Once upon a time there was a traveler crouching in pain by the roadside. A man who was walking by sat next to the traveler before he could ask for help. The man lectured the traveler at length about having a healthy lifestyle in order to avoid sickness. Satisfied with his speech the man stood up and left. His name is the United Mankind. Next, a very beautiful woman approached the traveler with an inquisitive look on her face. The traveler said, "Well, don't just stand there, help me." The woman replied, "Do you want me to help you?" She then discussed at length the situation with the traveler until she fully understood the problem. And then she nodded and left. Shortly after, the woman brought all the doctors, nurses, and staff of the closest hospitals with her. Her name is the Humankind Empire Abh.
— A political allegory from the planet of Midgrat
Crest of the Stars (aka Seikai no Monshou) is a novel written by Hiroyuki Morioka as a prologue to his Banner of the Stars series. It was later adapted into a twelve episode anime in 1999. Anime adaptions of his Banner of the Stars novels have followed and a prologue to Crest of the Stars was produced titled Lost Chapter of the Stars.Crest of the Stars follows the story of Jinto and Lafiel as they get themselves involved in a war between the Abh and the United Humankind. Jinto Lin is a young boy living on the planet Martine when one day his planet is visited by a massive fleet of the Humankind Empire Abh. The Abh announce that they are annexing the system and demand the planet's immediate and unconditional surrender. After anxious deliberation Martine's president Rock Lin, Jinto's father, surrenders the planet without firing a shot. In exchange for their surrender Rock Lin is accepted into Abh society as a noble and his son is sent off to an Abh integration academy to learn the ways of the Abh.Flash forward: Jinto has completed his initial education and is on his way to the Abh capital to begin his military training and an obligatory 10 years' service in the Abh navy. He will also meet his first Abh. That Abh is the Princess Lafiel, granddaughter of the Abh empress, who is herself in training and serving her military obligation as an Abh noble. They set off together on what is supposed to be an event-less courier mission to take Jinto to a military academy at the capitol. But then the brown stuff hits the fan and things begin going very bad very fast.Crest of the Stars and its sequels, Banner of the Stars,Banner of the Stars II and Banner of the Stars III, focus on the developing relationship between Jinto and Lafiel against the backdrop of an interstellar war between the Abh and the allied powers of the United Mankind. Lost Chapter of the stars however, is a prologue to Crest of the Stars and deals with the relationship between Lafiel's parents.One of the most interesting conceits of the franchise is that, in basically any other kind of space opera, the imperialistic, militaristic Abh would be the unquestionable villains; and, indeed, at times when the bigger picture is put on prominent display it can be a bit uncomfortable to realize just what Jinto and Lafiel are a part of. In the latter Banner series, even the residents of Jinto's home planet want to know just why the hell he's loyal to the all-conquering Abh at all. A large part of the point of the show is a refusal to fall into easy stereotypes, however, and no side of the great conflict is black-and-white pantomime evil.The franchise is known for its deep characterization, colorful characters, and ability to go into long conversations over very trivial matters without seeming bland (in the second series, two characters get into a surprisingly interesting conversion over wine). There is some action, but if that's the only reason you're watching this you'll be bored to tears. Overall it's quite an entertaining and memorable series, as long as you don't mind long stretches of talking heads.
Bat Deduction: Subverted in Episode 7 of Banner I. Lafiel figured out which oncoming fleet was the allied fleet when her space-time communicator and IFF were down, running on nothing but intuition. Actually, she just knew that she had to make a coin-toss decision based on no information, and her certainty was just to keep the crew confident in their captain.
Spoor. It's stated in one of the opening blurbs that she could have retired and lived a life of leisure but has decided to remain in the military because wars are more exciting. Not that this stops her from complaining of boredom while her ship is under heavy bombardment.
Ekuryua shows a trace of this when piloting; in Banner III, her eyes positively light up when she's doing a High Speed Laser Dodge.
The Bridge: Crest Of The Stars partially goes for the standard aversion, making the bridges of its ships cramped and flight deck like,.. but only for the lighter units. Capital ships feature standard elevated platforms for the captain (with enough room to swing the ceremonial sword), loads of Bridge Bunnies etc. Although both the capital ships and the lighter elements have their bridges in the heart of the ship and not exposed ? this comes as a major plot point in one series when Lamhirh's friend and mentor dies in a doomed destroyer's bridge.
Brilliant, but Lazy: Most of the Abh high command doesn't seem very motivated, but they have their positions for a reason.
Con Lang: Crest Of The Stars uses Baronh, based on an ancient Japanese, and complete with its own alphabet. It's not up to the standards of most hardcore conlangers (the alphabet in particular is clearly based off more off Latin letters than the needs of the language it writes),but it's better than many such attempts.
Cute Kitten: Diaho's utter adorableness cuts through any scene he's in.
Deadpan Snarker: Snarking is a highly developed art form in Abh culture, and it can be argued that all their social life revolves about exquisitely polite and witty ways to insult each other.
The Empire: The Humankind Empire Abh. Their mode of operation is to forcibly take over planets that do *not* have faster-than-light travel, though oddly they do not interfere with those planets which have purchased the technology from others. In the novels this is explained by the fact that their empire began on an interstellar merchant ship, and that they still respect "vested rights". They do not seem to be overtly oppressive towards the planets they control, but they do not allow *any* starship not owned by the Empire to be armed or use faster-than-light travel technology. Then there's the fact that only the "space elves" in charge are able to command warships, though this is due mainly to their physiology, not overt racism. Interestingly enough The Abh nation is titled an empire while the antagonists have a Federation, a Republic, and a Union.
Fantastic Racism: Abh and Humans. Considering that 'abh' can mean either 'part of the Human Abh Empore' in addition to 'part of the abh genetic race' this can get complicated.
Played straight with the "human" nations allying in war against the Abh under the pretense they are soulless biological machines. Justified when the Abh confirm that all the humans claim about them is true; They are biological creations who then exterminated their creators.
Subverted by the views of the Abh towards "normal" humans, who can become members of the Abh (Jinto/Ghintec being an example) and usually get treated equally. Then double subverted as there are two meanings to "Abh": Abh nationality and Abh genetic traits. The latter are not required to acquire the former, but all (noble or otherwise title bearing) newborns including descendants of human-born Abh must have both (through pre-natal gene tweaking).Then Zigzagged as the Abh themselves tend to think anyone of the Abh nationality as their kin regardless of their genetics. For instance, they've been shown to assume human-born Abh can stand the same extreme accelerations as genetic Abh. Which they don't. Humans in general and the human nations in particular, on the other hand, squarely define as "Abh" whoever possesses their genetics. They look down on human-born Abh as defectors.
The non-Abh factions are also down on any other human colonies that used any kind of other genetic modification, even if this had nothing to do with the Abh. One man with tweaked genes for a longer lifespan talks about how he's treated as a second-class citizen and is overzealous in his attempts to prove his loyalty. The United Mankind is even harsh on people who dye their hair an unnatural shade.
Fictionary: The Abh speak Baronh, a language created by the author. It follows Japanese rather than English structure.
Baronh is an uncanny mix. Its grammar leans towards Latin (strongly-inflected words), its pronounciation and spelling towards French (large set of vowels and nasal sounds, mute consonants), and its vocabulary is based on ancient Japanese.
The Fog of Ages: The Abh touch upon this. They live for between 200 and 250 years and their genetic engineering technology is such that they can live much longer. It's not enough to stop The Fog Of Ages setting in so their bodies are designed to shut down while their mental faculties are more or less intact.
Foreign Queasine: Cat is considered a delicacy on Samson's homeworld of Midgrat. When the United Mankind sent ambassadors, they repeatedly lectured the locals on democracy and how unhealthy it was to eat cat. The Abh didn't say anything. According to Samson, this is why Midgrat joined the Abh Empire.
Generation Ships: The planet Martine was settled by one of these and the Abh's original home was one as well before they cracked the FTL issue.
Gilded Cage: Klowal wants to put Lafiel in one and he keeps his father in one because he's still human and Klowal is ashamed of him.
Godiva Hair: Lafiel pulls this in one episode during her Shower Bath Scene. When her hair's not strategically covering what needs to be covered, it's either camera angles or reflections of light.
Gratuitous English: The language of Jinto's home planet Martine is explicitly mentioned to be descended from English; when it's spoken at the end of Banner III, it's identical.
Translation Convention: In the Japanese-language version of the first episode of Crest, the radio chatter on Martine following the emergence of the first Abh vessel is initially in Gratuitous English before fading into Japanese.
IIRC, this is explained by Martine being settled by an STL sleeper ship that took a *long* time to find a planet, like 1800 years. So from their POV they're only 200 years in our future, and pretty behind the tech level of the rest of the galaxy.
The alliance lets you join willingly; keep your spacecraft; participate in interstellar politics; and provides security, infrastructure, and technology at no apparent cost. On the other hand they they force planets to culturally assimilate, set down very intrusive policies in the name of security, and will take over your government and run it like a military dictatorship if they feel they need to.
The Abh respects the culture of the planets in their empire, allows governments to maintain their sovereignty with a few minor caveats, and provides aid no strings attached if it is requested. On the other hand they force planets into their empire, will confiscate all ships capable of intergalactic travel, and only Abh nobility may own the means of interstellar trade and travel.
Hegemonic Empire: The Humankind Empire Abh practises a different type of hegemonic influence - diplomacy. The Abh expand by military conquest, but this "conquest" will often consist of a single ship delivering a treaty of surrender, with no shots fired. The Abh then order the conquered world to surrender all long - range space travel capabilities to the empire, install an Abh noble to rule over the planet (who is sometimes chosen from the local population rather than imported), set up trade routes, and then as long as the ruling class follow the rules and the people don't cause too much trouble, leaves things alone except for an occasional military recruiter or observer.
The Alliance follows a fairly more straightforward method of this, as explained on the Black and Gray Morality trope above.
Heroic BSOD: The novels imply that Spoor, of all people, suffered one between Banner II and Banner III.
Heroic Sacrifice: Captain Ragash and his bridge officers agree to be left behind in Plane Space without fuel, so Lafiel's less-damaged ship can get most of his crew to safety.
Honor Before Reason: The Abh follow their system of honor to the letter; keyword here is their system of honor.
Hope Spot: Captain Lexshue, outnumbered 10 to 1, succeeds in destroying 9 enemy ships but suffers terrible damage in the process, and is almost about to destroy the final enemy ship, when it hits her with a Wave Motion Gun.
Humans Are the Real Monsters: There are many exceptions, but the 'United Mankind' subscribe to this. They want to reinslave the Abh since they see them nothing more than automatons, use human shields in battle to exploit the Abh sense of honor, and have no issue destroying unarmed escape pods since the Abh crew inside aren't really "human".
Improbable Aiming Skills: When they run from the United Mankind military at the end of Crest, neither Lafiel nor Jinto takes a hit (until the end). Meanwhile, Lafiel is consistently dropping one soldier per shot of her inferior weapon, despite range, concealment, cover....
Just a Machine: The United Mankind Alliance view the Abh to be biological machines built to serve humanity.
Large Ham: Trife: man can't seem to deliver two words without some kind of dramatic pose or overemphasis. Backfires badly in one scene.
Latex Space Suit: The Abh have the skin-tight version (worn by pilots), and the bulky version (used by mechanics, workers and damage control crews).
La Résistance: The Independence Party, present on Sufugnoff. In a twist, they've been unable to drum up much support against the Abh, and the United Mankind occupation forces want to arrest them because they're afraid the Independence Party will resist the occupation. They end up helping Jinto and Lafiel escape to Spoor's fleet.
Les Collaborateurs: How Jinto and his father were perceived for surrendering to an Abh invasion fleet in exchange for granting them ruling rights. Jinto's father was killed after the war started because of this.
Macross Missile Massacre: Crest Of The Stars and its sequels made their battleships purely missile platforms that take Macross Missile Massacre to the absolutely ridiculous extent (the majority of the mass of ships multiple kilometers long consists solely of thousand and thousands of missiles). The sheer weight of fire ONE battleship could deliver would put David Weber to shame. Of course, they were almost entirely Point Defenseless, but that's another matter.
Also in the second season are mineshipes: several times longer than battleships, oriented horizontally, and bristling with enough missiles to wipe out an entire fleet. The Abh deploy them in the hundreds.
An interesting twist on this occurs in the second season where multiple episodes are devoted to nothing but the Abh fleet defending against wave after wave of Macross Missile Massacre.
Male Gaze: Present during a conversation between Jinto, Ekuryua and Samson, where Samson is talking about his experiences as a mustang (enlisted man promoted to officer). It suggests that part of the reason Samson has been in the Star Forces for 20 years is because of the pretty girls in latex space suits.
Mayfly-December Romance: Abh live much longer than landers, meaning that Lafiel is painfully aware that she's going to outlive Jinto. Not so surprisingly, Jinto is the one that acknowledges this the most as Lafiel still wonders at time if she and Jinto is a different race while Jinto is ALWAYS conscience of the difference.
Mildly Military: Jinto brings a cat on board a vessel that's going into combat. Admiral Abriel and his chief of staff insult each other even more than usual for Abh. Spoor treats The Laws and Customs of War as nuisances to be ignored when she wants to terrorize the enemy (including one instance where she makes up a loophole that allows her to kill prisoners in cold blood, and threatens her chief of staff with disciplinary action when he protests). Oh, and Nereis likes to take baths when there's a pitched battle going on.
Never Be Hurt Again: The backstory has the Abh overthrowing their human creators and masters, then going on to conquer most of the known universe, while in the process of conquering the rest.
One-Product Planet: Interstellar travel relies heavily on Gates. During Jinto's and Lafiel's adventures, they see a Factory asteroid (producing Antimatter), a Strategic planet, enforcing a planetary Blockade, and latter coming across a rather civilized Penal world.
Only 0.2% Different: The Abh. Enemy propaganda says they are living robots. Their own propaganda says they are a superior race of living art. In reality, other than blue hair, Unusual Ears and a different organ in place of their sinuses, they're still basically human.
Truth in Television; many people in more advanced countries do tend to think of themselves as a superior race even though, in the past, they may have been the ones who were less advanced.
One possibly confusing thing is that most Abh have normal ears; hair color is the marker, not pointy ears. Those ears belong only to the royal family. Given Lafiel, we just get to see them an awful lot. This doesn't stop Abh from being like space elves (pretty and long-lived) but it's not the ears.
Outgrown Such Silly Superstitions: The Abh ridicule all organized religions (3rd novel, Chap 11), and don't believe in a higher power (Empress/ambassadors in the anime) or ethics (same scene, novel version.) Though the Banner I anime has Lafiel mentioning praying and souls briefly. Banner II has them talking about an 'Abh Hell' they've created for when they need to inflict revenge worse than death, Web-allegedly a planet of medical experiments.
Chapter three of the first novel. Jinto wonders if fryum neg is a religious concept, but remembers that 'the Abh are atheists'. Of course, at that point of the story, Jinto gets a lot of things about the Abh wrong, and there are ample references to prayer later on, in both novel and anime.
In the third novel of Banner (not Crest), Abh are described by Jinto to be have reach a spiritual enlightment that they feel perfectly comfortable putting spirituality in their everyday conversation and jokes. The scene is in the movie, but the internal monologue of Jinto was left out.
Overly Long Name: All the Abh have these with at least four names and Landers who become Abh legally change their names to match. For example the main heroine's full name is: Ablïarsec Néïc Dubleuscr Brh Parhynr Lamhirh.
Penal Colony: The Abh wind up conquering one of these in Banner of the Stars II. Lafiel is put in charge of figuring out what to so with the inhabitants, much to her displeasure, specifically the guards and some of the female prisoners who want off.
Point Defenseless: While most of its ship classes aren't much in point defense department (for example, destroyers have only two rather slow-firing (almost always hitting) laser turrets),the author clearly didn't miss this shortcoming, and created a whole ship class that is solely a point defense platform and mount CIWS stations by the hundred, creating veritable (and almost impenetrable) Bullet Hell around its charges.
Pointy Ears: The Abliarsec royal family. Nobody else is allowed to have this.
Pretext for War: The Alliance spent years planning an elaborate pretext to drag the Abh into a war. When they move to start the final step in the pretext, they're cut short when the Empress recognizes the plot and declares war rather than drag the process out.
Red Eyes, Take Warning: The red eyes, blue hair Abh commander embodies this trope. And yet she's on the "good" side...
Retired Badass: Prince Dubeusec, Lamhirh's father, looks generally like Uncle Pennybags in the first novel/series. Only later it was revealed that he was a high-ranking general and retired after Dusanh became a Crown Prince per Abh custom (adopted from their creators, as there is the similar one in modern Japan, where all classmates of a person, who reached a position where There Can Be Only One, are generally expected to retire). When the war with the United Mankind intensified, he was recalled to service and distinguished himself even more.
Robot War: This is what's going on with the Abh from the perspective of their enemies, although through genetic engineering rather than robotics. The Abh consider themselves human of course.
Royals Who Actually Do Something: Noble rank Abh (the ones who own territory) must serve in the military, and members of the royal family are expected to be extra awesome, competing for the rank of commander-in-chief to become Crown Prince and the next Emperor. Old Kings and retired Emperors form the committee that scrutinizes the career and promotion of royals. Plus the Abliar, the royal family, are in a sense the living role model of the Abh ideal. And can't cry or show favoritism.
Scary Dogmatic Aliens: The premise is a subversion of it. The 'aliens' in the Abh are both scary and dogmatic but become peace loving elves once they conquer you. Even so, lots of people resent the limitations they bring, so it becomes the basic conflict of the series. Morioka is quite a master of the subtle, yet profound detail.
She Cleans Up Nicely: The impression of the crew of the Basroil, upon seeing Lafiel elegantly attired as per page image for a private dinner. She got this reaction from Jinto twice. First when she walked out and second when taking off her shawl.
Shipper on Deck: Former baron Febdash is sure that Jinto and Lafiel are a couple because of First Name Basis and the trust between them. He even offers to give Jinto baby raising advice.
Space Romans: Abh didn't copy all the external bells and whistles, but many features of their life are a dead ringer. Their penchant for conquest, their four-level citizenship structure (similar to the Mid Republic capite censi-proletarii-equites-senatores and the seperate but related plebes-patriciones axis) and demography, their love for intrigue, the level of autonomy they usually give to conquerred provinces, etc. Even their controversial status as a good guys is similar.
Justified in that authentic Baronh spellings would drive anyone but hardcore linguists crazy. "Lamhirh" is most closely pronounced "Lafiel"? It's questionable why authentic latin-alphabet spellings even exist for Baronh, seeing as it has its own alphabet...Then again Japanese has both its own alphabet and authentic latin-alphabet spellings. Presumably it was done to facilitate communication.
Standard Sci-Fi Fleet: Played with in the Crest Of The Stars. There are several superficially recongnizable ship classes, all with the familiar names... But then you suddenly understand that these names are translations from the local Con Lang and all these classes reflect completely different fleet organization and tactics. What about their battleships being completely Point Defenseless missile platforms and shifting all point defense onto special ship class, and so on...
The Stoic: Nearly every Abh in the show because it's part of their culture.
Strange Salute: Abh uses the Polish-style two-fingers salute, except that in this version, the palm is facing downward.
Stun Guns: Abh blasters can be this since they have variable settings that range from flashlight to hand cannon.
This Is Gonna Suck: The general feeling on the Gosroth, when they see they're outnumbered 10 to 1.
Touché: Lafiel to Klowal when he destroys the fuel asteroids she needed. Klowal to Lafiel before she kills him.
Transhuman Aliens: The Abh. Engineered to be space explorers they have a third eye and some modifications to the brain so they can navigate better in three dimensions. Also longer life and adaptations to cope with extended periods of microgravity with periods of high acceleration since they were created before the in universe discovery of Faster Than Light Travel and Artificial Gravity. The inhuman hair color was a slave marker. The other thing about this trope is that while they were produced by dystopic transhumanism, and depend on advanced reproductive technology themselves, as well as 'upgrading' the children of politically Abh humans, their attitudes are rather bioconservative. It's 2000 years on and they're still the Abh they were; they're very proud of having *stopped* evolution, not accelerated it. It's just that the bio they're conserving is a bit nonstandard.
Truly Single Parent: Abh do not practice marriage, so their children (generally custom-made by genetic engineering) legally have only one parent. On the other hand, they can, and often do maintain long-term relationships, and children are often born from such relationships; Lafiel is one of those "children of love" because the donor of her genes gave them out of love. It's seen in their society as a charming romantic eccentricity and looked well upon, but such kids are still registered as having only one parent.
The genetically engineered Abh have one extra sensory organ in the middle of their forehead designed to interface with the sensors of spaceships.It gives the Abh an innate feel for 3D space and moving in free-fall. To develop this, Abh children are put in zero-g crèches in their infancy as it's necessary to experience free fall for the organ to develop.
The sword mentioned above also fits this trope. The captains aren't just swinging them around for fun, they operate as a combination remote control and laser pointer, allowing the captain to issue orders to anyone connected to the ship's computer.
So do the tiaras worn by the Abh. These are big sensor bands that allow an Abh to have an eye in the "back of their head". Jinto remarks on this when Lafiel escorts him to the Basroi in the novel.
Uterine Replicator: Abh reproduction involves in vitro fertilization and, usually, artificial wombs. Their genome is so tweaked, they can't naturally conceive healthy offspring. Woman still occasionally choose to carry the embryo to term the old fashioned way. The Abh consider this to be a charming romantic display of love.
Villain by Default: The Abh have an interstellar empire acquired through conquest and they ban ownership of star ships for everyone including the royal Abh (the Empress owns every ship, but you can ask for a charter) but it's all for good reason; i.e., trying to prevent a vast and destructive conflict. However, given that they are trying to avoid a vast and destructive conflict by means of a vast and destructive conflict, there's crossover with Well-Intentioned Extremist.
Vitriolic Best Buds: Given how a large part of their social life is based on a culture of polite insult, it's not surprising that most of the Abh friendships happen this way. Among the best examples are Bibauth's, Crown Prince Dusanh and his Chief of Staff, and Admiral Spaurh with, well, everyone.
Warrior Prince: The basis of Abh society, as their royalty is expected to be extra awesome in the military department. Crown Prince Dusahn and prince Dubeusec (Lamhirh's father) definitely qualify, as was Debeusec's mother the Empress and countless others.
Dusahn is sometimes incorrectly identified as the Empress' son, but his full name is given and indicates that he's not even from the same line (well, he might be her son genetically, I suppose, but there's no evidence for that). He and Dubeusec are both considered her heir, but in different ways: Dusahn is the royal who has been selected to be the next emperor when she retires, whilst Debeusec is her personal heir who has inherited her title as queen of Kryb.
Well-Intentioned Extremist: Intergalactic peace is a good goal, but intergalactic conquest of your enemies is a rather extreme method.
Xanatos Gambit: Klowal concocts one with himself to break ties with the Abh empire because of the incoming enemy fleet. In his mind he can't lose. If the enemy comes he can trade Lafiel for his own safety; if the enemy doesn't come he can elevate himself from baron to king of his tiny domain. Finally, if the Abh do come back and re-annex him, he can hand Lafiel over and possibly escape punishment through a quirk of the Abh honor code.