Starship Operators Vol. #1 - Mania.com



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Mania Grade: B+

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Info:

  • Audio Rating: B+
  • Video Rating: A
  • Packaging Rating: A
  • Menus Rating: B+
  • Extras Rating: B
  • Age Rating: 13 & Up
  • Region: 1 - North America
  • Released By: Geneon Entertainment (USA), Inc.
  • MSRP: 29.98
  • Running time: 100
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Starship Operators

Starship Operators Vol. #1

By Chris Beveridge     December 14, 2005
Release Date: December 26, 2005


Starship Operators Vol. #1
© Geneon Entertainment (USA), Inc.


What They Say
For the 73rd class of cadets of the Defense University of the small planet Kibi, a maiden voyage on the new warship Amaterasu is a fitting event just before graduation. As they are returning home, however, they are shocked to hear news of a declaration of war by the aggressive Kingdom of Henrietta against Kibi. When the Kibi government surrenders without a struggle, the cadets decide to fight back, using the Amaterasu, with funding from the Galaxy News Network. The only stipulation? Exclusive airing rights to the action and good ratings. So, the cadets find themselves the "stars" of their own reality show.

The Review!
When their government suddenly surrenders to avert a war, a ship of cadets fights back by gaining a very unusual sponsor.

Audio:
For our primary viewing session, we listened to this show in its original language of Japanese. Though there is a good amount of action in the show overall, it is more of a dialogue driven piece and when it does have the action effects, more often than not they're "sound cues" in the show itself so it doesn't have quite the same impact. In addition, for several scenes, they observe the reality of no sound in space so there are some areas that normally would have sound in other shows that leave it nice and quiet here. Overall though, this is a good sounding track as there is some good minor directionality across the forward soundstage with all the dialogue and various character placements. We had no problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback of this show in either language track.

Video:
Originally airing during the early part of 2005, the transfer for this series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. The transfer for the series is simply clean and clear and reflects well upon what the source materials are trying to convey. Series like this, the black levels are very important to be done right and they look fantastic here with the backgrounds of space. Like most science fiction shows of this nature, there is a lot of CG material in it such as the ships themselves and numerous computer screens, all of which look quite good and sleek. The colors throughout the show look bright and vibrant and maintain a great feel as they're solid and don't display any bleeding or cross coloration. This transfer overall looks quite good and showcases some of the most recent TV animation very well.

Packaging:
The cover for this release uses the first volume cover of the Japanese release and the two are virtually identical if not for some slight logo movement and the addition of the English volume subtitle. The good clean shot of Sinon with the attractive colors and generally attractive design is the main thing here as the spaceship itself is hard to really distinguish behind her due to its shape and color against the star filled backdrop. The back cover potentially indicates a change in layout for Geneon titles as there's something close to a technical grid available through the center of the cover which contains the technical information that's usually hard to find scattered about. The top half has several shots from the show and a basic rundown of the plot while the bottom half has the standard production information, episode titles and a list of the extras. The cover for this is reversible with the artwork from the second Japanese DVD cover provided as the main panel while the other one provides a list of episodes and titles along with several images from that episode. The insert replicates this in slightly different form and opens to a two panel spread of the female cast set against the ship. The back of the insert has the release date information and usual contact bits. Surprisingly, this review copy actually came with the pencil board which his of the front cover.

Menu:
The menu layout for this show isn't a surprise as it takes the console screens from within the show and utilizes the computer graphics and clips from the show to provide various bits of animation as a rousing piece of instrumental music plays along. What is surprising though is that it completely omits the shows name from the menu, something which the majority of menus always sneak in somewhere. The layout is otherwise straightforward and looks good as it's very much in theme with things. Access times are nice and fast and the disc correctly read our players' audio preset but erred on the subtitle set as the sign/song subtitles are the first track instead of the full subtitles.

Extras:
The opening volume to the series has a couple of nice extras to it that flesh it out nicely. The one I was happiest to see is the KOTOKO music video for "On the Earth". Also included is the opening and ending sequences in their clean format. Unfortunately, the audio commentary available on the Japanese release is not here.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
When Starship Operators first started airing in Japan, what little came out about it was very intriguing to me as there are few science fiction shows of this nature made and usually there's barely just one every season. While the show is overly filled with female characters, a simple necessity in the Japanese marketplace these days as the show couldn't be made otherwise, it doesn't play it up all that much really and is for the most part at the start a straightforward and seriously played show.

Taking place in the 24th century, humanity has spread out a fair bit into space and there are various alliances, kingdoms and independent planets. The show takes focus on the crew of the Amaterasu, the second of two very expensive state of the art ships that the planet Kibi has bought. The prime minister who had bought them and had made plans for the planets defense had unfortunately found himself ousted not that long ago and a more pacifist oriented government had taken over though they still kept the Defense University going. The ship is filled with numerous cadets who are just about to graduate as well as the standard military crew that has gone through the ships shakedown already.

Everything goes wrong though when one of the neighboring mini-empires known as the Kingdom decides to invade Kibi and destroys the Amaterasu's sister ship to signal how far they're willing to go. The destruction of the ship sets the government on a crash course for surrender and the senior staff on board the Amaterasu all hit the escape pods while leaving the cadets on board the ship as a matter of procedure. This is the area where the show gets to be its clunkiest; the cadets all have different opinions on what should be done, about their government and about the Kingdom, but several of them have convenient connections and before you know it, they've finagled interstellar law so that they can buy out the Amaterasu from the company that built it and they've negotiated a contract with the Galaxy Network to broadcast their mission to fight against the Kingdom. The contract is useful since it gives them easy access to supplies and hopefully puts people on their side as the underdog.

The Galaxy Network gets exactly what it wants as well as it now has a war to promote on its own channel, dubbed the Spaceship Channel, and get the ratings that it wants. Placing on board the Amaterasu a young female reporter and cameras everywhere, there's certainly plenty of material to be used and it takes embedding to a whole new level. What's interesting and amusing is that as much as the senior cadets take on the role of command, the one who is seemingly really in charge is the Galaxy Network producer who managed the contract back on Earth as he sets things up for picture perfect battles, press manipulation and even talent manipulation. Even better, with his help they're able to bring on board the Amaterasu the former prime minister – whose niece is on board already at a command level no less – so that the ship becomes more than just a rebel or pirate ship but rather a government in exile. This serves to rally the population around them even more as the Kingdom takes over.

In a way, it's very easy to draw light parallels to the recent Crest and Banner of the Stars series as they do follow some similar tangents at times and much of the space combat missions play in a similar manner. Unlike that franchise though, Starship Operators definitely feels like it's falling more into the "space opera" category at times while still keeping a firm footing in the "science fiction" category. There's just more drama and interaction going on among these characters, easy and obvious life threatening dramas that crop up at a moments notice and a more mainstream feel to it. These aren't negatives in the slightest though as even as big as this cast is, what you end up with is a surprisingly enjoyable show in its first four episodes. The opening episode is definitely the clunkiest of them all though but as it progresses you start to see why things may have been so easy to manipulate.

With a heavy female cast to it, there's obviously plenty of fan service to be provided with the entire "woman in uniform" fetish. It's well played here at times though with differences depending on the character as some of them show off a bit more than others but in the end they're all wearing tight uniforms. The character designs themselves touch upon a few basic archetypes but there's a nice change in the overall designs as they feel a bit more angular than the more common round faces of recent designs elsewhere. Even better is that while we don't have a huge male cast here, the ones that we do have aren't exactly standout pretty boys in any real sense of it. There are some attractive male characters and romance enters into the show early on, but there really doesn't seem to be that one stand-out male character that everyone is drawn to which is a very pleasant change of pace.

In Summary:
Starship Operators is a show that's taking a few pages from real events of the last few years by providing a mixture of war, reality TV and changes in journalism and what the corporate world will do while giving it that anime flair in a science fiction setting. The summaries for the show I don't think really do it justice though as the episodes ended up being far more engaging than you'd believe based on reading some of them. While I don't think it compares to certain other shows that would fall within the same genre, Starship Operators is certainly something that will appeal to a lot of people and it fills a wide open gap in terms of what's being released at the moment. With this release only being three volumes compared to the seven in Japan, it's a steal in that regard as well. In the end, the show surprised me more than I thought it would and it was a very enjoyable show to watch and was even more interesting on the second viewing to try and piece together some of the subtle elements that are being woven into it. Definitely recommended for those looking for some space faring adventure.

Features
Japanese Language,English Language,English Subtitles,KOTOKO Music Video "CHI NI KAERU -on the Earth-",Creditless Opening,Creditless Ending

Review Equipment
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Zenith DVB-318 Progressive Scan codefree DVD player via DVI, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Monster component cable and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.

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