Yamamoto Yohko, Starship Girl Anime Review
Soreyuke! Uchuusenkan Yamamoto Youko
Let's go! Space Battleship Yamamoto Yohko
US Release By
2 OAV Series
6 30-minute episodes (3 per series)
1996-03-06 - 1996-06-05 and 1997-08-06 - 1997-12-22
What's In It
- Pointless Time Travel
- Space Dogfights
- Space Catfights
- Schoolgirls With Attitude
- Space Ships Big and Small
- Super-Fast Races
- Rampant Stupidity
- Violence: 1 (mild)
- Nudity: 2 (moderate)
- Sex: 1 (mild)
- Language: 2 (moderate)
A thousand years from now, mankind has spread across the galaxy, and although war remains, its face has changed. Sure, there are incredibly powerful starfighters, but why bother with all that silly killing? When the planets of the 31sth century feel like picking a fight, they get a team of people (attractive young girls, of course) together, give them top of the line military hardware, and let them go at it. If something gets blown up, just beam the occupant to safety.
Apparently, though, Terran reflexes have suffered over time: The only decent pilots that the Earth government can seem to come up with to combat Ness' aces, the Red Snappers, are a group of four high school students borrowed from the 20th century. Enter Yamamoto Yohko--a menace to her classmates, a genius at video games, and just the person to pilot the hottest new technology and lead the Terran team to victory. She's also almost as annoying to her teammates as to the enemy, she doesn't have the slightest shred of modesty about her considerable skill, and she can't pay attention to anything that doesn't involve blowing stuff up. Hey, nobody's perfect.
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Yamamoto Yohko, Starship Girl is a silly girls-in-space action series where we learn an important lesson: The future is very, very stupid. Apparently based entirely on the junk food that features prominently in it, the series is so outrageously pointless it's hard to get into the characters, and by the time you finally get used to them, it spends one episode trying ineffectively to be mildly dramatic, then ends. It's not as wacky as I expected (or wanted) it to be, but it does manage a few very funny moments, and the characters are a distinctive crew with plenty to yell at each other about. Sharply-timed dialogue in the Japanese version helps, and the acting is colorful and varied, if totally devoid of drama. Its biggest asset, though, is snazzy visuals, with sharp art and oodles of highly slick space action.
I didn't dislike Yamamoto Yohko, but I can't say that I enjoyed it all that much either. It won't stick with you any more than the cotton candy that the story is apparently based on, but it's an amusing diversion, particularly for fans fans of light space action.
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Although Yamamoto Yohko, Starship Girl consists of two separate OAV series, they're similar enough (and released together in English) that they're reviewed together here.
Yamamoto Yohko, Starship Girl is yet another series about a bunch of girls in space having a grand time trying to blow each other up. It has about as much substance as cotton candy, and the only lesson anybody learns is that the future is stupid. Very, very stupid. The series has its moments, but I didn't enjoy it as much as I expected to.
You wouldn't expect a story about a bloodless war fought by high school girls yanked a thousand years into the future to be deep, but Yamamoto Yohko is positively vacuous. The story isn't random or pointless, it's nonexistent. Only two of the episodes feature anything even resembling character development, and the cast of characters has all the depth of your average bathtub.
The lack of substance is nicely illustrated by Yohko's transformation from high school student to combat pilot ten centuries in the future: Her indoctrination takes about four minutes, one of which is spent insulting another pilot's forehead, and another filling out registration forms. She never so much as raises an eyebrow at the concept. Damn the set up, action away! The second episode has even less plot and much more preposterous action. (Space billiards? Really?) The third gives the illusion that one of the villains has meaningful backstory and personality, but it's just that: an illusion.
Yamamoto Yohko is technically two separate OAV series (three episodes each), and there is an ever-so-slight attempt to add meaning (I use the term loosely) to the action in the second one. It doesn't amount to much until the last episode, where we're treated to a touch of romance and drama. Sadly, the series is so empty up to that point that I didn't care, so it ends on a vaguely disappointing note. (The end isn't, incidentally, any sort of conclusion--just a stopping point.)
When you put it all together, the series seems to be missing something. Specifically, the beginning, end, and character development. All that's left are some side stories of the sort that usually fill out the middle of a TV series and one or two fragments of drama that don't fit at all. It's simple-minded fun, but would have been better with a little effort spent on the characters.
The humor is also a bit disappointing. As silly as the series is, it only manages to pull off a handful of spectacularly wacky moments. To its credit, at least those are pretty darned funny--one of the characters making an anime-style costume to get in the mood for combat, a planetary system as the prize in the Claw Game, and a haunted house gone wrong.
It's also surprisingly clean--the obligatory hot springs episode only has a couple of mildly off-color jokes, and in place of the standard breast jokes are constant jabs at one character's big, shiny forehead. I'll credit the boring hot springs as a reversal of the usually raucous things that take place, but the joke is funnier in concept than execution. Speaking of which, I kept looking for this to be a parody of its own genre, a la Tenamonya Voyagers, but despite a number of in-jokes (including the title) that didn't seem to be its aim. At least it has a reasonably solid setting that follows some sort of internal logic (or consistent lack thereof, I should say).
Most of the fun in the series ends up coming from the girls' constant bickering (both among friends and enemies)--lots of not-so-friendly banter and watching them antagonize and mock each other.
The cast is a colorful lot. Yohko, the most distinctive of the bunch, is certainly not your average high school cutie. Good looking, yes, but she's a rightfully cocky, slightly aloof, video-game-obsessed modern girl with an attitude, and she never really takes anything seriously. A refreshing change from the norm, definitely, but I also found her annoying.
The other pilots each have their share of fun personality, from the stuck-up enemy pilot Rouge to her empty-headed sister Lote. Empty-headed doesn't come close, actually--the other characters are shallow, but she barely qualifies as a puddle. Still, as much as I'm usually annoyed by bubble-headed characters, her absolutely unfazeable, good-natured idiocy made her my personal favorite of the bunch--stupid to the core, but she seems to really enjoy it. That may not speak well for the rest of them, but I was laughing in spite of myself.
Yamamoto Yohko is, if nothing else, a snazzy-looking series. Very attractive art, cute character designs in something like the style of Pioneer's late-'90s work, and action aplenty. The space action that makes up a good chunk of the series is fast paced, varied, meaty, and slickly-animated, and it's even spiced up with a few nice artistic touches. The character animation is of a similar calibre, particularly Yohko's wonderfully expressive face. There are plenty of extra touches, too--arty flair in some locales, the cockpits of the fighters have realistic glitches with their wrap-around viewscreens, and the girls sport a variety of attractive and unusual outfits throughout the series. Note that last point--they just wear street clothes in their fighters (why not?), and Yohko has some particularly distinctive modern fashions, including a pair of eyebrow-raising ripped jeans.
There's less to say about the musical score: Lively if unremarkable, with a few appropriately overdramatic themes.
The acting in Japanese is very good, featuring a wide variety of distinctive voices. It's a cast you can't help but love: from the always-versatile Minami Takayama, who supplies Yohko's confident, slightly dry tone and healthy helping of nonchalant attitude, to Megumi Hayashibara's turn as Yohko's perpetually-annoyed, shiny-foreheaded teammate, to Mika Kanai as the (almost) likably ditzy Lote. No drama to speak of, but they're fun anyway, and the sharp timing makes the banter work. RightStuf's subtitling is accurate, but I was a little surprised they didn't use any Japanese suffixes (Lote's dialogue in particular would have been much smoother had they used "-chan").
The main characters in the English dub are well cast and acted (particularly Hunter MacKenzie Austin as Madoka). Erin Matthews' Yohko doesn't have quite the attitude of the original (now that's rare for a dub) but she's a bit less annoying. J-Ray Hochfield's Lote, sadly, isn't as funny, and the timing in the banter isn't as sharp. While the girls' dialogue is well written, not all the humor translates well, so some of it is awkward. In a pleasant surprise, at least they can actually pronounce each others' names (except for "Lote," but hers doesn't matter).
Overall, I didn't dislike Yamamoto Yohko, but I can't say that I enjoyed it all that much either. It's so outrageously pointless it's hard to get into the characters, and by the time you finally get used to them, it spends one episode trying ineffectively to be more serious, then ends. It's also not as wacky as I expected (or wanted) it to be, but it does manage a few laugh-out-loud moments, and the characters are a distinctive crew with plenty to yell at each other about. At least there's no shortage of slick action. Yamamoto Yohko may not stick with you any more than the cotton candy that the story is apparently based on, but it's an amusing diversion, particularly for fans fans of light space action.
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Yamamoto Yohko: Starship Girl had many notable similarities to Tenamonya Voyagers, but that series is sillier and much less solid. It's about halfway between that and Martian Successor Nadesico or Lost Universe, which are silly and funny, but based on a semi-solid world. Oh, and if you like the concept of a pointless, bloodless war, check out Dual--it is more solid and sends up giant robots instead of space combat, but has some similarities.
Notes and Trivia
Based on a 1993 novel of the same name written by Takashi Shouji. In addition to the two 3-episode OAV series adaptations (the second of which included a short "Stage:0" episode as a promo) that this review covers, there were a whole heap of drama CDs and soundtracks released, including one CD of vocal songs available in the US from Animetrax.
There is also a 2-season 1999 TV series (a remake of this series, rather than a sequel to it) that has yet to be released in English as of this writing. The TV series had most of the same production team, and all of the voice cast reprised their OVA roles for the TV series with the sole, sad exception of Momiji. She was voiced by Shiho Niiyama in these OVAs, who had retired from voice acting not long before the TV series went into production due to a serious illness from which she died not long after. Satsuki Yukino took over the character in the TV version.
The title should catch the eye of fans of classic anime, but there are also a lot of references to snack companies that non-Japanese fans are somewhat less likely to pick up on. Ness is probably referring to Nestle, Lote is almost certainly a take-off on Lotte, a major Japanese snack company, and Lawson is a chain of 7-Eleven-style convenience stores. Also, Yohko is (among other snack foods) always eating Strawberry Pocky, one of the standard flavors of the famed pretzel stick. In a bit of unusual product placement, she actually mentions the product by name at one point.
As mentioned above, this is actually two OAV series: Yamamoto Yohko, and Yamamoto Yohko II. The exact original titles are "Soreyuke! Uchuusenkan Yamamoto Youko" ("Let's go! Space Battleship Yamamoto Yohko") and "Soreyuke! Uchuusenkan Yamamoto Youko II." The title, if you didn't catch the reference, is a play on the classic anime TV series about an interstellar war, "Uchuusenkan Yamato" ("Space Battleship Yamato," better known in the US as Starblazers). Since the second series has the alternate title "Starship Girl, Yamamoto Yohko II" (written in English) on the eyecatch in the middle, RightStuf probably decided that title worked better for the English release.
Random trivia: Lawson has a bit of garbled dialogue in the first episode where he mixes Japanese and English; what he says in the English dub is an exactly-linguistically-inverted version of what he says in the Japanese version.
US DVD Review
The DVD, from everybody's favorite Internet-anime-store-turned-anime-company, RightStuf, is a bit of a disappointment, at least in comparison to their fine Captain Tylor set. You do get the entire 6 OAV series on one disc, all the episode previews (there isn't one after part three because that was the break between OAV series) and full credits (both untranslated and, after every other episode, in English with credits for the actors in both languages). Bonus stuff consists of a montage of stills set to music and a few outtakes from the dub.
Unfortunately the disc feels rough in the details--you can skip to each episode, but there are no chapter breaks at all, and a trailing shot after the credits of OAV 3 got tagged onto the beginning of part 4. My player (a usually very tolerant Pioneer) also seized up temporarily when trying to switch languages or subtitle preference via the menus. But most annoying by far is the video transfer: Most of the series looks vivid, clean, and beautiful, but for some reason there are several very severe encoding glitches in the last two parts (you can't miss the sudden blockiness in the pan around the table in episode 5, but there are a few others as well). At least the audio is crisp and clean in both languages, though I think I noticed some tiny pops in the last episode.
Deserving of RightStuf's 15-up rating on account of a couple of brief shower scenes, a bit of rough language, and a few off-color jokes, but surprisingly clean for the most part. Sans those shower scenes would be acceptable for most viewers.
Violence: 1 - People get very angry, but nobody even really gets hurt.
Nudity: 2 - A shower scene in episode 1 and a bath in 5, but not much volume or detail (and the hot springs are clean--pun unintended).
Sex/Mature Themes: 1 - A very few off-color jokes.
Language: 2 - A bit of swearing, mostly toward the beginning.