Banner of the Stars II: A Spectacular End to a Slow Series

Oh, what a splendid ending Banner of the Stars II leaves the viewer!  I loved all the strategizing and intrigue surrounding the final interstellar battle.  The search for Jinto, despite the fact that we know from the first few minutes of the show that he will ultimately be found, engrosses the viewer in the other characters’ anguish and uncertainty.  However, juxtaposing the grandeur of the final three episodes to what happened prior (with the exception of the last episode on disc two, anyway) makes one feel that they cheated the viewer: if the animators can create scenes as exciting as what’s found in the the last disc, why couldn’t they do the same prior to it?  Well, I forgive them.  My extreme fondness for the characters allows this series to get away with practically anything in my regard.  I’m waiting for a season where our heroes do nothing but converse at a bar–with the skill they have at writing dialogue, they could get away with it!

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As I said, the first two discs of this 10 episode series (yes, a mere ten episodes) are comparatively dull, but I still enjoyed them because of the amusing conversations and intrigue.  Unfortunately, the third disc so surpasses the first two that the series left me with the feeling of being jipped.  Oh, well.  They’ve hooked a sucker in my case.  But lest I turn anyone away from this franchise, I would like to reiterate that the first two seasons are much better.  Despite also having slow beginnings, the overall quality of the entertainment remains rather consistent throughout.  Perhaps Banner of the Stars II is better told in the light novels than in the anime.

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The last disc included a bonus episode which I must tell you about.  You see, I remember reading a description of a Banner of the Stars OVA which fit this OVA to a T.  It concerns Lafiel’s parents on a mission which takes them aboard an abandoned spacecraft.  The dynamic between the two is most amusing, and the perils of their predicament onboard the ghost ship make for one riveting bonus episode.  Also amusing, we get to see an Abh proposal: “I want your genes.”  (Try that out on your girlfriend and see what happens!)  Basically, if you do want to watch Banner of the Stars II, don’t buy a separate OVA fitting that description!

The proposal seems to have worked.

The proposal seems to have worked.

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Anyway, now I’m looking forward to Banner of the Stars III–no matter how character-driven and lacking in plot it may be!

Before I end this article, let me tell you about one scene which really struck me in this series.  In their search for Jinto, an informant gives them information about where he was last seen.  (A very fanservicey informant.  Banner of the Stars II is the first series in the franchise where fanservice is really pronounced.)  While the soldiers are searching, Lafiel’s sitting in a car with her hands clasped.  If not for the fact that she–like all the other Abh–is an atheist, I would say that she was praying.  Indeed, in such a situation where one is completely powerless, what else is there to do except pray?  I think that one reason for atheism being more widespread nowadays is that people trust too much in their own ability to get things done or wealth, breeding the kind of vanity which makes one feel that they can get by without God.  Yet, atheists must run into some situations where their own helplessness is keenly felt.  So, what does an atheist do in such a situation?

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Hidden Gems of Anime: Crest/Banner of the Stars series

At this moment, I’m watching Banner of the Stars II, which is the third part of one of anime’s most brilliant sci-fi series.  It used to be more popular, but so few young fans know about it that it merits resurrecting the title “Hidden Gems of Anime.”  This work began when Hiroyuki Morioka wrote the first novel of the Crest of the Stars series, which is told in three installments.  Morioka created quite a sensation with this series, consisting of three volumes for Crest of the Stars and four for Banner of the Stars.  He even introduced a new language for the Abh empire called Baronh, with which each season begins and the prologue is narrated.  (Being ignorant of this, I began to worry that I had suddenly lost my ability to understand Japanese when I started watching it!)  Some people have fallen for it to such an extent that they have learned this language, and the Japanese editions are written in both Baronh and Japanese–so one can even enjoy the novels that way!

Banner of the Stars II reminds me of what makes this series so fresh and enjoyable.  Each season starts slowly, and they never rush the pace.  One remarks on the abundant use of dialogue, the subjects of which range from mundane palaver to philosophical or cultural discussions to war room meetings.  These conversations are often drawn out and evolve to include a spectrum of topics.  Only the author’s great skill at conversation allows him to get away with it: these conversations always intrigue me.  One almost wishes that one could be locked in a room with them for several hours just listening.  No character lacks the wits for entertaining speech.  In Banner of the Stars II, the conversation which started as a negotiation between Jinto and the leaders on a certain planet concerning plans for evacuation morphing into one on whether Lafiel and Jinto were homosexual was particularly amusing.

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The way the series delineates the high level of civilization and the curious cultural practices of the Abh are another highlight.  All the cultures are presented in a rather non-judgmental fashion.  Technophilia pervades Abh culture so much that they have developed a sixth sense (a kind of sonar which allows them to fly space ships better) and have all their children designed for them in laboratories.  They are all beautiful, tend toward being quite intelligent, and live for about 200 years.  (I like thinking of them as space elves.)  All are atheists and rule their dominion with great tolerance toward each planet’s practices.

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The battles are intense, especially when they occur in “plane space,” a dimension which allows for swift intergalactic travel.  Overall, the ships fight as if fleets of submarines, which lends a uniqueness to these battles: the ships rely mostly on mines and missiles (which resemble torpedoes), and certain compartments need to be sealed off as battle damage occurs.  Also, the bridge tends to be dark and small–like a submarine’s conning tower.

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The characters themselves rate high in likeability and diversity of character–another reason for the conversations being enjoyable.  Jinto and Lafiel have been rated as the best anime couple by the defunct and greatly missed Anime Insider magazine.  The battle-thirsty and coolheaded Beneej Spoor, who suffers from long bouts of ennui, also makes for one of my favorite characters.

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Well, dear readers, those are the highlights for this series.  I enjoy watching it in both English and Japanese, though the sub is superior.  Hope this article has piqued your interest!  Any other sci-fi series which you find enjoyable?