Due to a technical issue, I have no screenshots of my own for today’s review. Instead, all pictures in this review are provided by Anisearch.de.
#1 Poor visuals and voice-acting
Despite releasing in an era where sci-fi anime were flourishing, Crest of the Stars and Banner of the Stars, collectively the Seikai Trilogy, seemed like a hidden gem few people knew about. It was fairly acclaimed when it came out, so I was curious why so few people still talked about it today. Chances are, the poor visuals and lackluster performances could be a contributing factor.
While the quality of the visuals in general wavers between seasons and even individual episodes, I was not a fan of the general art direction of the series. Crest of the Stars already struggled with disfigured-looking faces, which are promptly smoothed out in later seasons, but even in general I was not a fan of making the Abh race so visually similar. A few key characters could stand out, but minor characters all just blended together in a blue-haired blob.
As for sub versus dub, I found that the dub had voice actors that better fit the characters, only to suffer from stiff performances. Main character Jinto just doesn’t sound right in Japanese; he’s way whinier and too feeble-sounding for a character who is honestly kind of a lovable jerk with a fondness for teasing people. In Crest of the Stars, again, you really notice that the actors are struggling with the performances and this carries on well into Banner of the Stars. The final stretch of the series hasn’t even been dubbed at all, as far as I know.
#2 Paced like a slug
I have been given to understand that the production team was determined to adapt the original novel as accurately as possible, going to great lengths to fit the whole story in and even include the fantastical Abh language. I am inclined to believe this, because to call the show slow would be an understatement.
It’s a space opera about a war between an empire of genetically modified humans (The Abh) and a coalition of various races where the people are still naturally grown, focusing on the journeys of two aristocrats who are doing their part for the empire. These are Jinto, a regular human whose father surrendered their planet to the Abh for a place in their nobility, and Lafiel, a young princess from the royal family. Interesting characters for sure, but each season crawls through a storyline with massive timeskips in-between.
The whole series is rife with recap segments and flashbacks to fill out scenes, but Banner of the Stars is by far the most egregious. While it has a more action-oriented focus and features the most space battles, these are constantly interrupted by seemingly-endless conversations that feel increasingly trite. We had a laugh during a scene that began with a commander urging that a quick decision must be made, only to launch into a minutes-long conversation. Even when they were finally done, the guy called everyone back to have yet another talk about it.
Everything in the series just feels stretched out, sometimes due to a lack of content, sometimes due to an excess of it.
#3 Not actually a trilogy
Oh yes, this is another one of those those franchises. The labyrinthine kind where you need to map out the whole thing before you can start watching and probably consult a few forums to get people’s advice.
The series began in 1999 with Crest of the Stars, followed by three seasons of Banner of the Stars. So, does that means its a quadrilogy? Not quite, because there is also Birth of the Stars, a prequel from the year 2000 that explains the relationship between Lafiel’s parents, ultimately culminating in her birth. There are also summary movies out there, but for the complete experience I recommend the following order:
Crest of the Stars > Birth of the Stars > Banner of the Stars > Banner of the Stars II > Banner of the Stars III. You can optionally fit the prequel in anywhere after Crest, though I don’t recommend watching it beforehand as its best enjoyed after watching at least some of the series.
#4 Banner of the Stars II
While pacing is largely a moment-to-moment issue in the other seasons, it takes on a strange new form in Banner of the Stars II. Other parts of the franchise vary themselves up by darting from storyline to storyline, constantly moving the plot forward. This season takes Jinto and Lafiel to a prison planet that has been recently conquered and… that’s it. It’s a whole 10 episodes about nothing but the prison planet and its drama.
Jinto is put in charge of overseeing the planet’s absorption into the Abh empire, only to find out that the government led by the prison staff is on the verge of collapse in the face of a prisoner uprising. The story has plenty of merit and I did enjoy its twists, but it has no business being stretched out over an entire season with nothing else in it. Its episode after episode of Jinto watching a disaster unfold he’s only partly involved in, which just gets boring.
Additionally, the entire rest of the cast is just on standby for the entire duration. Lafiel is just up in space waiting for Jinto and all the other officers are barely in this season. The entire story about the war grinds to a halt and there’s barely any development for the main characters. It feels like the author wanted to make a separate series about a prison drama, but had to forcibly crowbar it into Banner of the Stars instead.
Tragically, it’s not even the worst season.
#5 Banner of the Stars III >:(
I have no clue what in the world happened with Banner of the Stars III. Previously, each installment in the series had aired immediately after or close to its predecessor, but the finale was delayed by 4 years and then snuck itself in as a direct-to-video release counting only 2 episodes.
It covers the story that, by right, should have been the subject of Banner of the Stars II. Jinto’s home planet is taken over by an illegitimate government and his father is executed, so he and Lafiel journey there to set things right. That’s the perfect direction for the story to take, yet it ends up squandering what little runtime it has on side-stories, catching up with the cast after yet another timeskip, and shout-outs to minor sub-plots from prior seasons. The characters are also bizarrely rewritten, with competing love interest Ekuryua being basically a different character entirely.
And, to top it all off, when we then finally get to Jinto’s home system, the entire plot is resolved in the weakest, most unbelievable way possible. It feels like an ending that was written out of spite; a lame conclusion that’s rushed out just to somehow end the series, even though there are more holes than cheese to this last-minute twist. What little fondness I held for the franchise died on the spot.