Is there an official "ranking" amongst the Knights like there is in many of the martial arts i.e. the proverbial black belt as supposed to a white or a yellow.
Yes, there is an "official" ranking system. It is a tittle for knights who reach a specific level of excellence and is awarded by either the Shaman of Atoll or the Emperor/Empress of Bakinrakin.
The tittle is known as Teni
or Heaven Position
which is also known as Knight Master
. There are also various ranks within this tittle:
Kensai or Sword Saint: The top Headdliner in the galaxy. #1 position. Only 1 person can be Kensai at any given time. Current Kensai: Douglas Kaien
Gou Teni or Greater Heaven Position: The #2 Headdliner in the galaxy. Only 1 person can be Gou Teni at a time. Current Gou Teni Abien Hitosai of Fillmore. Later held by Jackos Quon Hashu. (Kaien's student and son of Mirage Knight Iamareh Rout Jajas)
Syou teni or Lesser Heaven Position: The #3 Headdliner in the galaxy. Only 1 person at a time can be Syou Teni. Current Syou Teni is Oricon Harris of Bakinrakin (Spark's daddy)
Teni or Heaven Position: AKA Knight Master. There are supposed to be less than 100 of these guys in the galaxy. We've seen quite a few of them appear in the tale. Note that while the tittle of Teni grants some status with it, not everyone who is deserving of the tittle gets recognized. The two most obvious examples being Decors Weissmel, the current Black Knight, and Prince Krakenbeal Mejojo, leader of the Roundabout Knights, both of whom are far stronger than some knights who have attained Teni status.
If so, is this ranking official in the sense that they have it as a title or otherwise making the common crowd as well as a possible adversary know i.e. clothing decorations, tribal tatoos, pimpin' entourage?
Yes. First of all, the majority of Teni Headdliners are uber-famous, simply for attaining the rank. Headdliners will
know of them, and these are the guys the general populace hero-worships (like earthlings obsess over Actors and rock stars)
Many Knight Masters sport a symbol that is in a wing-like shape. We simply call it the "Wings of the Knight Master" but I have no idea if there is an official name for it. It is generaly gold in color, but Kaien has one on the Schpeltor that is incredibly detailed. You'll see it when you aquire your volumes in the mail I'm sure.
Another thing that I have wondered about is the special abilities and capabilities themselves, both among the Knights and the Fatimas. Can someone tell me a bit more about this phenomenon? Does it manifest itself only when in the MH with both "pilots" in it or is it strictly individual i.e. it can be used in a hand-to-hand situation to impress your shiny new pimpin' entourage? Is it magic, as in something that can be taught to you, or is it maybe something that is a result of evolution that Knights are born with along with the rest of their extraordinary abilities?
This is one of my favorite parts of FSS (besides the brilliance of the plot and the gorgeous MH designs of course).
If you are familiar with Fighting videogames like Street Fighter or King of Fighters then you have an idea of what some of the super powered techniques are like. Another (and better) analogy would be the super-moves seen in various RPG's like Final Fantasy 7, XenoGears, SaGa Frontier and Star Ocean. Many of the Limit Breaks
(to coin FF7) seen in these games are very similar in style and feel to the super skills seen in FSS. The videogame SaGa Frontier for the PS1 had a move called Swallow Swing
that looks like it was taken from Five Star Stories Sonic Ring Slicer
(see the Lachesis vs Schaft/Zoom battle)
These skills are not magic, but Nagano has yet to explain them. I suppose this comes from applied science to battle techniques, taking advantage of the Headdliners extreme level of strength and speed to do things beyond that of normal humans.
There are some techniques that do use some magic/psionic power to enhance them. One of these is called Mirror
which pulls an exact double of the Headdliner from the future. This double can act independantly of the original, and since its from the future, it should know exactly what it wants of itself
Only special Headdliners with a special spritual power called Diver Power
can do this however, and these are exceptionally rare.
Diver Power is a form of magic or psionics in Five Star Stories. It accounts for the wizards and prophets that appear in the tale. Nagano treats it very much like traditional wizardry, but its true power source is unknown. Nagano has stated that while Headdliner are the descendants of AD era supersoldiers, that Divers were the descendants of AD era super mentalists, test subjects who had their mental capacities enhanced to the utmost extreme as opposed to Headdliners physical capablities being boosted. Dis Vosdjasforth is a very powerful Diver, as is Kaien's daughter Magdall.
It would be nice if some one could just write what we know about all of this and post it on the forum, maybe add it to the FSS part of this otherwise so excellent website.
Theere are already a lot of topics in this section about this stuff. Simply look around and I'm sure you'll find a wealth of information. Here, try this thread. I think you'll find it very interesting:
Thank you for taking your time to read my feeble noob questions and dignifying them with an actual reply!
No problem. Don't worry about being a Newbie, we are all newbs at some point. The cool thing about the online FSS community is that it is very accepting of newcomers because there are too few of us to create little cliques! Compared to other anime and manga, FSS has a very small following outside of Japan, so we gotta stick together.
Hope I was able to help.