animefringe march 2003 / reviews

Banner of the Stars Vol.1
Format: bilingual DVD / 4 eps. / 125 min.
Production: Bandai / Sunrise
Comments: Not your average space action adventure, this a smart, subdued drama.
Animefringe Reviews:
Banner of the Stars Vol.1

Banner of the Stars is the middle child in the Crest of the Stars saga. Crest of the Stars, Banner of the Stars, and Banner of the Stars II is the anime adaptation of the popular sci-fi Novel series by Morioka Hiroyuki. Set in the far future, space has been long colonized and several factions rise up against each other for dominance. Banner of the Stars involves itself with a conflict between the two major powers in the universe; the United Mankind and the Abh Empire.

From the description, you might think that Banner of the Stars is an action series focused on big ships and epic battles, but this is not the case. The Crest of the Stars series is more space drama than anything else. Though it is set during wartime Banner of the Stars focuses on the relationships between the main characters and most of the series is spent in conversation or tactical/political discussion between the leaders of the Abh.

Crest of the Stars (spoiler warning) begins with the conquest of the Martine system by the Abhs, a race of genetically modified humans with blue hair and long lifespans. The president of Martine, in order to avoid war, abdicates his planet to the Abhs and becomes one of their nobility, a move that enrages his citizens. The president's son, Jinto Hyde, instantly becomes a count and is whisked away to an Abh school. A decade passes and Jinto, 17 years old, finally meets his first Abh when preparing to leave for officer school to start his mandatory Naval service. She is pilot trainee Lafiel, sent to escort Jinto to the patrol ship Gosroth. It turns out that Lafiel is the granddaughter of the Abh Empress and a princess in her own right.

Jinto hasn't much time to acquaint himself with Lafiel when the ship is ambushed by the United Mankind, a coalition of humans that oppose the Abh. Lafiel is ordered to evacuate Jinto (still a civilian) and grudgingly does so. They escape and eventually find themselves stranded on an enemy planet. Of course, at the end of the series they manage to extricate themselves and are rescued by the advancing Imperial Fleet.

Banner of the Stars takes place three years after the end of Crest of the Stars. Lafiel has been given her own small assault ship to command and Jinto has graduated from officer school to become her supply officer. Events in the war have drawn to a standstill. The Abh and United Mankind have declared a cease-fire as they both retreat and lick their wounds. The Abh are planning a massive offensive in order to take back the territory they've lost and Lafiel must ready her and her crew for battle.

A departure from the usual action-adventure space titles, Banner of the Stars is slow-paced and a totally different sort of show. The first two episodes are devoid of any excitement; the characters are introduced and a little bit of Jinto and Lafiel's relationship is disclosed while the rest of the crew prepares for departure. The lack of action isn't a bad thing for those who like character development and political discussion over plot movement and action sequences, but there are of course those who just want stuff to happen and will be turned off by the Banner of the Star's deliberateness.

The next two episodes do take off as the ship and its crew go through and survive their first battle. These battle scenes are rendered excellently with smooth animation and some pretty tense sequences. The Japanese voice acting brings the characters to life perfectly and the dub track is decent. The disk has two extras in the form of text; a summary of Crest of the Stars and a "Newsletter of the Stars"(A little information on the origins of Banner of the Stars). Overall, if you liked Crest of the Stars, you will like Banner of the Stars, but I wouldn't recommend this if you haven't seen the first series and are not accustomed to it's slow pace.