Reboots and remakes are a large part of how today’s entertainment industry works. Find a property that’s proven to be lucrative and successful, and recycle and repackage it time and again with just enough of a twist to give it a hint of newness. How else do you explain the fact that we’re now on our third Spider-Man franchise, with a whole new cast, crew, and storyline, just three years after the second one was in theatres? Or that we may be getting yet another Fantastic Four franchise? Or new X-Files episodes? And on and on and on it goes…
Reboots and remakes aren’t inherently bad, of course. Perhaps the original title was solid but the cast and crew didn’t have the resources necessary to fully realize it. Maybe the terrible original contained the seed of a great idea that’s just waiting for someone to take another crack at it. And even with a beloved or highly regarded original, sometimes you’d just like to see what would happen if it was redone with modern moviemaking capabilities or from a different perspective. (On a related note, I’m still eagerly awaiting a modern take on Flight of the Navigator.)
Several weeks ago, Anime News Network published a list of anime titles that deserve to be remade — and I was pleasantly surprised to see the space opera Crest of the Stars at the top of the list. I watched Crest of the Stars and its sequels — Banner of the Stars and Banner of the Stars II — when they were originally released on DVD in the early ’00s, and they’ve stuck with me due to their in-depth world-building, complex storylines, and realistic approach to space travel and combat.
Based on a series of acclaimed novels by Hiroyuki Morioka, Crest of the Stars and Banner of the Stars are set in the distant future where humanity consists of several factions/nations spread across the galaxy. Arguably the most powerful faction is the Abh Empire, a genetically engineered offshoot of humanity whose bodies have been designed for a life in space — which gives them numerous advantages over the rest of humanity.
Due to their adaptations and superior technology, the Abh have conquered large portions of the galaxy. Being a space-bound race, the Abh don’t actually occupy the planets they’ve conquered. Instead, they install human magistrates (effectively making them members of Abh nobility) to oversee the planets, and rely on their massive fleets to maintain galactic order.
Several distinct storylines emerge against this backdrop. The series’ primary storyline revolves around a headstrong Abh princess named Abriel Lafiel and Jinto Linn, a “normal” human whose planet is conquered by the Abh at the series’ outset. As the son of the planet’s magistrate, Jinto is required to learn Abh ways and become a member of Abh society, which makes him a pariah on his planet. As the series unfold, Lafiel and Jinto’s relationship grows from shipmates to friends to possibly something more despite their obvious differences.
A secondary storyline emerges towards the end of Crest of the Stars and runs throughout Banner of the Stars, as several other human nations unite as the “Four Nations Alliance” to declare war on the Abh Empire. Finally, mixed in with this storyline are additional arcs involving various members of the Abh military and nobility, with all of these arcs shaping and impacting the primary Lafiel/Jinto storyline.
It can all be a bit complicated, especially when other Abh officers arrive on the scene and Lafiel’s true status in Abh society is revealed. But that complexity just reveals how much time and effort Morioka has clearly put into developing his fictional universe (even going so far as inventing a language for the Abh called “Baronh”), with the result being one of the deeper anime universes out there.
This can also been seen in the series’ various battles, as the Abh and the Four Nations Alliance begin to clash. While there are plenty of Star Wars-esque sequences with spaceships flying around amidst screen-filling laser blasts and explosions, Crest of the Stars and Banner of the Stars are also frequently reminiscent of Das Boot and the classic Star Trek episode, “Balance of Terror.”
Much of the action occurs on ships’ bridges and the crewmembers’ instruments and displays, with battles often treated more like chess matches. This makes the space combat more suspenseful than your typical anime fare, with more attention paid to the cost, exhaustion, and confusion of combat.
So why remake Crest of the Stars and Banner of the Stars now, after all this time?
For starters, the original series began production in 1999. The decades-old cel animation is passable, especially since the series is more dramatic than action-based, but animation advances in the last two decades would definitely make for a much better-looking series. (Consider the fantastic blend of cel and CGI animation in Netflix’s Voltron reboot.)
Second, there’s still plenty of material to adapt. The anime released to date only covers the first three Banner of the Stars novels. (Crest of the Stars was a prequel and I believe the Banner of the Stars III OVA has never been released in the States.) Two novels remain unadapted, with the most recent published in 2013, and Morioka’s series is still ongoing.
Finally, while there’s much to like about the original episodes, they could be a bit light and even goofy at times, especially given the backdrop of war and galactic unrest. (Having never read the original novels, I don’t know if that was from Morioka or introduced as part of the anime adaptation.) I’m certainly no fan of unnecessary grimdark but there’s a lot of heavy stuff that gets glossed over. If properly explored, though, it would have a lot of dramatic oomph.
Take Jinto’s status, for example. His planet has been conquered and he’s basically forced to join the conquerors’ side, which makes him a traitor in the eyes of his friends and countrymen. Ostracized by everyone he once knew, the only friend he can make (Lafiel) turns out to be one of his planet’s conquerors. Suffice to say, this sort of trauma and turmoil would probably take its toll.
But much of that is brushed aside in the original anime, or given only the most surface-level treatment; Jinto is almost perpetually cheerful considering his lot in life. I’d warrant, given the series’ realistic approach to space travel and combat, that a more realistic approach to Jinto’s situation makes sense, and would result in more interesting and emotionally affecting drama — especially as his relationship with Lafiel deepens.
One potential strike against any Crest of the Stars/Banner of the Stars remake is that Sunrise, the animation studio that produced the original series, has an awful lot on their plate these days. They’ve been producing a slew of new Gundam series lately, including Mobile Suit Gundam: The Origin, Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans, and Mobile Suit Gundam Thunderbolt, as well as a pair of Space Battleship Yamato 2199 remakes.
Still, there’s so much depth and complexity in Morioka’s universe that it’d be great for a new generation of anime fans to discover — especially since buying Crest of the Stars and Banner of the Stars on DVD can be a bit cost-prohibitive. (As far as I know, none of the series are available on any anime streaming platforms.)
Put simply, Crest of the Stars and Banner of the Stars feature too rich of a story world, especially compared to so much of the anime dreck that’s released these days, to remain as unknown (and under-appreciated) as it currently stands. If nothing else, a modern remake might bring it more of the attention (and resources) that it deserves, and introduce it to a whole new audience.