I spent my friday evening this week watching the highly rated anime Starship Operators. After watching all 13 episodes of the beautifully animated space opera, I’m still left with a burning question in my mind: was it worth it? Spoilers: If you like a character, they will die.

Executive Officer Shinon KouzukiStarship Operators is the story of a crew of cadets on their final exam aboard the Kibi guard ship, Amateras. During the shakedown flight, their home-world is conquered by the Kingdom of the Planetary Alliance and they ordered to surrender the ship and disembark. Unwilling to do so, the crew of cadets decided to buy out the warship with aid from the Galactic News Network in exchange for the rights to air their battles and take on the kingdom themselves to free their world.

The animation in Starship Operators is absolutely amazing. A lot of detail and hard work went into making the show come out as superbly animated as it did. There is hardly a frame without an abundance of detail presented to you in the form of consoles, equipment, or warships. The CG of the show was seamlessly integrated into the traditional animation style to provide a true feeling of realism.

The mostly female crew float during the search for a stealth shipTo add to this, the show utilizes even more realism in the form of real physics. Nearly all of the Amateras is under a zero-G environment except for a spinning section where the crew quarters are. This is the first anime with space ships that doesn’t have pseudo-artifical gravity throughout the ship. Weapons are made to follow physical rules as are the ships themselves. The ships maneuver as they would in a real space environment (i.e. no stopping on a dime or constant thrust = constant velocity). Surprisingly, when a ship explodes, there is no sound except for the admitted injection of a sound effect by the GNN producer.

Shinon proposes a battle plan for a four-on-two situationThe show also has some really great politics and strategy. From the get go, the crew is viewed as traitors by the Kibi government and also by the Kingdom. They bring on board the former prime minister of Kibi and declare themselves to be a government in exile in hopes that sympathetic nation planets will aid them. The politics play a major role in the end when several coup d’etats happen all at once and it gets a little confusing if you’re not used to such manipulation. The war strategy as well was pretty good. The executive officer, Shinon Kouzuki, makes nearly all the strategy decisions and usually through unconventional tactics that are impressive.

Visual example of how I felt about the artifical-feeling crew (robots)Unfortunately, the good of the show ends about there. While the characters of the show are very realistic in terms of their reactions to each other and to the situations they are in, they were also very shallow. At no point during the show was I able to connect to any one of the characters. The show didn’t allow for any character development outside of the transition from wishing they weren’t in a war to accepting their fight as it was. I was struck as how many characters (especially Shinon. See picture.) seemed artificial.The only characters the show let develop over the course of one or two episodes predictably ended up dying. The only character I ended up liking at all was the character of the crew as a whole.

The beginning of the show seemed to show off a lot of the strategy and tactics that, had they kept that approach, made the series look pretty awesome. But in the middle of the show, characters started to pair off in what seemed like forced relationships on the part of the writers. Injecting love stories, even if they are predictable for cadets, to add to the psychological make up of the crew, normally leads a series to pot really quick. Thankfully, they abandoned this line of story before the end and went back to strategy and politics. The ending of the show redeemed itself from the mess of forcing character development too late in the game.

Overall, Starship Operators was a very good war anime and a reallistic but botched character story. Had it picked one or the other it would have lived up to its expectations but it tried to be both and left me with a “meh” taste in my mouth. I appreciate the very realistic settings and reactions, but the relationships thing kinda killed the mood. For the great realism and strategy, Starship Operators gets a 3 out of 5 stars.

Rating: ★★★☆☆

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