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"Crest of the stars" (星界の紋章, Seikai no Monshou) is the title eventually given to the first half of a very successful series of six science fiction novels written by Japanese author Hiroyuki Morioka (森岡浩之). Volumes 4 to 6 are titled "Seikai no Senki" (星界の戦旗). The novels have been adapted into three anime TV series (and a prequel OAV episode) and thereby became known to Western anime fans. Other adaptions include a volume of manga, a strategy computer game and a number of radio dramas.

The Title

A note concerning the first word of the title, which is a kind of pun: Seikai is not actually a Japanese word; the author created it by replacing the first kanji of the word for world (世界, sekai) with the kanji for star (星, hoshi), which can also be pronounced "sei". The result still sounds close enough to "sekai" that everyone will think of that first, but when written out, the kanji convey the message that it doesn't describe some boring, ugly dirtballs, but instead the glorious infinity of space.

The Background

Which leads us to the setting of the novels: Morioka really went all-out on the world building, with a care for details that approaches that of Grandmaster Tolkien. He thought up a language, an alphabet, societies quite different from ours, and the (consistent) technological background that makes them viable.

The most important entity of the storyline is the Abh Empire, which strives to conquer the entirety of human-inhabited space. "Abh" is both a legal status and a term for a genetically engineered human race forming most of the nobility and military of the Abh empire. In most cases, both are identical, but sometimes non-Abh are raised to nobility and their children are then genetically modified to become "true" Abh. All true Abh are beautiful, live for over 200 years and have blue hair and an additional sensory organ which enables them to link with the sensors of their spaceships to percieve the surroundings directly.

The Abh were originally created as slaves and soldiers for space warfare, but they turned on their creators and made space their home. They have little interest in planets except as a source for supplies and mostly leave the internal government of the planets they have conquered to the natives.

The Characters

  • Jinto

    The main character, 17 years old, son of the president of a planet that was conquered by the Abh. Jinto's father made a deal with the conquerors and surrendered in exchange for becoming an Abh and keeping his power. Jinto was already born and is therefore legally an Abh, but not genetically. At the beginning of the story, he is about to embark for the Abh empire, and although he has recieved special schooling for most of his life in preparation of being an Abh nobleman, he has never met a real Abh. The first one he does meet is...
  • Lafiel,

    a girl of Jinto's age who was sent to escort him to the battleship "Gosroth" and seems strangely elated when he asks her her name. Jinto later learns that she is in fact royalty - the granddaughter of the current Abh empress. When Jinto tries to apologize to her, Lafiel becomes quite furious; she had been happy that for the first time in her life someone treated her as an equal since even her best friends never call her by her first name. In the course of the story, Lafiel and Jinto become quite close, and the romantic tension between them is a recurring theme.
  • Captain Lexshue

    Female commander of the "Gosroth", a competent, good-natured and caring officer of the Abh space navy. Unfortunately, she dies quite early in a surprise attack that turns out to be the beginning of a big adventure for Lafiel and Jinto. It later turns out that there is also an important connection between her and Lafiel.
  • Baron Febdash

    Ruler of a small domain that became part of the Abh empire only recently, he tries to capture Lafiel while she and Jinto are on the run, in order to gain a bargain potential with the approaching enemies. He is genetically Abh, but his father, like Jinto's, was not. This has lead to a severe inferiority complex in the Baron, who surrounds himself exclusively with young, good-looking female servants.
  • Admiral Spoor

    A quite scary woman, talented battle-commander of the Abh space navy, but incredibly whimsical. Spends most of her time either complaining how bored she is (even in the midst of battle) or confusing the heck out of her chief of staff. Her family are traditional rivals of Lafiel's (the Abriel) family for the throne, and she strongly objects to any insinuations that she feels sympathy for Lafiel, but her actions tell a different story in the end.

The Story (very brief synopsis of the anime)

After some background introduction, Jinto meets Lafiel. Their ship, the "Gosroth" becomes the first target of a huge surprise attack on the Abh empire by its enemies. Jinto and Lafiel are ordered by Captain Lexshue to leave the ship in a shuttle. They stop at the domain of Baron Febdash, who tries to capture Lafiel, but they escape, killing the Baron when he tries to stop them. The next planet they reach is unfortunately already in enemy hands, but they are forced to land and try to stay unnoticed while the enemy military pressures the local police to find them. They hook up with a local resistance movement and manage to escape to space just as Admiral Spoor reconquers the system.

The second series (Banner of the Stars) begins three years later after Lafiel and Jinto have graduated and he joins her as supply officer on her first command. The Abh have suffered territory losses and have just finished preparations for a counterattack. Lafiel has barely time to become aquainted with her ship, the Basroil, and its crew, when she is sent to guard a freshly-conquered star system against a much larger force. Worse, her immediate superior is the sister of Baron Febdash, and the Admiral in charge of the defense is from a family that is famous for producing insane people.

The third series (Banner of the Stars II) has Lafiel in charge of governing a different freshly-conquered system. This turns out to be quite a can of worms, as it is a prison colony, with the guards and three different prisoner factions each claiming to be the only valid representatives of the population. Meanwhile, a beaten enemy fleet is trying to cross Abh territory. In order not to compromise the front, the Abh supreme commander chooses to let them proceed. But Lafiel who has one battleship, and a large-scale evacuation as well as a prisoner uprising to deal with, is right on the path of that fleet. Worse yet, Jinto has been captured by prisoners...