Warning: This review contains light spoilers.
First impressions: So when I first heard about this series, what I was given to understand that it was some sort of parody of Legend of the Galactic Heroes or Space Battleship Yamato. Not exactly a setter of the highest of expectations. As the saying goes though, you can't judge a book by its cover, something that’s especially the case with Irresponsible Captain Tylor.
At first Tylor seems like your very run of the mill 90’s anime, featuring space, aliens, an episodic plot structure, light ecchi elements and lots of comedy. Fortunately though, this proves not to be the entirely case, as while the story progresses, it becomes more than just a happy-go-lucky space adventure. It does this through the addition of the themes and messages it explores, such as learning how to deal with responsibility and the virtues of avoiding fruitless pre-existing reasoning constraints. Possibly the biggest draw to the series though is the comedy. There’s a running joke in the series that arises from the juxtaposition between the results of Tylor’s actions and what those actions imply about him and the reality behind them and him. Thus the question arises in the minds of tangential forces to Tylor as to if he’s just a idiot with the devil’s own luck or an unrivaled tactical genius. It’s this contrast between expectation and reality, as well as the moves that are made as the result of that misunderstanding that the show makes its comedic break and butter, to excellent effect too. Not only does Tylor manage to make this joke funny, but it even manages to somehow keep it fresh throughout by also playing on the show’s nature as a space opera parody. It’s damn impressive and very moving that the people making this series put so much effort into it as far as storytelling goes, specially considering the state of light novel adaptations now. Unfortunately, a big issue with it is that it's an incomplete series, even considering the existence of the OVAs. While the TV series may have ended on a high note, there’s still uncovered content and plot points in need of expanding on. This necessitates the viewers search for the unfortunately unavailable light novel for proper closure, cheating them out of the full experience. Other that this glaring issue though, the story’s pretty good.
Main character Justy Ueki Tylor is at face value is a happy go lucky idiot, who always maintains an indifferent policy towards the concept of rules, regulations or anything getting in the way of his good time. Or at least so he would seem initially. While that is indeed a pretty accurate statement, there’s a lot more to him than what meets the eye. Some of Tylor’s core values can be boiled down to "don't live according to someone else's rules" and "do what you want the way you want to". Values that manifest themselves as a casual disregard for orders and basic military structure, which are the most telling of his character. As such, the Tylor we get is basically what happens when you give a free spirited, lazy, irresponsible airhead actual authority. Despite his accidental success though there are some things he does which actually warrant praise, as well as merits he possesses that contribute to his overall success as a leader. To name a few, his understanding of his crew and how to get them to their full potential, his very unpredictable nature, his unusual humility, his honesty and when push come to shove, his selflessness, indicated by his willingness to risk his own life for the safety of his crew.
Aside from the man himself though, I’d like to mention a few crew members that I believe are worth mentioning. The first one I’d like to mention is Yamamoto, Tylor’s right hand man and one of a few straight men to Tylor and his many antics. He’s a massive stickler for rules, regulations, proper protocol and all that good stuff, although despite this fact he starts to develop a deep respect for Tylor as the series goes on. This is triggered by Tylor giving himself to the Raalgon empire, so the crew of the Soyokaze could be saved. It’s only after seeing this act of self-sacrifice that Yamamoto starts to question his perception of Tylor as an irresponsible, airheaded idiot. As a result, he quickly begins to feel unworthy of his military and social position. This is turn inspires him to re-evaluate his way of doing things and go against everything he knows in his pursuit to rescue Tylor from the Raalgon empire.
Another character which also stands out is Azalyn, the newly appointed empress of the Raalgon empire. The interesting thing with her is that she starts out as a normal teenage girl, at least for a princess, until the assassination of the preview Emperor, when an unfathomable level of responsibility for a normal person is foisted onto her. As a result, recognizing the importance of her new duties, puts on the front of being a level-headed and authoritative ruler, despite the pressure being very close to too much for her in the inside. Then somewhere down the line, she meets Tylor. It’s then that after being exposed to his personality and way of doing things, new desires and feelings are awakened inside her, prompting her to want to relinquish her position empress. Fortunately for her people, after talking to she reaffirms the importance of her position and leaves aside what might have been. This time with a stronger than ever will to improve herself as an empress and become a better leader for her people.
There are also other characters I could talk more about in greater depth, like Yuriko Star,
the straight woman of Tylor’s crew, but for the sake of brevity I’ll abstain from doing so, instead opting to give sound thoughts of the rest of the crew as a whole. That being said, the rest of the cast are decent. Some of the characters are better than others, although even then, in the case of Tylor’s crew that’s made up for by the fact that even the simple characters, through their relationships and overall dynamic, as a whole are amazing and manage to give the Soyokaze a real sense of life. Other than that though, most of the other characters are just kinda whatever.
Tylor’s animation is just amazing, looking very fluid and lively. Not only does its looks brilliant for the time it came out, it still looks great even now at the time this review is being written. The backgrounds look decent for their time, with special attention going to the excellent job this series does at capturing both the emptiness and viscerally surreal beauty of space. The billions of constellations, that glow and shine of the stars, but also seemingly endless cold, empty void. Included are some very nice, and definitely most appreciated 90’s visuals, energy shields and lighting effects, essentially any old school fan’s dream come true. Character designs while being bog standard for the time, have a lot of charm to them, especially marine core members of the crew, who are the craziest looking bunch of characters I’ve seen in this series to date. Looking at you Jason Voorhees from Friday the 13th. So quite a few visual comically quirky touches to be found. All in all Tylor does really well in the visual department.
The opening theme is amazing, both the japanese and English, so much so that I opted to add the song on my pc. It’s not only catchy, but comes with a very up-beat message that fits the series very well. The ending theme on the other hand while fitting for the series, just doesn't really click with me. Maybe it's the somber tone or just the visuals. Whatever it may be, the ending’s just not my thing. The ost by Kenji Kawai of Ghost in the Shell, Ranma ½ and Mob Psycho 100 is decent. While not good enough for me to listen to on its own, the tracks never fail to add something special to the scenes they’re in and help give the series its signature charm. The sub and dub are both viable ways to consume the series, although It’s worth mentioning that while the sub is fine, I prefer the dub for this series, The the English voice actors just manage to put so much emotion into their roles, making them feel more convincing than in the sub as a result, with a special mention going out to Crispin Freeman giving 110% at giving 0% as Tylor.
Captain Tylor is the GOAT and honestly one of the reasons I continue watching anime. It's very rare for a series to keep me entertained this much even after multiple rewatches. Maybe it’s the 90’s aesthetic elements that I’m oh so very biased towards, but the story and characters while simple, have a lot of cham to them. The series feels like it has a real heart and soul to it, rather than just being an empty product placement for the light novel it’s based on.
Irresponsible Captain Tylor is a bonafide 90’s anime classic and one of the best series ever produced during that period, and is perfectly indicative of the type of anime that gave that period its soul. Not only that, but as a comedy it works so well on so many levels and has a wide cast of characters that feel so very alive and human. It’s the fucking GOAT! End of story.
Special thanks to my paid in Yu-Gi-Oh cards editor Lonecrit.