Banner of the Stars II Vol. #1 - Mania.com



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Info:

  • Audio Rating: B+
  • Video Rating: A
  • Packaging Rating: A
  • Menus Rating: B+
  • Extras Rating: B
  • Age Rating: 13 & Up
  • Region: 1 - North America
  • Released By: Bandai Entertainment
  • MSRP: 29.98
  • Running time: 100
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Banner of the Stars

Banner of the Stars II Vol. #1

By Chris Beveridge     July 20, 2003
Release Date: August 19, 2003


Banner of the Stars II Vol. #1
© Bandai Entertainment


What They Say
Imperial Calendar Year 956. Operation Phantom Flame has come to an end and has been hailed as a complete success. Now, the Imperial forces have embarked on a new plan, codenamed Operation Hunter. Their task: to hunt down and destroy any remaining enemy forces.

With Lafiel's new title as Territorial Ambassador, life has been rather boring... until now. When they arrive at the recently captured planet of Lobnas, Jinto and Lafiel realize that Lobnas was once a prison planet, and now that the Abh have taken control, it has now become their problem.

The Review!
After a rather exciting and action packed first season, Banner of the Stars returns in a ten episode follow-up series that starts off by dealing with the realities of conquest.

Audio:
For our primary review, we listened to this disc in its original language of Japanese. The vast majority of the audio on this disc is really dialogue with some ambient subtle music playing along. There are many moments when the music is subtle enough that you almost don't hear it. What may confuse some people however is that there's a third language spoken in the tracks, the alien Abh language. Many times when Abh is spoken it's not translated. It was the same for the Japanese viewers as well. Times when it is translated, there are burned in Japanese subtitles. If you don't see those but hear someone talking in a different language, it's Abh. This first volume is particularly fun as it starts off with Jinto and Lafiel speaking solely in Abh for several minutes with no translation at all, but it works quite well as you try to understand through the emotions.

Video:
Just like the Japanese release, this season of Banner of the Stars is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and in anamorphic widescreen. The transfer here looks great, with so much of the shows blues and blacks shining through without looking soft or blocky. The source materials provide a very sharp looking image here with vibrant colors throughout. With so many shades of blue, it becomes striking just how vibrant it can be yet still sit right next to a much softer shade. Cross coloration sneaks into a few very minor areas later in the disc, but overall this looks great. The grainy space battle sequences look fantastic as well.

Packaging:
When it comes to artwork for this series, I’m becoming quite the junkie. This one has a great central shot of Lafiel with her sword extended that provides separation for the various sides that come up in this conflict. The reverse side of the cover mirrors the feel of the first but does it with Spoor and her sword extended while various members of Lafiel’s crew surround that central image. The back cover provides the episode numbers and titles and some good summaries of the shows premise. The discs features and extras are clearly listed as well as a chunk of the production credits. In a real plus, the spine is designed in the same fashion as the Crest series, making it easy to keep them all together. The insert provides another look at the cover and opens up to provide a gorgeous space shot that takes a look at the “hunter” ships involved in the new operation. The back of the insert provides more full credits.

Menu:
The main menu layout is a fair bit nicer this time around, as we get the lush instrumental music playing while the background pans across the various fleets as well as extending to some of the surface imagery. Moving between menus is nice and fast, with most submenus set up like Abh computer screens, which can be a slight bit confusing at first since it’s based on colors. Access times are nice and fast and overall very responsive.

Extras:
The only extras included in this release is a brief illustration gallery and the continuation of Morioka’s “newsletter”, which provides more interesting points and realizations that he comes up with upon re-viewing the series after some time. His comments really help to flesh things out from the novelist perspective of what he was trying to achieve and what the scriptwriters managed to convey.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
After two seasons of this show that fascinated and intrigued me, it came as little surprise that the first installment of the third season pretty much captivated me as well, as it takes the elements of the second season, rearranges things a little and then gets a nice push forward.

The season starts off in a most evil way.

But we’ll leave that alone. In the time since the end of the second season, the battle against the United Mankind has gone much better than expectations. Fleets continue to expand their areas of conquest nicely and the Abh Empire continues to grow, retaking lost planets and adding new ones. The most striking naturally comes from the fleet of Nereis and Nefee. As their fleet moves outward and into areas that aren’t considered strategically valuable, they gain more and more worlds, stretching some resources thin. Most notably in administrators and ambassadors, which is an amusing situation.

There’s definitely concern among those higher up in the fleet as well as Nefee who is concerned about his brothers aggressive advances into enemy space. Since Nereis hasn’t really explained his motivations for it, Nefee continues to harbor the fear that his brother has succumbed to the Spectacular Insanity that is the trademark of their family. Between the expansions and aggressiveness, Nereis continues to take his baths and record his personal logs in the midst of battle, which must cause some kind of varying emotions among the crew who know about it.

One other interesting element we learn early on here is the introduction of Lafiel’s younger brother and her father. The two have an interesting talk about Lafiel and the way their father raised both of them, as her brother is having concerns about her being so far ahead of him as he’s just now entering the academy and his father is returning to the fleet to perform his own duties. This all takes place in a most interesting location where a number of cats from the Royal family and some others (such as Jinto’s) are kept while their masters are out and about. The conversation provides some intriguing insights into the family and into Lafiel herself.

Eventually, we do get back to the story of Jinto and Lafiel, but the fact that we can spend so much time away from them to help build up the legs of this massive storyline is a strong aspect of this series. In their new Basroil, the crew is back together and heading to the planet Lobnas II where they’ve been assigned to deal with the transition to the Abh Empire. Lafiel pretty much dreads this duty once more since there’s little fun in being a territorial ambassador, but Jinto still finds some excitement to the entire process. He offers up to handle the duties for this one and she lets him.

Lobnas II turns out to be a very interesting little planet with a number of challenges. As it turns out, the planet is actually one of United Mankind’s prison worlds where there’s just one island continent that’s habitable. With nearly a million prisoners on the planet, they see the arrival of the Abh as a chance for freedom to do what they want on Lobnas II or a chance for emigration. There’s four factions vying for power here, from the actual administration to representatives from the three sectors. The makeup of the actual prison section is interesting, as the men and women are kept in separate thirds of the continent while a mix of the two are allowed in the center portion but only if they agree to be sterilized. The administration has decided that they and their families should not stay here in case of reprecussions, so they ask for emigration. The women in their separate section ask for the same as they feel that if they’re left there, the men will simply plunder and rape them, turning them into cattle for breeding.

Suffice to say, Jinto has quite the exercise ahead of it. This spans over the four episodes as we get to know the situation and each side jockeys for position and power with the Deputy Ambassador. Much like in the first season when Lafiel and Jinto spent several episodes with the Febdash’s, these episodes provide some really keen insights into Abh administration of their Empire worlds and a look at what United Mankind has done for their prison system. A lot of neat little items are revealed through the discussions that range from quiet and serious to loud and nearly violent.

A number of sequences here take place on the planet itself and this provides quite the contrast to the last season after all the time spent in space. It’s fun to get some of the crew on the ground again and on an island no less. Lafiel takes something of a backseat for most of these episodes, letting the pressure of everything on her shoulders weigh heavy as she tries to deal with that, but otherwise letting Jinto take the lead here. It’s a nice change of pace to have her more in a support role as opposed to him.

As with past volumes, there’s lots to enjoy here. The dialogue, the designs, the massive fleet movements and the music. The only downside to this volume was the lack of Spoor, but I’ll keep my hopes up for more of her. Banner of the Stars continues to be one of those series that reinvigorates my love of anime and I can’t recommend it enough.

Features
Japanese Language,English Language,English Subtitles,Art Gallery,Newsletter of the Stars

Review Equipment
Toshiba TW40X81 40" HDTV, Panasonic DMR-E20 DVD Recorder, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Monster component cable and Sony speakers.

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