Crest of the Stars and its subsequent sequel, Banner of the Stars, is an adaptation of Hiroyuki Morioka‘s highly successful trilogy of science-fiction novels. His first novel, Crest of the Stars, was awarded the Seiun Award for ‘Best Science Fiction’ in 1997. Having read the trilogy beforehand (of which I’ve become a big fan), my expectation of the anime adaptation was naturally high. Furthermore, given the density and depth of its original source material (Morioka is known for having a deep interest in linguistics, specifically for conlangs, which is demonstrated by the completely original rendering of the Abh language in the series, complimented by the well-developed world setting), I was concerned that Sunrise, the studio responsible, wouldn’t succeed in encapsulating everything faithfully in the short 39 episode format. However, in spite of this, they managed to capture the spirit and tenacity, delivering a commendable, but albeit, less nuanced rendition of its novel counterpart.
Given its textured and cerebral presentation, without reading the novels beforehand, the series could be rather confusing. I’d imagine it would be almost a necessity to focus attentively in order to fully comprehend and acknowledge everything that is happening. This is all the more so in the sequel, Banner of the Stars, which is a decidedly more complex adaptation (particularly the first part). Crest of the Stars, on the other hand, eased the viewer in, serving more as an introduction into the world and the circumstances therein. Nevertheless, this shouldn’t hinder nor discourage you from watching, it’s just something to bear in mind. Arguably, it’s quite possible to watch the series purely on face value and to still enjoy it. The story-line and character development is more than sufficient in satisfying the casual viewer, while offering something deeper in the process.
The story-line was emotive and enticing, both on a personal and political level, offering a realistic and tangible depiction that left a sense of genuine concern and urgency for the situation at hand. Each character had relevance and left an impression, most notably the primary pair, Lafiel, the benevolent Abh princess, and Jinto, the somewhat docile count, both of whom possessed a comparatively contrasting personality that oddly worked well in tandem with each other. The development they shared was endearing and relatable, despite the world setting, further providing something refreshing and different.
The animation was reasonable, nothing exceptional, and is perceivably jarring at first, particularly the character design, which did take time to adjust to (it didn’t help that I had a preconception of how each character looked like coming into this series), but by the end, I found them attractive (staying true to Toshihiro Ono and Aya Yoshinaga’s cover and manga artwork). Moreover, the interstellar battle sequences were particularly well executed, integrating the CGI especially well. There did seem to be a case of budgeting, however, and the occasional inconsistency was glaringly apparent at times, which was unfortunate. The soundtrack was poignant and appropriate, employing the use of an orchestral score. The opening theme by Katsuhisa Hattori was truly sublime, played over a simple backdrop of nebulas. Very climatic and in keeping with a science-fiction epic of this ilk (reminiscent of Star Wars). The voice acting were faultless, on the whole, especially in account of the lengthly and heavy dialogue present throughout the series. Kawasumi Ayako, in particular, did a stellar job depicting Lafiel, providing the brassiness you’d expect from the character. It didn’t feel forced or superficial. This commanding premise has become something of a signature style for the voice actress, Saber from Fate/stay night comes to mind. Likewise, the elaborate and intricate monologues from Imai Yuka for Jinto were more than solid. However, the voice acting did seem hesitant, almost understandably so, when they spoke in the artificial Abh language, which I didn’t condemn. If anything, I was impressed that they chose to even speak the language in the first place.
It’s difficult to review a series of this kind properly. There is so much depth and substance in both its story-line and characterisation, that I suspect my review has resulted in becoming rather disjointed. On the one hand, I want to elaborate far more, but on the other, refrain from doing so in fear that I’d end up writing a thesis. Simply put, this series is, in my opinion, one of the best of the science-fiction and space-opera genre of anime (considering the many hundred of series I’ve seen from this genre alone, it’s a bold claim to make). It just requires a little patience to begin with (especially during Crest of the Stars), but once you’re in the thick of it all (Banner of the Stars), you’ll be rewarded with something exceptional.