In the annals of anime history, Legend of the Galactic Heroes stands out from everything else by its scope, scale and runtime. Weighing in over 150 episodes, numerous specials, ten’s of novels and games, the series follows the trials of two massive human space factions fighting for control of the galaxy. Now, I’m not here to talk about that (not yet, anyway) but imagine for a second that on this vast stage, we focused not on the entire story but on one single story. A story of, naturally enough, a boy and a girl (though it could be a boy and a boy or a girl and a girl just as easily) who find themselves sitting next to each other by a simple chain of events and are just comrades in the same empire but together could there be something else there?
Jinto Lin (I’m not going to try and spell his entire name) is a young boy living on the human world of Martine and whose father Rock Lin is the president of the world government. One day, the all powerful Abh humanoid race arrive to take over the space lanes and travel capabilities of Martine (they don’t rule planets just the space lanes and the travel systems thereby locking a planet into their control) and Rock Lin could fight back with their advanced systems. He instead offers up the planet and asks to made a Baron in the Abh Empire and to allow his son to leave to be schooled in Abh control to return when trained. Some years later, he leaves the Imperial world of Delct to join the Imperial Military at the capital when he placed in a two seater transport piloted by Abriel Nei Debrusc Borl Paryun Lafiel (or just Lafiel for short) a naval junior officer who upon meeting Jinto, insists that he call her Lafiel. It’s only after they’ve arrived at the transport ship bringing Jinto to the capital does Jinto realise Lafiel is a Princess of the Imperial Court, the granddaughter to the current Empress. But it’s precisely because Jinto didn’t know who she was and didn’t treat her any differently to anyone else that Lafiel wants to be around him. So they have a close relationship despite knowing each other for a short amount of time. Soon, though, events in the Abh Empire and frictions between the other three major powers force Lafiel and Jinto together to live long enough to get to safety. Among invasions, race hating, war propaganda and espionage chases across enemy territory, they have a chance to escape separately but their own sense of respect for each other and the people they meet won’t let them abandon the other.
I don’t like series set in space that over-explain themselves, telling you how everything in the universe works and never letting you breathe in the atmosphere of the work. Nor am I a fan of these labyrinthe works that expect you to know about the way every bad guy is modeled on the US military and every good guy is modeled on a dead Prussian nobleman who fought in the Crimean War. All while people fly around in battleships and blow stuff up. So when the Abh backstory is revealed over the course of the season, it’s done in a quiet way being imparted by everyone; Lafiel, the narrator, historical records and background characters. You learn about the Abh at the same pace Jinto learns about Lafiel, helping us to see why he likes her without it just being “Isn’t she just so wonderful, audience?!!” Lafiel is not a tsundere type, not a weak willed flower, she’s a vibrant young girl with her own mind and never once does she doubt herself (this gets her into trouble a lot). The draw of Lafiel is that, just like the Abh, once you get past the aloofness, there’s a passion coming up to breathe from time to time. Along with these glimpses, we see her grow as a person by understanding the Abh might be the most enlightened race but actually knowing how ordinary Terrans feel and reason will make her a better person and a better ruler if she ever succeeds her grandmother.
Jinto represents the other part of the show which is the view for the commoner looking up at the sky. Jinto all his life has lived a life of luxury but he always looks and says things that make him seem ill at ease with that life. He does what is required of him by his father, his teachers and his friends not because he has no spine or wants of his own but because he loves these people and doesn’t see a reason not to offer his help in their troubles. This is probably why I got such a great feeling from him as he meets and learns about Lafiel: the guy just doesn’t see a need to be rude, angry or upset about anything around him. That’s not to say that the people around him who suffer or struggle escape his notice, far from it. It’s just that Jinto worries more about people’s feelings than their struggles. So when he encounters Lafiel, she is brisk, quiet, non-talkative and doesn’t have a similar set of social graces to him. For her, being honest and telling the truth is the same as reporting to her commanding officer. It’s the same thing so why should being social be different? Jinto doesn’t know how to talk with her for the first few hours and days of their travels but as they are forced to fight for their lives, he learns how to relate to her in ways she understands and helps her to relate to him and others that she wouldn’t have noticed how to do otherwise. He goes from a person with a pre-written destiny to having a personal inverse manifest destiny in that he should expand his horizons by virtue of his talents and self-respect not just because the plot wills it so.
Crest of the Stars will not go down in TV series history as an epic space opera or the successor to something like LoGH. It doesn’t need to because it combines the setting of space with a love story between two different people who despite everything, learn to appreciate each other and find that a void in each of them is filled with the other. I loved getting to know Lafiel and Jinto and I can’t wait to watch more of their adventures. The universe they’re in is a dangerous one but that’s how all good stories should be, not held in the safety of “Well, it happened only in one area, the rest of the place is fine” and all that that entails. I hope that the next two installments hold up the level of writing and character exploration.