Amongst countless stars whose light is only a reflection of that being emitted by another body, there are a select few that single-handedly shine the brightest. Although not every anime will become stars, it is those that feature genuine bonds between the characters and superbly crafted universes that contain the most potential. As Seikai no Monshou (otherwise known as Crest of the Stars) proves, it is the smallest subtleties that makes it a work that is both compelling and memorable.
Written as a series of science fiction novels by author Hiroyuki Morioka, Seikai experienced much critical acclaim before being adapted into an anime in 1999 by the studio Sunrise. The first entry in what would become a string of anime, Seikai no Monshou details the travels of Jinto Linn, who due to his father surrendering their planet for political standing has now become a count in the pervasive Abh Empire. While journeying to the capital to receive special education to aid in the war effort, he crosses paths with none other but the young Abh princess, Abriel Lafiel.
This is the story of their journey through battlefields and the far reaches of space, sparking an unlikely friendship that disrupts the cultural mores established between the Human and Abh races.
Perhaps one of the more enriching aspects that compose Seikai’s setting is the prevalence of an alien race that is culturally advanced. Possessing superior intellectual and physical attributes due to generations of genetic engineering, the Abh are a race that far exceeds the capabilities of mankind, allowing them to conquer most of the galaxy with ease. This is where Seikai differentiates itself from other works featuring alien invasion or space adventure plotlines, as it prospers due to the amount of realistic exposition given towards the Abh society. This is effectively accomplished by a gradual reveal of the elements composing their culture, ideologies and power structure. With such large quantities of information surrounding their diverse race, Seikai thankfully opts to take the route of world building through natural character exchanges and events as opposed to just cumbersome periods of reciting information through narration. Further adding to the consummate construction of the Abh is how author Hiroyuki Morioka has carefully crafted an entire language that their race speaks, reads and writes. The result of this is that the Abh attain a unique, otherworldly flavour that validates their depiction. Furthermore, this technique gives the very existence of the Abh people a powerfully balanced outlook, alongside their opposing political views, morals and perspectives. This is an impressive feat for the series, considering the vast majority of anime which feature a foreign race set out to either glorify or criticize a particular side of their society or culture.
A potential problem that conventional linear narratives in anime face is that they generally encompass a single perspective, thereby prioritising and validating only this viewpoint. This is an aspect which Seikai does not fall victim to, due to the inclusion of Lafiel as a central character, who is a princess in the Abh royalty. Possessing a headstrong attitude along with a touch of feisty arrogance, Lafiel perhaps best represents some of the core attributes of the Abh’s mentality, and it is through her interactions and experiences with Jinto that we see these elements brought to light. As the two characters hail from completely different social backgrounds, their lack of commonality and cultural idiosyncrasies immediately become apparent. However, what remains most impressive about their exchanges is not the simple fact that they expose the dissimilarity between the two cultures, but rather the degree of intimacy and consequently humanity that is expressed. While Lafiel originates from a race that is not entirely human, she still acts and behaves much like a girl her age, joking around, taking an interest in Jinto’s personal life and conversely telling stories about her own. As a result, Lafiel’s realistic characterization instantly makes her into a likeable character, while her personality traits and consequent actions display a strong level of tactical maturity.
Although Lafiel is likely to draw more attention due to her alien attributes, by no means does Jinto receive inadequate development. His character background alone suggests a strikingly high level of acceptance of the Abh race, an aspect which may seem like it should be taken for granted, but in actuality is a remarkable achievement due to the fact that the humans are the inferior race. Furthermore, Jinto attained the status of an Abh count only because of his father’s political maneuvering, and was forced to integrate into the Abh society. As such, one would expect him to harbour feelings of hatred or resentment for their race. However, he still treats Lafiel with a form of respect that does not arise out of duty but rather genuine friendship, as conveyed by the nature of their relationship. The realistic portrayal of Jinto’s character and the ease at which he befriends the icy Lafiel, displays a type of understated sincerity that truly elevates his role in the story beyond that of a simple lens into the world of the Abh. Towards the end of the series, the effect of Jinto’s influence can be clearly seen on Lafiel, to the extent where she abandons her pride and culture’s teachings in favour of his suggestions. Consequently, it is at this stage where the viewer is able to see how both characters have bridged the gaps separating their races, and achieved a kind of mutual harmony.
With all the success surrounding the portrayal of the show’s alien race and dynamic duo, Seikai does unfortunately have a few minor setbacks which can detract from the overall experience. For one, while Jinto and Lafiel are both excellent characters with dynamics representing the show’s main themes, the same cannot be said for the rest of the supporting cast. Other members of the Abh race aren’t given nearly as much of the spotlight as Lafiel, and consequently come off as nothing more than products of their culture’s mentality. Likewise, with the highlight of Seikai being the conversational exchanges between Jinto and Lafiel, the pacing of events outside of these scenes can be somewhat erratic, relying on plot conveniences to allow the story to progress. There’s also the issue of the animation quality of the series, which while sufficient to detail basic surroundings and character body language, offers little else in the way of visual immersion, relying on the stronger musical accompaniment to craft an atmosphere. However, that’s not to say that these shortcomings are detrimental to the overall goal of the series, which is still comfortably accomplished.
Overall, Seikai no Monshou is a fascinating entry in the science fiction genre, and it remains a testament to excellent script writing, characterization and world building in anime. The interactions between Jinto and Lafiel not only perfectly illustrate the cultural boundaries between the two races, but succeed at crafting their implicit yet understated bond. While it is generally the stories with dramatic character deaths and surprising plot twists that receive the most attention in the anime sub-culture, the Seikai series will remain a brightly shining star for those who take the time to experience its beauty.