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Banner of the Stars (I) Review

Banner of the Stars continues the story established in Crest of the Stars, with Jinto and Lafiel both being members of an attack vessel (Lafiel is the Captain).  The story begins with them finishing their training and eventually being assigned to a very dangerous mission which involves protecting a region from a fleet that is much larger than their own.

Banner shares many similarities with Crest, which, according to the author, is to be treated as a prologue more than a “first part”.  However there are also quite a few divergences, enough that I don’t know if I can uniformly say that all fans of the original will enjoy this one to the same extent.  I have made it clear in my previous reviews that while I can enjoy a good story in any genre, I am not really a fan of large-scale sci-fi battles, which become even more frequent in this sequel than in Crest (though the next installment, Banners II, does not suffer from this problem). My primary draw to this series is the characters, specifically the development of Jinto and Lafiel.  The first series revolved around them, to paraphrase a character from Banner, “going on a little adventure” and they go from being strangers to forming something of an endearing bond by the end.  As much as the world and background of the Abh society are interesting subjects, the primary anchor to the show were the two leads.

The most captivating parts of Banner, then (at least for me) remain the interactions between the main characters.  The problem is that they do not get as much as development in this part of the series compared to Crest or Banners II. They are somewhat static throughout and character development takes something of a backseat to the broader battle sequences which form a great part of this series (which I will discuss in a moment).  Now, the fact that they are now part of a ship and a fleet mean that several new characters are introduced.  This is both a good and bad thing.  The good part is that there are several new characters who are quite interesting.  My favourite is Samson, a fellow Lander, whose down-to-earth personality clashes severely with the Abh but connects very well with Jinto.  There are others as well, such as the sister of the Abh nobleman who Lafiel killed in the first series during their escape.

However, I don’t think that all the new characters added quite as much.  For example, many scenes are dedicated to a “spectacularly insane” pair of brothers who are appointed as commanders.  Quite frankly I found their scenes rather dull.  Their characters are simply inserted into the show and without any real attachment to them, their exploits aren’t too captivating.  Another example is a fellow female crewmember who has an affection for Jinto’s cat and perhaps also, the show implies, for Jinto himself, creating a quasi-love-triangle.  But I felt like her character lacked a defined personality and thus these events felt just a tad forced.

Now, I mentioned a change in the tone of the show earlier.  Crest was an adventure story of sorts that was set in this science fiction setting, but Banner is more immediately recognizable as sci-fi according to stereotype, for better or for worse.  A lot of the series takes place in the attack vessel “bridge”, engaged in war with other ships (think of the sci-fi shows on television where the crew sits in the bridge, the Captain shouts orders, the crewmembers update with new information, etc….).  These sequences extend beyond our main characters and involve other commanders with their ships, as I mentioned above.

If I was more of a fan of sci-fi warfare sequences, perhaps I would probably be writing:  “Wow!  What a brilliant battle sequence showing how multiple commanders and vessels operate and how it comes together in a battle to victory”.  However, since I’m not really a big fan of battle sequences, instead I think, this is a somewhat overlong sequence which frequently flashes to characters that I don’t really have any attachment to.

With all of that being said, if you were drawn in by Crest, then you’ll of course want to continue the story with this series, particularly to get to very character-oriented and deeply moving Banners II.  Despite what seems like a negative tone to my review, I did enjoy the many scenes of character interaction and development here, and during the battle sequences there are some very good moments of sacrifice and heroism.  It is also understandable that there would not be too much development between the leads as this is a part of a longer series.  At the same time, I feel like the return on 13 episodes is thinner than it could have been.  Another complaint I have is that there were a few too many moments of obvious fanservice which are too jarring for a series that for the most part keeps itself very grounded and serious in tone.  The technical side mostly echoes from Crest, as the animation style is similar, most of the music used is the same, and the voice actors reprise their role.

Overall, if you, like me, have already gotten attached to the lead characters, then Banner is an inevitable followup to the prologue, and there is plenty to enjoy there.  However, because of the issues I mentioned above, I would rate it less than Crest, but again, it all depends on your own tastes. 1/2

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