Unspoken Aesthetics of Crest of the Stars
July 24, 2009
Although Crest of the Stars is known for its intelligent dialogue, more interesting are subtle conversations that are not spoken with words. Most excellent example of this is when Jinto addresses Lafiel as “your highness”, where she then furiously spins around, starts walking at a rapid pace, and spits out a chain of words in a bitter tone. Although she rambles on about which title Jinto should address her as, what we’re really hearing are the great anger and frustrations of Lafiel at his inconfident attitude. Most of our feelings and thoughts are conversed through body language, facial expressions and the way our voice sounds (and very little through actual content of words), so it was very engaging as a viewer to see all those visual attention to details, such as close-up of pupils contracting or glimpses of hand gestures, which were very subtle, yet meticulously calculated to achieve the desired effects.
I also love the way Jinto’s narrations are accompanied by relevant visual representations at the end of each episode. My favourite example is when he describes the “smile of an Abh” at the shot of Lafiel’s cold and malignant grin. It just sends the chill down your spine to imagine the kind of malice that is bubbling under that expression, which isn’t projected externally to the surface, but kept very subtle underneath. Compared to such endings that leave us with a sense of anxiety, Jinto’s narration at seeing the baron ‘mourning’ for his lost son is that of bitter sadness. “Although the Baron was not crying, hidden in his words was a deep sense of sorrow“. It is sometimes sadder listening to unspoken cries, without a sound, without tears.
You will eventually find that subtlety governs just about everything in Crest of the Stars, including character interactions, humour, fanservice and battle scenes. Rather than explicitly displaying brutally butchered soldiers screaming horribly in pain, what you will witness in Crest of the Stars are those feebly streaming explosive mines and shining debris of what used to people inside spaceships, letting silent cries of lost souls resonate under the surface, ever so softly, but with a resounding ring of longetivity. Such is the unspoken aesthetics of Crest of the Stars.
On the design side, it seems as if the superior race of Abh was carefully constructed as the writer’s critical voice against values that make us foul and foolish as human beings. When humans first attacked Abhs to create a ‘just cause’ for war, commander Lexshu observed correctly that “they are not fooling anyone except themselves”. Indeed, it is sad when humans have to fool themselves in order to kill each other for incomprehensible reasons. But to be an Abh isn’t about being born as an Abh, it’s about having the spirit of an Abh and acting like one. Even as a human, one can choose to look at soaring peaks rather than dig into deep valleys, and to always walk forward and not back. And yet, do we really want to be less of a human and more rational and proud like an Abh? Is it more rational for Lafiel to abandon a group of criminals from another nation in order to avoid losing countless lives of your fellow men in a fruitless war? Would it have been more logical for Jean Val’Jean in Les Miserables to not have saved the poor man from being convicted? Perhaps, yes. But it is more human to shed a tear for the one person you love. It is more human to save that one person from being wronged. Just as the relationship between Kyon and Haruhi helped finding both the simplicity and wonders of life, watch Crest of the Stars to follow Jinto and Lafiel in their wonderful journey through stars, growing up as a better Abh, and more human.