Episode 19, "The Battle of the Doria Starzone"
Synopsis: After taking control of the rebel-controlled planet Shamploo, the Yang Fleet engages the 11th Fleet in the Doria Starzone. Yang repeatedly requests their surrender, but Admiral Legrange is stubborn, and their fleet is eventually all but wiped out. Legrange shoots himself instead of surrendering and the battle is over. Yang accepts National Salvation Council spy Bagdash's genuine offer to work for him now that the 11th Fleet is defeated, but Julian doesn't trust him. On Heinessen, Jessica Edwards organizes a massive protest against the coup which is violently put down by the military.
Yang and his fleet are faced with the ugliness of the National Salvation Council's machinations and forced to take decisive action in this episode. And then it's capped off with a bigger tragedy, both for the FPA and Yang, personally. Things are getting mighty bloody in this civil war, too.
The adaptation of Chapter 5 of the second LoGH novel was pretty spot on, aside from a couple of condensed things (like Bagdash's meeting with Yang in private being one encounter instead of two), and a little bit of background they easily could have covered concerning the coup's faction having trouble actually governing (not really understanding economics, for instance). But otherwise, it's a straightforward presentation of the events of the chapter, even down to Yang's specific reaction to the Stadium Massacre. He wears his sunglasses in space, so he can, so he can, watch the way you weave and breath your storylines.
(Don't switch the blade on the guy in shades, oh no.)
The Eleventh Fleet got smashed by Yang's fleet thanks to his tactics. Legrange didn't have to go out the way he did, and could have avoided so many casualties if he had only surrendered sooner. But he was full of nationalistic, militaristic fervor, the kind that props up the flimsy "Salvation Council" that knows more about battle than about governing. And even here in their expertise, they're ultimately no match for Yang.
Compare the two speeches given to troops in this episode, the first Legrange on fulfilling one's duty to the homeland, and the second Yang's casual remarks on how freedoms and rights trump the existence of nations. The former commits to their words with a great passion, while Yang yawns before delivering his and discounts things like duty to country. He calls it a meaningless fight, even if it's a fight they need to win. Now compare their ideologies (or maybe Yang's lack of one) to Bagdash's relaxed dismissal of principles in favor of staying alive. He is utterly shameless, but it's people like him that tend to stay alive the longest.
Speaking of Bagdash, you have to admire Yang's laid back expression to him pointing a gun at him. He knows very well that one, Bagdash wouldn't cut his lifeline so easily, and he has more to gain using him as a host than the defeated 11th Fleet. Second, obviously Julian is also right there, pointing a gun at Bagdash, and Yang knows Julian has his back. He's very carefree about having a guy like Bagdash in his employ, which must mean he'll have a use for him in the future. Bagdash's elastic ideals are in a perfect contrast with Julian's pure-hearted loyalty, as well. Though while naive, Julian has at least picked somebody worth being loyal to, as far as my estimate. And now so has Bagdash, even if it was just a coincidence. (Of note, Julian sounds much angrier in this scene here than in the OVA, where he sounds more measured, but firm.)
Finally, we have the Stadium Massacre. When it escalates, it gets pretty brutal, especially for Jessica. We see explicitly the damage to her done by Captain Christian as she bleeds on the ground, then is tossed by a powerful hit that breaks Christian's baton. There's even a final shot of her, bloodied, dead, with the picture of her, Jean Robert, and Yang also soaked in her blood. It's far from subtle, but it's intended as a stark example of what happens when martial power goes out of control. It's her death that sparks the protestors to themselves turn violent against their oppressors, leading to the deaths of many on both sides. In today's political climate, this scene is ever the more relevant.
In the OVA, we got some additional material of Jessica earlier in the first "season" involving her political aspirations, so perhaps that gave her death an extra boost of sadness, but even knowing what would happen in this episode, it was still startling in its violence and tragedy, probably because it included the deaths of so many others in the massacre.
In the novels, it's harsher than in both versions. The OVA has a discretion shot. The novel describes Christian hitting Jessica with his gun until blood spattered all over his uniform, then stomping on her face. I think this version was a nice compromise, showing her physical suffering, but without going too over-the-top.
Some of Jessica's final words were very condemning of the coup and rang true of many zealots. These were people different than Trunicht in that they were willing to risk their lives for their ideology, but what good is that purity when it leads to so much destruction and death?
"So if you're prepared to die, you can do whatever you want, no matter how stupid?"
"You're an unworthy disciple of Rudolf." (In the translation of the novel I'm going by, she says, "You are Rudolf's own son.")
Jessica was herself prepared to die, but for peace, rather than nationalism-fueled war.
Solid episode with some great drama and a bit of decent action, too. And hey, we got some Olivier Poplin in this episode, which is always neat.
Next time, Marquis von Littenheim is a bad boss, Reinhard lays a trap, Merkatz throws shade, Braunschweig throws bombs, and Kircheis frets.
4 out of 5