Crest/Banner of the Stars

12
Feb
2015

Crest/Banner of the Stars

Back before we had services like Crunchyroll and Netflix it used to be that the only way one could get access to Japanese Anime was by either going to the video store or the library and checking something out. Back in 1999 getting information on the newest anime series from Japan was even harder. You could only really get information by either learning Japanese and reading content over there online or via print material. 

When Crest of the Stars was first animated in 1999 I didn't know anything about it. It wasn't until I saw a 2000/2001 (ish) article in Newtype USA that was discussing it's impending DVD release here in the states that I first became aware of it. Ever since then Crest/Banner of the Stars has ranked continuously in my all time favorite anime list. Here are a few of my reasons why I adore this franchise.

Plot

Based in the far future Crest of the Stars revolves around Jinto Lin, a young boy whose world is conquered by the mysterious Abh Empire. Instead of fighting a war for his planet Jinto's father, Rock Lin, surrenders the planet to the Abh peacefully that elevates him and his family to the rank of Abh nobility in exchange for the launch codes for the planetary defense canons. Jinto now has to live the life of Abh nobility, learning about the Abh and enrolling in their military as part of his noble duty when he comes of age.

Several years later as Jinto is ready to begin his military service Jinto finally meets his first Abh face to face, the young and beautiful Lafiel. Lafiel may appear to be just your average junior officer but she is more than that, she is an Imperial Princess, a granddaughter of the Empress herself. 

Soon Jinto and Lafiel find themselves embroiled in a new conflict. War is brewing between the Abh and the Four Nation Alliance. Jinto and Lafiel are forced to fend for themselves as their ship comes under attack in route to the Capital. From there they evade an enemy fleet, escape a rogue Abh Barron, and crash land on an occupied planet. Jinto and Lafiel can only depend on each other as they begin their adventure to stay alive in the coming war.

Presentation

Crest/Banner of the stars does a better job at most in really immersing you in the culture of the Abh. The Abh are a genetically modified version of the human race. They age slower than regular humans, have blue hair, their bodies are acclimated to zero gravity, and they possess an extrasensory organ on their foreheads that gives them spacial awareness. 

As such they are similar enough to humans to be relate to but their culture has been separated from the rest of humanity for so long that their culture and language have diverged in a very unique way. The as the story progresses you are immersed in Abh culture and language. You learn about Abh nobility and responsibilities. You learn about Abh mating and death rituals. You even begin to learn of various Abh words. 

I was actually surprised early on to learn that the Abh language is so fleshed out that there are actual Japanese to Abh dictionaries. It is almost like all of those Klingon to English dictionaries. To me that is an amazing feat. 

 

As you watch the series you begin to see why people compare it to the original Star Wars Trilogy. In Star Wars the story revolved around Han, Leia, Luke, and Vader. Yes there was this huge galactic war going around them but the war never overshadowed the main characters. This is similar to Crest/Banner of the Stars.

Jinto and Lafiel are the main characters, the story is tightly focused on them. While there is this huge war breaking out all around them between the Abh and the Four Nations Alliance it all only serves as a backdrop to Jinto and Lafiel's adventures. 

"But aren't all good stories supposed to be this way?"

Yes they are, but there have been instances lately where many directors and authors make the events around the main characters the stars of the show and he main characters are just along for the ride. The Star Wars Prequels come to mind as an example of where the events surrounding the main characters are more important than the main characters themselves.

Artstyle

The Artwork for Crest of the Stars is hit or miss for me. While the animated character designs by Keisuke Watabe is ok I personally adore the art by Aya Yoshinaga and Toshihiro Ono to be far better. I really didn't like he artwork of Wasoh Miyakoshi. It's not as if he artwork was bad, it just didn't fit the overall feel of the series, it was far too "realistic" for my tastes. 

Artwork around this time was going through a transition. We were transitioning from the hard jawlines of the 1990's to the more angular smooth lines of the modern era in character design. The anime took that more hard jawline approach while the first two manga took the more smooth modern approach. I personally prefer the smoother lines of the modern era over the past era, this is especially true when it comes to females faces and body designs. It's just easier on the eyes. The last sample on the above picture (Banner of the Stars 2) looks more like a painting than a manga, it just doesn't fit IMO. 

Audio

Can I just be brutally blunt here? I hate the English dub of CoTS. I really do. It is bad, freakishly bad. It is so bad that once I saw the first episode in English I vowed to watch most if not all future anime in it's original Japanese. 

What makes it so bad?

Well for one the voices do Not fit the character. Lafiel is supposed to be a 15 year old girl and she sounds like a 30 something woman. It just doesn't work. The English audio isn't synced properly with the Japanese Animation which makes it look like it was done by a fan group instead of a professional company. 

What is weird though is that that the casting company for Crest of the Stars (Chinook Animation Productions) is the same company that did one of the best animated dub work I've heard in the My-HiMe and My-Otome series. My only reasoning for this disparity in work in that in the 4-5 gear gap between the two shows the company's work got better. 

The Music in the series was composed by Katsuhisa Hattori. I'll be honest, beyond his work with Fist of the North Star I don't really know much about him. I didn't know until looking him up that he also helped produce the Final Fantasy Music CD. His style is more of a Classical style with some New Age tossed in. It is heavy on the Orchestra with bellowing trumpets and drums in the background. It works for the most part and it fills up the tension well when the battle scenes start up.

It's nice how a lot of these older anime's put far less emphasis on pop-stars of the era and focus more on music that fits what is on the screen. It is surprisingly refreshing. That isn't to say that I dislike the current crop of J-pop/J-rock music that fills modern anime. It is just a nice change of pace from the everyday norm. 

Why is this series so special? It seems pretty average to me.

For me it has to do with when I first discovered this series. As I said previously, when I was first starting to get into anime my only exposure to the genre was through video rentals, whatever I could see on cable TV (mostly old school stuff) or whatever was at the local book store (which at the time was a single shelf). I really didn't have much exposure to Japanese Anime or culture beyond those avenues. 

It wasn't until Newtype USA first started to be released that I became aware of all of this other Anime and Manga that I frankly never was aware of. Then one day I saw this in the magazine.

Note: I just realized this was a scan for Banner of the Stars not Crest of the Stars. I don't know where my old copy of Newtype with Crest of the Stars is at. For all I know it is lost forever. Regardless you get the idea.

 

I was immediately drawn to the series. You see at the time (this was 2004-2005 I think) I was in the middle of my Sci-Fi craze. I was watching shows like Andromeda, Star Trek, and Stargate. I had grown up watching TOS, Next Generation, Firefly, Space Above and Beyond, and Earth Final Conflict. So suffice to say I was a huge sci-fi nerd. So the prospect of watching a sci-fi anime just blew me away. I was hooked.

I had to get my hands on this anime. Some time later I had heard of this new website that was selling movies online that may have what I wanted. It was called Amazon.com. :D

So yes, my first Amazon purchase was the full boxed set of Crest of the Stars. The series was also the first time I purchased an entire anime series. I had bought anime moves before but it was mostly the localized stuff that you could buy at Target. Digimon and Pokemon stuff. I mean you have to remember, this was about 10 years ago, getting a hold of anime wasn't as easy then as it is now. 

 

Crest of the Stars will always hold a dear place in my anime collection. It was the first Anime that I sought out specifically to watch instead of stumbling upon on my own. It opened the doors to me to a whole wide world of Japanese Media, form Anime, to Novels, and Manga. It also fed into my whole Sci-fi craze, which at the time, was very limited to what was on broadcast TV. 

I really love this anime, and now you know why. If you ever get the chance to, watch the series. And maybe, just maybe, you will love it to.