What Is It?
Starship Operators is a 2005 TV series based on a series of sci-fi novels by Ryo Mizuno (Record of Lodoss War). The show was animated by J.C. Staff (The Slayers, R.O.D The TV) and directed by Takashi Watanabe (Boogiepop Phantom, Kino’s Journey).
Starship Operators is set in a distant galaxy many years in the future. In this universe, Kibi is a small planet that shares a tense peace with the neighboring Kingdom of Henrietta. To prepare for the day that war will eventually break out, Kibi maintains a strong army and a top-tier defense academy. The 73rd class of the academy is ready to graduate and enter the ranks to protect the planet. As a way to commemorate the occasion, the group was invited on the maiden voyage of the Amaterasu: Kibi’s newest warship. As the Amaterasu makes its return to its home port, the crew receives word that the Kibi government surrendered without a fight. The entire crew is ordered to abandon ship, leaving the cadets alone.
What’s a spunky, idealistic group of freshly-trained military soldiers to do? Rather than roll over, like their superiors, they opt to use the Amaterasu to strike back against their new oppressors. To fund their operations, the ship’s new crew approaches entertainment giant Galaxy Network with an offer they can’t refuse. In exchange for funds and provisions, Galaxy Network will have the sole rights to what will undoubtedly be the greatest reality show of all time.
Why Was It Passed Up?
Frankly, the show’s description did it no favors. Many of the greater audience, upon hearing the concept, turned off immediately. At the same time, critical response was mostly tepid, as reviewers showed little love for the political and technical theater that is present through the series.
At the same time, Starship Operators’s first volume was released to stores with zero fanfare, against numerous heavy hitters that included Gundam SEED Volume 8, and Fullmetal Alchemist Volume 6. For many, the title was simply overshadowed with a lack of information or insight into the show itself.
Why This Show?
Starship Operators is an experience that combines Mizuno’s love of a detailed world with the sci-fi trappings of Infinite Ryvius or Crest of the Stars. The show eschews the adrenaline-fueled action and effects, to deliver a clever combination of political theater, media conspiracy, and human plight. The inevitable conflicts between the Amaterasu and enemy combatants are handled with a tactician’s touch, as the crew relays the details of each mission from briefing to execution.
Starship Operators was a rare cerebral science fiction to hit a market saturated by action shows and maid comedies. While it lacks Crest of the Stars’s obsessive input from the creator and Infinite Ryvius’s descent into tribal madness, the show manages to create a special experience. The world is brought to life by the great propagandist, television. The news reports and show clips that are shown by the network. The spin, the slant, and the sensationalizing of war create an eerily uncomfortable experience that sheds light upon the media of today, which brought nations into war and made a decade of tragedy into mere entertainment for many. This, combined with a strong overall narrative, and a strong cast that seems like it would be right at home both in the 24th century and today, come together to form a show that belongs on any science fiction fan’s shelf.
The show is no longer in print, as it was licensed by Geneon, and the license was never rescued. It is still fairly easy to acquire, though, as sites like Amazon and Right Stuf sell the individual discs for under $8 each.