Banner of the Stars 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: 29.95
  • Running time: 125
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Banner of the Stars

Banner of the Stars Vol. #1

By Chris Beveridge     December 26, 2002
Release Date: January 21, 2003


Banner of the Stars Vol. #1
© Bandai Entertainment


What They Say
Banner of the Stars continues the space saga from Crest of the Stars as depicted in the best selling novel by Hiroyuki Morioka. The war between the Abh Empire and the Mankind continues to rage across the galaxy! Caught within the intergalactic struggle is a lone human, Jinto and the Abh Princess, Lafiel. Together, will their efforts be enough to bring about peace?

Great sci-fi series animated by SUNRISE Studio (CREST OF THE STARS, G GUNDAM, Big O).

The Review!
After completely winning us over with the first series, Crest of the Stars, the first part of Banner of the Stars continues the story here, bringing back those who meant the most and expanding the cast just right, as well as letting us see more of the universe around them.

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.

Video:
The transfer here looks great, with so much of the shows blues and blacks shining through without looking soft or blocky. The sourc 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:
Similar in style to Crest of the Stars, the package here retains the layout and provides some great character shots as most of the primaries are lined up here against the planetary image of Aptic. 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. It just makes me wish the series had an overall name to file it under. The insert provides another look at the cover and opens up to provide a gorgeous space shot and a brief “State of the empire” piece. The back of the insert provides more full credits, and in a real happy plus – they credit the English voice actors from Blue Water to their roles. I’m very happy to finally see that.

As an added bonus, this is a reversible cover! The reverse side front cover, which is the only piece that's different, has a great image of Spoor holding out her sword while the faded image of Lafiel and Jinto's faces are in the background.

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 Abh fleets. 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:
There are two quite useful extras included here. The first is the Newsletter of the Stars, which is essentially some very nicely detailed liner notes going over the five respective episodes on this volume. There’s definitely plenty to learn here and it helps flesh things out nicely. The second extra is going to be very useful to people like myself who watch a lot of stuff, and may have forgotten some of the details from the Crest series. There’s a good multipage summary of Crest of the Stars that preps you just right for this volume.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
With Crest of the Stars, we were fairly high on the series prior to its release having seen some of it in Japanese. After getting the full story in the translation, we became serious Morioka junkies and have been eagerly awaiting this release, as 2002 had nothing from this series at all. Bandai’s definitely made up for that with this season, as the thirteen episodes are being done on three discs. So we get five episodes right at the start. And what excellent episodes they are.

There’s a fair amount of recap splashed through the opening two episodes as we get caught up on current events. The war between the Abh and the three prong human alliances has lasted nearly the entire three years that Jinto was in training. We catch some glimpses of it, but mostly see the beginnings of it as we saw in Crest. There’s an uneasy peace that exists now, mostly because both sides exhausted each other. The human alliance had created a wedge, or a wall through the Abh empire, the first time in history apparently that they’ve gotten so close to what they consider their homeworld/capitalworld.

Lafiel, now a deca-commander, is part of a team of ships, a new style of craft that’s been built that operate in teams of six, that can handle the larger battleships of the human alliance fleet. With Jinto now aboard and their shakedown training runs completed well enough according to their instructor, they find themselves being sent to one of the front lines. This in itself is an interesting topic that does get covered, that since there are Sords all over, the “front line” is a very malleable thing. The Abh empire has spent their downtime building a massive fleet of ships to retake the wall that has been created, so they’re lining up their defenses along the way as they retake world upon world.

Their actions upon conquering each system in itself proves interesting, as there’s some very subtle play going on in the part of the higher commanders about the surrendering of the planets and the potential of them falling back into the human alliance hands. The best aspects of it all come from Spoor and her Chief of staff as they deal with one particular president whose trying to gain a political advantage from blustering publicly but sucking up on the side.

A great deal of time is spent on tactics, maneuvers and the large scale fleet movements. It’s hard to not enjoy these aspects, as it’s done in a very classic way and reminds me so heavily of Galactic Heroes. Watching these massive ships move across solar systems is just pure candy to me. But it’s also very well balanced out with the internals, as we spend a good amount of time with the varying commanders of the fleet. Spoor continues to be my absolute favorite, especially as she banters with her Chief. The area we get the most intimate with is of course Lafiel and her bridge crew. They’re a mix of experience and newbies that provide a very good flow when it comes to actual combat.

Of particular note is the other female Abh who is part of the bridge crew and who is oh so subtlely part of a new love triangle that’s forming around Jinto. While it may feel forced elsewhere, the way that it’s brought up and then played with through actual dialogue (as opposed to inner monologues or just no dialogue at all) is beautiful. The verbal sparring is down a bit here compared to what we saw in Crest of the Stars, but that’s more because the opportunities don’t present themselves as easily. When they do come up, they are truly the highlights here. These are among the most real-feeling characters I’ve seen in a long time.

Of course, it’s not all dialogue and large ship movements. There’s some really thrilling action sequences, though at the first it’s more like a submarine adventure. In an eerie way, the opening battle that Lafiel and her crew get involved in almost feels like a reverse play of what we saw back in Crest when they were aboard the Gosroth. This isn’t lost on Lafiel and Jinto, and it adds an interesting layer to their thought process as they press the attack. I absolutely adore the way they’ve presented the space battles, with the space-time bubbles and the way their all shift and mesh together into planar space. The visual presentation of it also works well, with the grainy look that shifts to clarity once they’re all inside the same bubble reflecting the uncertainty before contact and then the vivid liveliness of being in the pitched battle.

Whenever I start getting the feeling of being burnt out, it’s a show just like this that instantly changes my mood and gets me all excited about anime again. For those who’ve never tried it, I recommend it highly, especially this series since you get more for you money. For those who are like me and completely hooked from the first series, this first installment of Banner of the Stars is pure payoff.

Features
Japanese Language,English Language,English Subtitles,Crest of the Stars Summary,Newsletter of the Stars

Review Equipment
Toshiba TW40X81 40" HDTV, Panasonic RP-82 Progressive Scan codefree DVD player, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Monster component cable and Sony speakers.

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