Do you have that one anime that you’ve been waiting for forever to watch? A series that you barely knew anything about except for it’s genre and yet that was enough for you to be hooked for it? A series that apparently has a legacy and hype around it and once you watched it, you completely fell in with all of the hype? That was Banner and Crest of the Stars for me. I know that I’ve fallen in love with series like Chihayafuru and Natsume’s Book of Friends recently, but the of the Stars series was my kind of show and was everything I wanted. This was something that I’ve fallen head over heals for the second I listened to it’s opening theme. Why? Because it sounds like it came from the opening of either Wrath of Khan or Search for Spock. I knew that just by listening to the opening that this show meant business and I was ready for it to take me wherever it wanted me to go.
So what is Crest and Banner of the Stars about? That’s not an easy question to answer, but here are the basics. The prequel series, Crest of the Stars sets up an entire universe where the galaxy is split apart into different space empires. The most important one, because that is the one the story focused on, is the Abh empire and they are the space elves and the cylons of this universe. A lot of years before the story started, the Abh were a race produced by an early mankind to explore space. At some point, the Abh rebelled and won there freedom and ever since then, they’ve been conquering all of known space. Not planets, space. If they find an area of space they need to control for it’s strategic value, a space fleet will be sent over to conquer an area and they may consider conquering a planet or two. Only if it’s absolutely necessary for immediately access to resources to keep the fleet going. The Abh would be called the evil empire in other series, but this is where Crest and Banner of the Stars starts subverting the viewers expectations from genre norms.
In the beginning of this story, our protagonist Jinto was a normal, young kid who just lived a normal life. Well, besides his father being leading the government of this planet and living in a mansion. He never expected to live an extravagant life, but one night his planet was conquered by the Abh empire. Jinto was amazed by the strange lights in the sky which was the sign his destiny was about to start. Since the Abh don’t care about owning planets, Jinto’s father surrendered his planet in order to be an Abh and lead his planet from afar for them. Jinto was instantaneous made Royalty and his future of becoming apart of the Abh space force was made for him. Years late, the actual journey of Jinto’s life and this story truly begin.
Crest of the Stars begins it’s run when Jinto meets a young, Abh princess from the Abriel family by the name of Lafiel, at a space port over his home world. Since Jinto is completely ignorant of Abh traditions, he asks for her real name, she answers without any titles, and the two begin their technically romantic not romantic journey through the whole show. Lafiel is a wonderful, intelligent, bad ass warrior princess, who can dish out Abh sass in a moment’s nice. At the same time, she is also too rash in her decisions because of how young she is. Considering the fact that Abhs are reproduced through mechanical and test tube means instead of sexual means, what they have could be considered romantic from a certain point of view. Anyway, the rest of Crest of the Stars sets up the Abh empire’s conflict against the United Mankind’s forces in Banner of the Stars through Lafiel and Jinto’s various journy of Abh territory and even United Mankind’s territory until it’s conquered again.
Banner of the Stars has two seasons and one two episode OVA that I wish was at least four episodes. The first season is when the many fleets of the Abh empire are in battle directly conflict against the United Mankind over the largest reaches of space. Quite a few of the Abh admirals that are in charge of fleets are characterized by their interactions with their chiefs of staff and the way they conduct battles. The admirals and their chiefs have a unique Star Trek like dynamic where you are given multiple sides of how they can approach a battle through various types of dialogues. Then you have Lafiel’s and Jinto’s ship the Basriol, which shows how the battle is going on a microscopic level. Considering that their ship is a little assault vessel that can barely hurt other ships, they are the men (and women) inside the trenches despite their royalty status. After the Abh’s victory (spoilers sort of), since Lafiel and Jinto are members of royalty, they are given the positions of the ambassador of one of Abh’s conquered territory. Of course, the planet happens to be a prison colony. Talk about trouble, huh? Yeah, a little too much. But it’s ok, all of them make it out to close off Jinto’s arc in the ova. Jinto found his family, the Abh people. Lafiel was there all along for the ride with her snarky attitude.
I just need to say this now, knowing the Abh people inside and out is the strength of this show. I mean seriously, the author of the light novel pulled some crazy Tolkien shenanigans and built the Abh’s own language using ancient Japanese as a base called Barohn. The opening monologues from most of the episodes are from that language sometimes and it’s just breath taking listening to this strange alien dialogue. Definitely one of the many cool things about this “Of the Stars” series. Straying away from that, I like how the Abh’s royalty works because the world building in this show is exceptional. Especially since anybody who wants the throne needs to climb the chain of command in the military themselves in order to get a shot. That means they must know about how to command and get their people’s trust. The best part is since their life spans are twice as long as a normal humans, they only have to serve royalty for a limited period of time and then they are free to do whatever they want afterward. There is so much more that I can tell you about the Abhs, but I want to let the series do that. Please watch it.
Since this is a series with space ships in it, I need to at least talk about the space fights. The amount of spaceships that are on the field are just amazing. Especially since the space combat is so well organized. The attack ships are like the scouts that come into contact with each other first and their combat is quick and tactical with many turns. The guardian and recon ships are a little bigger, slower, and have a good balance of speed and fire power. Finally, the battleships are mobile fortresses with tons of fire power. Most combat is against enemy rocket mines, because the term torpedo must be copyrighted or something. Each side have their own fun and unique designs and colors for their ships and that’s so cool. You can tell this is where most of the animation resources are spent, because most of the show is built from still frames of people sitting. Still, even if the battles aren’t High Definition in the release I got and are from a large amount of repeated of well animated frames, I couldn’t take my eyes off the screen when the space battles happened. Thank the lord for anime space battles. Especially those produced in the early 2000’s because they are great. I guess Crest and Banner of the stars wasn’t popular enough for an HD release, but I really want it anyway. I would have loved to see everything on screen with more detail, color correction, and flow.
As much love as I’ve thrown on the pages of this post for Crest and Banner of the Stars, it has some very distinct flaws. Other then the many still frames in this show and the oddly paced first four episodes, have you noticed I haven’t said much about the Abh’s enemy, The United Mankind? We barely know anything about them besides necessary, minimal elements. I mean, we know that they are a united front of four space nations (with one having a treaty with the Abh, so they stayed out of the conflict) containing half of humanity. Of course, the other half of humanity are from the Abh. The second part are the motivations for why the United Mankind are fighting the Abh. They are horribly racist toward them based on the Abh’s history and how inhuman they consider them. For example, Jinto’s friends and the way Lafiel and Jinto were treated at the space port over Jinto’s home world gave the irritational hatred for them it’s own characterization. Other then that, we don’t know anything else. No fleet names or admirals in the United Mankind’s military. They are just an enemy the Abh are fighting. Maybe that’s the whole point? I don’t know. Looking at something like Legend of the Galactic Heroes, that series didn’t ever focus on people in lower levels of rank besides Julian Mintz, but you at least knew the specifics of who the enemy was, how they think, and what they stood for. I guess every space opera has their own strengths and weaknesses like everything else.
In the end, if you love space operas and/or missing something that feels like Star Trek and sometimes sounds like Star Trek, but provides it’s own characters, motivations, and stories, then this is the show for you. It’s an underrated classic that more people need to see. If you do watch it, please don’t watch the dub EVER. It’s among the worst early 2000’s oceans dubs that I’ve ever listened too. It even sounded bad compared to Netflix’s Baki dub, which is mediocre by modern standards The sub version is all you need for this wonderful show. I feel like Crest and Banner of the Stars was a series that was built specifically for people like me in mind. It just appeals to all of my particular tastes and exceeded my vague expectations of it. Of course, other people should watch it as well. In fact, please do. If you liked everything that I said in this post, then this franchise might be for you as well. It’s only 38 episodes in length after all. Highly recommended by me! You know, that one guy from a smaller corner in the internet. Completely legitimate opinion. *nods furiously*