Crest of the Stars closes with a bumper edition, extra-long finale, and I think it’s my favourite episode. This is mostly because of the amusement park that Jinto and Lafiel blast their way into. The subsequent scenes of chaos, as soldiers and fugitives clash with robotic talking animals, are deliciously surreal. Furthermore, the first time I watched the show this odd choice of setting for a near-final showdown forced me to reconsider the previous story. I had been lured into taking Crest too seriously, but the sight of (for example) our heroes talking at cross-purposes with a chummy man-sized otter swiftly cured that: Crest of the Stars is a tale of gripping space warfare in a well-detailed universe (right down to Hiroyuki’s Baronh), but it also has space elves and a mining colony staffed entirely by maids.
The power of the ferris wheel has already been pointed out, but – looking more broadly – I realise now that amusement parks in anime are almost always A Good Thing. After all, there’s the joy of Code Geass‘s fifteenth episode, and Mao’s chainsaw-based solution to fitting a big girl into a small suitcase. Better still, consider Cowboy Bebop: ‘Pierrot le Fou’ is one of its best episodes, paring Bebop‘s already simple formula down to anime’s most violent clown, an incredibly menacing score and a flow of bright visual excess as Spike fights Mad Pierrot up, down and around various neon-lit rides. (Incidentally, the original broadcast dates of ‘Pierrot le Fou’ and Crest‘s end can only be a few months apart.)
This episode really felt like the climax of an action movie to me, and rewatching it I see there’s a well-orchestrated oscillation between the possibility of triumphant escape and a series of disasters. Lafiel and Jinto flee the park just before it locks down – but! they’re pinned down by searchlights and a ring of police cars – but! it turns out that they’ve been caught by the calm, almost paternal detective – but! he’s swiftly replaced by the mad, (sexually) threatening figure of the Silejian, Kyte – and so on. I’m not impressed by the oscillation itself so much as by its rapidity and the resulting sense of momentum.
The momentum’s impressive, but it also points to Crest‘s main problem. ‘[The show] feels’, says Martin, ‘like a whistle-stop tour of a setting that is too large for the constraints of a thirteen episode television show, with a whole host of faces on both the Abh and human side who are crying for more screen time.’ I’d say the same of its sequels. Sneakily managing to be nearly as operatic as Macross, while pleasuring fans of more staid science fiction with its fascinating Plane Space battles and its examination of detail (like Abh humour), the * of the Stars series desperately needs more time; I group it with works like Char’s Counter Attack and Nanoha A’s, both of which seemed to me to be stories with wide scope, restricted by too short a telling.
Also, look at these guns. I know next-to-nothing about (real) firearms, but the bullpup build of these weapons looks oddly modern in a far-future setting (a milder form of I Know That Gun?), drawing a link between the United Mankind and us. Contrast this to the Abh rayguns, which look like the rayguns of classic sci-fi cover art. The Lune Biga police, meanwhile, use older-looking weapons . . .
I’m really no gun expert, but even I can see what these were modelled on. (Too much Call of Duty?) The police uniform, with its flat-topped hats, looks French – or at least Continental – to me, and that jaded, stubbled, hat-wearing detective looks distinctly ’20s or ’30s. Are we meant to see Sufugnoff’s society as a little old-fashioned? It’s striking how the non-Abh worlds we see in Crest of the Stars are easily comprehended (so, for example, the police cars might hover and the fire engines might fly, but they’re still obviously police cars and fire engines), presumably to highlight how different the Abh themselves are. (We can has alterity now?) It would be interesting to find out how much of this visual detail was present in the original novels; DiGiKerot might know, as he’s reviewed them.