Legend of the Galactic Heroes is a space opera –considered a masterpiece by many– which exclusively follows the legends of a few men as they attempt to conquest (or fight against it) the galaxy. Or so I thought. LOGH is quite a unique ride, but I have to admit that one of my biggest surprises was the strength of its female cast. It can stumble when it comes to doing them justice, and there’s no denying that they’re still way too few women on the show. But the women we get have plenty of remarkable qualities (or faults!), which they use either to survive, take control of their lives or pursue their own destinies. As a consequence, some even left their own mark on history.
Note: mild spoilers, I tried to make it as vague as possible.
Annerose von Grünewald
When their parents died, Annerose had to take on the role of parent for the sake of Reinhard, her little brother. She was still a kid herself, but maybe she was already old enough to understand that she was all that kid had. So kind, nurturing, emotionally intelligent Anne threw her dreams away, and for a long time, her sacrifice was only rewarded with tragedy. It was Reinhard’s desire to free his sister what pushed him towards his path of conquest, kickstarting all the events of the show and making Annerose the mother of LOGH’s modern history. Annerose might seem docile, but she conceals her feelings a lot, so we never really get the full picture. I can say this much though: Annerose has a lot of inner strength and determination, which ended up pushing her towards finally reclaiming control of her own life.
When Jessica lost her husband to war, it could have been so easy to let her grief overcome her. She indeed took her time to mourn. However, she ultimately turned her grief into a determination to become the change she wanted to see in the world, so nobody would ever have to feel her pain. The frail woman we see at her introduction turns into a force to be reckoned with, unafraid to stand up to anyone to defend the rights of the people.
She’s courageous, sweet and supportive, and would go against the world to protect those she loves. She’s extremely good at what she does: she’s competent, efficient and her incredible memory has come in handy more than once. There’s a moment when she remembers how she used to be known for her fast hands, a speed she used to slap those who wronged her. She then jokes about the process she underwent to “be more feminine” to join the military. It would be easy to consider that an outdated view, but unfortunately, it’s hard to deny that it still resonates. After all, there are still women that feel pressured to “polish” themselves to fit into more traditional views of femininity, even if they don’t particularly want to: to a get job, to fit in a social event, and so on.
Hildegard (Hilda) Von Mariendorf
Her ingenuity rivals the likes of Reinhard and Oberstein, and while she never got involved nearly as much in military affairs, I would argue that her prudence, calm personality and uncanny ability to read people gives her an edge on other matters. With the support of her father, Hilda used her family’s name along with her smarts and boldness to seize her destiny and build her desired path in life, ultimately reaching incredible heights she was more than qualified to reach.
Katerose (Karin) Von Kreutser
A Spartanian pilot –the only female one that we see– with a strong personality. When we first meet her, she’s angry and hurt, and she has every right to be. With the guidance of adults –such as Commander Poplin, her direct superior and mentor– she eventually softens up with the people she’s comfortable with. She finds a positive role model in Frederica, who often gives her the advice she needs. In turn, her no-nonsense personality and straightforwardness offer a positive influence in the far more indecisive Julian when he needs it. She doesn’t completely let go of her anger even when her feelings grow to be far more complicated. It’s understandable, and the show never implies that’s not okay, which I appreciate.
A dancer and a singer, she’s introduced as Adrian Rubinsky’s companion, and her resident was often used as his safe house. Not many details are given about the nature of their relationship –or about Dominique herself. In fact, a big part of her remains a mystery. Her design makes her look like a Femme Fatale, and she has the face of someone who’s both cunning and very, very tired. Being involved with someone as unscrupulous and well-connected as Rubinsky suggest that she’s bold and ambitious, and doesn’t particularly care for morals. However, she does have a conscience, and while she never really turned away from him, she always found moments to voice her criticism, or even her disdain towards actions that even she deemed to be too low.
A mother and a housewife, I found her surprisingly insightful and funny. She’s a sweet, intuitive and calm woman, and she doesn’t hesitate to call out her husband when she disagrees with him. Hortense is clear about her choices and the values she holds dear. She has a lot of control over her household, and most importantly: she’s happy with the life she chose to live.
While there are other female characters, this are the women that we see the most (or left a bigger impression on me). LOGH’s female characters can fall into the following categories: “traditional” female characters (as in, women in typical roles for women) that might or might not have more dept, women that take control of their lives and attempt to pursue their desires, literally just plot devices and wives that we only see a few times (or once).
LOGH does have a few stumbles and outdated notions (for example, there’s an episode with Court Drama starring a typical vindictive, forgotten lover that… didn’t age well). Although there are women on this list that are in the military, they only ever play support –we never see any woman commanding a fleet or fighting in h2h combat. Only Karin has a role that allows her to be more directly involved in the fight, but we never see much of that either. There’s even a scene where Karin is the only one to be asked to stay behind while the men go to fight.
Regrettably, the notion that a woman has to change and become more traditionally feminine (even if it means abandoning some individuality) to become a wife and a mother is also present.
The show also has great difficulty in portraying friendships between men and women, since practically all the relationships between them have romantic and/or sexual feelings. However, that’s not really a problem that’s exclusive to LOGH, and it can be argued that many shows still struggle with that nowadays.
Even if there are characters or systems with sexist views, the show doesn’t necessarily agree with them.
Complexity it’s not exclusive to men in LOGH either. Sure, it’s flawed and the female characters are few, but I was pleasantly surprised by how varied they are. The characters I mentioned on the list are multidimensional, but there’s also variety in the least notable characters (or those that only appeared once or twice). We have typically sweet girls and absolutely despicable figures. We have nurturing women, but we also have those that are absolutely unqualified to get close to children, let alone be mothers. There are loving female characters, and those that are filled with nothing but hatred. And most importantly: regardless of what some characters might think, the show doesn’t really judge who is better or what kind of woman is “the ideal.” Like everyone else, they mostly feel like people with their own beliefs, dealing with their own circumstances.