Alternate Character Interpretation: Invoked very deliberately with most characters. The story is about the conflict between two galactic superpowers, and both sides have characters with sympathetic goals... whose means to reach those goals usually boil down to trying to destroy one another, as those goals often conflict. The series also doesn't shy away from showing that even fundamentally good men sometimes make short-sighted decisions that end up hurting innocents, even if it looked like the right decision at the time, nor are they immune from acting rashly on self-interest or sentimentality.
Anvilicious: Surprisingly averted for the most part. While there are a good deal of filibusters and author tracts in-verse (even from the narrator), they come from different perspectives, all not necessarily treated as better than others. Yang himself lampshades this by pointing out contradictions and hypocrisies in his own beliefs. Those said, there are times when Some Anvils Need to Be Dropped.
Big-Lipped Alligator Moment: Episode 62, in which Attenborough inexplicably shows up in a pirate costume for exactly one scene. This is never brought up again.
Complete Monster: Prince Otho von Braunchsweig is the son-in-law of Kaiser Frederich IV and the most ruthless member of the nobility. Dissatisfied with the former Kaiser's grandson being made the new ruler of the empire instead of Braunschweig's daughter, Braunschweig launched a civil war with the goal of seizing absolute power for himself. He continued the Goldenbaum Dynasty's despicable policies of eugenics, believing nobles to be inherently superior to commoners, and allowed himself and his fellow aristocrats free reign in oppressing the planets under their control. Braunschweig was an incompetent military leader who treated his subordinates terribly, threatened a genius admiral's family to force the admiral to serve him, executed the sole surviving noble of a battle for merely suspecting him of treason, arrested his loyal right-hand advisor for privately criticizing one of Braunschweig's insane orders, and overall cared nothing for the soldiers whose lives he threw away in pursuit of his own personal glory. However, Braunschweig's most monstrous act was a crime known as the Westerland Massacre. When the colony world of Westerland killed his oppressive nephew, Braunschweig was outraged—not that his nephew had been killed but the fact that the commoners' "ingratitude" had killed a fellow aristocrat—and decided to Make an Example of Them by nuking the entire planet, murdering its entire population of two million civilians. Not only was this a war crime, but after it was carried out, it resulted in mass defections from his soldiers and suicides from allied nobles. In a series filled to the brim with Grey and Gray Morality, Braunschweig was by far the most despicable human being present, embodying the absolute worst of the corruption inherent in the Goldenbaum Dynasty's aristocracy.
Ensemble Darkhorse: You would expect that either Reinhard or Yang Wenli would be the most popular characters of the show. Granted, they are popular, but who is the absolute darling of ficwriters and discussants? The enigmatic, electronic-eyed and utterly ruthless Paul von Oberstein.
In Pixiv and similar circles, Muller is unusually popular, launching several rarepairs in the process.
Attenborough, whose importance wasconsiderably pushed in the anime compared to the original books, is beloved because of his quotable lines and comic relief moments, and for being a reasonably competent tactician in his own right.
Fan-Preferred Couple: Getting Reinhard/Kircheis and Reuenthal/Mittermeyer out of the way first, you'd be surprised at how popular Ferner/Oberstein — usually unrequited — is with fanartists.
Foe Yay Shipping: How some fans interpret the relationship between Reinhard and Yang.
Genius Bonus: In episode 39, Yang explains his view on the political situation between the Alliance, the Empire, and Fezzan to Julian. Anyone with a background in political science (especially in international relations) will recognize his explanation as a simplified version of the Realist school of though, especially the Balance of Power theory.
There's a moment as early as episode 17 where a character mentions to another that if he's in trouble, "I'll get you to come save me". And then, around sixty episodes later, Yang is shot and dies, with Julian arriving minutes too late. He died within a single year after marrying Frederica, and during which they spent less then three months living in peace together. Considering how things turned out in the end, his inner monolog after proposing to her about how he didn't peruse her romantically before this point because he doesn't deserve family happiness becomes tragically accurate. It becomes more heartbreaking considering Kei Tomiyama's death.
Oberstein's death can be much sadder when you consider Kaneto Shiozawa's passing.
Heartwarming + Hilarious in Hindsight: Episode 13 has Kesler having to deal with Reinhard's "scorched earth" tactic on a planet, while dealing with a woman named Vier, whom he would have did Childhood Friend Romance with, but left to join the military, and when he sees her again, he hears she was married and has a son, but find out her husband died in combat, and the kicker, Vier is voiced by Sakiko Tamagawa, who is currently the wife of Shuichi Ikeda (Kesler's voice actor).
Or possibly the second best, as there was someone capable of easily manipulating him, who knew perfectly what Reinhard was planning, and made sure he had the means to succeed (and even covertly teased him about his ambitions), without Reinhard noticing. His identity? Emperor Friedrich IV. And it's strongly implied that he wanted Reinhard to take the throne and reinvigorate the Empire, knowing fully well that the Goldenbaum Dynasty's days were numbered.
Louis Mashengo. Yang Wenli never remembers who he is and often wonders why he is around.
Taking Oberstein's ever-stoic face and captioning in things like "rofl XD"
The screencap of "You may have killed millions of people, but at the very least, you made me happy." is sometimes used as a way to sum up the way people feel about their favorite morally questionable characters.
Oberstein keeps teetering on the edge, and arguably crosses it with the Westerland incident - made only worse by the fact that his actions proved to have an overall positive effect for Reinhard and his followers. In the novels, both he and Reinhard charge straight toward the Horizon by simply and explicitly agreeing to let Westerland be attacked. The OVA adaptation has Oberstein give Reinhard an inaccurate estimate of how long he has to act; Oberstein quickly sends a recon probe to capture the propaganda footage, while Reinhard waffles and only sends in The Cavalry when it's too late. This results in Oberstein making a shallower approach — since it's possible the faulty estimate was a genuine fault based on bad intel — but still crossing the Moral Event Horizon.
Of course, one can't mention the Westerland incident without mentioning its architect, Otho von Braunschweig. There's a reason Oberstein's gambit worked — nothing says "brutal, ruthless tyrant" like ordering the casual annihilation of an entire planet's population for rebelling against him.
Adrian Rubinsky starts out as a ruthless schemer who only cares about profiting from the war. At the end of the show, however, he dies of a malignant brain tumor. Then we find out that his death would trigger bombs all over Heinessen, killing god knows how many people in the process. Any why? Only so he might take Kaiser Reinhard down with him. For someone who was a Magnificent Bastard for most of the show, this act of pointless destruction sure makes him seem like a monster.
People generally don't tend to think straight when suffering from malignant brain tumors.
Yes, Democracy Is Flawed. While it may bring better standards of life and allow citizens to have voices to administration, it also allows ambitious politicians to take advantage of public approval to cause decay into the system. This is further emphasized by various cycles of democratic nations in the show to enter into its phase of authoritarianism and decadence that also led to cases like the Earth's downfall as the interstellar hub by the revolt of oppressed interstellar colonies, the birth of Galactic Empire from Rudolf's exploitation of the Galactic Federation's politics during its stagnant final years stemming from complacent decadence and self-interest, and downfall of Free Planets Alliance from an ill-fated invasion out of a bad idea to gain public approval.
Stoic Woobie: Oskar von Reuenthal. He has mommy issues, which are his Freudian Excuse for never being able to form a lasting relationship with his lovers, knocks up a woman who wanted to kill him, and is wrongfully accused of treason twice, the second time deciding to go along with it because he's too prideful to clear his name a second time despite knowing that he's outnumbered and will probably die. No wonder why he he's Mittermeyer's drinking buddy, who wouldn't want to buy the guy a drink (besides Oberstein and Lang)?
There are a couple of jokes about Frederica's cooking ability that given that she's both a naval officer and later, a politician would seem a little out of place in a modern, western show.
While Frederica may hold a relatively low official rank, the unofficial power she commands is rather substantial. As both Yang's wife and his adjutant, Frederica is basically his closest and most important advisor, and inherits his full political power following his death. It also seems likely that, with the end of the war and the new peace, that she will continue to hold a prominent role in Heinessen/Imperial politics.
A greater source of dissonance, at least from the point of view of modern liberal democracies, is the willingness to admit that autocracy can be preferable to democracy under certain circumstances. In the end, the Autocracy dominates the entire inhabited galaxy (with Heinessen left as a Democracy reservation), though there are hints that it will become a Constitutional Monarchy through gradual reforms.
What makes it troublesome is the way that it is portrayed : although the series is entirely willing to suggest that an enlightened autocracy may be preferable to a corrupt democracy, and that citizens themselves may prefer the rule of a dictator, it poisons an otherwise magnificent deconstruction of both arguments through a consistent bias in favor of the Empire. The portrayal of a corrupt democracy is far, far more convincing than the more one-dimensional portrayal of the Galactic Empire's corrupt autocracy, and Reinhard von Lohengramm's ascension and the defeat of the powerful nobles is treated like a panacea. Even without the worst of the nobles, the institutions that maintained them and the Empire's war machine, not to mention its ceaseless abuse of those not of Northern/Western European descent, are kept out of sight and out of mind throughout. Reinhard would never have been able to change the root of the problem and even if Hilda made the empire a parliamentary democracy, it is quite likely that the voters would decide to elect a militarist dictator through constitutional means. Which happened previously in series history as well as in real-life Germany with disastrous results.