Banner of the Stars continues three years after the beginning of a galactic war that started in Crest of the Stars. Lafiel, an Abh from the royal Abriel family, is made captain of an assault ship called the Basroil. Among her crew are two other Abh, and two humans, one a commoner and the other a noble.
The bulk of the show follows Lafiel and the crew of the Basroil, with the core of the focus being Lafiel and the human noble, Jinto, her companion from the prequel series. While these two do remain the main characters, I would say that in contrast to Crest of the Stars the new series focuses more time on Lafiel while Jinto takes a more supportive role. The story is told from Jinto’s perspective, but Lafiel is given a much larger role. This is all well and good, because I think Lafiel is a much more interesting character than Jinto.
There is no real villain in this season, as there was in the first season; however, interestingly, Lafiel is put under the command of Baroness Loy Atosuryua, sister of the antagonist from season one, Baron Klowal Atosuryua. The uncertainty between Lafiel and her commander—due to the circumstances surrounding the death of the Baroness’s brother—provides a very interesting section of the series. Lafiel is not sure what to think of her commander and her motives. Perhaps my favorite episode is a birthday celebration for her late brother being thrown by the Baroness, in which she meticulously reproduces the dinner that Lafiel and her brother the Baron had. Lafiel is unsure how to interpret this and what results is one of the best episodes in the series.
Beyond that, the major event driving the series is the galactic war. It begins with an explanation that both sides (the Abh Empire and a coalition of human nations) first exhausted almost all of their military capabilities in the opening stages of the war, and both sides spent the next three years rebuilding their forces. Lafiel is given command of an assault ship, much to her dismay. This position causes much distress to Lafiel, because as a member of royalty she is not accustomed to being subordinate to others. This, by the way, is another point that adds much to the richness and development of the characters. Lafiel being put in these challenging situations—despite her expectation and desire to command a fleet—is one of the best parts of the show, because it allows the series to play around with the lore that was developed. Families and class ranking are an important part of the series, but instead of being pointless details the series plays with it.
Well, finally to war itself. The way the war is handled would be best described as similar to Legend of the Galactic Heroes. In that sense, characters will discuss the enemy attack entire episodes before it actually happens. The series is minute in detail; everything is looked at. Lafiel’s position as a commander of an assault ship makes this possible, because part of her duties is reconnaissance. That aspect of warfare is probably given its greatest look in this series than any other, because I do not remember any other series that would devote so much time towards scouting and skirmishing. It is similar to Legend of the Galactic Heroes in that the warfare is depicted after they show you the lengthy preparation that went into it, but differs in that it focuses on the smaller units. Large capital ships act more as a cavalry reinforcement that saves the scouting ships from doom.
Strategy and tactics is also discussed extensively, and this is one portion where the show fails. Strategic location domination seems to be the most important aspect in galactic warfare strategy, but Lord help me if I know anything about it. The characters will debate which fleet should defend where, but I find it hard to follow along if I have no idea where these places are and why they are important. This is one of those shows where I had to look up a map and read explanations online just to understand what these people were saying. Also present in this show is a pet peeve: maps are displayed as 2-dimensional planes, which makes no sense in space!
Banner of the Stars is a huge improvement from season one. Space battles are much more plentiful, and I find the show’s approach to them to be a breath of fresh air. However, many aspects still remain: the dialogue is still dry and very wordy. Characters will have conversations that could easily take up half of the episode, as they discuss seemingly whatever comes to their mind. I do not think I have ever seen characters so thorough in their self-reflection. The original creator, Hiroyuki Morioka (who also writes the novels this series is based upon), seemed more interested in making a fictional world than a story. Regardless, the characters are much more interesting this time around, particularly Lafiel. She is one the best parts of the show, perhaps one of my favorites in anime.
Would I recommend Banner of the Stars? I would, but with one precaution: you will either find it engrossing or extremely boring.