The Strongest (Royal) Steel is Forged in the Hottest Furnace

When I was watching Banner of the Stars I, I couldn’t help but notice how special Lafiel’s predicament in the show was. Indeed, the Abh have a special way of doing things, and will only let you in the accolades after you earn them. Even if you could have died hundreds of times before that, you know.

It’s markedly different from that other epic space opera, Legend of the Galactic Heroes, in which the nobility of the Goldenbaum Dynasty treated the business of war as their playground, wherein only they are the masters. In Banner, nobles engage in military service with all their faculties. This anime doesn’t show Lafiel lazily waving her hand around to signify a fleet-wide charge. She’s put in an attack ship, a little vessel with the smallest strategic value, and very vulnerable to space mines, which are soulless, but brutally effective weapons.

It’s like the 08th MS Team of starship battles, except that our dear captain here is an heir to the throne. Anyone can die. Even if I know that Lafiel appears in Banner II and III, even with all that plot armor, it’s frightening how close she brushes with death. Especially in that episode where they are stranded in planar space.

Maybe I should watch more western sci-fi.

So Banner of the Stars is a show that isn’t afraid to put its main characters in real danger. I’m relieved that it doesn’t quite go all the way and murder a well-liked character horribly, but the overall mood is delightfully dreadful.

How about something that’s even more merciless?

Hmm?

One of my favorite fantasy series ever, A Song of Ice and Fire, invokes the Anyone Can Die trope to maximum effect. You think you’ve seen them all, but trust me, you haven’t. My favorite character in the novels is the exiled princess, Daenerys Targaryen. I’ll call her Dany.

Dany’s got a harder life than Lafiel. Prior to the events in the first book, her entire family, the royal family, was murdered in a bloody civil war. She survives by running away with her brother Viserys and seeking exile in another continent. Being the only surviving heir, Viserys wants his throne back, despite being leagues away from home, impoverished, and without an army.

(It is also worth mentioning that Dany’s family aren’t even the good guys, and her father was a mad king who torched people. But again, it’s hard to tell the good guys from the bad ones in A Song of Ice and Fire.)

So he marries his sister off to a barbarian lord, in exchange for an army. Soon Dany is thrown into her husband’s strange and frightening way of life, and all seems well. And then stuff happens. Without going into details, Dany is forced to make a decision that could spell doom for all of her people, and chooses the hardest path to take, risking it all for that faraway dream of retaking her throne.

Dany is 14 at the start of the book. She is forced into maturity, and forced to learn unsavory things, things that would make a girl of her age retch and curl into a ball. She’s not the tough-as-nails action girl, or the stone-faced queen. She’s vulnerable, and therein lies her strength.

Why did I bring Dany up? She’s got a lot in common with Lafiel. Both feel displaced one way or another, and struggle to secure their positions in life as princesses. Both are no strangers to war, and have actively participated in it. But most importantly, both are in a state of becoming. They are being forged in a manner that would demand only the best from them.

They may have a lot to go, but I believe that Lafiel and Dany will become great rulers. But that is still up to task–their stories haven’t finished writing themselves. And when they do, I’ll be there with them.

PS: GRRM, please don’t kill Dany off, ok? Ok?

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14 Responses to The Strongest (Royal) Steel is Forged in the Hottest Furnace

  1. Watch the rest of Banner FFS

    • schneider says:

      Argh, I didn’t make it clear that I’ve seen all of it. But Banner I is my favorite, since it has the most pewpew out of the entire series. 😛

  2. I mean, it’s not only Lafiel who will become a great ruler!

  3. I can’t actually think of any western sci-fi show that has the same scope and actually shows it on screen. Most of them are very character centric owing to differences in production and such (animation vs. live action, etc.)

    The new Battlestar Galactica series and Stargate SG-1 comes close. you might like that.

    I would recommend Firefly. It’s a lot more fun to watch and River Tam is pretty much an anime character anyway.

    Which one is more fun to watch by the way? This one or Legend of the Space Germans? I like the way how a lot of characters in Legend are assholes and are in it because of “foppery and whim”.

    • schneider says:

      I’m actually watching Firefly with my brother, but it’s hard for us to agree on a schedule, so we’re stuck halfway.

      Crest/Banner has amazing dialogue and better space battles, but LotGH has its maturity going for it. It’s a historical epic with a huge cast of larger than life characters, with lots of meaty socio-political commentary.

      I can’t say which I liked more, because the other has tons of episodes. But LotGH edges out by a bit, because it’s a finished work. I don’t think the Banner series is finished yet, but there’s still a satisfying ending of sorts.

      I guess Crest/Banner is closer to the anime mold, if that’s what you’re looking for.

      • Oh hay. By the way, Summer Glau does River Tam’s stunts without any aid. Yeah, she really CAN cling to ceilings like that. She’s a classicaly trained ballerina. (lolwat?)

        I read that Crest of the Banner of the Space Elves has a lot of sequences with talking heads. I guess it wouldn’t be so bad if I was actually interested in what they were talking about. What’s your opinion on that one?

        From what I’ve read though, I kinda like the Space Germans better.

        • schneider says:

          Well, there’s a lot of teasing and banter. I’d say it’s like a meatier version of Bakemonogatari-style dialogue.

          Space Germans are very awesome.

  4. 2DT says:

    This anime doesn’t show Lafiel lazily waving her hand around to signify a fleet-wide charge.

    Now Admiral Spoor, on the other hand…

  5. schneider says:

    To be anal about it, it’s Spaurh Aronn Saicspath Nimh Laitpanr Painaich.

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