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Banner of the Stars II & III Review

This installment of the Stars franchise brings us the third arc in the story of Jinto and Lafiel.  The story revolves around a captured planet which serves as a housing site for prisoners.  It is currently in a state of anarchy, with multiple people from different factions claiming the role of representative when Lafiel and her vessel approach.  Eventually they make contact and begin a plan to evacuate certain parts of this population who need to emigrate, but face obstacles both in space (where an enemy fleet with greater power is approaching fast) and on land (where different groups with differing interests begin to rebel).

This is most certainly my favourite part of the Stars story thusfar, for a very clear reason – the entire story is very closely connected with our main characters, in a particularly emotional way towards the end, and this adds a layer of attachment to all that happens, including space battles, which may have been dull for those who are not sci-fi fans in the previous installment.  The fate of the main characters rest very heavily on the outcome of the various battle sequences and it adds the necessary tension.  It is also helped by the fact that these space battles are a smaller part of an overarcing storyline involving one planet.  The entire plot is very clearly defined and the different threads are important in forming that cohesive narrative.  I felt this was lacking in the first Banner, which seemed to focus entirely on a battle at times (with the battle itself being the main source of narrative).

Like in the original, there are also moments where we go to other ships and watch their commanders engage in battle.  One of these involves General Spoor battling to buy time for Lafiel and her vessel to complete their mission.  These scenes, because of what I mentioned earlier, are still very captivating, but also particularly because of the enjoyable banter between Captain Spoor and her chief of staff.  However, we also sidetrack at times to the two “insane” commander twins, and I still don’t find these characters very interesting, and their scenes remain somewhat dull.  However, their screen time is quite low so it did not matter too much in the end.

The primary draw of this series remains, to me, the main characters, and this installment delivered fantastically.  While the immediate prequel was rather static and did not really develop them significantly, this installment delves deep into Jinto and Lafiel and puts them in a drastic situation which confronts them with difficult decisions.  This is true especially for Lafiel, who up until now has tried to keep her exterior dignified and confident.  In this series, her resolve is put to the test when her tough, detached Captain persona must clash with her own personal desires and relationship with Jinto – and her character recieves a far greater amount of development because of it.  If you’re here for the sci-fi action, the previous installment was for you, but those of you looking for character interaction and development will be immensely satisfied with this one.  The other members of the crew get their time too, particularly Samson, who has a very poignant scene with Lafiel in the final episode.

This arc has a fairly unique beginning – a dramatic scene between Jinto and Lafiel that is not explained and assumed to be from a later point in the series – it is the very first scene shown to the viewer, except it is not translated.  It is spoken entirely in the Abh language with no subtitles, and thus we can only guess at what the context is.  This adds a hanging tension to the events of the series, and quite frankly I think it was a good decision, though I can understand how some might think it isn’t (you’ll understand when you watch it).  Regardless, there are immensely heartbreaking and powerful scenes here, it’s without a doubt the emotional climax of the series.  It also has a fantastic final episode and ending (keep watching past the credits).

The animation has recieved a noticeable but not exceptional improvement from the originals, and there are a few new background music tracks used as well.  I thought the ED song was very good as well.

My complaints about fanservice in the earlier series still stands to some extent, in this installment the women of the conquered planet all seem to wear the skimpiest attire possible (at least, those with significant roles on screen -two).

Banners II is undoubtedly superior to both of the previous installments, in my opinion, and even if you were underwhelmed by some aspects of its prequel, you won’t regret continuing the story to experience this wonderful part of it.  There is something uniquely satisfying about series that tell intimate stories like this in the midst of broad, epic worlds and scenarios.   1/2


Banner of the Stars III

Banner of the Stars III is an OVA released in 2005 which adapts the third novel.  Unlike the previous installments, this one only has two episodes with which to tell its story, and thus the overall impact is lessened.  The story behind it has interesting possibilities, with Jinto contemplating his true identity as he comes face to face with his past and origin as a Lander, but there just isn’t enough time.  There was one scene where he meets an old friend, a fine and friendly man, but his friend, having grown up on the planet his entire life, cannot see the Abh  the way Jinto does, and speaks harshly about them.  Scenes like these are strong but ultimately deserve more time than is given here.

This OVA is less dramatic than the other installments and while it certainly is enjoyable  to see these characters again, you shouldn’t expect anything close to the satisfaction of the original installments.

1/2

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