Following their triumphant halting to the conflict between the United Planets Space Force (UPSF) and the Holy Raalgon Empire, the crew of the Soyokaze has been grounded (they’re calling R&R), but while they take desk jobs, attend training, and otherwise waste away on land, the war machine has restarted, with hawks in the UPSF maneuvering toward conflict to benefit themselves and Prime Minister Wang once again manipulating Raalgon leadership in an attempt to usurp control. Displaced, unengaged, and failing at their temporary positions, could Tylor and the Soyokaze crew possibly once again come together to prevent intergalactic war?
The Irresponsible Captain Tylor (TV) was an indispensable part of my growth into anime fandom, an oddity that satirized the space opera genre while also excelling in it when it chose to, with a cast of memorable characters, interesting sci-fi elements, and a balance of strong comedy with occasional drama and romance. Yet, I never turned toward the OVA, developed shortly after the TV series aired (and set just months afterwards as well), but know it as more serious and well-regarded than the original.
It doesn’t start that way, however. The first two OVAs, also originally paired, have the Raalgon capturing the Soyokaze and Tylor reuniting with Azalyn. It’s a strange piece, not particularly funny when it means to be and punctuated by a torture scene, which feels quite out of place. Thankfully, this rather long special, which fits in best perhaps as a rather poor mini-arc connected to the original show, isn’t the meat of the OVA collection released by Nozomi. The next eight episodes demonstrate that the OVA is rightly held in their high regard. They are Tylor to the core, and yet uniquely their own.
The structure of the OVA series reveals the subtlety of a show that seems anything but that on the surface. Much like its titular captain, there’s surprising depth and intelligence under the whimsical veneer. Episodes 3-8 are “side stories,” each delving into one of the supporting characters, with highlights being Kojiro’s test pilot adventure and Yamamoto’s distressing first go at being a captain. Taken on their own, the episodes are fun and feel like more than filler; they are expanding the stories for the lovable crew. However, the final two episodes weave all the earlier ones, which take place concurrently, together to create an immensely satisfying arc that depends on multitudes of elements from 3-8.
With fewer laughs and more drama than the series, the OVA also takes a creative turn by being structured as thematic episodes including a campy sci-fi mystery and even a Christmas episode. Themes in the series are also weightier and more interesting than “war is bad,” as the show asks what it means to be a soldier; how sacrifice and valor are defined; why the misfits and leftovers are significant and even necessary; and what the relationship between war and peace is.
The voice cast, brought over from the TV series, remains a highlight of the show as well. While the original Japanese voicing is adequate, the English-speaking voice actors add a lively layer to the series, helping to make make the some two-dozen significant characters each come alive. Crispin Freeman is spot on, inhabiting the laid-back captain in what seems like the only way he could possibly be voiced, while almost all the other actors are just as excellent. Lisa Ortiz, one of the few that continued to have success acting in anime after Tylor, is among these standouts, and gets to chew on some excellent dialogue in the first several episodes of the OVA.
The collection does end on a surprising note. There is a significant and emotional loss in the show, and things go unresolved by the time the final credits roll, obviously looking toward the future. While it’s unlikely that a sequel to this continuity would ever be animated, Right Stuf’s liner notes do explain what happens next, and that quick reading, for those that don’t mind being spoiled, will be quite eye-opening for any Tylor fan.
But even bypassing the extras and letting the anime stand on its own, the OVA is immensely satisfying, at once tightly packing in so much of what the TV series has to offer and stretching the show in unexpected and daring ways. But with the anime centered on a fun, inspiring, and always unexpected crew like the Soyokaze’s, it shouldn’t be any other way.
A review copy of this DVD collection was provided courtesy of Nozomi. The Irresponsible Captain Tylor (OVA) can be purchased through Right Stuf.