Starship Operators Vol. #2 -

Anime/Manga Reviews

Mania Grade: B+

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  • 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. #2

By Chris Beveridge     March 04, 2006
Release Date: March 07, 2006

Starship Operators Vol. #2
© Geneon Entertainment (USA), Inc.

What They Say
The geo-political stakes are raised when the Amaterasu arrives on the planetary nation of Shu. As the Former Prime Minister Mamiya appeals to Shu's government for support, Shinon and the female crew revel in their reality-television celebrity status on the most popular show in the galaxy. But their joy is brought to a grinding halt when a revolutionary force stages a sudden coup d'etat and uses Shinon and Amatersu's crew as a tool for negotiation.

The Review!
Finding a welcoming planetary nation at last, the crew of the Amaterasu find themselves in a whole new web of conflict and problems.

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.

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.

Going with the Japanese covers again but just slightly reworked for logo placements, the cover lets Dita take the main focus with her bright smile and colorful outfit but it also has a somewhat fanservice oriented shot of Shinon as she blushes while both are set against a starscape with the ships behind them. 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 another 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.

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.

The extras are pretty basic for this installment with a set of TV commercials in a collection as well as a two minute animated promo reel that was used for the show during live events prior to its airing in Japan.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Going into Starship Operators I had worked with that promotional push at the shows core about it being about the cadets that were fighting a war on their own but more so just the hook of them in a sense selling their story and it being broadcast as quasi-entertainment and news. That aspect of it certainly made up a large part of the opening volume as it is the basis for the show continuing since the ship would have no support otherwise, but as it moves into this volume that's still there but it's blended in much more now to the point where it's just another element, not one of the big focus areas.

The middle arc of the three volume series, the four episodes here are split into two very concise two part storylines that tell one larger tale that will spill over into the final volume. The Amaterasu and its passenger in the form of the exiled Prime Minister are welcomed by the Planetary Nation of Shu. The government has done this mostly due to the way the population has reacted to the story on the Spaceship Channel as its citizens are the strongest supporters of what's been going on. Supporting the ship has a lot of risk though, primarily in that the Kingdom would easily declare war on them and taken them down in the process, which would be easy since there is only one spaceworthy and relatively inexperienced ship available to them. So much of the recent past before the Kingdom began its wave of conquest has been quiet periods where ships captains can age considerably without seeing a lick of combat.

The arrival of the ship in the space dock brings several stories to bear as there is a lot of ground to cover. The Prime Minister and upper command of the ship engage in a welcoming party before meeting with the President. Shinon and three others engage in general publicity gigs since they're all the "beauties of the ship" and the adoring population wants to see them. Renna and Akiho spend their time with a small group of Shu soldiers while doing procurement. Each of these storylines progress nicely as they deal with the locals and potential issues but they're also able to see things happening on a larger scale as there is a faction within the military who doesn't want them there and actually supports the Kingdom. Enter the latest coup to happen and the show moves nicely between the three or four main character groupings to showcase it happening on a personal level, a political level and from an action perspective. It is fairly standard science fiction material but it's very nicely executed and avoids any kind of "boys fantasy" version of space opera heroics.

While that arc gives us more personal stories that are told across several different locales, from planet side to ship interiors, the remaining two episodes brings us back to the space fleet battle front as the Kingdom forces arrive and intend to take out the Amaterasu once and for all. It's not necessarily a slow paced piece of work but it's a methodical and strategy oriented one where the winning ideas don't come quickly and some of the basics of space warfare are brought into play. The issues of how to fight the battle come across on both sides since even the Kingdom now has to pay some attention to the public relations side of their actions since while they haven't been readily challenged by anyone else so far there's always the potential of the United forces coming into play.

With less of the setup necessary for this volume, the show moves much smoother overall and with it being involved in a fairly lengthy story that didn't finish here, it avoids that slump that a lot of shows with this kind of episode count have. So many tend to just go for quick single stories that let one or two characters show off their personalities that the larger story they want to tell ends up being book ends to the series and it feels so incomplete or you get little real attachment to the characters. While I don't think a show of this nature will inspire the kind of character favoritism that you get from Crest of the Stars, it is a show that does a great job in capturing a lot of other aspects of it and working it very well. There is a lot of strategy involved to what's going on in this series and it's played out very well in both the verbal areas and the fleet battles. The only thing that's really a downside for me is that the CG animation, while looking great for the most part, has a really bad stutter in some scenes when panned over. You'd think after all these years of CG animation they'd be able to get past that.

In Summary:
As much as I enjoyed going into the first volume I wasn't as eager to jump into the second since the thought of the "reality news" angle was something that I wasn't in the mood for. Circumstances led to the disc being watched anyway and I was really pleased to see how it was both played down a lot more as well as blended into the overall narrative of the show. What's most obvious with Starship Operators is that unlike a lot of shows with this kind of episode count is that it's actually got a story to tell and has some meat to it. This is the kind of show you point to as one that has some content, something it's trying to tell. Whether it tells it well enough in the time allotted is another thing, but the episodes on this volume ticked the science fiction fan in me and kept the space opera material pretty far away. It may not reach a critical level but I'm finding it to be a very engaging and enjoyable diversion from the "popular" cookie cutter titles out there.

Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles,TVCM Collection,Advance Promo Trailer,Promo Video for Live Events

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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