Crest of the Stars : Battle Flag of the Galaxy
This anime is the second season of "Crest of the Stars", a hard sci-fi story that I liked rather a lot. As a result I was quite looking forward to more of the same. For reasons which will become obvious the second season has it's own review (under its own name).
The Ahb are one of the dominant forces in a sci-fi future. Originally humans genetically, and socially, engineered to face the needs of space they have developed a complex and advanced culture. They have also expanded their military might and power and control many of the planetary systems and space gates that are vital resources. And it is now they face one of their gravest threats for the remaining political powers in the galaxy are determined to break the Ahb's power and free normal mankind from their clutches...although many `normal' people find reason to prefer the Ahb.
In any case the war has begun and the first shots fired. Both the Ahb and the alliance have amassed the might of their military forces. The Ahb forces hitherto unquestioned in their might and the Alliance forces built up in secrecy. The war looks to be long, and bitter, but both sides know that the first encounter will have a massive effect on how it progresses. Strategy, tactics, numbers and the blood and effort of the crews on both sides will be called upon as both sides are eager for victory.
In other words it was all rather disappointing. However before I start whining let me mention that the tape I saw was damaged. Not by bad copying, not because someone dropped it, but because it was translated by a bunch of pirates somewhere in Asia. And, be sure, as soon as I can find a better copy I'll review it again. Spotting these tapes is easy though, poor translation, mangled names, missing lines, awful timing and generally broken grammar. I sure hope the Chinese subtitles, from which I believe they make their money, are better than the English ones.
What it means in practice is that a large, but difficult to measure, portion of the dialogue is seriously dumbed down. The meaning, nuance and character of the script greatly reduced. And this is obviously going to be a problem because one of the wonderful things about this series is how delightfully weird the Ahb are. We follow the battle largely through the interaction of some of the leaders and the main characters from the first series who now command a minor ship in the larger battle. The intricacies and depth of this component, which I am certain is there, is strongly damaged by a poor translation.
Even with that said I still don't think this series is nearly as exciting as the first season was. The reason is because the scope is so much narrower, effectively the whole series is entirely concerned with a single, albeit major, engagement. As a result there is an awful lot of space combat action and a lot less character work. And, much as I hate to say it, endless starship combat can get somewhat tedious. It makes perfect sense in terms of the `reality' of the world, this is a big and important battle, and the continuation of the story but the build up of character and context was a lot more exciting and varied in the first season.
And there's some other strange choices here. Laphir and Gint, the rather interesting leads from the first series, now have command of an assault ship in the fleet. With no ability to do high level strategy, little flexibility in weapons and tactics and minimal ability to take a blow there's simply not that much for them to do. They zoom around space using the two weapons they have, shooting down missiles because they cannot survive a hit. And, strangely enough, we never get to see or know the enemy. Indeed most of the time they are fighting automated systems, as a result it's all very impersonal. Possibly meant to represent one reality of high tech war, but perhaps not that exciting in practice.
So I don't believe this section of the story can generate the same interest as the first. The character work, and story events, is strongly limited by the depiction of a huge sci-fi space battle. However, within that context, this remains solid stuff. The character interplay between the small crew of the assault ship is good. The interaction with another member of the nobility, and getting to watch over the shoulders of the senior commanders, injects a sizable amount of personality. The tactics, and detail, of the battle are solid and believable and quite exciting to watch. Meanwhile the atmosphere of danger, tension and loss gives a wonderfully solid and complex depiction of a deadly serious war. Its only real fault is that it is not as good, varied or rich in character as the first series. Of course if you adore starship battles then you might find this reduction to be a huge positive factor.
The animation itself is excellent. Laphir looks cute (especially in formal evening dress) and intense as always while Gint and the rest of the crew are interesting, likeable and expressive. The technology of space combat, and depiction of combat, is surprisingly exciting considering how much there is and how little variation. Lots of motion, effect and some computer `tactical' displays to give the larger picture. If you want a good depiction of space combat you've got it here. It feels like there's a moderate re-use of animation sequences which is expected but disappointing none the less. The design on most of the technology is also good. The voices are excellent, giving a lot of personality to the characters (the insane twins are excellent) and the music is strong.
I suspect most other anime review sites are still on the first season and will not split them up. As such you might want to check my first season review for some links. Their certainly don't seem to be any reviews specifically for the second season (though the THEM review is somewhat ambiguous).