Sunday, July 14, 2013

Anime Review No. 60-Crest of the Stars

Crest of the Stars

1999 TV Series

Studio-Sunrise (Studio 5), Director-Yasuchika Nagaoka, Writer: Aya Yoshinago

Lafiel and Jinto, main character duo
Well, Tech TV: Anime Unleashed month starts off with the first series I watched for this anime programming block: Crest of the Stars. I enjoyed this series when it was on TV back in the day, and having it on DVD as part of my collection is very worthwhile.

Crest of the Stars is based on series of novels by Hiroyuki Morioka back in the mid-90s. A few years later, Studio Sunrise picked up the series for an animated adaptation. It tells the story of Jinto, a young human nobleman as he finds his place in the universe. This is set in the far future, when humanity has flown through the stars and colonized all over. In the process, they developed through genetic manipulation, a race of beings called the Abh. The kin of the stars, as they are called, they formed their own empire and are involved in a long war against the United Mankind Empire. Well, Jinto, in his journey to be inducted into school to be an Abh officer, he makes a friend in Lafiel, an Abh princess/soldier who takes quite a liking for him. However, the path to the Abh capital is wrought with challenges, but they are met with resolve and confidence.

Now, onto the great things about Crest of the Stars. First, this story is very good. Superfically, it a standard space opera in the vein of Macross and Gundam with spaceship battles and sociopolitical commentary. However, at its heart it is a love story between Jinto and Lafiel and a coming of age story for Jinto himself. They meet and as they go off on their journey they develop a relationship together. It is very interesting to see how the progression feels natural. Even when the space opera elements come into place, the focus stays on the core story. Of course, the core story is very well-written in terms of dialogue/exposition so not really an issue. It is full of ideas (sociopolitical commentary, diplomacy, genetic engineering, conduct of war in space) but it takes time to explore and develop them enough so none of it seems excessive or underdeveloped.

Second, the opening song is a sweeping and majestic instrumental piece, reminding one of Star Trek and Star Wars. Same can be said for the rest of the soundtrack, equally space operatic-style with sweeping strings, thunderous percussion and blasting brass fanfares.

Finally the animation is outstanding. This was done by Sunrise Studio 5 which have done work on Escaflowne, the Inuyasha movies and more recently Gintama. It is well done cel animation (solid character designs and backgrounds) from the late 90s, right around the same time as Cowboy Bebop and Outlaw Star. Granted, there is some instances of CG graphics but its hardly noticeable except to the most astute viewer.

Of course, the big weak link of this show is the English dub. For all the praise I can muster for the show, the dub is not really good. The vocal performances all round are very stiff and dry, with either not enough emoting or small bursts of overacting. While this wouldn't be so bad, the fact is that Crest of the Stars relies on a lot on its dialogue as the driving force of the story, with long stretches of time spent with characters talking to each other. So, if the English dub fails, the series just about fails as well. Still its a commendable effort. Bandai farmed out this dub to Vancouver and that shows a bit, especially with some of the bit parts. By the end of the series, Jinto and Lafiel's English V.A.s improve a bit, but not by much. In fairness, the dub just goes to show how far we have come in doing English dubs of anime from that time to the present.

Another weak link is that this is only the prologue tale to a larger story it seems. Well that because Crest of the Stars is the first of three series for this franchise. This is followed up by Banner of the Stars, which did aired on Anime Unleashed block. There is also Banner of the Stars II which get released with a dub but never got aired. So, a bit of a bummer. I might do a review of the two sequels, if I can get them.

Overall, a very good show that unfortunately is hampered by its English dub. Other than that, it has great animation, music and story to it, so if you can please check this out.

Two weeks from now....well, Read or Die the TV series

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