When Jinto’s homeworld becomes a part of the Abh empire, he finds himself in some highly royal company..
What They Say:
Jinto Lin’s life changes forever when the Humankind Empire Abh takes over his home planet of Martine without firing a single shot. Sent off to study the Abh language and culture, Jinto must prepare himself for his future as an Abh nobleman.
Entering the next phase of his training, he’ll meet his first Abh, the lovely Lafiel. However, Jinto will soon learn that Lafiel is more than she appears and together they will have to fight for their very lives.
The audio presentation for this series is straightforward as we get the original Japanese language in stereo as well as the English language adaptation, both of which are encoded at 192kbps. The show is largely dialogue driven throughout so it’s not a series that really spends its time on big moments or expansive elements to it, though some of the music has a good warm feel to it. The dialogue is where it does most of its work and even there it’s not something that really does anything impressive since it’s single character dialogue moments that dominate. The show has a bit more action towards the end on a personal level and it works nicely, but it’s generally not all that memorable yet serviceable. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we didn’t have any problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.
Originally airing in 1999, the transfer for this thirteen episode series is presented in its original full frame aspect ratio. This collection brings the previous single disc releases into one set with no changes to them so we get four discs with three on each while the first has a fourth. The series has a decent look to it overall but there are some problems to be had throughout, from some scatted cross coloration that comes up in some of the on screen text in the series and some of the character animation as well. The show is filled with lots of blues and blacks so there’s some noise to be had in an number of scenes but it doesn’t get to be hugely distracting unless you’re quite sensitive to it. The show isn’t one that stands out in a big and bold way with its animation and designs, but the time period it was made in certainly has its problems and some of that show through here.
The packaging for this release comes in an oversized keepcase that holds all foru discs with a large hinge inside. The front cover uses the familiar artwork of Lafiel and Jinto together in their uniforms while we get some of the series background material behind them. The logo along the top brings all the positive traits out in full force as it has a distinct and important feel about it. Though the cover is a little muted overall, there’s a lot of good colors here with the blues and blacks with some other tweaks along the way to give it a bit of distinction. The back cover draws on some of the same background materials but is largely covered by a slightly ornate black box where we get a good piece of Lafiel artwork and a lengthy summary of the premise. Add in a few shots from the show and a clear listing of the discs features in text form and it looks good. The production credits are simple and clear and we get the usual array of logos and minor technical information along the bottom. No show related inserts are included nor is there a reversible cover.
The menu design for this release is good in theory but falls a bit short in execution. With the use of the logo and crest as the background with a bit of the starry imagery, we get the standard navigation hooks here that makes for quick and easy access to everything. While it’s fairly standard overall, the tweak to it all is that when the cursor highlights over a selection, it shows it in English as the standard selection is written in the Abh language. I like the idea of it but when you look at the menu, the mix of the two makes the English a bit harder to read which is made a bit worse by the blue and yellow colors for it. Beyond that, everything does work smoothly and cleanly without any problems.
The extras for this release are decent as we get the clean versions of the opening and closing sequences as well as a text piece across all four volumes that brings a history of the Abh bonus in which the world of the novels are highlighted for anime fans.
Based on the science fiction novel series by Hiroyuki Morioka back in 1996, Crest of the Stars is a thirteen episode anime series that aired in the winter of 1999 and animated by Sunrise. The show was one that caught my eye back in the day through the advertisements and promotional articles in NewType Japan because of its character designs and coming at a time when anime was shifting more and more to harem style comedies than anything similar to this. Science fiction used to be one of the big pillars of anime, but its influence has waned significantly in the last fifteen years and this series was one of the few that hit a lot of sweet spots for those wanting something that didn’t incorporate harem or romantic comedy trappings.
The series takes us to a far flung future where mankind has spread to the stars once a new resource was discovered to allow travel across immense distances. As man moved out and added numerous planets and civilizations, one branch took a curious turn. Going out into the stars more machines than man, some of the explorers realized how they were being taken advantage of and opted to push back against mankind proper. Thus was born the race known as the Abh, an evolved humanity that lives in space rather than on worlds. With the genetic modifications that they did and the way they propagate the species being very different through cloning and so forth, they gained a reputation for being otherworldly and inhuman in some ways. But the real thrust of their movement was to control the space lanes and reduce the threat of interplanetary war, leading to some fascinating discussion points about how the imperial throne controls the space lanes.
While the Abh Empire covers half the galaxy, the other half is made up largely of United Mankind and various independent systems. The series starts off showing us how the Abh invade one particular independent system to bring it into the empire, which introduces us to how they take control so easily and use the planets resources for their own goals while never really setting foot on it much themselves. One of the things they do with some of those in power there is to draw them into their own ranks, but also the children. And so we see the son of the president of the planet, Jinto Lin, brought into the Abh Emipre to become one of them by spending several years in an Abh school and serving in the military eventually. The foundation is laid well and we see how after a few years that Jinto is ready to go to the center of the empire to go on his final three years of schooling with the Abh themselves before starting his military service.
It’s here that he’s assigned to a pilot trainee named Lafiel, who is sixteen year old proper Abh who is also the a royal princess of the main imperial family. Service in the military is part of the course that every Abh must chart and she’s going through her part of it and is treated as just another member of the crew, though they all know who she is. When it comes to Jinto, so unaware of the Abh in so many ways, he ends up being awkward and asking all sorts of questions she never gets that the two of them develop quite the friendship across this first series. But it’s one borne of two different kinds of interactions. With Lafiel’s primary job being to bring Jinto to the imperial center in order for him to get his training and schooling, the journey is a big part of things. But it’s a difficult journey as the main cruiser they’re on gets attacked along the way as the time for change is afoot as United Mankind is setting pieces into play for war against the Abh Empire. That gives us a number of good strategic battles along the way, but for Lafiel and Jinto it’s pretty secondary since they’re sent off.
While the journey starts off with a lot of foundation being laid down for how the Abh operate, the nature of their spacefaring species and how they interact with Terrans is all very illuminating. And we get to know both Jinto and Lafiel well. But once the war is put into motion, starting with several small movements, we get to see that unfold and learn more about the empire itself through its leaders and how they react to it. But we also get Lafiel and Jinto on their own adventures, which shows how some of the outlying systems operate, the fall of certain nobles and a lot of time spent on an Abh controlled world where the Abh are losing the battle and Lafiel and Jinto have to blend in until they can get away. The planetside adventure is a little weak in a way with what it does, but it works well to show the way Jinto and Lafiel have grown over the course of the series with each of them finding themselves far more comfortable with each other than they would have guessed at the start considering their positions.
Revisiting the series after not seeing it over a decade is definitely an interesting experience, especially since it was marathoned rather than in singles. One of the big appeals was the way it worked so much excellent dialogue and some verbal sparring while unveiling a very intricate setting from a popular novel series. It does it well, with all the prologues to each episode that expands the understanding of how the civilizations work and the way people figure into it. Some of it feels a bit simpler with the passage of time of course, but most of it still holds up well. While the animation is a bit dated, the concept is one that still appeals in a very big way and makes me wish that the property was more viable, both in Japan and abroad, since there are few series that really engage in world building like this.
Crest of the Stars was a very big series in its own way at the time and it spawned a few more animated works after this. Revisiting the property after so many years was a lot of fun since it was viewed differently than before and it still largely holds up where it counts with the story and characters. While the series spends a good part of time exploring the overall setting, the real focus here is very much on the two lead characters. Their relationship is something that can be more, but it’s starting here as a powerful friendship with some real meaning to it that makes it engaging to watch. It covers a good bit of ground, gives us characters we can connect with and a lot of things to learn, but it provides starship battles, hand to hand battles and more alongside it without ever feeling rushed or like there’s too much going on. If there’s a series I hope gets salvaged again and the additional unreleased material finds its way with it, Crest of the Stars is definitely one of them.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Textless Opening, Crest of the Stars History Vols 1-4, Textless Endings #1 and #2
Content Grade: B+
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: B
Packaging Grade: B
Menu Grade: B-
Extras Grade: B-
Released By: Bandai Entertainment
Release Date: March 14th, 2006
Running Time: 325 Minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70″ LCoS 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.