Epic space battles of fleets numbering in the thousands of ships against a backdrop of political intrigue and the all-too human characters caught up in a seemingly endless war. That is as close as one can come to summing up Legend of the Galactic Heroes in a nutshell. Based off a series of novels by Tanaka Yoshiki (who also wrote Heroic Legend of Arslan), LoGH is probably the longest OVA ever, standing at 110 episodes split into 4 seasons, as well as spawning 2 movies, side stories, with a possible second series in the works. The first movie was released in 1989 and the series itself finished in March 1997, so LoGH is something of a classic.
On the side of the Galactic Empire, we have Rhinehard and his childhood friend Kircheis trying to free Rhinehard's sister from being a concubine to the Kaiser. Looked down upon by the decadent high nobles, Rhinehard demonstrates that he has the ability to back up his claims. As well as freeing his sister, Rhinehard turns his eye to reforming the now old and corrupt Empire and its stratified social classes.
Yang Wenli is no less talented than Rhinehard, but he does not share his ambition. Initially wanting to be a historian, Yang is forced into the military against his wishes and must deal with the politicking rampant in the fervently patriotic Free Planets Alliance. As much as Yang wants to resign, he knows that more people will die if he does, and he is wary of the possible power abuse inherent in any dictatorship such as the Galactic Empire.
Separate from the fighting is the Phezzan Dominion. Playing one side off the other, this small state is economically powerful and is situated at a strategic junction between the two superpowers. The head of the Dominion, Rubinsky, has more in mind than just making a profit, though, and it becomes apparent that he is part of a far larger conspiracy.
Though the list of characters is huge, what truly appealed to me is how human they are. There are no "vital" characters. People appear, play their parts, and die or leave, just like in real life. There are no superhuman feats or characters. A single pistol shot can and does kill. With such a large cast, characterization takes longer to develop, often over multiple seasons, but after so many episodes, you really feel closer to the major characters and care more about what happens to them.
More than just "Germans in space", LoGH asks deeper questions, among them: What is a good government? Is democracy inherently better than dictatorship, even if the dictator is efficient and just? How does one guard against abuse of power? Is a compromise between the two systems possible?
Heavily plot driven, LoGH is a truly epic series that plays out like a piece of future history. I heartily recommend it to those who like such sweeping drama as well as those who like their starship combat on a grand scale.