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Banner of the Stars II Complete Collection PDF Print E-mail
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R1 DVD Reviews
Thursday, 10 June 2010 00:00
Banner of the Stars IIBanner of the Stars' second season comes down to earth with a bump - or a splash, if you want to be literal - as things planet-based become the centre of attention. With Lafiel stuck up in orbit, you can already guess that something's missing from this season, but is the separation of everyone's favourite SF couple enough to mess with the appeal of the show..?

This series is set about a year after Banner of the Stars - the United Mankind have been thoroughly thwarted, and the Abh are busy extending their dominance while the going is comparatively easy. We get to see a lot of that operation, through the same eyes we had in the previous season - the Bebaus brothers, Admirals Spoor and Abriel - plus a few new additions to keep things fresh. That side of the story is really incidental - it provides the background to the more focussed story of Lafiel and Jinto, as usual, as long as being the excuse for the usual space combat scenes, but it's not the primary focus of the show.

That honour again belongs to Lafiel and Jinto - but for the first time, we're not about to be treated to many long scenes of them chatting together and dealing with problems together. Instead, the series quickly separates them, sending Jinto down to the surface to play diplomat while leaving Lafiel in orbit taking care of things military. In some ways, how they deal with being separated is a key part of the story, but as the disc goes on it becomes far more about Jinto than it is about Lafiel, who gets pushed somewhat to the sidelines. That's not a change that's going to please very many people - Lafiel's a large chunk of the show's appeal, and even when you do see her here she's generally quite miserable & definitely not the character I came to love over the previous two seasons.

Quiet reflectionFresh air

So that's one big criticism. The second is that a lot of what Jinto does down on the surface can seem pointless or overly pandering, depending on your politics. A group of prisoners want to escape from their prison? So what? Don't the Abh usually leave surface-dwellers to their own devices, and if so why is Jinto taking such a lead role in getting involved in surface affairs? There's a lot here that seems to go against the typical attitude of the Abh towards surface worlds, and with no real reason. That said, it's Jinto's actions that indirectly create the conflict that the series relies on, but I still don't feel that the ends justify the means.

Another problem is that this story takes place mostly on the surface of Lobnas II, which is pretty much Jinto's domain. Lafiel does get some airtime, but it's fairly limited - especially by the standards of Crest and Banner I. It's a sad state of affairs for Lafiel fanboys, who definitely get shortchanged - I know, I'm one of 'em.

Rebellion beginsUnder threat

On the plus side, there's some decent ground-based action - not something this series has ever been known for. It's not on the same level of detail as the space combat scenes seen previously, but it's decently enough done and for once means that there are blood & guts on display as a number of key characters meet premature ends. Jinto's been trying his best to be of use to the people on the ground, but there's a feeling in places of him being in over his head, yet wanting to make sure that as far as he can, he'll make sure events turn out alright. Sadly the room he has for maneuvering gets more and more limited as time goes on.

There are a few really good scenes, too. First, there's the explanation of Abh Hell. I won't spoil it, but yet again we see that you really don't want to mess with the Abh. Secondly, there's the conversation between Lafiel & Spoor, where Spoor eventually agrees to commit her forces to what can only be a losing battle. Finally, there's Jinto and Lafiel's reunion (after Jinto spends several months stranded and alone on the planet after the Abh are forced to evacuate). All these scenes are great examples of what BotS does so well - moving a story & fleshing out characters and background through the dialogue rather than the action of the story, and in the case of the Lafiel & Jinto scene, being positively moving. Personally, I love it - especially as it's something that this particular season hasn't been doing quite so well as those that came before it.

RemorseRescue

Away from the primary story, there's a treat buried in the Extras section: Passage of the Stars: Birth, an OVA episode - technically not part of Banner of the Stars II, this 1-episode story is also known as Sekai no Danshou or Lost Chapter of the Stars. It's more of a treat for the fans than a serious sidestory, and consists mainly of Lafiel's parents talking to each other, while their predicament on board the colony ship is really just background. It's a must-see for fans of the show, though, particularly as it's a freebie. Full marks to Bandai for resisting the urge to release this on its own.

While Banner II is good, though, I have to say that this series is probably the weakest of the three Crest / Banner outings so far - with so much of the appeal of the franchise based on having Jinto and Lafiel together and bouncing their thoughts off each other, having them separated for the vast majority of the series leaves the distinct feeling that there's something missing. The weakest of three classics is still a classic, though, and overall I really can't recommend the series enough. I can only complain at the apparent lack of progress in getting the latest instalment - which was released in Japan a few years ago now - licensed for an English-language release.

For full episode summaries and screenshots, check the reviews of the individual releases:
» Volume 1: Hunters
» Volume 2: Prey
» Volume 3: Return

Rating - ****

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