver said evidence to Reinhard in order to help him bring down the nobles. Though Reinhard appreciates the intent, he refuses to make use of it, preferring to bring them down in a more honest fashion.
Off Model: The art style changes noticeably between seasons and within them. One strange example of this is how Elfriede looks noticeably tanned in her final appearance when she seemed to have very fair skin earlier.
Officer and a Gentleman: Reinhard von Lohengramm. For one, he orders his entire fleet to salute the slain enemy admiral Bewcock after the Battle of Marr-Adetta. Many of the other Imperial Admirals qualify for this as well, particularly Mecklinger, and Mittermeyer who went as far as executing one of his own men for rape and pillage.
Sadly lacking on the Alliance side. While Yang and his allies and subordinates tend to fit this trope, many of their fellow officers are careerists, opportunists, cowards, predators, or some combination of these traits. In fact, the actions of a group of officers seeking to secure high rank with the Empire are ultimately responsible for the Alliance's final dissolution. Naturally, Reinhard is uninterested in playing ball....
Offing the Offspring: Adrian Rubinsky offs his own son Rupert Kesselring just before the Imperial invasion of Fezzan. Granted, this was actually due to Rupert's failed attempt at being a Self-Made Orphan. Also, Kaiser Friedrich IV only ended up on the Galactic throne because his father had executed his two older brothers for treason.
Old Friend: Kircheis runs into an old friend from school while visiting his old hometown. Said friend is studying literature in university and is worried about being conscripted into the military and used as cannon fodder. The narrator reveals that six months later Kircheis learned that this friend has been arrested for anti-war activism, and that when after two more years had passed and Kircheis had gained more power he attempted to have his friend released only to discover that he had perished from malnutrition in a forced labour camp.
One Sided Battle: Averted. Many of the larger pitched battles are brutal stalemates with millions of casualties on each side, no matter who wins in the end. The camera frequently switches to the gory deaths of mooks from both sides to highlight the horrific human suffering caused by war. These scenes tend to be filler for the narrator's author tracts bemoaning the futility and hypocrisy of jingoism and violence. The taking of Iserlohn and Siegfried Kircheis's supression of the Kastrop Rebellion certainly qualify, though.
One Steve Limit: Averted in episode 22: after Marquis Littenheim blasts through his own men to cover a retreat, the only two survivors left on the bridge on one of the ships - a cabin boy and severely wounded officer - find out that they are both named Konrad.
One World Order: Played straight, though subverted in the bigger picture. There's only one governing body per planet, but humanity is by no means truly united in the future of the 36th Century. As the backstory reveals, there was an attempt in the distant past following the chaos of World War III, which worked until the space colonies got riled up. The Empire and Alliance themselves are an evolution of Earth's old nation-states and federations, albeit on a much larger scale.
Dvorak's New Wold Symphony has never had its sheer grandeur matched by its visual accompaniment until the Battle of Amritsar! Possibly the best soundtrack to set a massive, MASSIVE space battle to; tens of thousands of ships exchanging Intano Circus's, fast paced dogfights between agile star-fighters, and massive particle cannon bombardment resulting in the deaths of millions on either side, all the while lamenting the and emphasizing the horror and tragedy of the event! War is bad has never been so glorious!
Outgrown Such Silly Superstitions: Subverted. Humanity is shown to have largely abandoned organized religion prior to the events of the series, but it resurfaces in the form of the Terraist Church, as well as the somewhat hilarious Imperial penchant for invoking "the great god Odin" and Valhalla. The latter seems to be mostly a vestige and/or formalities, though, since no Imperial character is shown to be religious.
In one of the side stories it is mentioned that Whit Sunday is still being celebrated, but has lost all religious meaning and is nothing but an early summer festival.
Even the Terraist Church could be a double subversion. They revere the Earth because it is the original home, the "mother" of humanity, but they do not seem to really believe in anything supernatural.
It's also mentioned though that most people still cling on to some idea of an afterlife as well as vestiges of old-world religions, whether it's Christianity for the Alliance or the re-purposed Odinism of the Empire.
Overly Long Name: Despite the penchant for long, important-sounding names in the Galactic Empire, the winner here is actually Alliance politico Enrique Martino Borges de Arantes e Oliveira, who shows up in some six episodes.
Overranked Soldier: Though he is very capable, Emperor Friedrich IV promoting twenty-year old Reinhard to Fleet Admiral in charge of half the Imperial fleet seems absurd, especially considering that there were many more experienced commanders available and the military establishment and the High Nobles oppose the appointment. Reinhard's handpicked admirals are also rather young for their posts, with the youngest, Müller, starting out as Vice Admiral at 25 or 26 and the others not being much older, mid-30s at the most. The Alliance also does this, but to a lesser degree.
It helps that Reinhard's sister was the emperor's favorite concubine, and Reinhard himself was in a very privileged position. The novel mentions that Friedrich IV doted on him to the point where some might have suspected he had the hots for him. As for the admirals, Reinhard wanted people who weren't loyal to the current establishment, so it makes sense that he started looking among younger soldiers. (They didn't start out as admirals, they were all promoted to that rank.)
Path of Inspiration: The Terraist Church encouraged people to return back to their roots, i.e., the planet Earth, which by the time period of the seriesnote during the late 36th century AD had became an isolated backwater planet. As the series progresses, it became increasingly clear that the Terraist Church’s real objectives were to regain the lost status and power that Earth enjoyed centuries ago and would resort to any means, from brainwashing its members to plotting assassinations of key figures in the galaxy, so as to achieve their objectives.
Percussive Therapy: Reinhard smashes at least one wineglass per season, only one of them celebratory.
Pet the Dog: Oberstein has an actual dog, and the narrator mentions that Lang secretly gave money to charity his entire life and was apparently a loving father and husband as well.
Planet of Hats: Fezzan, where everyone is a scheming, moneygrubbing merchant.
POW Camp: The latter half of the Spiral Labyrinth arc in the second prequel series is set in a distant POW camp operated by the Alliance and covers Yang Wen-li's (brief) appointment in there.
Powered Armor: The Alliance's Rosenritters, as well as Elite Mooks like the Imperial Grenadiers wear them, providing them protection against small arms fire. This in part also explains why specialized axes and bayonets came back into fashion when fighting against them.
Precocious Crush: Julian had one on Frederica before he discovers that Yang proposed to her.
It is implied that he even intended on confessing to her before the final battle.
Proper Lady: Annerose von Grünewald and Hortense Cazerne fit this archetype fairly closely.
Prussia: The Empire effectively revived the country IN SPACE!
Psycho for Hire: Ovlesser is a hulking brute who seeming fights solely for the love of killing.
Public Domain Soundtrack: Other than the opening and closing themes, and two national songs (the anthem of the Free Planets Alliance and the military anthem of the Imperial Army), the entire soundtrack is made up of classical music.
And it knows how to use the music, too. For example, episode 14, "Liberation of the Frontier Zone" makes good use of Dvorák's New World Symphony, and many other episodes and scenes feature relevant and fitting passages from Beethoven's Eroica and Schiksal, Mahler's Fifth, Brahms' First, and many other works.
Putting on the Reich: Subversion: while the fashion of the Imperial army is quite based on German fashion (specifically Prussian), the story's refusal to take sides actually means that the superficial similarity is exactly that, superficial. It would have DEFINITELY applied when Rudolf von Goldenbaum was emperor, though.
The Quisling: Seen amongst the less honorable on both sides when the opposing side invades.
Ragtag Bunch of Misfits: The 13th Fleet, which was hastily scrambled together from new recruits and survivors from the Battle of Astarte, along with a helping of Imperial expatriates that serve as special task forces, an enemy defector, and a turncoat.
Rape, Pillage, and Burn: The Alliance, of all people, resort to it to resupply after Reinhard von Lohengramm destroys their supply ships during their "liberation" of the frontier territories.
Redshirt Army: Anyone who fights the Rosenritters. (Except for Reuenthal, possibly the only person whose fight with Schönkopf ends in a draw.) Also the common Terraist cultists.
Reluctant Ruler: Yang Wen-li has enough talent, competence and popular support to become a significant politician, if not the leader of the Free Planets Alliance if he wanted to. But out of principle, a devotion to democratic ideals and partly out of laziness, he refuses to even consider that option. It's only in later episodes that he actually begins entertaining the notion of taking power, if very reluctantly. He dies before anything significant comes out of that, however.
The Remnant: many of the old nobility continue to plot and act against Reinhard von Lohengramm's new empire, even if it's a hopelessly lost cause. A few of these, though, kidnap the 7 year-old Kaiser and seek asylum with the Alliance, causing the then cold war between the Empire and the Alliance to REALLY heat up.
Later, the Iserlohn Republic becomes this compared to the defunct Alliance.
Retcon: This first flashback to the suicide of Reuenthal's mother shows her slumped over a table with an emptied glass of poisoned wine next to her. The second shows her lying in bed with a half-empty jar of pills in her hand.
Rewarded as a Traitor Deserves: The Alliance officers who murder Rebelo in an attempt to curry favour with the Empire. Something similar happens with Grillparzer.
The Rival: Mostly the two main characters, to each other, but rivalry exists between other characters as well.
Possibly other way around. Reinhard is pragmatist, and his reformed Empire is Enlightened Monarchy, a form of government endorsed by Voltaire. Yang is Honor Before Reason type of guy, and his band of misfits supports republican democracy, government arguably invented in modern form by romanticist philosophers.
Rousing Speech: Happens every now and then, with varying levels of cynicism, demagogy and good old stupidity. The undisputed king is Yang Wen-li, whose first Rousing Speech goes something like this: "Er... Giving our life for the fatherland... and stuff... um, I guess it's just that we can only drink good tea while we're alive so let's fight and not die!"
Rousseau Was Right: Most of the main characters on both sides are inherently noble people who want what's best for their nations.
Royals Who Actually Do Something: Quite a number of aristocratic characters on the Imperial side tend towards the Noblesse Oblige kind of nobility. Unfortunately, they're outnumbered by the sort who make up much of the Empire's Deadly Decadent Court...at least under the Goldenbaum dynasty. Once Reinhard ascends the throne however, the surviving nobles tended to fall under the former, either siding with the new Kaiser or fleeing the Empire.
Sacrificial Lion: Just because many characters die doesn't mean some of them aren't remembered more than others. Kircheis is a good example.
Schizo Tech: Quill pens and bulky computers exist alongside cybernetic replacement limbs and powered armour-wearing soldiers wielding axes. Using ultrasound to examine the development of fetuses seems to be Lost Technology, given that the doctor who watches over the delivery of Prince Alex feels the need to announce "It's a boy!".
No wonder, since the novels were written in the '80s.
Scifi Writers Have No Sense Of Scale: In regard to population growth and migration rates, at least. 269 years before the battle of Astarte the Alliance was founded by the remainder of a group of 400000 prisoners who had escaped the Empire. 113 years later they had sufficient population and industrial capacity to field a starfleet that could defeat the first Imperial fleet sent to subjugate them and hold their own afterwards. It is stated that after the Empire becomes aware of them large numbers of dissidents immigrate to the Alliance, swelling their numbers. By the time of the main series, the Empire's population is stated to be around 25 billion people and the Alliance's around 13 billion. Not completely impossible, but very unlikely considering the circumstances.note Elaboration: Considering the limits of natural population growth, the fact that Alliance territory can only be reached through a couple of narrow space corridors no doubt guarded by Imperial fleets with orders not to allow passage to the rebel territories, the fact that it would likely be difficult for fleeing dissidents to bring along everything you need for colonising new planets thus placing a burden on existing Alliance infrastructure, the social and political implications of admitting large numbers of new citizens whose ideas of how the government should be run might be at odds with those of the original founders and so on makes it difficult to see how this could work.
That could be chalked up to the Galactic Empire's feudalism making them exile the intelligentsia, thus making things easier on Nguyen Kim Hua when the refugees landed on the very planet that would be named after their leader.
Secret Police: In what appears to be a borrowing from Militaristic Japan, the Military Police doubles as a political police, having the authority to intervene against civilians on suspicion of sedition.
Shirtless Scene: A brief still of Reuenthal in bed with Elfriede. A Modesty Bedsheet covers them below the waist, and Elfriede is pressing herself against his very muscular chest.
Shower Scene: Hildegard has one in episode 89, complete with full rear nudity.
The manga has scenes of Shower of Angst with Reuenthal (full rear nudity) and Mittermeyer (frontal but he's sitting and there were strategically placed shadows).
Shown Their Work: Though their grasp of English and German is shaky, the creators obviously did good work when it came to researching general history and the cultures the Empire was based on. Not only do they do a fair job of depicting the retro architecture and fashions, they also show characters using mannerisms, for example curtseys, that would likely be unfamiliar to the Japanese audience.
Smart People Play Chess: Invoked with Yang Wen-li, who proves himself time and time again to be one of the smartest and deadliest men alive and occasionally is seen playing chess. Inverted in that he kind of sucks at it.
Smug Snake: Job Trunicht, oh god Job Trunicht. Nearly everyone in charge on Fezzan too.
Soap Opera Disease: Seriously, what are the chances that one of the smartest politicians and military leaders in the galaxy would die of a "rare mutative connective tissue disease" at the age of 25, two years after becoming Emperor?
Well yes, but arguably realism was never really the point. The mystery illness was just a device to give Reinhard a "proper" death that rounds out his legend. Hilda even tells people that Reinhard didn't "die," he "let go of his life" or something to that effect.
There is a fairly severe taboo about using real conditions and diseases in media in Japan — it would be highly unlikely that Yoshiki's publisher's legal team would allow him to reference an actual disease in fear of offending someone with the actual diseases. Generic, unexplained space illnesses would be acceptable, however.
Someone to Remember Him By: Felix, Reuenthal's son by Elfriede. Reuenthal even comments on the Dramatic Irony before he dies. Slightly subverted in that the real mother wants nothing to do with the child, but at least this way he gets to have the best possible adopted parents.
Soundtrack Dissonance: Might come out to be this in the beginning to most viewers, especially during an epic space battle scene where you expect similarly epic space battle music to be playing, but instead this is playing. It threw me off initially, but a few hours after watching the movie I realised how fitting it was.
Space Is Noisy: Lasers go pew pew, causing ships to explode in earth shattering kabooms. In at least one battle, opposing commanders even seem to yell at each other over loudspeakers (as normal communications would ostensibly be jammed).
Space Marine: The Rosenritter is a notable case. Its members have been consistently regarded as elite soldiers; their standard equipment includes the Powered Armor and they are practically the only group in the series to engage in boarding tactics against enemy ships.
Space Mines: Used by both factions a couple of times during the series, and they are deployed in the millions.
It is also a subversion: one usual characteristic of space operas is not taking into consideration the impact technology and the colonization of space have on human civilization. This series REVOLVES around how advancing technology and the colonization of space have changed human society, and it takes pains to make sure this is explained in loving detail.
Space Pirates: In the history of this particular universe, they are one of the primary reasons the Galactic Empire was founded in the first place, but they are mentioned only infrequently.
Spell My Name with an S: both in fansubs and some of the on-screen text, despite most of the names being perfectly valid, often existing Western names.
The most egregious examples are probably "Joanne Lebello" for João Rebelo and "Guen Van Hugh" for Nguyen Van Thieu. Even main characters aren't immune (Julian Minci / Mintz). The official website rectifies some of this ... but then gives us new mistakes like Dusty Attemborough. The Gineiden Encyclopaedia is generally regarded as the authority on official spellings.
Trunicht's name seems to come from the pro-apartheid politician Andries Treurnicht, and France have two far-right politicians called Karl Lang and Philippe de Villiers: real life SmugSnakes sharing the name of their fictional counterparts.
Squishy Wizard: Even though there is no magic in this series, if high intelligence and knowledge but low physical abilities are traits of the squishy wizard then Yang would be one. However, it is never stated whether Yang is actually bad at physical activities or if he is just bad at directly hurting a person in front of him (which is understandable since he prefers pacifism if he can help it). He has been shown to possibly have some pretty nice reflexes, dodging a laser gun shot from within a few meters, even if he did dodge it a bit clumsily.
Starship Luxurious: Every Imperial flagship and space fortress apparently has space for mahogany and ivory detailing and expensive artwork. The Alliance ships are, however, clearly more utilitarian. Trope usage is probably intentional.
It probably has to do with the Empire spending more money on its ships. Aside from looking fancier, Imperial ships are also more developed than Alliance ships, for example they're able to actually land on planets (even in water), etc.
In a similar vein, one of the side stories features a space station in orbit around an uninhabited planet that functions solely as a luxury resort. One of the more decadent features is a huge waterfall which exotic birds perch around. Why they took the trouble to create this environment aboard a space station that can only be reached via starship from an inhabited planet instead of creating a resort planetside where logistics would be much easier and you wouldn't have to worry about life support is never explained.
State Sec: The Empire, unsurprisingly, does this better than the Alliance.
The Stool Pigeon: An Imperial soldier who broke protocol through an inappropriate comment was snitched on by another. Reinhard von Lohengramm asked Fräulein Mariendorf to use her judgment on how to handle the situation. Hildegard did punish the soldier that broke protocol, but she punished the snitch even worse by demoting him. Lohengramm was pleased, saying that it was wise of her to prove the point that no soldier can expect reward from him for duplicity and betraying his comrades. Classy attitude from both of them.
The Strategist: Yang, celebrated as Hero of El Facil, finds himself in this role as the story progresses.
Succession Crisis: One kicks off a civil war in the Empire, with various factions supporting three different grandchildren of Friedrich IV for the throne.
Suddenly Significant City: In the backstory, Brisbane, Australia became the capital of the United Earth Government which was established after almost of a century of warfare that left much of the world devastated and practically all major cities destroyed.
Suicide Mission: The first time Yang Wen-li is sent to capture Iserlohn, it was in fact a suicide mission given by superiors who wanted to get rid of him.
Surprisingly Good English: Pause the screen at the start of episode 31 when we see Yang's journal that he's typing. The fact that there's a run-on sentence aside, the entire entry is in perfect English (and makes a valid historical observation to boot).
Survivor Guilt: Most characters face this at some moment or another, since many people they care for die during war, but in case of some characters it's truly heart-wrenching.
Talking to the Dead: Reinhard von Lohengramm does this constantly when facing a moral quandary. And he's not the only one.
Teen Genius: Julian Mintz and Reinhard (in the OVAs, prior to the main series - he's around 19-20 when the main story starts).
Tempting Fate: In My Conquest is the Sea of Stars, Yang explains that since the atmosphere of the planet is composed of hydrogen and helium, it would take only a match to wipe out their entire fleet. However, he doubts that anyone in the enemy fleet would ever think of it. What happens next?
Yep, Ivan Konev, great job talking about funerals just before your sortie in the middle of war. Not hard to guess what happens afterwards.
Terraform: Apparently very easy in this universe, given the very earthlike nature of Odin, Heinessen and Fezzan at the very least - plus the fact that Earth has been almost completely abandonded even though it should in all likelihood remain the most hospitable planet for humans unless the ecosystem was completely messed up, and that does not appear to be the case.
The Theme Park Version: The Galactic Empire is a mashup of the late 18th century Kingdom of Prussia, the Austrian and German empires and National Socialist Germany. People typically wear outfits reminiscent of the 18th and 19th centuries and whenever foodstuffs are mentioned by name it is usually stereotypically German fare like black beer, black bread, white sausages and Frankfurterkranz. And it has apparently remained like this for almost 500 years before the beginning of the main narrative.
Tomboy and Girly Girl: Hildegard (short hair, wears pants, takes an active role in politics) compared to Annerose (long hair, frilly dresses, makes handicrafts). Hildegard becomes girlier during her pregnancy by wearing dresses and growing her hair longer. Frederica Greenhill and Hortense Cazerne probably also qualify.
Tragic Hero: Reuenthal is brilliantly talented and has every trait necessary for becoming a great ruler, but he's outshone by Reinhard's sheer genius. Although he respects and admires Reinhard, his conflicting feelings of loyalty, admiration, ambition and jealousy cause his fall in the end.
How traumatizing his childhood was. Being condemned as a bastard and not worthy of being born since you've had a sense of self is brutal, no matter how rich and lavish his surroundings were.
Arguably the body of Yang Wen-li, kept in stasis aboard Iserlohn until they can bury him on Heinessen.
Translation Convention: Despite the show obviously being in Japanese, when considering the culture, it's safe to assume that the members of the Empire are actually speaking German. Occasionally suspended to allow the actors to deliver some heavily accented Poirot Speak, like "Mein Kaiser" or "Sieg...sterben" or sing the Alliance national anthem ("Riberti sutands foh furidom...").
Judging from in-universe writing, the Empire speaks German and the Alliance English. Despite this, there is no evidence of any language barriers when characters from the different sides interact. Given that the Alliance was founded relatively recently by escaped prisoners from the Empire they should probably speak the same language in any case.
Truce Zone: Fezzan is introduced this way. Despite being officially under control of the Empire, it remains politically neutral and does not allow any military vessels from either side to enter its space. Naturally, this makes the planet a valuable waypoint for both refugees and spies.
True Companions: The "Yang Fleet," both before and after the Alliance's defeat. In fact, the sense of companionship becomes all the firmer as the Yang Fleet and Iserlohn become the focal point of anti-Imperial resistance.
Really, it's both played straight and subverted at the same time. On one hand, the ships tend to always move 2-dimensionally. On the other hand, their fleets are so freaking huge that in order to pack them into such small areas (since long-range communication is now impossible due to how advanced EM jamming has become), there are ships flying above and below others, so obviously they CAN move 3-dimensionally.
There was a battle early on in the series where the Alliance, who were lower in space than the Empire fleet, took advantage of the 3rd dimension in space and attacked the Empire at a 45 degree angle, obliterating the Empire's ships that had only forward-facing guns.
Author tried to justify it by complicated explanations about how their ships are designed, controlled and managed, but it didn't sound very convincing, really.
The real justification for the two-dimensional space has to do with the fact that all of the battles and tactics are a direct parallel to 19th century naval warfare. If you throw out the fact that oceans are (for all intents and purposes) flat, the parallel doesn't really work.
Übermensch: Reinhard is a military and political genius who wants to reform The Empire from the inside by taking power.
Subverted in the later seasons when it's revealed that he's not very good at anything else other than being a military and political leader - economy, etc. is beyond the scope of his talents and interests. Fortunately he's aware of this and surrounds himself with talented people.
Rudolf von Goldenbaum seems to fit the bill as well, given that he was able to transform the old Galactic Federation into an autocracy ruled over by his descendants that lasted almost 500 years.
Unfriendly Fire: The Empire's Marquis Littenheim actually opens fire on his own men to cover a retreat. He gets killed like the rat he is.
Unknown Rival: Falk to Yang. Yang was so clueless as to why the other man was so uptight that someone else had to explain it to him.
Unreliable Narrator: Played with in the historical documentary Julian watches, which while detailed and straining to be neutral comes across at times as biased if not pro-Alliance/anti-Imperial. Given the issues brought up regarding history itself, it's perhaps justified.
Vestigial Empire: At the end of the series the Empire makes peace with the Republicans, who relinquish control of Iserlohn in exchange for being allowed to control the Baalat starzone containing Heinessen. In effect, a rump state controlling little more than the capital planet of the old Free Planets Alliance is allowed to coexist with the Empire and retain a democratic republican constitution.
Victory Is Boring: A major theme in the latter part of the series. In fact, the entire fourth season explores this trope in detail, as the last possible obstacle to Reinhard's influence is done away with by the end of the third.
War Is Hell: This series does not shy away from showing the senselessness of war and the misery it causes.
Episode 51 in particular is VERY jarring. The series has shown how bad war is up to this point, but in this particular episode, casualties are shown VERY graphically, as in amputated limbs and disembowelment. No other episode drives this trope home as powerfully.
This trope in general is also a big motivator as to why both sides try to find ways in putting an end to the Forever War once and for all.
Wave Motion Gun: Both Iserlohn and Geiersberg Fortresses have them. As does Fahrenheit's flagship, the Asgrimm, though you only see it fired once.
Also, in a definite CMOA, Yang Wen-li actually IMPROVISES one by having all the ships in his fleet fire at the exact same point in space, causing the beams to fuse into a bigass beam that cuts through the enemy fleet like a knife. WOW.
Reinhard does the same during the Third Battle of Tiamat, effectively obliterating the attacking Alliance fleet.
Reuenthal later plays this trope straight with his best friend, Mittermeyer - who turns him down.
One has to wonder how straight that was, considering at hearing the response he smiles and says "Take care of the Kaiser." He probably thought it would worth a shot but knew fully well that Mittermeyer would refuse.
We Hardly Knew Ye: Many characters who die early in the series qualify, but the most notable among them is probably Jean Robert Lappe, Yang Wen-li's best friend since their cadet days who is reputed to be of similar calibre as Yang but has the misfortune of being assigned under an incompetent commander and is ultimately killed in action in episode 1.
We Will Wear Armor in the Future: Some soldiers wear complete suits of armour that are quite effective at resisting blasts from hand-held laser weapons (unless they hit a weak spot), yet are strangely weak against plain old axes.
Well-Intentioned Extremist: Paul von Oberstein is an example of a "protagonist" with no apparent conscience, whose role is to essentially do the dirty work that Reinhard simply won't. Particularly when he intentionally fails to stop a planet from getting nuked to oblivion, in order to get propaganda photos to benefit Reinhard's fight against the high nobles. Possibly a case of Utopia Justifies the Means.
Near the series’ end, Reinhard remarks to Hildegard that Oberstein might well turn on him if he felt it necessary for the Empire's well-being. And he says it with an approving smile on his face.
WHAM Episode: The Imperial conquest of Fezzan, the death of Kircheis, and several others.
With Due Respect: Happens often on both sides. Officers who're willing to listen to their subordinates generally are better off than those who don't. The most extreme case is Reinhard von Lohengramm: if Siegfried Kircheis has any doubts about any course of action Lohengramm wants to take, Lohengramm WILL listen to him, even after Kircheis's death.
Woman Scorned: Susanna von Benemünde. Her attempt to bring down Reinhard backfires.
World War III: happens in 2039, over 1500 years before the series actually begins.
Worthy Opponent: Deconstructed. The top military commanders from both the Empire and the Alliance admire and respect their respective counterparts for their skills. They are also well aware of the hypocrisy behind those feelings as they send the soldiers under their command to battle in the front lines. At one point, even the narrator lampshaded this.
Yandere: Susanna von Benemünde. Originally Kaiser Friederich IV's consort, then he ditched her after he bought Annerose from her father. In the Gaidens, she nearly had Reinhard killed twice in order to antagonize Annerose, and in Golden Wings, Krumbach is implied to be taking orders from her, and in the main series, tries to kill Annerose herself with Flegel's help, only for Siegfried, Mittermeyer, Reuental, and Oberstein to foil it. When the Kaiser hears of her attempt on Annerose's life, he has her kill herself with poisoned wine, the same way she tried to kill Annerose.
You Are in Command Now: The first instance of Yang Wen-li taking command of a fleet is through invocation of this trope. Good thing, too.
You Shall Not Pass: Admiral Bewcock comes out of retirement to lead the few remaining Alliance ships to deter Reinhard's march to fully annex them. He manages to hold off 100,000 ships under the direct command of a tactical genius with nothing but a hodgepodge fleet of 20,000 ships cobbled from whatever the Alliance could scrounge and a brilliant defensive strategy.
Zeerust: Julian Mintz is actually seen firing up DOS to load a history program on his 39th-century desktop computer. Other things: handheld phones do not exist, and people still use answering machines, albeit with video functions. (The novels were written in the late '70s and '80s; the anime, made in the late '80s to '90s didn't even try to update the technology.)
That computer is shown to have 566198844 megabits of RAM (539 terabits), though.
Zerg Rush: The Alliance actually relies on this tactic to win the very first battle of the series (Astarte). Predictably, they don't.
The Empire also used the same attack in the same battle, to a greater effect.