Crest of the Stars : Birth
I like Crest of the Stars. An unapologetically intelligent and hard edged sci-fi story with a pleasantly epic scope. And I can tell a lot of other people like it. How do I know? Because they clearly like it so much that the producers will release short, and obscure, OVA's like this to make some more money off them.
Two members of the Ahb race, an artificial offshoot of humanity adapted for space travel, are spending some quality time together. And being true Ahb's they do this by taking a small 2 person ship for a visit to some rarely visited points in space with nice scenery. And in this ship they engage in a conversation which, in true Ahb fashion, is partly playful, partly serious, partly flirtation and partly verbal fencing.
A conversation which is somewhat interrupted when they find another vessel in this area of space. Apparently a dead vessel, and unfamiliar, they challenge each other to explore this mystery. Boarding the ship they find that not only is it not entirely dead, but that investigation in space is not without its dangers. Still, through this danger, they learn something about each other and we learn something about the way the Ahb psyche works.
Although what we learn is pretty much open to debate. And how many people will care is an even more relevant point. I could mention that the translation on this was a touch dodgy, causing some amount of subtlety to be lost, but I will go for a much more obvious fact. And that fact is that this anime is awfully short, especially for an entirely self contained story. You would really have to have read the books the series is based on, or at least be an established fan of the anime series, to value this experience.
The two people, in time, prove to be important characters in the Crest of the Stars series. Partly in their own right but mostly because of the formative influence they had on one of the leads in the main story. However this event happens way before the first series, so effectively this is a prequel of sorts. Although because the story has little direct connection it would be safer to call it a character study.
And, to be honest, that's the rub. If you love the style and flavor of crest of the stars, it's playfulness and cleverness, you're probably well set up to enjoy this. If you enjoy the slow examination of character by the way they interact then doubly so. If you were hoping for some space action, then you're probably going to be disappointed. Indeed if you wanted story at all you will find precious little here. The events that occur are as much to move the characters forward as they are important in their own right. There is danger, and a little bit of action, but it is `environmental'. Caused by the fact that space is dangerous more than them getting caught up in a plot or event sequence.
And, to be honest, the story is more than a little confusing. This is partly because of the translation being average but also because the manner of the dialogue is highly abstract. Their conversation winds its way in such a manner that it is hard to tell what refers to `now' and what to either past or future. This is not helped by the animation which seems excessively dark. Often it is very hard to tell where they are and what they are doing. Fair enough, it's an aging hulk rather than a cruise-ship, but staring into the darkness trying to follow the events can be difficult.
So in essence this is a `flavor' piece for fans of the series. If you don't know crest of the stars then don't watch this first. If you hate crest of the stars, or worse yet its style, don't watch this ever. And even if you like the series a lot you'll still probably find this somewhat irritating for being so short and somewhat disconnected. If you liked this scene in the books, which I imagine is the target audience, then I envy you. In any case I will admit that there is a very rich sense of personality to these two which made it worth watching for me.
As mentioned the animation spends a lot of time painting scenes in varying shades of blackness. I know space is dark, but this might be a little excessive. Outside of this the character art is elegant as always and the technology, though rarely examined, feels solidly designed. It also does a good job of giving the `feeling' of space, including the many dangers it offers. Action is workable, character motion is good as are the few effects. I suspect the dialogue is clever and the voice acting is excellent, rich and fitting to the character. I don't remember any music as standing out.
There are some reviews of the first series of Crest of the Stars which are linked to under that review. Their don't seem to be any specific to this OAV however.