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The Final All Things Manga

As we close things out we'll do things a tad differently, giving our final thanks before we go into the review itself.

Who to Thank
First off I want to thank Mr. Gerard Stroomer for having me here at his site as a reviewer, and it was great working with him all these months! It'll be sad to go, but thanks again for the experience!

As for the Animes I'm reviewing?
Banner of the Stars Volume 1 - Right Stuf International, Banner of the Stars Volume 2, Geneshaft Vol. 1, Ronin Warriors II Vol. 1'G Gundam Collector's Box 3 (Volumes 7-9) - The people at Bandai (Mr. Jerry Chu, Media Relations, shipping, and so forth) and FedEx are to thank.

Future reviews can be found at (Manga to Go)

Now onto the last review here at Cartoozine...

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Company: BANDAI
Age: 13 and up
Episodes: 1-5 (Vol. 1) & 6-9 (Vol. 2)
Languages: Japanese/English
Optional Extras: - See Optional Extras (below)
Time: 125 / 100 minutes
Created by: Hiroyuki Morioka (Hayakawa Publishing)
Planned by: Shigeru Watanabe (Bandai Visual) and Masuo Ueda (Sunrise)
Art Director: Tomoaki Okada
Directed by: Yasuchika Nagaoka
A Production of Sunrise Inc., WOWOW, Bandai Visual

The lock, stock and barrel of the contents

The lock? - Comes with the first 5 slash 4 episodes of Banner of the Stars.

The stock? - First off this is the second season of an already nicely received series (which started with Crest of the Stars), so it already comes with a pre-established fan base and history (first series of DVDs) which you should consider looking into (if you like Banner of the Stars, you should follow it up and check out Crest of the Stars as well.)

The barrel? - The DVD also comes with a synopsis of Season 1 (if you missed it) and the first episode also talks about those events in brief. Plus there's a 'Newsletter to the Stars' which is more notes for reading (but probably you should digest these notes after you've watched Volume 1).

Subtitles - Off (very Babylon 5-ian layout for the options screen). (As always you have to switch on both the subs and the Japanese language if you want the original experience. It's default mode is English.

So, complete the chain and you have a very interesting start to what should be a good series. But don't take my word for it. Check it out.

BANNER OF THE STARS Volume 1 - 'No Turning Back'

Episodes 1 to 5

Previously - (Crest of the Stars) (see 'Summary' on Volume 1 for details of Previously)

Episode 1 - Reunion
Three years have passed since Crest of the Stars, (there's a 'State of the Empire' report in the booklet in this Volume, though the information is brief) and the war between the Abh Empire (can the good guys really be called an 'Empire '?) and the Triple Alliance is on once again. They have finally recovered from the last war in Crest, and that's good because things are about to heat up again.

The couple from before? Jinto (humanoid, whose homeworld is presently behind enemy lines) and Lafiel (the alien species of the series) now work together after Jinto graduated from Supply Officer Training and is now the First Officer to Lafiel (who has become a Captain of her own Assault Ship (the Basroil))- or is he the Supply Officer. Must be First Officer because he gets away with things only a First Officer (cough cough Riker cough cough) could get away with.

The war? About to start again after the good guys finally recovered from the events of Crest of the Stars (took three years to put their fleets back at full power). But this episode is more to get you up to speed on what's happening between Jinto/Lafiel, what happened previously (Crest) and what is about to happen.

Episode starts off with a Kobayashi Maru type fight scene, which goes into the refresher course from there as to what's been going on. Then we go right into the action from there.

Episode 2 - Operation Phantom Flame
Operation Phantom Flame. A simple name for a bold strategy. Since the notes I read said some people are confused by it let me try to explain it. The plan is very Alexander the Great in theory, but in scope it's more Captain John Sheridan (Babylon 5) in depth and planning. Now, mind you, I read this isn't easy to understand so if I screw it up and get the information I'm passing to you wrong I apologize. Now, if I understand this right, they're planning to slash a gigantic 'line' right through the forces of the Triple Alliance, from their side all the way to a section of space still loyal to their side (which probably includes Jinto's homeworld). This would serve a twofold effect. 1 - It would 'reunite' the Abh Empire (the main side and the side cut off during the first round of warfare after Crest). 2 - This would cut the Triple Alliance effectively in half and make it easier to take them on to end the war. Yet also this strategy (Alexander the Great used this tactic in the second episode of Reign) has it's drawbacks as well. Make no mistake, this 'cut' has to be strong and solid. It's not going to be.

This is a bold, perhaps reckless, and dangerous maneuver to be certain and it can't be botched in anyway lest it's doomed to fail. The first step, secure lines of supply for the coming invasion and the capture of the Aptic System starts that off. With the defeat of one of the tri- 'heads' of the enemy in that sector (The United Mankind), it is now possible to begin to form 'launching points' on the march towards forming their 'cut' through Triple Alliance territory. It's not near to the frontlines yet, so it might be overlooked- but then again-

Meanwhile the story between our pair (Jinto/Lafiel) goes on- and it looks like they're about to meet another Commander (Atosuyua) who might have a bit of a grudge against Lafiel- she did, after all, kill said Commander's older brother during Crest of the Stars and she might have a grudge to bear against them- but does she?

Episode 3 - Assault Ship Basroil
Three months apparently have passed since Episode 2. What's been going on? Not much it seems. The Basroil has been patroling the Aptic system while they set it up as a supply base for the coming 'Phantom Flame' operation. You know what that means? It means more time to develop the story with Jinto/Lafiel as the situation with Aptic III continues to develop in turn (it's nice that this show takes it's time to slowly let the storyline about situations like Aptic III develop without any rush to the storyline). The main thing here is that you get to know the crew of the Basroil abit better (there isn't any action until this episode is winding down towards the end), and Jinto has his first meeting with that woman I told you about earlier. Commander Atosuyua.

Is she bitter? Does she want revenge? Not now- but of course that could all change later on. For now she's someone to keep an eye on, but not a threat to Jinto/Lafiel yet. But that'll have to be shelved for now because six scout vessels out of Wimpel (Triple Alliance Territory) is making it's way incoming (possibly on a recon mission) through Plane Space (hyperspace I think) and the Basroil is thrown into it's first major engagement of the 2nd season.

Episode 4 - The First Campaign
Simple enough. Destroy all Scout Vessels incoming from the Triple Alliance so that none can return to report on what they saw. Not simple. This is the first major engagement and this entire episode focuses around said engagement. Lots of action, and proof positive that war is indeed hell.

First off this battle isn't fought in normal space, it's entirely fought in 'Plane Space' (which is probably an equivelant of fighting it out in hyperspace in Babylon 5). However the situation for these ships is far different than that of in Babylon 5. They have to generate these 'Space Time Bubbles' in order to operate in Plane Space, and fights happen within these 'bubbles '. While they can fight in 'Plane Space' just fine, there's a whole lot of new kinks and situations that can happen because of this method of fighting and you'll get a 4-1-1 on all that watching this episode. Oh, and those 'Patrol' ships? They're more like giant Frigate class vessels with the firepower to make each one a difficult proposition to fight, and harder to drag down as you'll see. This is the first fight of Banner in Plane Space, and it'll get you used to future fights in this manner. A definite must see episode.

Episode 5 - Spectacular Insanity
Did I fail to mention earlier that their new Fleet Commander is rumored to be certifiably insane? No? Did I mention there might be a possible love triangle to deal with? No? Well I won't say anymore then. I'll stop here, and leave some tasty morsels of viewing for you to watch unhindered.

But there's some bad news from last episode that needs to be revealed (that I didn't last week). Seems that the Aptic System wasn't the only one that was visited by these 'patrol' ships. Five other systems was visited, and in the end half of those ships escaped.

This is the point where Captain Sheridan would become angry and bitch everyone out, and he'd have every right to because that is nothing less than a glorified failure yet the Abh Fleet Commander (the one who may be a few dilithium crystals short a warp drive system) seem rather comfortable with that- that's a mistake right there. Any information given to the enemy (the Triple Alliance) can only be a bad thing, and letting so many ships escape can only serve to embolden the enemy which is another bad thing. Definitely the command staff of the Abh are going to regret this down the road, just wait and see.

Now onto Volume 2.

Volume 2 - The Basroil Unleashed!

Episode 6 - Rememberance Dinner
Dinner? Looks like Commander Atosuyua is up to something- or is she? Well, she just invited Jinto and Lafiel to dinner on the anniversary of her brother's birthday. Yeah, well whether or not it's a 'My Dinner With Andre' setting is something else- but you get to see Lafiel decked out to the nines wearing a very beautiful evening dress, and dinner is in face a success so things may not be so bad after all - that's when you start to get worried.

As for the war? Yeah, that pesky thing that's happening between the character development. It seems as forces of the Abh Empire gather in the Aptic System, forces of the Triple Alliance are speeding towards the Aptic System for a confrontation with the Abh, only this fight will be done in normal space. Why? Who'd have the advantage? Last time (Episode 2) a fight in normal space went to the Abh, but maybe they're overconfident now and the Triple Alliance is about to put all that information they got from those Patrol ships to good use. That can only mean bad news for the gang of the Basroil, that's for sure.

Episode 7
Looks like the Basroil has been sent out with a squadron of ships to check out the 'Plane Space' gate (equivilent to a Hyperspace Gate in Babylon 5) near enemy controlled Wimpel System, only to get caught in a battle against enemy forces (similar to the fight in Episode 3, but in reverse). And, similar to what happened in Episode 3, some ships are slowed by debris caught in their 'Space-Time Bubbles '- only this time it's the Basroil and one more ship (the Seigroil). That's bad because it gives the enemy time to catch up to them as they're limping back to the gate at Aptic and pursue them, which is brutal. Especially since they're in the flight path of the entire fleet of the Third Alliance (headed to Aptic System) so that's just worst.

In the end they have to abandon one of the ships (the Seigroil) taking it's crew and fuel onboard to have a chance of escape, however they must abandon the bridge crew of the Seigroil who are trapped in their bridge section unable to escape- left to be slaughtered by their Triple Alliance pursuers by the way.

As for the Basroil? Well since this is only Episode 7 they do get out (when they're saved by a squadron led by Commander Atosuyua), who also finish off the rat bastards who killed the bridge crew of the Seigroil (giving back what they gave in turn). However, one thing is clear. The hammer is now falling.

With the arrival of the main attack fleet of the Triple Alliance at Wimpel, the war is about to into overdrive.

Episode 8
The hammer is falling. Nothing can stop that now. With the war about to reach a climatic moment, and the forces of the Abh Empire and Triple Alliance gathering for a showdown in normal space, things are coming to a collision course that nobody can get out of the way of. Before this battle is over there'll be dire consequences for one or both sides, and it'll set the stage of the war for the next phase (Banner of the Stars II) in August.

The battle will soon be on. But for now there is nothing more to do than count down the hours- from 54 hours down to zero hour.

Catch your breath, get a cold drink, and wait for the hammer to strike.

Episode 9
I'm going to stop here, at this cliffhanger moment as the hammer finally strikes and - Well, that's it. When we review Volume 3 I'll recap the events of this episode, and steam right into the chaos of Volume 3 and the battle/post battle events.

But for now let's check the optional extras and break this down.

The Optional Extras

Both volumes sports the following optional extras

Newsletter of the Stars - Abit of Q&A concerning the series from the series creator (Hiroyuki Morioka) as he gives 'inside information' about Banner of the Stars, discussing aspects of the novels (yes, the series started as a sci-fi novel series) and the making of the Anime adaptation of his works. I'd watch the series first, then read these just in case there's spoilers in here that you'd not want to be exposed to yet.

Volume 1 has the following optional extra
Crest of the Stars Summary - Recap of the events of Season 1. Worth reading before watching.

Volume 2 has the following optional extra
Production Art - Yes, it's the all important artwork that is a great bonus on some of these series' DVDs. Take some time to pan through these and see the images, a must see.

Oh-kay, let's break this down.

BANNER OF THE STARS Breakdown the 1st & 2nd

What's Hot? - When you first look at it, you might be tempted to groan 'Oh, no! It's a Japanese Anime version of Babylon 5 (or Space-Above and Beyond)!! '- but as you watch it you see how truly great this series is! From beginning of the episode to the end it's a great show to watch, and is high on marks in all categories. From the musical scoring which sets the mood perfectly, to the visuals which are stunning with excellent animation, it's simply great to watch this show. High marks all around. The plot is right on, and solid to boot with a great feel to the show and excellent pacing. The animation is beautiful, and the music sets the mood just right. I always watch the Japanese version so I always rate that acting, and it's perfect and dead on target which is another plus. Without a doubt I can say that fans of series like Babylon 5, Space-Above & Beyond, and other sci-fi greats will love this show. It's a definite must have for the Science Fiction fan(atic).

What's Not? - With the coming of Banner of the Stars II a 'Not' has developed. According to information I have just gotten my hands on about this series? It packs 10 episodes, and then there's one more episode which is a 'prequel' of Crest of the Stars- and nothing else is mentioned. That's it? After this we have 10 more episodes and that's it? Babylon 5 needed over 100 episodes to really get it's story said and done, and this is done in what seems like 36 episodes (half the time of B5 episodes which is another drawback, and don't get me started about how I dislike seriously getting into a series only to have it get canceled so damn fast!) This series is just starting, and has a great deal of potential left to it. Like Babylon 5 if it's allowed to develop and grow it could be even better than it is now. However, if the series ends too soon, and there's even a doubt that it had some potential left unrealized, then the ending would be a waste. I only hope that, when we reach the last DVD of Banner of the Stars II, that there's either hope of it continuing (praying against hope here), or it ends in a satisfactory way that pleases even a doubting thomas like me. Here's to hoping when we find out before 2003 draws to a close.

Moments to Remember? - Way too many to list here. That'd deserve it's own review!

What to Ignore? - I said this last week, and I'll say it again. The booklets inside both DVDs is wasted, and I wish I could ignore it. I would have been better served by a synopsis of the episodes (ala Fancy Lala) or a profile on the main characters (ala Meltylancer) but this is wasted space with a brief 'State of the Empire' report and that's it? Total waste of space if you ask me. I'd have expected better from such a large scale series like Banner of the Stars, and I'm hoping for better when Banner of the Stars II releases this August. Make the books as memorable as the series itself! That's my one ignore for the series.

Overall? - The series is beautiful and addictive to watch, with a great and beautiful animation style and a story well worth watching again and again. Thus it's also well worth mentioning again and again. My only disappointment is that it seemingly is going to end far sooner than I would have imagined an epic like this ending, but hopefully I can live with the ending when it finally comes. As for the here and now? I heartidly recommend picking up both Crest of the Stars and Banner of the Stars as part of your DVD Collection. I promise you'll find it well worth your time and budget to add this series into your collection ASAP. Watch it, because it's quite watchable and something I'd think you'd love.

Next review: GENESHAFT Vol. 1

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All Things Manga by David Rasmussen
Copyright 2003. All rights reserved.