- Starship Troopers (1988: Sunrise) 6/6 eps.
Starship Troopers is somewhat of a bizarre franchise. The original novel from 1959 by Heinlein is a classic of the science fiction genre and was incredibly influential in the genre. Nowadays opinions of it are generally negative with many accusing it of being militaristic to outright fascist in terms of its messaging. Then in 1997 we got a film version by Paul Verhoeven that on the surface is a cheesy dumb action film but underneath is quite a biting satire of fascism and the original novel. The film has gone on to become a bit of a cult classic, the changing reception it being in many ways a mirror image of that of the novel. As an aside, the Mobile Infantry uniforms may be one of the most reused things in movies turning up in countless sci-fi productions from the 90s and 2000s including one Gundam G Saviour. Next up was the direct to home video sequel Starship Troopers 2: Hero of the Federation which was crap but also a totally new spin on the franchise as it was a horror film. Then in 2008 (wait it was seriously 2008?) we had Starship Troopers 3: Marauder which again was a new take by just being a shit cheesy action film without the biting satire. Now you might know about those films but did you know that we’ve recently had two anime films that are a sequel to the original 1997 film, ignoring the existence of the 2nd and 3rd film? No? Well let me present to you Invasion and Traitor of Mars, both directed by Shinji Aramaki. Now because they are directed by Shinji Aramaki they are probably a bit pants but they once again represent yet another totally different take on the franchise. How can one book produce such a wild variety of adaptations? I don’t really know to be honest, the only thing I can think of is that nobody who has made these films actually likes the novel outside of its aesthetics. All of this brings me to the topic of today’s post: Starship Troopers from 1988. This 6 part OAV series once again follows the pattern by taking elements of the original and yet being quite different in many ways.
A lot of people like to claim that this is the closest any piece of cinematic media has been to replicating the story of the original novel, which is technically true but only really because the other productions are so far removed from the novel. The way in which this version is closest to the novel is in its pacing with large portions being devoted to training, in fact the first four and a half episodes are just training with only the last episode containing in the field combat. We follow Johnny Rico as he finishes up school and wonders what to do with his life. He does this partly out of a wish to impress his love interest Carmencita but mostly as a way to form a self-identity. So, we follow him and his new buddies through the ups and downs of training as he grows as a soldier and a person. It all ends with a great big battle that in many ways shows that none of the characters really have grown at all. It is a mostly a snooze fest, to be honest, with the lifeless characters doing little to energise a show that is mainly people being shouted at, moping, and then having really boring powersuit fights. There are a few good moments here and there, such as a sequence where Rico and a buddy go on shore leave which weirdly parallels the experiences you hear from some Vietnam veterans and does so quite decently, but they are few and far between. It doesn’t help that the show does little to no world building at all. You don’t have any of the stuff about getting citizenship through service or even anything about the bugs. It drops almost all of the thematic content in favour of this tightly focused character drama…where the characters are really boring.
Unfortunately the writing aspects of this show aren’t the worst parts, not by a long shot. Have you seen this fucking thing? It looks awful. Let’s start with those character designs because Jesus Christ. Seriously, what happened here? I’ve honestly never seen character designs uglier than these outside of gag shows. Everything just seems wonky, out of proportion, and awkward. Character designer Yoshinobu Inana unsurprisingly didn’t do a whole lot of character design work, however he did do quite a bit of key animation work so I have to wonder if this was some sort of bizarre attempt to make the production look more Western. I don’t know for sure what happened but by God is it weird. Speaking of designs we also have the bugs. Of course we now all know the now classic design from the movies that really has a fantastically threatening aura to it but of course that came out after this OAV so instead what we get are Barbie pink amorphous blobs of goop that have beaks and fire lasers. I couldn’t help but laugh at how silly they looked, which totally undermine what little tension the show had managed to build up. This is all rounded off by some truly shockingly bad animation, especially when you consider that it was 1988 and this was fucking Sunrise. What happened? Was this a training project foryoung animators or something? I think all of the visual and audio flaws (yep the audio is bland as hell too) are summed up by the downright strange second opening that features ill fitting music, the awful character designs, poor animation, and a fucking freeze frame before the end of the opening!
1988’s Starship Toopers is visually awkward and narratively dull, not a great combo. Adding to what is already a weird as hell production is the fact that director Tetsuro Amino is quite a decent director by all accounts having helmed Broken Blade (as chief director), Iria, and Shiki. Amino also directed Macross 7 only a few years after which is, again, just really weird considering that the problem many have with Macross 7 is that it is too colourful, over the top, and generally exuberant. It is the complete opposite of Starship Troopers and I can’t understand how the same guy directed both. Anyway, Starship Troopers is rubbish so don’t watch it! Go watch the 1997 film instead, it is awesome!
Final Score: 3F