Anime: Starship Operators, Volume 01

Chimaera

It started out as a routine flight for the Defense University’s 73rd class of cadets before graduation. However as they return to the base they are greeted with terrible news – the Kingdom of Henrietta has declared war on their home planet, Kibi. To make things worse, the Kibi government has put up no fight whatsoever. Sure, Kibi goes down without a fight, but these newly trained cadets won’t! They decide to rebel against this state of affairs and liberate the ship Amaterasu for their purpose. A practical group, they realize they are in need of funds to keep up the fight, so they strike a deal with the Galaxy News Network. The network will help them with funds needed to fight back in exchange for exclusive airing rights to the action on the ship (especially the battles!). Ready to be exploited for a good cause, the crew signs on even though the decision is hardly unanimous. The first two episodes focus on the crew’s decision to buy the Amaterasu, and its first two battles (one per episode). From the looks of things, it seems like the Galaxy News Network has made a solid investment in this crew and the government of Kiba’s starting to worry as a result, taking risky moves to stop the “space pirates” as they quickly come to be known.

In episode three, the interpersonal drama gets kicked up a notch. Instead of sending out another ship to get destroyed, the Kibi government tries a new tactic: psychological warfare. They bring in Sanri Wakawa’s father, who is willing to sell off his entire company to pay off the debts they owe and bring his little girl back home. What he doesn’t realize when he’s asking is that his little girl has grown up and may just have some very strong reasons of her own for staying.

Just when you think you’re about to get thrown into some high flying space teen angst soap opera broken up by a strategically timed battle thing, Starship Operators pushes that into the background and presents a new challenge for episode four – an invisible ship. A “submarine” class ship, no less. Caught off guard, this is the first time the crew has probably had to work together without knowing all the facts beforehand and demonstrate some of that recently strengthened teamwork. While the resolution is a bit too tidy for my tastes, the tactics used to get there are clever.

The girls take the spotlight in this series, but the guys are definitely more than useless props. The ensemble cast is currently very crowded, but one can hope in future episodes the story focuses on a solid 4 or 5. Not everyone we’ve encountered so far is all that interesting – truth be told, I couldn’t name everyone on the included mini-poster (showing nine characters) unless I looked it up, and the characters just don’t stand out enough to even take that effort.

Is the Amaterasu just a renegade ship, fighting a fight no one else on Kibi is willing to, or are they really the only chance Kibi has in standing up to its own government (Babylon 5 style), and the Kingdom of Henrietta? The added twist of the Galaxy News Network’s “reality show” could turn into an interesting spin on situations – how far is too far for good ratings?

Technical/Extras
I’m not sure what the plastic thing is for, but it’ll look great in a standard office cube – if your anime shrine tendencies haven’t kept your coworkers away, this lovely bit of subtle décor portraying Sinon is very unlikely to do the trick. It is a little confusing if Sinon is truly the main character when a lot of the action is focused on everyone else, but considering she’s on both the box and predominant in the inner art extras she must gain a lot more significance going on. As for the rest, the DVD is a good mix of extras and well chosen trailers.

Rating: 8

Entertainment
Starship Operators moves at a good pace, although the first two battles seemed more like an afterthought. It occasionally touches on the direct serious of the situation – these cadets are in a real war, with casualties that the series doesn’t shy away from making to prove that point. The balance of lighthearted moments keeps things from getting too heavy-handed, but doesn’t resort to outright or over the top parody to do it.

Rating: 8

Overall
Starship Operators is a quality series so far with a fresh spin on space revolutionaries. While the scene gets a bit crowded and confusing on occasion, the main story keeps everything on track. This is worth picking up for people who like a bit of politics, a bit of action, and a fair amount of fun.

Rating: 8

Features: Kotoko Music Video: “on the Earth”
US Version Trailer
Creditless Opening/Ending
DVD Prevews (Gun Sword, Tetsujin 28, New Getter Robo)

Episodes:
1 – Count Down
2 – Trafalgar Crisis
3 – Call from Home
4 – Final Answer

Extras:
Plastic Character Sheet – Sinon
Mini Poster (9 Characters)

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