Anime Opera IN SPACE

I’m not confident in my genre-theory so I present this post with a galaxy’s worth of disclaimers and caveats. I just thought it’d be a fun exercise to do a Cartesian quadrant kind of chart to “locate” or analyze the anime space operas I’ve completed (or at least have seen more than a few episodes of — only Armored Trooper VOTOMS, Tytania and Toward the Terra are unfinished viewings).

I figured out I’d do this while watching Banner of the Stars for the umpteenth time, and making favorable comparisons with Legend of the Galactic Heroes. I thought I could try to explain some of the differences among the awesome things it did relative to the outer space setting.

So, onto the chart!

There are no numeral indicators in this informal set of axes so there isn’t much nuance I am able to communicate clearly in the chart. I tried anyway.

The four points are:

  • Galactic Conflict and Space Journey (along the x axis)
  • Fleet Combat and Mecha Combat (along the y axis)

If I were any smarter, or more thorough. I would be able to explain well why LotGH is farther to the left compared to Banner of the Stars. I felt that the combat in BotS is closer to how Space Battleship Yamato‘s tradition of ship-to-ship combat, but BotS depicts far larger fleet battles than Yamato did (at least in the first season).

The shows near the center of the axes are set closer to Earth. SDF Macross and Martian Successor Nadesico mostly fought within the solar system. Mobile Suit Gundam (the whole franchise is represented here by Z Gundam) is set almost entirely in the inner solar system and mostly around Earth.

While large fleet engagements do occur in the aforementioned, they are secondary to the mecha vs. mecha combat relative to LotGH and BotS, who do not use any piloted or autonomous humanoid robot weapons.

Macross Frontier is interesting in this chart in that it a space journey — an expeditionary fleet/space colony and a mecha-centric show. Macross 7 is the earlier example, but Frontier I believe represents the idea better.

Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann barely qualifies here. It’s qualification is founded on its homage to the rest, and particularly Gunbuster! (and Diebuster!). Most of TTGL occurs Earth-side. In any case, I thought it should be there.

What do I want to do with this going forward? Tell me how to refine it. What’s missing or problematic with the axes as I’ve set them up. Obviously there are shows I haven’t seen yet, so make a case for those and I’ll add them to some future version of this chart. Finally, if you think you can build a better chart, by all means do so! I’ve made this myself because I can’t find one to read. I’d love to see a better and more thorough chart.

About ghostlightning

I entered the anime blogging sphere as a lurker around Spring 2008. We Remember Love is my first anime blog. Click here if this is your first time to visit WRL.
This entry was posted in analysis, Legend of the Galactic Heroes and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

33 Responses to Anime Opera IN SPACE

  1. schneider says:

    One obscure robot show, Galactic Whirlwind Sasuraiger, does seem to cover both Space Journey and Mecha Combat neatly, being a robot version of Around the World in Eighty Days IN SPACE.

    However, no one has watched it because it isn’t subbed, but it might be a nice-to-know for you.

    • I know it only due to that long set of robot anime intros, as part of the J9 sub-franchise. IRRC it involves space trains?

      If so, (or perhaps only barely related) I should include Galaxy Express 999, and Harlock for that matter.

  2. anon1314 says:

    Ginga Sengoku Gunyūden Rai aka Thunderjet for those who caught in the Philippines. Fleet Combat probably closer to LotGH than BotS. Been searching for the show forever since I only watched bits and pieces.

  3. chii says:

    I love this a lot haha. I really wish there were more space opera shows though as it’s generally a sure love for me. At least I still have Space Battleship Yamato to sink my teeth into as I’ve been saving it for when I need something awesome.

    TTGL is a weird one to put in here as you said but I see why it would have been since it’s a huge parody of it all plus some.

    • I tend to put shows in lists and list-like things not because of the overall genre categorization it fits in, but rather the presence of the elements in it that are relevant to the list. This is the same reason why I’d talk about Planetes in terms of a love story (it has one), as well as “… of the Stars” (it has a big one).

      TTGL, beyond its parodying, does treat its elements seriously too (I mean, it works to read the elements seriously). The Gurren-Dan did make a galactic journey albeit devoid of pit stops the way Yamato did it. I don’t think the galaxy-crossing can be dismissed as a joke, or just a reference to older shows as a bone to throw to us space opera fans.

  4. Turambar says:

    I understand the y-axis of fleet and mecha combat just fine. But can you explain how you rationalize the x-axis of galactic combat and space journey? I have a tough time envisioning them as opposites on a spectrum.

    • Jack says:

      Not to put words in ghostlightning’s mouth, but certain shows (Yamato being a prime example, Towards the Terra fits as well, as would the modern Battlestar Galacticca) involve a ship/ships travelling through space to some goal, possibly having adventures and encounters along the way. They’re about the journey as much as the destination (perhaps).

      Shows like LOGH (galactic combat) are basically about a big war that’s happening in space.

      • Turambar says:

        That sounds like two entirely different spectrums. A show like Yamato would be the opposite of something like the Gundam series as one is a journey through space while the other is conflict in a static location.

    • Jack I think pretty much gets it. I don’t know enough math to construct a classically consistent Cartesian chart.

      However, since opposites to me are arbitrary (via post-structuralist linguistics) I’ve placed the categories where they are because I find sample populations that fit them.

      The other thinking I put in the x-axis is that the galactic combat shows have the majority of the characters, or at times the protagonists, pretty much know the stellography/galactography of the setting, and whatever journeying that happens serves the related war effort. The “opposite” has a focus on the journey, and some part of that journey is into areas unknown or unfamiliar to the cast.

      But perhaps this chart can be contextualized as distinctions rather than opposites. In any case, x1 is not x0, just as y1 is not y0.

  5. Jack says:

    ‘Crest/Banner of the Stars’ (hereafter refereed to as ‘…of the Stars’) is certainly different than ‘Legend of the Galactic Heroes’ (hereafter referred to as ‘LOGH’) in it’s approach to space warfare, but what really differentiates the two is their respective scopes.

    ‘LOGH’ is an epic in the truest sense. Hundred of characters, tens of thousands of ships, politics, combat, long discussions of democracy vs. authoritarianism and so forth. It’s concerned with all these things and more.

    ‘…of the Stars’ contains the elements of a wider conflict and the audience is even privy to large-scale conflict but the focus of the series is very personal. It’s smaller scope largely deals with the tale of Jinto and Lafief.

    ‘Towards the Terra’ is a tricky one, because I don’t want to spoil too much of the story but I feel it should be slightly more towards “Galactic Conflict” than it is.

    Otherwise, everything seems to be in a reasonable place.

    • Perhaps to accommodate Turambar’s observations above, as well as the complexity of further categorization, a Cartesian chart is a poor fit. What should I use then? I prefer a simple presentation (that hopefully does not oversimplify the content).

      • Jack says:

        When you’re placing things into categories on a chart that is clearly a simplification to some degree, but I don’t think that’s a bad thing. We do it all the time because it is useful.

        At most, it represents some core component of the show using a visual short-hand, and allows the reader to see where it sits in comparison to other shows. Which is useful. It’s not like you’re saying “this is accurately describes every component of the show” because that would obviously be impossible.

        Also, I know you haven’t seen ‘Infinite Ryvius’ and technically it is a drama set in space, but it would be towards the top right corner. Strangely enough, near TTGL even though they’re completely different.

        • /beats head with a stick for not starting Ryvius yet

          Thanks for reminding me. Almost every second of my hobby time is devoted these days to Super Robot Wars Alpha Gaiden (English translation), so I think I’m going to forgive myself (almost everything I’m publishing these days have been written months ago, oh dear).

  6. Kuro says:

    Just have to ask, Can Ninja Senshi Tobikage AKA Ninja Robots be part of this Space Opera thing? I think its more the Mecha Combat and Space Journey. Just stating a suggestion…

  7. kadian1364 says:

    I associate “Space Journey” with ideas of exploration and discovery, so I have difficulty centering Gundam on the x-axis when there is very little of that. Just because the scale is small (Earth centered vs galaxy-wide) the Gundam stories are always concerned about geo-political conflicts and formal battles, so I would push that franchise much farther left in Q2. That or split up larger franchises like Gundam, Macross, and even BotS (where CotS and BotSII focus are much more of a Space Journey than the other extreme) into individual series.

    Otherwise it’s a good foundation to relate space operas to one another. Maybe a Venn diagram between ‘Fleet Combat’, ‘Mecha Combat’, and ‘Space Adventure’ would suffice.

    • I’ll consider the adjustments… the venn diagram is a good suggestion, to keep things even simpler. Space adventure will then allow for shows like Outlaw Star, Galaxy Express, or even Cowboy Bebop.

  8. feal87 says:

    How can you forget about completing Tytania?!?!
    That was a really nice series to watch (interesting from start to end), unfortunately still no sequel ahead…

      • Anya says:

        I thought it was crap at first too, but when I had nothing to watch (this was during highschool IB exam season, so we were allowed to stay home and “study”) I downloaded the whole season and just watched it. It eventually grew on me, and I liked it after a while.

        @feal87 according to wikipedia or somewhere I read, the original novels were open-ended. I’m not sure if the anime ended at the same point as the novels or not though.

  9. Hussein Makke says:

    Hi ghostlightning. I’ve been researching Anime posts and came across your blog and am really interested in what you write. I’m a journalism student and have been given the task of writing a magazine feature and I’ve chosen it to be about anime, though I need a few sources to reference ideas from. Would it be ok if you could donate 5 mins of your time and send me your email address so that I may ask you a couple of questions? They would primarily be about anime as a whole and more specifically how the Naruto series has bought in more western anime fans over the last decade. My email is, I would really appreciate it if you coyld help me and contact me with your email.

    Thank you! 🙂

  10. AKI says:

    Isn’t Vandread considered an anime space “opera”?

  11. AKI says:

    And now that I remember it, have you seen Divergence Eve by any chance?

  12. VucubCaquix says:

    Wow, this is suuuuper convenient.

    I should get cracking on watching that Crest/Banner of the Stars soon.

  13. Jack Han says:

    I don’t see how Gundam and the original Macross are a middle ground between “galactic war” and “space journey” if anything Gundam is closer to LoGH, involving battling ideologies, across space, not matter the scale, the original Macross was still somewhat of the space journey despite being confined to the solar system and Uchuu Senkan Yamato was a about a galactic war also.
    Why not a z axis called “scale” with Legend of the Galactc Heroes, Macross Frontier and Yamato on one end and Gundam, the original Macross on the other?
    While the x axis can be “journey” or “not journey”, Legend of the Galactic Heroes and Zeta Gundam didn’t have much of a journey while Yamato and Macross Frontier and the original Macross did.
    y axis can be “war”, Outlaw Star and Bebop at the bottom, Yamato and both Macross in the middle and Legend of the Galactic heroes and Gundam at the top.

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