- The series follows a war between The United Mankind and the Abh Empire. The story is told through the eyes of Abriel Lafiel and Lin Jinto. Lafiel is a princess of the Abh Empire and the captain of a small attack ship, the Basroil. Jinto is her supply officer and secretary. He's also royalty, though he's the last surviving member of his family, and his membership in the Abh Empire seems to be more of a legal formality than a race thing (this is one of the interesting things about the universe this story is set in - more later in this post). This is a war story, but so far the emphasis seems to be on Lafiel and Jinto. There's some romantic tension there, and I can see the beginnings of a love triangle. Again, I'm 6 episodes into the series. So far, so good, though I'm getting the feeling that I probably should have watched Crest of the Stars first (I assume most of the backstory between Lafiel and Jinto is covered in that series).
Jinto & Abriel
- So far, the story is told entirely from the perspective of the Abh. From what I can understand, the Abh are a race of humans who have been genetically engineered for life in space. For instance, they seem to have developed a new sensory organ that helps with space navigation (they use headpieces to interface with it, which is why it looks like all the characters are wearing a tiara). As previously mentioned, Jinto is technically Abh, but he's also a "grounder" (i.e. someone who was born and grew up on a planet) and I think his status as a member of the Abh is more legal than genetic (though I guess if your race is defined by genetic modification, a human could change to that race pretty easily). Interestingly, Jinto is referred to as a "Count" which I believe outranks "Princess" in terms of nobility, yet Princess Abriel is Jinto's military superior. We don't actually see much of the United Mankind empire, but one interesting thing about them is that they don't seem to be demonized. They're not the Nazis of the Banner universe, they're just enemies. Also, there don't seem to be any secret weapons or invincible ships on their side (something I saw in Vandread and Martian Successor Nadesico). Though neither side knows of the other side's true fleet strength, the focus seems to be more on tactics and strategy than simple brute force or secret weapons. This tends to make for a more believable and interesting universe...
- So far, I've only seen one major battle in the series. I admit that some of the strategy and tactics went a bit over my head, but I like how this series is progressing. Other space opera series (like, for instance, Vandread) seem to have a battle every episode, which can get a bit tiresome. Banner is taking its time, arranging various elements and strategies before jumping into battle. It looks like the series is building towards a big climatic battle during the last 4 episodes, which I'm told is fantastic.
- The music in the series bears a strong resemblance to the music in the Galactic Civiliazations II video game. Since this series was produced several years before Galciv II, I'm guessing that the composer for Galciv II was familiar with this soundtrack... In any case, I do like the music, and it seems to fit well with the space opera theme.
- The animation quality doesn't seem all that spectacular, but it's serviceable. There seems to be an abundance of closeups (where the only thing moving is the character's mouth) and a lot of reused background stuff. This is all rather common though, and didn't really distract me much. Character design is a little interesting. I don't know why, but the eyes in this series seem larger than normal (or maybe it's the proportions of the various pieces of the eye that are catching my attention). Anime is infamous for having larger eyes than normal, but this series seems even more excessive than usual. Perhaps I'm just becoming more and more obvservant of eyes in Anime (in other news, closed eye syndrome continues unabated). Also, perhaps because the eyes are larger than normal, some characters have eyes with pupils (Lafiel and Jinto have pupils, see screenshots), and others seem to be entirely iris (Ekuryua, the person on the right in the below screenshot, doesn't seem to have a pupil). In animation, you can sometimes get away without drawing a pupil if the eyes are small enough, but since some of the eyes are still huge, it can be a little strange... The other interesting thing about the character designs is that some characters have long, pointy ears, while others have more normal human ears. The people that have the long pointy ears seem to be nobility (for instance, there are two people from the Abriel family in the series and they both have pointy ears, see the screenshots of Lafiel and Admiral Abriel (his screenshot is further down)), but then, some nobles don't have them either (Jinto doesn't and neither do the Biboth brothers). The noses also seem pointier. Not sure if there's any significance to any of this (perhaps these are indications of various genetic enhancements the Abh have implemented), or if I'm just being overly picky.
Abriel & Ekuryua have big eyes
- The first scene in the series is quite confusing - it doesn't seem to have been translated into english (on either the dub or the subtitle). For a while, I thought I had messed something up with the setup of the subtitles and audio. In any case, after that first scene, everything seems to be fine. Not sure what the deal is there. The only other annoyance is that sometimes the subtitles are rendered right on top of what appear to be Japanese subtitles, making them hard to read (this is particularly annoying during the OP when you hear a voice describe events leading up to the current war). A bit strange, but after I got used to it, it's fine.
A few more screenshots and comments below the fold... This is Admiral Abriel, apparently a relation of Lafiel. He shares the distinctive pointy ears of the Abriel family. This screenshot also shows one of the odd features of the animation... namely, that you can see through his hair. Sometimes this is more prominent than others, and it's usually fine, but shots like this are a little odd..
One of the interesting things about SF in general is how little things change. For instance, the Abh apparently salute using only two fingers.
One of the things I like about the series is that strategy and tactics seem to be the focus, rather than just the combat. The series follows Operation Phantom Flame, an offensive by the Abh empire. Here's a screenshot of the general strategy. There's a primary thrust up the middle to attain the main objectives, followed by a pincer movement to pick up other systems along the same path. Apparently, there are allies on the other side of this screen which the main Abh force hopes to hook up with.
The Pincer Movement, diagrammed
As previously mentioned, the music in Galciv II is very similar to the music in this series. As such, I thought it was funny when this screen came up - a screen that is very similar to the graphs in Galciv II. Of course, this is more of a coincidence than anything else (it's not like the Banner folks invented the line graph), but the interfaces are very similar.
That's all for now. Again, more later in the week...