Classic anime is timeless, be the original Macross, Sailor Moon or the works of Ozamu Tezuka represent the foundation where most of the recent media comes from, but it’s important not to forget other works from the past, and so, the purpose of this new section: Old’s Cool. Here I’ll review shows from the 70s to 90s (if it’s available) and hopefully get more people to watch them. Inaugurating this section is an anime adaptation of 1959’s Starship Troopers from Robert Heinlein.
Disclaimer: I was going to review another show but apparently is not as popular as I thought so. “Getting” it proved to be difficult and being a 52-episode show, I was not going to wait a month to start watching, but if I can, I’ll try to review later this year.
About the show
Starship Troopers (宇宙の戦士) is a six-part anime OVA produced by Sunrise/Bandai Visual and released on October 1988. Directed by Tetsuro Amino (Shiki, Macross 7), this an almost faithful adaptation of Heinlein’s work. The design of the robots was made by Kazutaka Miyatake (Space Battleship Yamato (1974), Macross, Gunbuster) who also made the designs for the Japanese edition of the novel.
The anime differs slightly from the original novel, our MC is called Johnny Rico (instead of Juan Rico) and he’s an Argentinian, not Asian Filipino. Aside from that, the story is the same. Johnny Rico is a high school student living in Buenos Aires, whose future is granted by inheriting his father business but he wants another life. When his friend Carl and his love Carmencita join the Federal Military, he does too enlist in the hope to chase after his love into space. However, a war is brewing on the outer planets with a strange who does not know what to do with his future lifebug-like alien enemy and Johnny is thrust into conflict.
Starship Troopers will always be a controversial work. Be the original book, the movie adaptation or the attempts to make another movie in this age, but where this anime stands in the interpretations of Heinlein’s works? On one hand these OVAs get the technical aspect of the novels right with the portrayals of the weapons, armors and the technology used by the federations at the beginning of the war. It also heavily features the military training of the soldiers, most of time the show is dedicated to show how Johnny and others grow up and endure the harsh training to prepare them for war. Although we do not get to see heavy combat between humans and bugs until the last two episodes and, briefly during the destruction of New Buenos Aires, which left me wanting more.
The ethical and political aspects of the book are overlooked, we never get to see the Federation as the “military” state, is just another world government, like the one portrayed in Gundam. There are times where Johnny and other soldiers questions their positions and the meaning of war, but those conflicts are resolved quickly or ignored. Johnny motivations seem shallow at first, but we see him grow as the show progresses until he encounters real combat that will test his conviction. I wanted to see more of the political and philosophical issues that are in the book, the emotional conflict is often times average at best. This is probably one of the weakest points of the adaptation, if it was not for the source material it could be considered just another generic 80s mecha anime.
Production value is another thing that could degrade your watching experience. Background art suffer from QUALITY issues and most of the times we can lost track of the side characters because they are similarly designed. Although the bugs and the robots do not suffer from this. The design of the alien bugs is more menacing than the ones described in the book, they can reproduce asexually and seem to have assimilation powers. As mentioned before, the design of the powered suits is great and rivals designs like the one portrayed on Macross II.
The soundtrack of this adaptation is unique, to say the least. The Fx sounds are from you average science fiction/mecha show, what elevates it is the upbeat 80s pop songs that are used heavily during the show, not only as OP and ED, but through entire scenes. I see how this can be off-putting to some, it was for me, expecting a militaristic and grim show and being received with a song like the one on the video was shocking, but I think that’s part of the charm of this series. It reminded me of Top Gun.
When all is said and done, I enjoyed watching this adaptation. It suffers from being OVA instead of a full show so it could explore the political ramifications of this universe and have more combat scenes between the humans and the bugs. If you are a fan of the book or Heinlein in general, give it a try. Sadly the only release of this adaptation was on LaserDisc which if you ever own one, you’ll know the quality degrades over time (the online copies are mostly fine though).