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The Journal of the Lincoln Heights Literary Society
Miscellanea and Ephemeron

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01/27/2006 Archived Entry: "Anime review: Starship Operators, Vol. 1 Revolution"

Starship Operators, Vol. 1 Revolution (DVD)
Distributed by Geneon

Review by Tom Good

What if your interplanetary rebellion were funded by a reality TV show? This is the question brilliantly posed by Starship Operators. The crew of the starship Amaterasu, stunned by the news that their home world has surrendered to the enemy Kingdom of Henrietta, decides to continue the fight on their own. But financing a war requires resources beyond the reach of these young cadets, so they do what media-savvy kids would naturally do: they sign a TV contract for the broadcast rights to their story.

The media money flows in, but so does the pressure to keep the ratings up. At one point the show's producer urges the crew to pursue a risky military strategy because viewers want to see more action and explosions. Starship Operators serves up some beautiful social commentary about pop culture and the influence of media, but does it with plenty of humor. I really enjoyed the writing in this anime; it seems like a perfect story for our time.

Visually, this series gets a lot of things right. After watching countless science fiction shows where people stomp around in the artificial gravity of spaceship interiors, it was wonderful to see the crew of the Amaterasu gracefully float and glide through their ship. Zero-gravity scenes are generally avoided on live-action shows because they are more expensive and complicated to film, but anime lacks that constraint, and this show takes that freedom and makes the most of it. I'll never watch an "artificial gravity" show again without wishing it were more like Starship Operators. The costumes are another striking visual element. Though at first I found them distractingly retro, after a few episodes I started to appreciate them as a cool retro-futuristic style, like Versace meets The Jetsons.

The story of a brave crew of one battleship, outnumbered by a vast and powerful enemy, reminded me of Battlestar Galactica. And like the new BG, this series is stylish, clever, and suspenseful. Starship Operators is a must-see anime.

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