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Review: Banner of the Stars

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.

Miho Yamada plays Loy Atosuryua, Lafiel's commander and perhaps the best looking character in the show.

Miho Yamada plays Loy Atosuryua, Lafiel’s commander and perhaps the best looking character in the show.

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!

Strategy and tactics play a bigger role in this season. Some of it is easy to follow; some of it is not.

Strategy and tactics play a bigger role in this season. Some of it is easy to follow; some of it is not.

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.

“Kajiwotore” has been my favorite Susumu Hirasawa song lately

I love Susumu Hirasawa. He is perhaps my favorite musician. His songs are memorable, but not repetitive. Someone’s song might be catchy, but if it gets stuck in my head then I actually hate it; his never do, for some reason! Maybe because I do not speak Japanese…


This has been my favorite song of his lately. Really good stuff.

It does remind me of his most famous song, Forces, which was used in the original anime series for Berserk.


I always thought Forces was a strange choice for Berserk, considering the European-inspired setting.

Heck, while I am at it, why not post my previous favorite songs? My all-time favorite song by him seems to change every time I listen to a new one.


This one is really good. I like it so much, that it might go back to being #1 after I listen to Kajiwotore for a while. I have to say, my favorite songs are definitely the most “oriental”ish ones. Speaking of “oriental”…


This album was heavily inspired by Hirasawa’s trip to Thailand. The vocalist is Wisakha Fraytes, although good luck finding anything about her!

How about one more?


Another famous one, although I am not sure if White Tiger Field is more popular than Parade (which was also featured in Paprika).

Neon Genesis Evangelion is a fun experience, but nowhere near a great anime

I have been watching Neon Genesis Evangelion again recently. I just finished watching episode 16, the infamous one in which Eva-01 violently rips its way out of an Angel. At this point, I think my thoughts are set in stone somewhat.

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Neon Genesis Evangelion is a franchise that I adore very much; I am one of those types that just eats up the merchandising like Homer Simpson eats, well, anything. I am not exactly wealthy, so I do not own nearly much as I would like, but I can guarantee that if I had the means I would buy anything related to the series. Even that infamous NERV bucket. Which, at around 4,980 yen (roughly $40.00 in 2015), is a giant rip-off compared to the Home Depot Bucket at about $4.00. Yeah, well, it’s a NERV bucket! Limited edition! (It’s also a steel bucket, FYI, whereas the Homer Bucket is plastic).

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I own the Perfect Edition of the original TV series, plus the Director’s Cut versions of the last few volumes (so, if memory serves, around the last six episodes). I also own The End of Evangelion, two versions of Rebuild of Evangelion 1.11 (one DVD and one Blu-Ray), two versions of Rebuild of Evangelion 2.22 (the official FUNimation DVD release and an imported copy from… I don’t know where).

As for reading material, I own some volumes of Yoshiyuki Sadamoto’s official manga, the first volume of Angelic Days (which I actually like), the “Der Mund” artbook by Yoshiyuki Sadamoto. I am tempted to get Ayanami Raising Project, but I do not want Campus Apocalypse and Shinji Ikari Detective Diary, thank you very much.

I, of course, own those figures. Those two small ones were actually by lottery; they come in these little pink capsules. In Japan, they are dispensed at vending machines, and they are supposed to be random (if you have seen A Certain Scientific Railgun, Mikoto would go to a Gekota machine whenever she saw one; kinda the same idea, but I don’t think those come in capsules). Not pictured are two Revoltechs, one of Eva-01 and the other Eva-00, still in the boxes (you can kinda see the boxes at the bottom).

Of all the merchandise I own, Evangelion merchandise beats the rest by far.

There’s more, but I think you get the point.

Considering all of that, would it be strange for me to say that Neon Genesis Evangelion is not my favorite anime? (for those curious: it’s The Girl Who Leapt Through Time). In fact, would it be strange for me to say that I think Neon Genesis Evangelion is not even great?

Perhaps I could get away with saying something like that, if I were more specific: Neon Genesis Evangelion the franchise is great, while the Neon Genesis Evangelion the show is not.

What is it about this show that I do not like? Well, most of it can be summed up as: it is just too inconsistent.

Let us forget about the animation (which is more famous for being inconsistent), and let us focus instead on one important element that the show cannot decide upon: tone.

In the beginning, the show manages to nail down a pretty bleak tone. I have the feeling that Hideaki Anno was trying to capture a world on the brink of extinction; the use of Christian symbolism, the world shadow government, huge amounts of resources being devoted towards fighting off the Angels. Chairman Keel tells Gendo that the Human Instrumentality Project is humanity’s last hope, and carrying out that project is NERV; NERV is a global effort, operating in at least a dozen countries, completely devoted towards defeating the Angels and carrying out that Project. It all has a very “End of Times” feeling to it. Heck, you might even say that the Second Impact is the Great Tribulation (both events marked by mass suffering, war, catastrophe, famine, etc.) and that Third Impact is the Second Coming (Eva-01 becomes God and all humanity transcends into heaven)*. It seems that humanity is preparing for one last (catastrophic) event, and that event is so important that the entire human race is contributing towards it.

Not only did the tone start out dreary, but the show also made it clear that its characters are suffering. Episode 4, “Hedgehog’s Dilemma,” (one of my favorite episodes by the way) in particular focuses on the stress that Shinji is feeling. One thing that many people seem to have missed is that Shinji is a child soldier; at fourteen years old, he was conscripted into the paramilitary organization NERV. Shinji is a child expected to engage in armed combat. Episode 4 conveys this stress by creating an “other worldly feeling,” in that Shinji wanders around Tokyo-3 but always ends up in situations in which he feels like he does not belong. He begins to feel lost. Hideaki Anno creates one of my favorite scenes in the entire series in this episode. Shinji is standing in the middle of the park. He can hear nothing but the things from faraway, and instead of painting the scene with predominantly orange colors (as it is the afternoon) the scene is painted with purple. Purple is not necessarily symbolic for anything, but the point is that the world feels alien to Shinji; afternoons in anime are generally orange, and rarely are they purple anywhere (I, at least, do not remember any). Shinji hearing things from far away, rather than what is next to him, further adds to the “other worldly” feeling. Shinji’s stress manifests itself as detachment and lack of direction.

This is the sort of thing I like about Evangelion. I think perhaps the best thing about the series is that it satisfies the sadistic aspect of people. I like to watch these people suffer. Not because I hate them, but because watching them suffer is just so entertaining.

The big weakness of the series, then, is that its characters are not suffering all the time. The tone of the series is not always dreary and bleak; sometimes I forgot that this world just came out of the greatest catastrophe in human history (and it preparing for an even bigger one). Sometimes, everything is just happy, normal, typical. In other words, I feel that the show loses its focus. It took what made it strong, shifted itself away from that, and then returned to it about halfway through. I do not watch this series for the teenage comedy antics of Shinji, Rei, and Asuka crawling through an air duct; nor do I watch this show so I can see Shinji and Asuka play twister. The happy humor episodes are, well, boring. While those were fine episodes, I feel that they were placed in the wrong series. I watch this show to be entertained, and the most entertaining parts are when the characters go through trauma.

When the series finally snaps out of it and puts the suffering at the forefront, it becomes great again. All of this culminates in The End of Evangelion, which I consider better than the TV series because it knows exactly what it wants to accomplish (a lot of suffering).

The End of Evangelion is, then, supposed to be the best part of the story. It should be the part that made its influence last for so long, right? I do not think that it was the talent of Hideaki Anno and Studio Gainax that made the show memorable. There are definitely many other anime that I enjoy more than Evangelion, but none of them have taken as much money from me as Evangelion. More impressively, none of those can claim that they were so dominant in the anime industry for almost 20 years and counting. If I were to pinpoint a reason, I would say that the franchise’s greatest strength lies not in the show but in its marketability; in other words, Neon Genesis Evangelion may not be the best anime, but it is the best at selling.

*In which case, Chairman Keel is the Antichrist that united the world under one government.

Short film “Playground” from animater Ryosuke Oshiro

*Synopsis: a lone wolf student draws a pictures on a wall; another boy comes and does the same thing. They use their imaginations to quarrel.

*Ryosuke Oshiro, born in Okinawa. Graduate of Okinawa Prefectural University of Arts, where Oshiro worked as a research student a year. Moved to the Tokyo University of the Arts, Graduate School of Film and New Media, Department of Animation in 2011. He became an animator in 2014.

Wargaming.net to cooperate with creators of Arpeggio of Blue Steel for World of Warships

As some might be familiar with already, Wargaming.net, creators of the popular free-to-play game World of Tanks, teamed up with the publishers of Girls und Panzer. There is official crossing of the two brands, for example, there was a manga in which the characters of Girls und Panzer explain how to play World of Tanks.

They are trying this strategy again, but with their next upcoming game, World of Warships. This game is highly anticipated by fans of World of Tanks. With the release of World of Warships, Wargaming.net will complete their “unified account” trio of World of Tanks, World of Planes, and World of Warships.

World of Warships is currently in alpha stages. It features highly detailed ship models and classes such as battleships, destroyers, cruisers, and carriers. They showed off the current game at GamesCon this year.

Arpeggio of Blue Steel originally began as a manga series by the artist group Ark Performance in September 2009. It made its debut as a 12-episode animated series on October 7, 2013. It was animated by the studio Sanzigen, an animation studio known for specializing in CGI animation. An animated film, Arpeggio of Blue Steel DC, will premiere in Japan on January 15, 2015.

The series follows humanity’s war of defense against the Fleet of Fog, a technologically advanced fleet with obscure origins. The Fleet of Fog is composed entirely of sentient ships with artificial intelligence; each ship’s CPU can take on human form. The main character, Gunzo, manages to become captain of the I-401, a submarine that defected from the Fleet of Fog for unknown reason.

Eventually, Japan develops a weapon that can defeat the Fleet of Fog, but only the United States has the industrial power to mass produce it. As such, the Japanese government has Gunzo transport the weapon across the Pacific Ocean and through the Fleet of the Fog’s blockade, so that the weapon can be used on a large scale. The manga also features Gunzo’s crew, as well the AI personas of the Fleet of Fog.

Here are some pictures of cross-promotion.

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Source: For The Record.

Characters from Dengeki light novels (Sword Art Online, A Certain Magical Index, Toradora, Durarara) duke it out in Dengeki Bunko Fighting Climax, an arcade game being brought to the PS3/PSVita

This looks absolutely awesome!

It features many of the popular franchises from the Dengeki Bunko imprint – basically, light novels. Here is the full list:

  • Asuna – Sword Art Online
  • Kirino Kosaka – Oreimo
  • Kirito – Sword Art Online
  • Kuroyukihime – Accel World
  • Mikoto Misaka – A Certain Magical Index
  • Miyuki Shiba – The Irregular at Magic High School
  • Rentaro Satomi – Black Bullet
  • Shana – Shakugan no Shana
  • Shizuo Heiwajima – Durarara!!
  • Taiga Aisaka – Toradora!
  • Tomoka Minato – Ro-Kyu-Bu!
  • Yukina Himeragi – Strike the Blood

As it is published by SEGA, it will also feature two SEGA characters: Selvaria Bles from Valkyria Chronicles and Akira Yuki from Virtua Fighter. Here is some gameplay of Selvaria and Yukina:

Here is some gameplay of Misaka Mikoto and Shana:

As some might notice, the game uses the original artstyle of the light novels. I think that is pretty neat.