Banner of the Stars II Vol. #3 - Mania.com



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Info:

  • Audio Rating: B+
  • Video Rating: A
  • Packaging Rating: B+
  • Menus Rating: B+
  • Extras Rating: A
  • 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. #3

By Chris Beveridge     December 06, 2003
Release Date: December 02, 2003


Banner of the Stars II Vol. #3
© Bandai Entertainment


What They Say
The arrival of Admiral Spoor and the Operation Hunter First Fleet heralds more bad news. One of the remaining fleets of the United Mankind is headed towards Lobnas and the Basroil only has a few hours left to complete its emigration plan. After a furious battle, the Imperials are forced to depart leaving Jinto a captive in the hands of the rebels. Hard decisions will be made and Lafiel will soon come to terms with what is truly important to her. The final installment of Banner of the Stars is at hand.

The Review!
Banner of the Stars draws to a close with this volume, bringing some great moments of fleet battles while also focusing on the core personalities of the characters that make this show so enjoyable.

Audio:
Though the series continues on with a stereo mix, it uses it very well with the ambient music and the sound effects. The soft almost lilting feel to the end theme and the way it’s mixed into the show itself really works well in providing some backdrop to the moment without it being over the top. For the majority of the dialogue, it tends to feel center channel based at times but during scenes with enough characters around, there is some good placement along the forward soundstage. During regular playback, we had no issues with the Japanese language track that we listened to.

Video:
The presentation of this series in its original 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen aspect ratio continues to be a huge selling point in my eyes. The added canvas space has given the show a chance to grow its environment nicely and the animators have done a great job in really capturing that feel. The use of more varied colors in this series due to the shift down to the planets brings about some really great looking sequences. With the heavy blues and blacks involved, there’s no noticeable macroblocking on our system and the final episodes were free of cross coloration and aliasing. The colors looked fantastic, the blues as always but there were also a couple of areas where the red background really looked fantastic.

Packaging:
While not one of the best looking Stars covers, the final one presented here looks good with a wounded shot of Jinto set in the foreground while we have Lafiel slightly behind him in piloting mode expressing more emotion than we usually see out of her. The back cover presents things just right, much like past covers. The episode numbers and titles are listed in a quick to read area along the top while a filmstrip of animation shots is just below it. The summary takes up a few paragraphs and gives the basics of what to expect. The discs basic features and extras are clearly listed and there’s also an extra mention of the bonus episode giving a brief one line summary of that before the rest of the cover descends into production information and other technical notes.

The insert has another look at the front cover and it opens up to a two page spread with a great widescreen image of Lafiel and Jinto floating in space together set against a beautiful backdrop. The interior covers the information about the bonus episode and gives a couple more lines about it while also going through the usual motions of episode numbers and titles and other extras. With this release, Bandai has continued with their reversible covers. This one is a strong break from past covers as it has a pale purple background with a very young child version of Lafiel grinning like mad in the center, sans clothing. The back cover is laid out the same but some different shots from the episodes were used in the filmstrip.

Menu:
The menu layout mirrors past releases in its basic design, which looks nice but still could have been much more. Bandai’s menus continue to be decent but unexceptional for the majority. The static selections are laid out on top of a number of animated moments from the episodes of ships floating past and going into time space bubbles while some of the opening theme music plays along. Moving throughout the menus works well, though continual problems such as being able to re-select language options are there and some of the language selection menu layout is a bit difficult to discern. Otherwise, the menus continue to be quick to access and fast to load.

Extras:
The extras section is either minimal or full depending on your point of view. The basics carry over once more, where there’s a brief production art gallery of black and white pieces showcasing various ships and vehicles used during these episodes, and there’s the final installment of the Newsletter of the Stars, where Mr. Morioka talks about the last episodes and a bit about the special OVA on the disc.

The big extra, though I’d contend it belongs more in the main menu as an option than in the extras section, is the inclusion of Seikai no Danshou, generally referred to as the Birth OVA from the Crest of the Stars release timeline. This 25 minute extra OVA is one that according to the novelist a piece he didn’t want animated since it wasn’t something he felt could transition well from the novel form to the anime form. The bulk of the show is really just pure dialogue, as we take some time to get to know Lafiel’s parents on their honeymoon. Mr. Morioka indicates in a special section that he knows it works well in a book, but he can’t visualize it. But someone at Bandai was insistent enough to push it through and it looks like it turned out better than the novelist thought it would.

While in the long run, Birth doesn’t exactly change much of anything, it’s a great episode in that it provides more of the driven dialogue that fans of Crest of the Stars really got into as well as providing some background on Lafiel and her family to grab onto. What little we’ve seen of her family in the series proper, in addition to what little she’s said about her own past, this is a nice way to get the story told without taking up a chunk of valuable time in the TV run.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Banner of the Stars has been all over the map, at least when it comes to the local star system that the series has predominantly taken place in during this second installment of the Banner series. Each volume seems to end with some sizeable cliffhangers, never mind the Banner II series starting off with the death of Jinto sequence that we finally get to near the end here. There’s nothing like messing with your viewers for the entire run of a show.

The previous volume ended in a great way, with Spoor agreeing to defend something of a last minute run to the planet for Lafiel to get more people on board while the United Mankind fleet is about to pour into the system via the Lobnas Gate. While things are about to get dicey above, the collapse of any sort of command and control on the ground has resulted in a near comical moment of everyone pointing guns at each other, leaving Jinto out of the loop and barely alive after that incident. But even though he’s still alive, he’s essentially trapped on a large island continent filled with prisoners who now have little reason to live since the majority of the women have fled to refugee status.

With that in the background, these final episodes have a lot of areas to play with. It manages to kick off with one of my favorite aspects, and that’s dealing with Spoor in any way at all. With her style and wit, she continues to harass her Chief of Staff as they set up to defend against the incoming enemy. Instead of going the normal route though, she opts to try and convince the incoming fleet commander that the entire upcoming battle is pointless and to just let each side finish what they need to do before moving in, and she’ll have her small fleet retreat within six hours time. Spoor’s attempts at negotiations are fun to watch, particularly as the Chief of Staff continues to rewrite them into something a bit more diplomatic each time.

The resulting engagement between the two fleets continues to heighten my fascination with this show. The movements of the ships, the organization of the attack patterns, the use of the time-space bubbles to create areas in which to fight, all of it is intriguing and very well played out here. This is one of the more engaging battles that Admiral Spoor finds herself in, and though I think the Chief of Staff reads too much into her comments and body language, it’s definitely a skirmish that has given her a new appreciation of command and battle.

The other story that plays out nicely here gives us more time with Jinto as we follow him trying to survive down on the prison planet after the last of the rescue ships takes off from the bay. Through the use of flashbacks to his last “on the run” adventure during Crest of the Stars, it’s really interesting to see how the character has really changed and fleshed out, physically and mentally, since that time as well as seeing what’s remained the same. With only himself as company while trying to avoid the angry prisoners, he sneaks about the towns trying to forage for something resembling food or decent water while dreaming of his home planet Martine as well as how he’ll have to face Lafiel one day.

While the main storylines are engaging and quite enjoyable, it’s often the little moments that come in and really provide some quick excellent moments. One of these comes during a surprising argument between the Nereis and Nefee and the proper place and time to be discussing ones memoirs. While there’s talk of the Spectacular Insanity, the open insults from one brother to the other regarding the way he’s approaching each battle as something to be talked about in his memoirs brings a new spin on these two. Even better, the one in charge finds himself very subtly dressed down by a higher ranking commander in the form of Lafiel’s father during one particular engagement, leading to some unpleasant business to attend to.

Banner of the Stars has managed to really expand a lot from what Crest of the Stars hinted at, moving somewhat from a more personal character driven show to one that can manage the epic galactic movements of fleets while taking that core character aspect and nudging it slightly into something even more engaging and enjoyable.

In Summary:
All told, these final episodes bring about a number of concluding points to what’s been going on in the two Banner series but still leaving the wider storyline open for growth while hinting at possibilities there for the future. Sadly, as of this writing, there isn’t any other animation in the works due to the novels not being ready yet for adaptation. Hopefully we’ll see some sort of one-off OVA or other adventure in the mean time, but otherwise it’s going to be a long time before we get new material.

Features
Japanese Language,English Language,English Subtitles,Production Art Gallery,Newsletter of the Stars,Crest of the Stars: Birth OVA

Review Equipment
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Panasonic RP-82 Progressive Scan codefree DVD player, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Monster component cable and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.

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