Banner of the Stars II Vol. #2 (of 3) (Mania.com)
Review Date: Wednesday, October 22, 2003
Release Date: Tuesday, October 21, 2003
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.
Deeper into the series and the conflict becomes more entangled and the stakes higher… and the viewers enjoyment has never been higher.
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.
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.
More of a collage shot than anything else, we get a good looking cover here with Lafiel being the central draw and the most vividly colored here while the main players from these episodes ring around her in the background. The reverse side of the cover has a very striking image of one of Lafiel in a white outfit holding a much more casual looking Jinto set against a similar space backdrop. 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 shot of a transport ship touching down on the planets ocean. The back of the insert provides more full credits.
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.
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 on the change and difficulty of writing ground based battles that take place in these episodes are interesting; it’s too bad he didn’t save/share his sketch notes for the battles as those would be interesting to see.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
With the second installment of episodes from the II series of Banner of the Stars, the only real downside is that there are just three episodes here. This is a series where I want season box sets at once and to just marathon it. At the same time, I think it would lessen the impact of the individual episodes by running it together like that.
And these episodes provide significant impact. While the evacuation was starting to go according to plan and those who wanted to emigrate, the plan begins to go to hell as the men in the containment areas begin to fight an organized campaign to capture the administrative section. Their goal is quite simple in that they refuse to let the women go, thereby consigning the planet to eventual doom with no heirs to be produced. The fighting is extremely fierce and it really shows through here when the prisoners get their weapons and start moving through the various locations.
To make things worse, a number of the guards have switched sides and are arming the prisoners and helping them move more swiftly through the complexes. From the command view, Jinto’s work with the territorial administrator looks grim as they try to find solutions to the problems. Problems made worse when the women try to make sure that they’re not left to hang during this and given over to the men. Jinto’s sense of honor and integrity are strong here though and he’s committed to doing what he can.
In fact, though he should return to the Basroil and direct the final movements from there, he ensures that he’s still on the ground so that he can get a clearer and more up to date view of what’s going as well as making sure he can get as many people boarded as possible. The downside to this is that with the number of guards that have switched sides, he ends up being captured and taken hostage by the men who are now proclaiming leadership on the planet, demanding that they be negotiated with. Naturally, this doesn’t fly with Lafiel as the territorial administrator has already given the chain of succession to them and that’s what the Abh will use. Abh don’t negotiate, they threaten vengeance and work their way from there.
One turn of events is rather surprising though and shows that much is still being hidden from the Abh on this planet as Jinto learns that one of the main reasons for a good number of the men and guards wanting to stay has to do with a strain of addictive drugs that is used here. With the addiction as strong as it is, a good percentage of the people are unable to leave the planet since they wouldn’t be able to get it otherwise. The added complication brings Jinto’s job even more problems as he tries to mollify the three sides that are ready to snap.
There are a lot of nuances sprinkled throughout these episodes; I particularly liked the introduction of “Abh Hell” and the references made in the second episode from historical and literary regions that describe aspects of it. Watching Lafiel speak briefly of it before one of her command staff fills Dokufu in on it completely is beautiful, especially the continually growing fear on Dokufu’s face. More pleasing is the verbal sparring that Spoor carries on with Lafiel as the situation heightens to greater tensions with the impending arrival of a United Mankind fleet into the system.
While the bulk of this particular series has been taking place planetside, it’s been especially intriguing and illuminating with both Jinto and the way of Abh life and beliefs. There’s so much talked about and brought up with the way Abh are and their methods that it’s continually fascinating to me. Combined with an engaging storyline and a cast of characters that I’ve come to love, this series has me completely captivated. I can’t wait to get the final episodes in the next volume of this arc and see how it concludes.
Japanese Language,English Language,English Subtitles,Art Gallery,Newsletter of the Stars
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Panasonic RP-82 Progressive Scan codefree DVD player, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Monster component cable and Sony speakers.
Mania Grade: A
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
Running time: 75
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Banner of the Stars