Crest of the Stars Vol. #1 (of 3) (Mania.com)

By:Bryan Morton
Review Date: Thursday, April 20, 2006
Release Date: Monday, April 03, 2006



What They Say
The faithful adaptation of a classic epic of Japanese Science Fiction.

Jinto Lin was content living on the planet Martine, as the son of the Prime Minister - Rock Lin - until the day the Abh invaded. Without firing a shot, the Abh seized the planet in a deal that left Rock and his son Jinto Abh nobility! With nobility comes responsibility - including 7 years of intensive studies on the culture and language of the Abh! With his studies at an end he is ready to attend the Abh military academy. Whilst being transported to the Academy he meets the lovely Lafiel - a trainee pilot who isn't quite who she seems to be.

So a great adventure begins for them...

Episodes Comprise
1 - Invasion
2 - Kin of the Stars
3 - Daughter of Love
4 - Surprise Attack

The Review!
Jinto Lin finds himself thrust into the role of a noble and member of the Abh military just as war breaks out.

Audio:
Audio is provided in Japanese and English stereo tracks " I listened to the Japanese track for this review. Very little use is made of directionality in this release, even during the more action-based sequences, but the soundtrack is clear with no obvious problems. Quite heavy use is made of background music, but it's kept at a low enough volume that it never gets in the way.

Video:
Video is presented in its original 1.33:1 full-frame aspect. There's some shimmer on the Japanese text that appears during the credit sequences and whenever the Abh language is being translated, along with two noticeable instances of blocking during very red-heavy scenes. The transfer itself has a slightly soft-focus, washed-out feel to it " overall, definitely not the best-looking release I've seen.

Subtitles use a good-sized white-on-black font that is clear and readable. There are a number of points in these episodes where Abh is being spoken and you may think subtitles are "missing" " this is intentional.

Packaging:
Lafiel and Jinto take their places on the front cover, Lafiel in one of her friendlier moments while Jinto's shown looking back over his shoulder with a concerned look. The back cover has the usual promotional paragraph, episode titles, screenshots and technical information, while the reverse side of the cover is used to give short episode summaries.

Menu:
The disc menus are provided in French and English version, selectable when the disc loads. The menu opens with a series of clips from the show before the main menu finally appears. On the main screen, a central panel runs more clips, over an background image of Lafiel and Jinto. Submenus are provided for language setup, episode select and extras. The chapter select screen uses a series of animated scenes for each episode, while the rest of the submenus use static pages with different pieces of background music from the show.

Extras:
There isn't a huge selection of extras on this release. Along with the standard creditless versions of the opening and closing credits, there are a set of character profile pages for Lafiel, Jinto, Lexshue, Baron Febdash, Spoor and Dusanyu.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review will contain spoilers)
The far future, and mankind has spread to the stars. When the planet Martine finds itself beseiged by the Abh - once the slaves of man, but now the genetically-engineered masters of a huge empire - its leader is faced with a simple choice: submit to Abh rule, or face the destruction of his planet. President Rock Lin surrenders to the Abh before a single shot is fired, an act that, while protecting the future of his planet, also sees him elevated to Abh nobility and branded a traitor by his own people. Forced into the role of a noble, young Jinto Lin finds himself sent to another world to learn about the culture of the Abh and the responsibilities of his new rank. After seven years of training, it's time for Jinto to join the military academy.

As Jinto waits at the orbital station for his escort to pick him up, he has time for one last talk with classmate Dorin. Like all his friends, Dorin's having trouble coming to terms with discovering that Jinto was Abh nobility - for the past 7 years he's kept his status to himself, only revealing it when it was time for him to leave for the academy. Their farewell brings a lot of memories back to him - but before long his escort arrives and it's time for him to leave. It soon becomes apparent to Jinto that even after seven years of schooling, he still has a lot to learn about the Abh - but his escort Lafiel, the first true Abh he's ever met, looks set to become a good guide.

There's a huge amount of background information in the first two episodes, which are presented mostly as flashbacks from Jinto's memories as he waits for his escort to pick him up. As well as looking at Jinto's own origins, we get given the first look at the nature of the Abh and the way they see their land-based subjects. The Abh themselves are creatures of space " the "kin of the stars", as the call themselves. Their empire may be huge, but their interest is in the value of the trade between those worlds, so their interest in landers pretty much stops at keeping the worlds they control from waging war and disrupting their trade routes. Past that, their worlds are left to run themselves more or less as they please " after all, ruling them would be considered "inelegant". Jinto may be Abh by law, but he's a lander by origin and fitting in to the world he now finds himself in is not going to be easy for him.

Enter Lafiel, who on the surface is about as much Jinto's opposite as it's possible to be. A member of one of the Abh royal families, grand-daughter of the current Empress and supremely confident in her own abilities, she's the last person you'd expect to be looking for companionship, but in her own way she is. Jinto's initially unaware of her royal status " to him she's just another military cadet " and it's that ignorance that leads to the first seeds of friendship being planted between them. Jinto's the first person to ever treat her "normally", and even from the look on her face when Jinto asks her name you can see that means a lot to her. When Jinto eventually learns of her family history and starts behaving properly towards her, she's genuinely angry and really makes him suffer " that's one of the funnier scenes on this disc.

With the introductions out of the way, the story moves to Lafiel's ship, the patrol ship Gosroth, which is intended to convey Jinto to the imperial capital and the start of his military training. As well as giving Jinto and Lafiel further opportunities to get to know each other, the build up to war begins here. When a group of unidentified space-time clusters - usually representing other ships - is detected approaching the Gosroth, Captain Lexshue fears an attack. Not liking the odds, she orders Lafiel to take Jinto to safety aboard one of the Gosroth's shuttles - something Lafiel's not at all happy with, as she sees leaving the ship at such a crucial time to be a dereliction of her duty. A lesson in responsibility from Lexshue sees her reluctantly accept her orders, and the two leave the Gosroth in an attempt to reach the Sufognoff sord and safety. Meanwhile, the approaching fleet signals the Gosroth with a challenge to do battle. The volume ends on a bit of a cliff-hanger, with Lafiel and Jinto rushing to reach Sufognoff and safety while the Gosroth faces down its attackers in a battle it looks unlikely to win.

The scenes on the Gosroth's bridge leading up to the confrontation are a good example of one of Crest's strong points " its attention to detail. The anime is based on a series of novels by Hiroyuki Morioka, who has put an immense amount of effort into creating a highly detailed, believable world to set his story in. From the Abh language & culture to the science behind travel through plane space, the setting has been well thought through and holds together really well. It's definitely worth paying close attention to everything that goes on here, as even the smallest thing can give an insight into how people behave and react or how a battle may play out.

If there's anything that the series can be criticised for, it's for being so dialogue-heavy that some scenes may seem to drag a little " but to be perfectly honest, that's really a minor flaw. The characters in general are so well realised that listening to them talk really isn't a chore, and only serves to build up their personalities even more.

In Summary:
Crest of the Stars has long been one of my favourite series, and I'm very pleased to see Beez finally bringing it to the UK. With a cast of interesting and multi-faceted characters, a hugely detailed universe and the beginnings of a suitably epic war that will drive events along, there's plenty here to keep most anime fans glued to the screen. It won't be for everyone " the slow pacing will see to that " but this is one series that genuinely deserves to be at least checked out by every science fiction fan.

Features
Japanese Language 2.0,English Language 2.0,English Subtitles,French Subtitles,Character Profiles,Creditless Opening and Closing Sequences

Review Equipment
Panasonic TX-W28R30P 28" widescreen TV; Pioneer DV-626D player; Acoustic Solutions DS-222 5.1 speaker system.



Mania Grade: A
Audio Rating: B
Video Rating: C+
Packaging Rating: B+
Menus Rating: B
Extras Rating: B-
Age Rating: 12 & Up
Region: 2 - Europe
Released By: Beez
MSRP: £19.99
Running time: 100
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Crest of the Stars