What They Say:
A massive, highly advanced alien civilization called the Abh Empire invades the human-inhabited planet of Martine. Outclassed, outgunned, and in an effort to avoid bloodshed, the standing president willingly surrenders the world in exchange for a place among the Abh aristocracy. Seven years later, his son meets a spirited Abh princess who will guide him through an impending intergalactic war.
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. The thirteen episode run is split between two discs evenly when you include the OVA, with a solid bit of space to work with as they both come in at about three hours. Animated by Sunrise, the series has a decent look to it overall but there are some problems to be had throughout, from some scattered 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 and it’s definitely showing its age, 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 a standard sized clear DVD keepcase with an o-card slipcover that replicates the same artwork. The slipcover has a little extra with the black banner along the top denoting the formats available for it and it looks a bit better because the cardstock allows for better color quality. It’s a decent image with Lafiel front and center while Jinto is looming behind it, letting the darkness of space and a bit of one of the world’s along the bottom to provide a little extra color to it. The back cover has some nice images along the right from the show while the right has a good sized image of the two leads together showing off more of their design, all of which is set to a star-filled background. The premise is kept simple but effective and we get a good breakdown of the episode count and the basic technical grid. No show related inserts are included but the reverse side artwork is a really nice illustration image of the two leads.
The menu design for this release keeps things simple as we get the illustration image from the reverse cover for both discs as its static piece. The right side features a large visual for LAfiel that looks great with its detail while a full-length smaller shot of Jinto is to the left, which puts the navigation in the middle. It’s fairly basic and straightforward stuff here with setup being quick and easy and navigation the episodes much the same. It’s a pared down release overall with only one thing in the extras section so there’s not much navigating going on, leaving us with a basic but problem-free menu..
The extras for this aren’t exactly here as we don’t get the clean opening and closings and we don’t get the history pieces we had with previous editions under Bandai. What we do get is the Passage of the Stars episode, sometimes known as the Birth OVA, which is something that’s considered more a part of the show than an extra by many.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
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 invades 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 looked at again for an adaptation that does things in full and with better production values, this is definitely near the top of my list.
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: N/A
Released By: Funimation
Release Date: December 4th, 2018
Running Time: 325 Minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 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.