Banner of the Stars Vol. #2 - 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: 1.33:1
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Banner of the Stars

Banner of the Stars Vol. #2

By Chris Beveridge     February 21, 2003
Release Date: March 18, 2003


Banner of the Stars Vol. #2
© Bandai Entertainment


What They Say
Lafiel and Jinto find themselves on the front line of a battle against the Empire! However the two must face a different type of battle, politics. Stranded amidst an impending battle between the main fleet and the Empire, Jinto and Lafiel will need to deal with their recent loss and must devise a plan to escape and rejoin the main fleet before its too late. Their hope lies within a small, agile assault ship... the Basroil.

The Review!
Taking us through the middle of this particular seasons arc, we get into the action very well here, but also take some time out for an episode about… dinner.

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 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:
The front cover goes somewhat subtle here but alluring at the same time as we get the dinner outfits to take center stage and get a glimpse of part of Lafiel’s outfit in particular. The reverse side of the cover has a more military version of it with more of the command level cast participating. 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 and a brief “new weapon” piece. 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 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:
The newsletter of the stars continues here with some interesting information about the show and its translation from the novels, as well as the explanation of a non-novel episode done up in this season. There’s also for the first time a small but well done production art gallery.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
While the first volume had a fair amount of recap mixed into the layout of the fleet taking up its positions to fight the three allied human fleets, things here move away very well from that, but not entirely. It’s also not entirely inappropriate to have such moments either.

Atosuryua, wanting to celebrate her brothers birthday, invites both Jinto and Lafiel to dinner aboard one of the more elaborate restaurants that’s mixed into all the fleet preparation modules. This in itself is a fascinating piece to look at, and one that makes sense when you really think about it. As Lafiel explains, the high ranking commanders have to have places to go to eat and discuss things without having to worry about who is around them, and a secure but elegant place like this is perfect.

Jinto, being human after all, is extremely nervous about all of this dinner talk. After all, it feels very strange to have dinner with the relative of someone who you had a hand in killing. He feels even more concern for Lafiel over it, even after the previous meetings and chats they’ve all had about there being no ill will about it all. Jinto sees an out for himself since he figures Lafiel will decline, but is shocked when she quickly agrees. So, the two are off for a dinner date, which allows both of them to dress up a bit. And my oh my does Lafiel dress up nicely.

The dinner engagement is a very enjoyable piece, much like the one between Lafiel and the now dead Baron back in Crest of the Stars. Atosuryua has chosen quite the elegant place, and all of them look very good, though somewhat somber. The table is even set with a place for the Baron, with his meals being changed out along with everyone else. While there is initially some tension, things play out very well and there’s a lot of excellent character discussion that goes on, providing an episode that’s heavy on dialogue but also on mood. This was extremely enjoyable.

Following this, things pick up quite a bit in the action and suspense department as the fleets start moving out to determine more of the enemies locations as well as to push the boundaries up a bit, but without formally engaging the enemy at large. This bring the Basroil and her crew into the forefront of things and provides them with some much needed experience and building of character. The downside for them is some of the choices that have to be made.

During the one non-novel episode, though fully approved by Morioka, we have the awful situation of the Basroil and the Siegrol being stranded in plane space and mostly disconnected from the rest of the fleet as their communications were down and their fuel was lower than low. The two craft work furiously to bring their respective ships back up to speed. When they get some limited radar back and have an unidentified fleet coming up on them, the tension goes into overdrive as they try all sorts of ways to stay alive, including one that really shows the backbone of the Abh.

The remainder of the volume goes back to the build-up tension of the fleet staging itself in anticipation of the battles to come. We visit various commanders as they prepare their own fleets as well as the master level orders going out to all the other fleets. It’s a slow and methodical piece as it counts down from fifty hours before first contact, but it shows so much of the Abh’s style and methods that it’s a fascinating watch. It also mixes in various characters one on one talks, such as some of the crew aboard the Basroil who could potentially become lovers as well as some back and forth about staffings among the command level folk. Spoor gets only a few moments of screen time unfortunately.

The build-up and the subsequent start of things plays out beautifully and the entire disc had me sitting on edge in anticipation of what was going to come next. Hardly any show gets me as wound up and tense and excited as this one and each moment of screen time is savored. It’s so easy to rewatch this series and take in more and more subtle aspects. While this installment feels a bit slow in some respects, it’s set up just as smartly as Crest of the Stars was, so expect a lot of enjoyment here. It’s a fantastic release and a fantastic batch of episodes.

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

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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