Movie: Anime that centers on space battles has always been something I enjoy. Watching large fleets of ships battle it out and seeing how much the creators can do to make it all new is generally a lot of fun. One of the better releases has been the well known "Stars" series released in the USA by Bandai. The latest release, from the third season of the show, is Banner Of The Stars II: Hunters (Volume 1).
The show details the end of the war that occupied the previous season, with the Empire performing clean up duties on remaining enemy forces that have scattered about the galaxy. While the other seasons took a look at the big picture, this one takes a look at a much smaller scale, a single planet that is liberated by the Empire's forces. For political reasons, the area must be governed by someone of royal blood and the lucky candidate this time is Lafiel. She, along with Jinto, must come up with a solution for the problems faced when the newly liberated planet, Lobnas II, is found to be a prison planet with a number of groups that want to take control over it. Their policies forcing them to take sides and govern in a just manner challenge the two to deal fairly with various factions.
Episode 1: Operation Hunter:
This episode sets the stage with the 4th fleet fighting some small remnants of the now defeated enemy. The Empire has been clearing vast tracks of territory across the Universe, retaking space it had lost in the war and it gives just enough of a background for you to enjoy the series as a stand alone dvd. There was also some background in the form of a lengthy flashback with Jinto.
Episode 2: Planet of Exile:
Approaching the planet Lobnas II, the crew of the Basroil, led by Lafiel and her brother Jinto, are hailed from the planet by four factions from the planet. One is the leader of the prison guards, another of the female prisoners, another of the male prisoners, and the last by a group of sterilized prisoners who were allowed to settle in the middle ground. The headache of choosing who to recognize as the official Prime Minister of the planet is the focus.
Episode 3: Emigration Plan:
Jinto, taking the responsibility of dealing with the population upon himself, sets up various aid programs to provide food and supplies needed by the people. A sizable number of the population want to leave the planet and he explains how they'll need to find planets willing to accept them. Other problems arise to get in the way too.
Episode 4: The Hunters:
With an enemy fleet nearby, the fleet is faced with a choice to attack it, not knowing if the enemy is weak enough to be defeated or to wait and amass a larger force in order to insure a victory. Jinto gets to explain to the population how times are tough.
The show was very interesting for me since I generally prefer the battling stuff more than what was shown here. Not having seen the previous seasons of the show, I'm curious to see if the entire 10 episode release by Bandai will remain interesting over the next few dvds. The themes of equity, gender issues, and other related topics seem to be well represented here and that made it worth giving a rating of Recommended to, although fans of earlier seasons might rate it higher. The voice acting on the dub was pretty solid and the anime style quite well done which complimented the writing. Check it out.
Picture: The picture was presented in 1.78:1 ratio anamorphic widescreen color. Aside from a few minor issues, it looked great. I saw no compression artifacts and the colors were very fitting for the shows darker subject matter.
Sound: The sound was presented with a choice of either Dolby Digital English or Japanese with optional English subtitles. The vocals were clear and the music quite well done, both contributing to the feel of the show as much as the visuals did. There was some separation of the audio tracks, especially in the battles, and that made it almost feel like a movie rather than a series.
Extras: There weren't a lot of extras on the dvd. The best was a text section called "Newsletter of the Stars" that provided some background to the show, allowing those of us that haven't watched the previous seasons to understand the basics of what's going on. I wish all anime had something like this although it does contain spoilers. There was also a bit of a production art gallery where some of the artwork was displayed and some trailers.
Final Thoughts: I'm tempted to go out and buy the previous seasons based on what I saw here. I know they probably dealt with more familiar subject matter (for me at least) and would add to my enjoyment of this series but I think it might be best to watch this one play out (it's a short series). In all, there was a lot to like here and I look forward to seeing future episodes as they are released.