Sekai Trilogy Vol. 1: Crest of the Stars
It's always nice to get into a new science fiction manga, especially one as good as Crest of the Stars.
In the future, a race derivative of mankind, though not inferior to its parent species, has nearly taken over every planet possessing intelligent life. This group is named the Abh, and they are known for their enhanced mental abilities, affinity for logic, and incredibly long life spans. The Abh are sometimes called the Kin of the Stars because they were engineered primarily for life in space. Thanks to their physical and mental superiority to standard humans, plus their suitableness for off-land life, the Kin did not have much trouble conquering each world they wished to place under Abh rule.
The Abh share control of the galaxy with four other ruling parties: The United Mankind, The Federation of Hania, The Republic of the Greater Alcont, and The People's Sovereign Union of Planets.
Jinto, the main character of the trilogy, didn't think much about the Abh when he was young. That is, not until they arrived in his home - the Hyde Star System.
At the time, his father was Hyde's President, and thus he and his family were offered two clear options. Either the Abh would attempt to take the Hyde System by force - a fight that the humans could not possibly win - or Jinto's father could surrender Hyde to the Abh. Though ultimate sovereignty would be placed in the hands of the Abh, Jinto's father would maintain domestic control of the System and be inducted into the Abh's ruling class. Daily life would not noticeably change for the inhabitants of the system under the power of the Abh. And thus, to avoid needless death, the President chose to give in to the Kin.
The President of Hyde was branded a traitor by his people. Jinto was forced to hide his heritage following the Abh's takeover in fear of the reaction his fellows would have if they learned he was related to the man who "betrayed" the Hyde System.
After we're given this picture of Jinto's past, the story skims forward a few years when he is a young man leaving his home to serve as a member of the Abh's ruling class. His first face-to-face encounter with an Abh happens with the seemingly young Lafiel. Since Abh age differently than regular humans, she could be anywhere from the same age as Jinto to decades older.
What makes the scenario even more interesting is when we learn Lafiel is related to the Imperial family - she's essentially a princess in the Abh hierarchy.
The princess for a majority of the human race.
However, Jinto's a good person, and he starts to like Lafiel for who she is. Furthermore, the fact she's rather cute helps him look beyond her icy Abh heritage.
In this volume, the two get caught in the initial stages of an intergalactic war between the Abh and the Four Nations Alliance - the collection of all the human-run dominate parties opposed to Abh control.
Many events are packed into this somewhat longer-than-usual manga, and the end of the book certainly left me wondering what would happen next. Although the events in volume one comprise a standalone story (the next volume is set years later), I can happily say I see the beginnings of a complex and intriguing story.
Toshihiro Ono's artwork is clean and well-defined. Lafiel is given an impressive range of emotions, and while they may be extremes from calculating cruelty to innocence, she always looks like herself. Character models are maintained quite adequately. Technology isn't rendered too often in Crest of the Stars (considering it is sci-fi), but the ships which appear look good. Shading is used more often than screen tones, and both are subtly effective.
TOKYOPOP has included a handy glossary to explain the expansive Abh language, though curse words are left mysteriously untranslated. The sound effects are also untouched, but in this case I'm thankful. Honorifics are gone, yet as its setting is in space, I suppose this omission is acceptable.
Crest of the Stars doesn't have as much comedy or fanservice as Tenchi Muyo GXP, but it's not a hard science fiction tale like Planetes either. Instead, Hiroyuki Morioka's tale manages to tread entertainingly between humor and drama, creating a future in which there remains hope for intergalactic peace in space - even if another race has to impose it upon us.