90’s anime: Crest of the Stars

I’ve been watching Crest of the Stars, a series from 1999 — 22 years old. Back then, the infrastructure for fansubs was a lot less developed than now (bittorrent was only invented in 2001), and so you had to really hunt for stuff. I never got around to collecting and watching the series.
It’s kinda weird to watch such an older series. The aspect ratio is 4:3, because it was before the rise of the widescreen televisions, Of course there was no HD anyway — so watching the series on my large TV gives the whole thing a ‘soft focus’ because the pixels just aren’t there and the TV gives its best effort.
And the storytelling is so much slower than we are used to these days. Thirty second pans, long silences in dialogues, etcetera. Heck, it even takes a full episode before the two main characters even meet each other!

In the series, mankind has settled all across space. Half have been conquered by the Abh Humankind Empire. The Abh are an offshoot of humanity — basically a group of bioroids who were optimised for space exploration who overthrew their masters and decided that the best way to ensure peace was to make sure nobody but them could own spaceships. They organised themselves along feudal lines.
The two main characters are Lafiel, an Abh princess, and Jinto, a Terran whose father surrendered their planet in exchange for becoming Abh nobility. Jinto is, therefore, a Count — but he has never seen an Abh before when the series starts when he ships out to attend an Abh military academy. Lafiel is a pilot trainee aboard the patrol vessel that will bring Jinto to his destination, but the two of them get caught up in the start of a war between the Abh empire and a coalition of the other human blocs.

I found this review very interesting, because it calls out the colonialist attitudes of the series. The reviewer has a point, but also misses several, I think. There are some important differences: for instance, the Abh do not come down to the planets they conquer (when Jinto and Lafiel crash-land, it is actually Lafiel’s first time on a planet!), and they do not seem to be overly concerned with the day-to-day dealing of the planets they hold. Most terrans never see an Abh in their entire life, which does not suggest to me that the Abh had a large part to play in planetary politics. I also don’t see evidence of their conquests being motivated by a desire to extract a specific resource — the mere fact that a planet is inhabited by humans means that they want to conquer it, not because there’s oil or something that they need.
And while the Abh describe themselves as noble, most of the Abh that are presented in the series act like little children, not equipped to deal with any kind of disagreement or setback. When they are stranded, Lafiel is absolutely helpless without Jinto. The commander of the attack fleet is stubborn and insults his underlings, the commander of the patrol fleet is impulsive and reckless. None are particularly noble in their pursuits — they just do what is expected of them.

There are absolutely colonialist themes in the series, but I don’t think it’s colonialist propaganda like the review states. Rather, it emphasizes how the Abh are detached from the every-day life of their subjects, and how that detachment makes them incapable of empathy with their terran subjects.

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