#1 An infuriating protagonist
Two spacefaring empires are caught in a war of epic proportions; a struggle that will define the very future of the universe and who shall rule it. Grand battles are sure to transpire, heroic deeds will be performed, and brilliant commanders shall lead their men to victory. But instead of focusing on any of that, we get the story of Justy Ueki Tylor. A man who doesn’t care in the slightest.
Tylor is a bum whose only ambition is to live his life as comfortably as possible while doing as little as possible. He has no practical skills whatsoever nor the drive to take on any kind of actual work. All he has going for him is his ability to flatter and charm his way through conversations, which soon land him a cushy job in the military. A sequence of bizarre events and improbable luck soon follow, which elevate this fresh recruit to the rank of captain.
Watching Tylor luck & cheat his way through life is both hilarious and utterly infuriating. He is dense, disingenuous, wholly unfit to command, undisciplined, and apathetic to the needs of his crew and the goals of the federation, yet, somehow, the pieces always happen to fall right into place. Sometimes this happens as a result of Tylor’s simplistic worldviews and actions, but just as often his ongoing success is thanks to pure chance.
Some will hate Tylor for being a selfish dullard, others will love his charm and optimism. Either way, he makes an interesting protagonist that lends The Irresponsible Captain Tylor a lot of personality in a genre full of strong competitors.
#2 Wacky space adventures
Tylor is soon put in command of the United Federation battleship “The Soyokaze”. A rundown, deprecated ship that now serves mostly as a dumping ground for all the personnel that can’t be placed anywhere else. Its marines are borderline criminals, the officers eccentric weirdos, its doctor can only work while drunk, and the lone combat pilot is a potential ace who is too standoffish to work with anyone else.
Obviously, this crew is completely dysfunctional, and it doesn’t take long for The Soyokaze to turn into a literal battleground. However, the crew soon begins to grow closer and learns to cooperate as a result of all the adventures they share together. Episodes range from battles against the Federation’s enemies, to the crew putting on a fashion show for relaxation, and this variety often allows individual members to get moments in the spotlight. One memorable episode, for example, sees Tylor’s twin assistants take on a training regime to become combat pilots, which leads to some good action scenes, intense moments, and, of course, hilarity.
The Irresponsible Captain Tylor is also not strictly episodic. It has a linear storyline and the developments the story goes through are often permanent, or followed up on later. Several stories also take multiple episodes to complete, such as a later arc where Tylor is kidnapped for several episodes and the crew of The Soyokaze has to band together for a rescue operation.
#3 The atmosphere of The Soyokaze
Though the series loves to parody the science fiction genre and its tropes, it also does a great job of painting a cool sci-fi universe for the characters to inhabit. As a result, the anime still looks fun and lively nearly 3 decades after it first released.
In particular, I was very fond of the homely feeling that develops around The Soyokaze. You’d think it would get boring spending episode after episode within the claustrophobic confines of a barely-functioning spaceship, but they found a way to make it work out just fine.
The bright visual style certainly helps the show stand out, but just as important is how detailed the environments on The Soyokaze are. There is a lot of variety to be found on this ship and the spaces character inhabit are subtly themed after them. The command deck is kept neat & clean for the most part, except for Tylor’s corner which is frequently littered with all manner of trash, and Kim’s desk which accrues a pile of magazines when she realizes that she can slack off under Tylor’s command. Similar details are found all over the ship and contribute to its unique feel.
See also: The Art of Space
#4 Azalyn’s character arc
To contrast the carefree lifestory of Captain Tylor, we also got a second main character in Empress Azalyn Goza. She is a 16-year-old girl who is elevated to the throne after her father is assassinated, a crime that is pinned on the United Federation by a totally-trustworthy advisor, sparking the war that kicks off the series.
While her story has its lighthearted moments as well, it also has a genuinely interesting core about a young girl being forced to learn what it takes to rule over people. Not to mention having to cope with the brutal loss of her parents as she does so. Azalyn is thrust into the losing side of a political game she was never truly prepared for. Her supporters are few and weakened, while her enemies are inches away from seizing total victory. If Azalyn wants to avoid ending up like her parents, she’ll have to take decisive actions.
She’s a fascinating character to watch grow over the course of the series, in spite of the large gaps between her appearances. It’s a nice contrast to Tylor’s arc and a good way to humanize both sides of the war.
#5 Kenji Kawai soundtrack
The OST for Irresponsible Captain Tylor was provided by Kenji Kawai, an industry veteran who has composed some of anime’s most recognizable soundtrack. He’s a personal favorite of mine, thanks in large to his work on the Higurashi series.
For this particular series Mr. Kawai delivered an excellent soundtrack with music that varies wildly between genres and pace. Exciting battle music, relaxing background tunes, comedic beeps & boops; it’s all over the place, but kept united under the vision of its brilliant composer. The character themes are especially on point, with some of my favorite songs in the OST being “The Lament of Lieutenant Yamamoto” and the jazzy “The Age of the Irresponsible Captain”.
Curiously, Kawai was retired as composer for much of the OVA series and replaced with one Toshiyuke Watanabe, who is most renowned for his work on Space Brothers, I believe. This is accompanied by switch to Studio Deen for animation, but both handle the series well enough that this wasn’t too devastating.