Reviews of Crest of the Stars (1999) and related work

Crest of the Stars (1999Moving picture, 10 hours)

Humankind’s many worlds are not just becoming culturally separated. Genetic manipulation has also produced new races. Eight years ago, an interstellar empire reached a world whose leader was elevated to nobility in the empire upon his ready surrender. That leader’s son grew up with a secret identity because the people of his world viewed his father as a traitor. Although he has no family left and he’s never seen any member of the conquering race, the son is noble by heritage. Now a young adult, he is about to leave his home world for military training at the core of the empire. He, and the elfin girl who picks him up for the journey, know nothing of the war that is about to erupt among thousands of old human colonies, which are now polarized between two vast empires.

Mostly hard interstellar naval SF. It’s definitely space opera, but in a midling-serious form like Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (1993). There’s culture, politics, diplomacy, romance, action and coming-of-age, not just beam weapons going pew-pew.

The early majority of episodes integrate a lot of exposition very skillfully and avoid unnatural streamlining of the plot. The last episode, on the other hand, takes too many shortcuts and degenerates into a harmlessly violent Disneyland robot safari at one point. Otherwise, the humour is very good, and Japanese language skills pay off. The artificial languages, and the names created in them, sound almost uniformly alien but fairly natural, which is an achievement. The world is generally realistic, avoiding moralistic fiats, but there is a villain in the end, and some space-opera clichés are readily apparent: uniform technological near-stasis, two-dimensional battles explained as a consequence of the FTL premise, feudalism and so on. Mercifully low on fan service. Good characters. Overly pompous music, but good enough.

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Lafiel commands her own ship and participates in the start of a major campaign.

More of the same. The music is a better fit, there are more eccentric nobles (most of them very funny), technology progresses (a little) and the ending is true to form, not the rush job of Crest. On the other hand, there is very little room for ground-based events, and not much cultural exploration.

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Crest of the Stars: Birth (2000Moving picture)

Lafiel’s parents explore an ancient space hulk, and he pops the Big Question: “Hey, can I have your genes?”

A “Lost Chapter”, created as a TV special of 25 minutes. The connection to a past colonial age deepens the universe neatly. Otherwise, it adds little to the original.

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During the campaign, our heroes conquer a world that turns out to be a strange form of prison, strategically worthless and possibly unstable.

Yet more of the same and a bit shorter. Ground-based events by the boatload and some romantic closure, yet the charm is fading a little. Female inmates are unrealistically attractive and there is an uncharacteristic moralism.

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Jinto returns to his home planet after the campaign, but he is still not wanted there. One of his old friends despises the Abh as automatons by genetic imperative.

Less than an hour long, showing no serious fighting. Calm and sweet: Lafiel blushes repeatedly, nobody dies and the wry comedy works as well as ever. The epilogue makes a good end to the franchise.

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