R1 DVD Reviews
Wednesday, 12 August 2009 00:00
If you like your space-opera style combat, you'll appreciate this volume of Banner of the Stars, even if the lead-up to the main event takes a lot longer than expected. But remember that war has a human side too, and that's not forgotten about here either...
6 - Remembrance Dinner
To mark what would have been her brother's birthday, Atosuryua invites Jinto and Lafiel to a rememberance dinner. By Abh tradition, the dead should be remembered, and Lafiel and Jinto are the only others she can remember him with - despite Lafiel being the one responsible for his death in the first place. Jinto would quite like to find a way to avoid a potentially awkward situation, but Lafiel's aware of the customs around the event and inists they attend. Meanwhile, the Bebaus brothers prepare to lead the defence of Aptic...
7 - Escape in the Dark
Lafiel and her crew are now seeing more and more action - this time, it's a reconnaisance mission to Wimpel Gate that has gone awry, leaving the Basroil at the forefront of an attack on an enemy fleet. The Abh fleet is victorious in this engagement, but a series of stray mines left floating in the debris of the battle leaves the Basroil seriously damaged. With several major systems out of action, the ship is left stranded in plane space, with an enemy fleet worryingly nearby. Meanwhile, Operation Phantom Flame has reached a key point, as the Labule commanders must decide what to do about the United Mankind counter-attack that they know is coming...
8 - The Eve of the Decisive Battle
With United Mankind forces clearly heading for Aptic, the Abh forces there are gearing up to mount their defence, with the success of Operation Phantom Flame hanging in the balance - it's a battle they can't afford to lose. The worry is that the approaching fleet is so large that the small attack vessels, like the Basroil, that form the backbone of the Abh fleet at Aptic may not be good enough to hold back the attack. Fortunately, the Bebaus brothers have a plan - but it's not without risk. Meanwhile there's time for the Basroil crew to enjoy some downtime before the battle begins...
9 - The Basroil's Battle
As the United Mankind fleet approaches at Aptic - 10 times the size of the defending fleet - the Abh move out to meet it and mount their defence of the gate. With the Basroil on the front line, Lafiel and her crew face their biggest challenge yet. Away from the battle, meanwhile, Admiral Abriel continues to press his Chief of Staff for the details of her past with the Bebaus brothers - all good-natured needling, but she's beginning to find ways of discreetly needling him back...
Here's a confusing statement for you: Banner of the Stars handles both the human and action sides of the war really well, and yet it doesn't. Sounds like a complete contradiction, doesn't it? There's some sense in what I'm trying to say, though, so let me explain a little.
The real strength of Banner, and Crest before it, is the way it looks at relationships - primarily Lafiel & Jinto, but there are others involved, and the connections between Jinto and the Basroil's other bridge officers also get some good coverage. We have Samson drinking himself under the table before battle (his way of dealing with the stress of the situation) and Ekuryua flirting openly with Jinto (genuine feelings or another coping mechanism? Who knows); we get many scenes of Jinto and Lafiel talking about nothing in particular, and just enjoying each others' company; and we get Admiral Abriel poking fun at his staff. It's all fascinating stuff, and there's the serious business of life and death underpinning every conversation - for character development, you simply can't beat it, and Banner just wouldn't be itself without it.
But the war is always there, lurking in the background. The early skirmishes give you a feel for the epic battle that's coming, and once you realise what's on its way that primal urge to see things blow up takes over and you just want to get to the battle, to see the action - and character development be damned. Let's put aside the good stuff for the momentary satisfaction of things going "bang", and the talkie scenes - good & important as they are - get in the way of that. It makes for a strange viewing experience, as one part of your mind watches the show and the other tries to figure out what it wants to see in the next scene.
None of that's a criticism, though - it's just a case of there being too much good stuff in one place, and I sat gripped through the whole thing. While the animation quality in Banner isn't the best (which means the combat scenes can be a bit of a let-down in places), the rest of the presentation is just a joy. Really a series that shouldn't be missed.