Space Travelers Anime Review
スペーストレベラーズ THE ANIMATION
Supeesu Toraberaazu - The Animation
Space Travelers - The Animation
US Release By
Cheesy Space Opera
2 30 minute episodes
In New Cosmic Century 038, the Earth is assaulted by a mysterious civilization of robots, driving humanity into hiding among the ruins of destroyed cities. The Orbital Ring System, a massive enemy force surrounding the earth, constantly hunts for the last holdouts, and attempts to keep people from human colonies from offering any help. And that's where Hayabusa Jetter and his Space Travelers, a ragtag group of borderline-insane and very skilled blockade runners come in. But it's going to be more than another supply run when they're hired by an Earth operative to deliver a cargo that just might turn the tide against the ORS...
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Space Travelers is two things: Embarrassingly cheesy and unoriginal, and cursed with a glut of characters with little-to-no backstory and about as much personality. Those are also it's two biggest strong points: the straight-from-Star-Wars story and action will probably tickle the fancy of campy sci-fi fans, and a few of the characters are so darned fun that it was almost worth watching the whole thing for them. Almost.
Past that, all you've got is a lot of half-decent action and painfully cheesy plot, although it's certainly ripe for mockery. If that all sounds appealing to you, go for it. Most of us, though, won't find it worth the time.
Full ReviewSwitch to Quick Review
Before you even think of watching Space Travelers, be warned of two things: It's embarrassingly cheesy and unoriginal, and there are a glut of characters with little to no backstory and about as much personality. Ironically, those are also the two things it has going for it; since the entire movie is ripped straight from Star Wars, fans of somewhat campy space action are bound to recognize something they like, and a few of the characters are just so darned fun that it was practically worth watching the movie for them.
The classic cheese is entirely intentional, as it's actually based on a fictional anime series of the same name that plays a pivotal role in a live-action movie, also of the same name--see the notes for more on that odd lineage. I'm setting those strange roots aside and reviewing the anime as it stands on its own.
Space Travelers is certainly one of the most shamelessly derivative movies I've ever seen. The plot and setup could've been pulled from any number of cheesy anime or live-action sci-fi flicks, and I'm really not exaggerating much when I say the movie practically matches Star Wars shot for shot--by the time it rolls into the climactic battle the "homage" was so obvious it was actually funny. I'd like to give the writer credit for just a tiny bit of drama and a couple of plot twists, but in the end Space Travelers did far too little to make me care about the story or characters for either to matter much, and the couple of weak attempts at melodrama are so forced they're laughable.
Now for the "good": Space Travelers has lots of people running around, flying through space, and of course whizzing over the surface of a planet on speeder bike rip-offs, blowing bad robots up all the while. It's not what you'd call enlightened entertainment, but on the level of a classic campy sci-fi shoot-em-up with just a sprinkle of intrigue, it doesn't do too badly. If that's your thing--really your thing--you might enjoy yourself.
But that wasn't what made this movie watchable for me; what did was a couple of gems hiding in the pile of characters. You're going to spend the first few minutes being introduced to the huge cast of weird people with way-funky names, one by one, in a dramatic '70s-style set of action clips. In the end, as far as I'm concerned they could've thrown out all but three of them and it would've been a huge improvement.
The best of those three is Irene Bear, a space pilot who ranks among the most gleefully trigger-happy psychos that I've had the pleasure of watching blow stuff up. Every time the action gets heavy, she develops an absolutely insane, sadistic, ear-to-ear grin while frantically going at the trigger. She even has the good sense to cut loose right in the middle of the "hero's" big dramatic dilemma--eat that, indecision! She, as far as I'm concerned, was practically worth the price of admission (although you can enjoy her frightening mug from the pictures on the box).
Complimenting her are a particularly amusing take on the obligatory Han Solo and Princess Leia characters: A sleazy-looking fellow in a leisure suit with about as much spine as a bowl of Jell-o and a big ol' ego to back it up, and his sexy companion--smooth, competent, and brutally sarcastic enough to make the two a hilarious pair. The only problem with their highly amusing banter is there isn't enough of it.
If only the movie had been about those three characters--that would've been fun. Unfortunately, we also get a generic, sappy hero, several geeky types, and a selection of really random violent guys. There's also a samurai who does nothing but grunt dramatically at random intervals, which was worth a chuckle, but that's about it. Oh well. Oh, and just in case you were thinking this must be based on some long manga series, it's not--somebody just didn't know when to say when.
Visually, Space Travelers is about average for an early-'90s-era OAV series (despite being made in 2000). The art isn't great, but it gets the job done, and the animation is smooth enough to make the numerous action scenes watchable. Unfortunately, the backgrounds and most of the mechanical design don't rip nearly enough from Star Wars, which is to say they are entirely bland. The only thing that stands out is the character designs, which are a bit on the creative side, and feature a few appealingly expressive faces.
I've only heard the Japanese dialogue, which is about average--rather cheesy, and mostly generic casting, but no particularly bad points. The music, while not original, is surprisingly good--orchestral and grand enough in scale to fit the plot.
In the end, Space Travelers is probably not for most people. If you're a fan of campy sci-fi action, go ahead and give it a shot, but don't come with high expectations. Otherwise, it's more than likely too unoriginal and cheesy to be worth your time.
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Star Wars rip-off aside, Space Travelers shares bits and pieces with a variety of space-action series. Notable ones include the less-cheesy classic mecha series Macross (in its many incarnations), the two perfect match Sol Bianca movies, Nadesico (more of a comedy), and Plastic Little (more skin). Slightly more creative matches are the humorous Irresponsible Captain Tylor, the dark-future VOTOMS (combination of dark plot and light banter), and if you like the bad things hovering in space idea, Magic-Users Club or maybe Super Atragon might appeal to you.
Notes and Trivia
Ironically, Space Travelers is not based on any existing story, despite all appearances to the contrary (the glut of poorly-introduced characters and comic-style sketches with the credits). More ironically, it is intended to look exactly as if it were part of a larger series, since what it is based on is a live-action movie in which several characters mimic the personalities of characters from the "popular" anime series Space Travelers... which didn't exist until this one-shot was made based on the non-existent anime of the live-action movie. An odd case of fiction mimicking fiction. (See also: Kujibiki Unbalance.)
The live-action Space Travelers, for those wondering, is directed by Motohiro Katsuyuki, who made a name for himself by directing "Odoru Daisousasen The Movie," the movie version of a popular police show of the same name. He did not, however, direct this anime. The movie is the story of three ill-fated bank robbers seeking a way out of mundane life who befriend several of their hostages when the robbery goes awry. As the story progresses, the robbers and their hostages join forces, each taking on the persona of one of the Space Travelers characters that eventually ended up in this animated version.
US DVD Review
The DVD isn't loaded, but it does the job. Aside from one of the louder package designs I've seen (think lots of yellow), it features a fairly crisp transfer, clean two-channel sound in both languages, and a couple of unsubtitled Japanese TV spots. The package claims "deleted scenes," but I certainly didn't see any.
Amusing personal aside: The first copy of this DVD that I bought was empty--no disk in the sealed package, despite being delivered brand new from RightStuf. Only time that ever happened to me, and I can't even blame unusually skilled shoplifters.
Rated 7-up by AnimeWorks, there are a few violent scenes, but not much else objectionable.
Violence: 2 - There is death implied, but most of the fighting involves robots.
Nudity: 0 - None.
Sex/Mature Themes: 1 - One character is a bit sexy, but nothing overt.
Language: 1 - Nothing noteworthy.