All the reviews seem to start with comparing the fights. It's really an invalid comparison.
Cool fights is nothing compared to WHY they are doing cool fights.
Actually, upon visiting this review again, the fights are very 'cool' but not in the usual sense of greatly animated scenes, but by the presentation as a whole, including the mood that is conveyed.
What makes a fight good is the characters that are on the line, the feel of the world and how much you can buy into it. (example: Evangelion feels like such a real world to me, I still can't figure out why. It's the characters. )
I am a sucker for great animation quality, but it didn't even matter here.
First, let me start by saying that I am a graphics whore. I LOVE amazing animation. I tend to be a hater of bad quality animation.
But this show needs no animation. It sells the world, the characters, the cultures there so well that I might as well think of them as real people.
I looked at this series, and was put off by the character designs, but I have found this series to be THE best anime I have ever watched, and I've watched a good amount. I now think the unique designs makes the characters even more unique : )
My opinion doesn't need to fit with everyone else's, because everyone likes different things about their shows (heroism, animation, love, topic, etc. ) but I want to explain that this hits the spot for me perfectly.
This show receives 20/10 for characters. The world they put you in is pulsating with reality.
The show introduces a completely different culture of people, and every action they take is believable. Every interaction, no matter how simple, is extremely deep. The phenomenal character development comes from interactions that are completely believable, not scripted.
It's based on a running novel series, so I do wonder if the depth of the show comes from all of the background story laid out that the anime had to work with?
The battle strategies are great, and not the usual mass of fleets attacking the next mass of fleets, watching lasers shot of no real consequence, with no strategy being presented to the user but more like: 'Oh, the army X is approaching[cutscene]army A's base getting hit by army X', 'pew pew pew'
One of the worst things about battle scenes in any anime is getting the feeling that what you're seeing doesn't matter. When guys shooting at each other is just for show, and the "real "outcome only depends on some other event. Your typical firefight, or drawn out superhero battle scene looks like this. Fireballs are thrown, the environment is devastated, but you know that it's just for show and you are waiting for that larger plot element to kick in that signals true movement in the story. Well, this series is different. It's completely different.
In this show, it's more about what positions to put your 10000 ship army in anticipation of what the enemy will be doing. It's wondering what could be going on considering the information you see on the screen. Those are my favorite.
The combat is utterly satisfying, even without any fancy eyecandy dogfighting.
There are no super ships that magically rock the whole world. Ships die. boom.
By the way, I watch Gundam too, and I don't criticize the way they do it (super ships that destroy countless cannon fodder to the point that it doesn't actually mean anything) because their emphasis is on the hero, and his/her actions.
This series presents everything in such a unique way, it really stands alone among all other Anime I've watched. From the direction, animation, to character interaction, so at the very least check out this awesomely unique epic.
On why my views seem to be so different from most that I read:
I think it is probably hard to appreciate character development because it's Japanese. If I wasn't Japanese, the way they behave, the things they care about, and that one extra word character X said to character Y would make no sense to my American side.
I think it's also harder to swallow across culture barriers because I see a lot of rigid Japanese social structure / Japanese specific interaction that may be key in the series (your classic meeting of different social classes scenario) vs a more universal modern presentation like Ghost in the shell, which shares much more common ground with modern western culture since that's exactly what the show has been influenced by.
Contact me if you feel the same way.
This is a show I would like to just keep watching the people go on.
I wish more people would watch it. This is among 3 anime or so that has left a lasting, deep impression/meaning for me.