People operate starships.
Starship Operators is a 2005 sci-fi anime based on a light novel, written by the same author as Lodoss War (something I never knew until now). The basic premise is that a group of space cadets take the state-of-the-art battleship Amaterasu and fight back against the Kingdom that conquered their home planet while they were away on a training mission. Their quest to liberate their planet is sponsored by a TV channel, which broadcasts their activities across the galaxy. The crew gets publicity, the channel gets views.
There’s a bit more to it than that, but the actual explanation makes very little sense (unless you think it’s logical that ships from a conquered nation are put up for auction and can just be bought by an enemy). It’s best not to think about it too much, and just take it as a given.
It’s hard to say anything substantial about Starship Operators, because it’s merely okay. And unlike some shows at the same level of quality, Starship Operators is okay in virtually every sense, with no outstanding features. The characters are all fine, but few experience any growth. For example, the captain started out uncomfortable in his role, and stayed that way until the end. There were a couple of dramatic deaths, but handled a bit too clumsily to have real impact. There’s an attempt to bring politics into it, but the different factions are so woefully underdeveloped that it’s mostly just uninteresting and confusing. You never really get a clear sense of the setting. In fact, I had to look at wikipedia to understand that the “Kingdom” and the “Henrietta Planetary Alliance” were the same entity, but different from the “Henrietta Earth Alliance”. None of this is very well explained in the show. The ending is competent and wraps up the story, but is also not especially satisfying.
One thing that’s sort of interesting is how the combat is written. Since Starship Operators is focused on a single ship, there’s no conventional large-scale fleet battles. The Amaterasu generally squares off against one or two opponents at a time, and each enemy ship has some sort of gimmick to figure out. It’s not particularly realistic that each vessel is unique but it adds variation. But even here, the quality of the writing varies from decent to… kind of silly (like when they take out three enemy ships by spinning around fast).
If you’re dying to watch some non-mecha anime about space warfare -which you could be, since I think that genre is basically dead- you could do much worse than watching Starship Operators, but don’t expect anything memorable.