Starship Operators could have been a great space opera / sci-fi adventure if it was 50 episodes long, and had less humor. The basic idea is good but the way it is presented on screen makes you feel like it’s a 10 year old playing with his plastic space marines. Which makes sense if you take into account who made it.
- Animated by J.C. Staff, the studio that exists to make shitty adaptations full of retarded fan service.
- Directed by Watanabe Takashi, who has made nothing but silly stuff, such as Slayers, Ikki Tousen, and Shakugan no Shana.
- Based on the novels by Mizuno Ryou, whose only other known work is the most mediocre Record of Lodoss War.
The story is about a team of youths fighting some generic evil oppressive empire with their ship, while the whole thing is broadcasted on interstellar channels so the kids can have funds in their war thanks to the sponsors. This is a good twist to the otherwise “magic money” trope that is so heavy in most teen adventures and basically it’s what makes the show seem more real than the average corny mediocrity out there. “Hey look, they don’t find money and food on space trees; they are paid for making a tv show.” And indeed, it is highly ironic and interesting how they are part of a real war and at the same time they need to make the whole thing enjoyable for the masses by looking all perky and interesting. Heck, even the otherwise out-of-place mini skirts all the girls are wearing are in this case excused as in-story fan service for the in-story male viewers. Smart meta-trick is smart.
So the basic idea of the show is to see it as a space adventure that has turned into a mass entertainment reality show. The war is real, the characters act as they feel like, and money still rules the world. From this description alone you are presented with one hell of an original and well-thought out idea. Too bad it wasn’t given the proper duration and directing…
The first thing anyone will wonder about the anime is its power balance. On one side we have an interstellar empire, armed with thousands of advanced warships. On the other we have some rookies with a single spaceship. How the hell do they manage to keep defeating the enemy? Oh sure, you might as well go asking why the good robot always wins in mecha shows, when the enemy army outnumber it by a few million times. If it was THAT silly then it wouldn’t strike as weird, but here we have a somewhat more realistic setting. It is not supposed to take things so childishly and instead provide a better sense or pragmatic approach. Heck, it clearly shows how many try to exploit the whole event, from firms, to politicians, to military that again makes you believe it is far more realistic than the Power Rangers. And that is the problem; it just pretends it is; the whole reality show/social-political aspect is used very superficially as nothing more than a fancy background decoration.
If there is something good in all that, is how each episode has something new to offer, or to present it from a different angle. It is not predictable, as it keeps introducing and expanding its ideas; as superficial as they may eventually be. There is simply no time to develop them past the introduction, and the final episode feels like they had to end an arc that would normally need dozens of episodes, in just 15 minutes. Politicians nag, generals revolt, the people rebel, shit blow up, and before you know it, it all ends. And along with it, the attempts to build up romances and interesting friendships all go to waste, with barely being told what happens to them afterwards. Well thanks for nothing.
See the series past that and you have yourself the usual stereotypical / idealistic / overhyped / awkward with one another’s feelings youths, piloting a spaceship that never seems to take enough damage or casualties to matter. Most of them are cute girls, doing silly stuff, and blowing ships for the lulz. They get a nice fleshing out but it is trashed by the completely light-hearted presentation. And seriously; those mini skirts just fizzle away all respect you may have had for them without them.
Somewhat standard for its time. They do their job nicely but don’t stand out for their aesthetic details, or the machinery, or the character figures, or the soundtrack. The action scenes are actually very well done, even if it all boils down to laser beams blowing stuff up.
It could have been good but it is handled like a parody of sorts and ends in a rush, leaving you with bad impressions. Not recommended.