Jinto and Lafiel were riding on a light-armed transport ship "Bokbrusue" and navigating at the planar space of the Hyde System. This was for Jinto to govern the Hyde System, which returned to Empirial rule after the Union retreated, officially as an Earl. However, the government of Martin, Jinto`s motherland, resisted obstinately against the Empirial rule. On the other side, "Daiichi Jyuurin Sentai" (the First Devastation Fleet), formed with the new ship type "Attack Vessel", travelled to the Hyde System for drilling practices, but...
Banner of the Stars III OVA is easily the best of the entire series. It comes full circle back to the planet Martine, where Jinto was born. He is returning to govern the planet but Martine wants independance, not to mention that half of their population hates the Abh. Banner III is about this conflict, as well as Jinto's relationship with Lafiel who has taken a leave of absence to be with him.
I cannot reveal too much more about the series without giving spoilers but the character development in this 2 episode OVA is outstanding. Every character has grown up and changed, even Diaho the
cat. The plot is tight and the pacing is just right.
The ending is outstanding. Many loose ends are tied up but there is always room for further sequels in this universe. This is how a good franchise should end, if it is indeed the end. With people wanting more, but not really needing more because it is a "satisfying" ending.
If future ones are as good as Banner of the Stars III then I hope they make a 4th, 5th and 6th series.
Banner of the Stars III is supposed to be the conclusive arc in the grand saga of the Stars franchise. And conclude everything it does, till it has engulfed all of humanity's future in a brilliant blue tint of regal oppression, covered over with a sweet, crooning romance.
Let me get two things out of the way, so you can walk away if you feel offended:
1) I believe that the underlying premise of the entire Stars franchise is rotten to the core, and its entire narrative structure is one elaborate exercise in bad-faith misdirection.
2) Given the above point, I only watched this (I skipped Banner II
as just reading the premise made me want to throw up) because the ending actually seemed very promising - it seemed to end on a tragic and poignant note that finally seemed to acknowledge that the Abh and their ways weren't so noble or beneficial after all, and that people were suffering because of it. This one admission would have given the show's developments an entirely different meaning, and redeemed the entire franchise completely. However, the truth turned out to be the exact opposite.
A brief introduction - the show starts in the aftermath of yet another battle between the Abh Empire and United Mankind (the humans aligned against Abh expansionism). Our protagonist Lin Jinto seems to have suffered some injuries from the war and wants to take a break from the fighting. Our other lead, Lafiel the Abh (also Jinto's girlfriend by this time), decides to join him. Jinto is an ordinary human appointed as head of his conquered homeworld by the Abh overlords due to hereditary circumstances, and Lafiel is a member of the Abh royalty, one of many individuals directly in line for succession of the throne. Jinto's homeworld Martine is vying for independence from Abh rule, and at the heart of this movement is Teal Clint, incidentally a close confidante of Jinto's now-deceased family. This is the backdrop in which this roughly hour-long OVA begins.
For much of this brief show, Jinto revisits old places and old acquaintances. Everywhere he goes, his well-wishers try to stuff some sense into him, to no avail. Jinto is convinced that what he is doing is for the best. The show also reveals the final clincher about the Abh that should leave no doubt in anyone's mind about just how sinister the whole setup had been all along. And in the face of all this, the show puts up a loving, smiling face - as though it just treated you to the most wonderful developments ever.
Now, I've reviewed the first two installments without having to drop any spoilers, but here it's simply impossible to criticise the show without getting into plot specifics, because not only is it here that it indulges in its worst ever dishonesty, but it's actually far worse than the previous installments, and stoops to a level so low that it needs to be explicitly pointed out to be appreciated. With that in mind:
First he meets his old childhood friend Que Durin (I'm not too sure of that spelling), offering him a post where he can assist Jinto with various administrative matters. When they meet at his place to sort out the details, Durin drops a real stakes-changing shocker of a revelation about the Abh - to eliminate the possiblity of revolt or in-fighting, the Abh are genetically hard-wired never to turn on their own people, and find it practically impossible to disobey orders ("I was only following orders!"...sounds familiar, anyone?). Jinto himself reveals the final piece of this puzzle - which is that any ethnic Terran (i.e. ordinary human) members of the Abh nobility wishing to have children are mandated by Imperial Law to have their children's genes modified at conception to make them Abh humans. In other words, what was portrayed in the beginning of this franchise as a progressive willingness to meddle with genes as one wished, was in actuality a way of enforcing compliance to the state and effectively robbing human beings of their freedom....this is even worse than I could have ever imagined. I'm simply at a loss for words here. And it's no coincidence that this vital piece of information was withheld until the very end of this franchise.
In the middle of all this, there is an even more crucial development. Jinto's home planet Martine has been vying for independence from Abh rule (and the show has the bloody audacity to refer to the Independence party as the "Feudal government"). The Abh retailate by destroying their planetary defenses under the pretext of a drill-exercise goof-up due to miscommunications. And then - here's the singular worst part - the blame is shifted on the Independence party for forcing the Abh's hand, and they are accused of "coercing the dissenters into submission" by activating the defense system and thereby forcing everyone to get on board with the independence movement because there's "no turning back now". "No civilised person with a decent undertsanding of the galaxy would do this - these are the ignorant actions of an isolated Lander" is how an Abh conveniently puts it. In other words, the Abh are suddenly all ears when it comes to protecting the democratic rights of those who DON'T want independence and democratic government, and will strong-arm anyone who would dare violate their subjects' (un)freedom. It also implicitly suggests the most singularly bald-faced lie ever, which is that the majority of the population would NOT want independence from an invading/occupying force, because of which one would have to resort to such underhanded measures to get the population on board...I can no longer help myself here, I just need to vent out that this is singularly the most shameful, two-faced and obscene notion that this show has so far hurled at me.
Anyways, things being what they are, Jinto decides to do damage control and visit Teal Clint - who is the acting Prime Minister at the helm of the independence movement. A decent man, an honourable man, someone with spine to stand up to the Abh. Someone who saved Jinto's hyde (sorry about the pun) on numerous occasions. Jinto ought to be grateful to this guy. And also to his wife Lena who doted on him as a child and went just as much out of her way to make sure he was safe. Instead, he has chosen to side himself against the very people who saved his life (whereas the show makes it out that it's the Abh whom he owes his loyalties to). But the two don't care about any of that right now, they just want to see their boy again - such is the love they have for him. The most heart-wrenching part for me was when Jinto replies that he has responsibilities now, to which Lena tearfully retorts, "Responsibilities as an Abh? As an Invader?" She speaks for all decent individuals with that line. Anyhow, Jinto agrees to visit, and they are tearfully overjoyed to see him alive and well - and desperate, Clint suggests what I personally had been practically yelling all along (first in a blog entry and then in my review of Banner of the Stars I, if you recall) - give up the Abh title and return home clean via political asylum. The Martinian people would have understood - the title was forced upon him when he was too young to consent, and he was personally not guilty of any wrongdoing at the time.
But it is here that the show gives its singularly most insincere pretext in the entire series so far for Jinto to side with the Abh hegemony, and moreover for Clint to give up on independence - if Jinto steps down, any other person appointed in his place will "not be so generous", and so a war might break out, putting Martine's very existence at stake. I might even have agreed with that stand (on a strictly short-term and tactical basis, mind you) if Jinto was portrayed as being critical of the Abh at heart but just playing along so that his homeland can have a future, but it's abundantly clear that he has been completely bought into the Abh way, and is very much in line with their program. This is where I think that the rationale is deeply insincere and two-faced - it seeks to present Jinto as a neutral and unbiased player in the game, and thus give more credibility to that line of argument. Also, just by taking such a stand, Jinto has all but explicitly incriminated the Abh to be coercive thugs ruling with a velvet glove covering an iron fist. But does the show even acknowledge this? Nope. It diverts your attention to how Jinto might miss the forests and beautiful landscapes of his homeland, but it pales in comparison to the peerless, radiant beauty...of Lafiel. Life's too short to live in depression and regret. How sweet, how romantic....someone please kill me right now, I can't take any more of this. And as if in answer to my prayers, the show ends, right there.
Ultimately, the show actually voices legitimate criticisms of its own premise through these two associates of Jinto, but then rationalises over them as well-meaning but ultimately misinformed perspectives. The blame is shifted on those who refuse to go along with the Abh hegemony, as always. Even at best, the scenario is portrayed as an unfortunate or unavoidable outcome of unfavourable circumstances when in fact the Abh are completely to blame for what has happened. And all of this is glossed over very expediently, and the focus very quickly shifts to some other issue before you realize anything is amiss - and in this department, Banner III operates far more slickly than its predecessors. This is where I think it's far worse than those, because it presents such a tranquil and poignant atmosphere to itself that it's hard to imagine that anything so horrible would be pushed through a show that feels so "beautiful".
So...back to Earth - Banner of the Stars III does end on a tragic note, all right. It is the tragic end to all human freedom, not just Jinto's privilege to visit the planet that he unilaterally lords over. But who cares, because he is ensconced in the sweet and caring arms of the most beautiful, wonderful Abh princess, for the rest of his boot-kissing life. And the Abh will take over all planets (because that is their "destiny", and one they themselves daren't question) and thus finally bring about lasting peace to all of mankind. The End. Seriously, am I the only one here who needs to throw up?
Anyhow, it's getting late now - here's my final verdict on the entire Stars franchise: the Stars aka Seikai series isn't Love in the Time of Cholera - it might as well be called Love Cholera. Fans of good Space Opera ought to look elsewhere - the appearance of intriguing political complexity and morally problematic "grey areas" was an elaborate facade to intellectually intimidate more casual viewers into thinking that the politics were too messy and complex to draw " black-and-white" conclusions, when in fact the case against the Abh is clear-cut and there is actually nothing politically interesting outside of that. Fans of good romance ought to look elsewhere - all the coy romance was there just to blindside you to its deplorable politics, and is in fact used to emotionally persuade viewers to side with what would otherwise be clearly seen to be morally repugnant stands.
Heck, fans of good Sci-fi should look elsewhere, because what actually seemed like a genuinely intriguing and promising sci-fi concept in fact proved to be an ugly and monstrous parable about the merits of using genetic modification as a way of enforcing unquestioning obedience to the hierarchy and robbing humans of their basic freedom of choice. If you look at it closely, its premise is actually closer to those presented in classic dystopic literature - except here it's presented as something wonderful rather than horrible. Its status as something of a "classic" among old-school anime circles is, IMO, an unfortunate case of people being taken in by its serenely operatic atmosphere and its realistic and believable character dynamics, and failing to see that it's all in the service of some especially loathsome and reprehensible ideas. The people who made this show ought to hang their heads in shame. Seriously.