During the shakedown cruise of the Planetary Nation of Kibi's Guard Ship Amaterasu, the Henrietta Alliance of Planetary Nations suddenly declared war on the Planetary Nation of Kibi. The government, seeking peace, immediately surrenders, ordering the Amaterasu crew to leave the ship. Conveniently, all the officers on the ship except one went on ahead. The remaining crew (cadets, and that one officer) decide to continue the war against the Henrietta Alliance of Planetary Nations using the justification that they are a government in exile. (One of the cadets is the niece of Kibi's former Prime Minister, who they quickly recruit to their cause.)
However, they have no funds, so they make a deal with Galaxy Network: The Galaxy Network gets to use their ship's struggle to reclaim their home as a Reality TV show; in exchange the Galaxy Network will fund the government in exile's rebellion. Yeah, it's from Japan.
Starship Operators is a 2005 Thirteen-Episode Anime adapted from a light novel by Ryo Mizuno, creator of Record of Lodoss War and Rune Soldier Louie, that is surprisingly high on the Mohs Scale of Science Fiction Hardness.
- Anyone Can Die: And how. In fact, if you didn't see them have more than five lines of dialogue, and they suddenly get some character development, chances are good they're going to bite the dust. Some major characters also get killed however, so it's hard to predict which people will die.
- Arbitrary Maximum Range: Averted. The Alliance's railgun is shown to fire at 900,000 km. While ships move in to get to optimal range, at least once the Amaterasu battles from four or five times her optimal combat range.
- Artistic License Medicine: Coupled with creepy Fan Service when Renna dies. They discharge the defibrillator directly into her nipples without removing the monitor pads. In this case, Redemption Equals Death trumps Magical Defibrillator.
- Bilingual Bonus: In episode 7, the piece of calligraphy that Captain Wong of the Shu lead ship Shenlong was viewing is actually the Chinese poem "Chunwang", or Spring View, written by famed Tang poet Du Fu, and its content about the desolation brought about by a coup d'état that a people was facing mirrored the situation Captain Wong and his nation (an Expy of China in this series) were undergoing.
- Bittersweet Ending: Turns out that the Earth Federation used the Amaterasu as an excuse to launch an invasion to takeover planets not already under their control. And they planned on destroying the Amaterasu and its crew in order to hide their true motives. Although the ship is destroyed, the remaining crew (save for one person) escapes and sends the attack on a live broadcast, showing the Earth Federation acting under less than pure motives, which no doubt is going to give them public backlash.
- The Bridge: Three bridges in fact (command, navigation, and fire-control), and they are all cramped.
- Bridge Bunnies: The titular "Starship Operators." Most of the action is set in the Amaterasu, and the producer deliberately got most of the female crew to be on the Primary Bridge, excepting The Captain.
- Color-Coded for Your Convenience: The main cast's role on the ship is indicated by the uniform color much like a Real Life military would do.
- Cool Ship: The Amaterasu. Helps that it's crewed by relatively talented, albeit young and inexperienced, crew.
"A battleship can't do that!"
- Dialogue Reversal/Meaningful Echo: Dita, the Galaxy Network's correspondent aboard the Amaterasu, used the same words the producer Peter had used when he implied that he was forewarned about a surprise raid on the Amaterasu by Henrietta, after the Amaterasu succeeded in its gambit to destroy four Henrietta warships and Peter asked her about her role in it.
- Does This Remind You of Anything?: The Earth Federation fleet is pretty much a thinly disguised United Nations, they even have "UN" written in big white letters on their ground vehicles.
- Executive Meddling: Due to the deal they made with the Galaxy Network this comes up a few times in universe.
- Eyes of Gold: Shinon
- The Federation: Earth Federation, but its plan later might make it not quite good.
- Frickin' Laser Beams: Done right, since laser travels at light speed, you can't dodge it, and you don't see it until it hits the target.
- Heroic Sacrifice: Peter overpowers his captors and infiltrate the TV station to get back to his studio and reopen the Starship Channel and reestablish communication with Dita to show what Earth Federation has done, knowing that he will die in the process. Also, Yuuki decide to stay on the ship and manually pilots it into the Earth Federation fleet for self-destruct to work properly, but it might be the case of Redemption Equals Death since he starts the whole fight against Henrietta plan in the first place, and the plan blew up in his face.
- Idiot Ball: Kouki inexplicably picks this up so he can die a pointless death and give Shinon another moment of Survivor Guilt.
- YMMV; it looked like he knew he was the only one who had a chance of getting the proof they needed, and did what he could to get that proof.
- La Résistance: The cadets on the Amaterasu refuse to abandon their ship, nor do they want to give in despite their home planet/government giving up without a fight. When given a way out of their contract with the Galaxy Network early in the series, they refuse to take it.
- One-Hit Kill: Most of the ships the Amaterasu faces off against are prone to this. However, they attack pragmatically and often hit what could be a weak spot on the enemy ships. They never really duke it out with the enemy ships due to either being outnumbered, or in one case, being unable to detect the ship.
- Only a Flesh Wound: Averted: With the exception of the last episode, the end result of every battle is the complete destruction of ships that take fire, with the loss of all hands. People, too, all die whenever fighting breaks out.
- Redemption Equals Death: to The Mole no less.
- Also happens to Yuuki Shimei, the technical officer, who was originally the person to incite the ship takeover in the first place. He stays onboard the ship at the end to steer it towards the Earth Federation ships, in an act of Taking You with Me.
- Short-Range Long-Range Weapon: Averted. The range of fighting in the anime is very far - while real-world units are rarely given in dialogue, laser weapons take multiple seconds to reach their targets.
- Shout-Out: "What would a great escape be without some digging?" (And a motorcycle jump, too.)
- Space Friction: Averted. Ships have maximum acceleration, but not speed.
- Space Is an Ocean: When blown up, a ship is "sunk", and a stealth ship is referred to as a "submarine".
- Also, the ships have a complement of torpedoes. Wouldn't missiles make more sense?
- Space Is Cold: Completely averted. The Shu Guard Ship Shenlong and Alliance ship Conquistador are each destroyed by multiple pulse laser attacks that didn't produce noticeable damage but heated the hull beyond the point where the heat could be radiated.
- Space Is Noisy: Subverted. In the outer-space shots, we can hear a ship's engines, active thrusters, etc. However, in-universe it's acknowledged that sound doesn't travel through space. In the Show Within a Show, sounds were added by the studio.
- Starship Luxurious: Averted.
- Stealth in Space: One of the more plausible examples.[context?]
- Subspace Ansible: News broadcasts are instantaneous -- somehow, with "quantum entanglement" mentioned once. Notable given the relatively hard science of the rest of the series.
- Taking You with Me: What Yuuki plans to do to the Earth Federation fleet after they learn about the Earth's true motives for "helping" out.
- Teen Genius - Shinon with tactics, Yuuki with computers, Miyuri with astronomy.
- Theme Naming - All the ships are named after something tied to their culture. Henrietta's ships are named after places in battles of the past, for example.
- Thirteen-Episode Anime
- We Will Not Use Photoshop in the Future - Averted; we see photorealistic, computer-generated models of Amaterasu crew members starring in a home shopping channel advertisement, to Shinon's dismay and annoyance. The ending also features a complete faked newscast, making the aversion a Chekhov's Gun.
- Worthy Opponent: Dulle Elroy, captain of the only ship to face the Amaterasu across a battlefield more than once, considers Shinon to be one.
- Xanatos Gambit: Yuuki's "buy the ship" plan, with the goal to gain sympathy with other factions to get them, or at least Earth Federation, to attack Henrietta Alliance. It works, but also backfires. There's benefit even though it didn't work perfectly.
- You Gotta Have Blue Hair: Most of the girls (which is to say, most of the named characters in the series) have so-black-it's-blue hair.
- Zettai Ryouiki: The female duty uniform is Class A.