Written by Richard Brown
At a convention last year, I took the oppitunity to purchase a few US only releases I’d been wanting for my collection. But then I chanced upon something which I wanted to watch, but knew little about, The Irresponsible Captain Tyler thinpack, and I grabbed it. Was this was wise purchase, or just another case of buyer’s remorse? Read on to find out.
The Basic Plot
In the far future, Humanity is gearing up for a war with the Raalgon Empire, and desperately needs recruits for its space fleet. Into this unstable situation walks Justy Ueki Tyler, a lazy young man who wants an easy deskjob and a pension. After series of flukes, co-inceidences, and mishaps, Tyler resolves a hostage situation, saving a retired admiral. Tyler is promoted to Captain, but the Admirality take him for an idiotic embaressment, so give him a ship that no one else wants. The aging destroyer Soyokaze is the dumping ground for misfits and troublemakers, whichs fits Tyler to a tee, but he doesn ‘t know that all the previous captains had “Acceidents”. Thus begins the career of the most irresponsible man in space.
Space, the penultimate frontier
A comedic space opera, The Irresponsible Captain Tyler is about what happens when a man with an unconventional personality is given a command position that nobody wants, ands somehow thrives. Against the odds. Despite numerous attempts by his superiors to kill him off. Despite attracting the personal attention of the Raalgon Empress. And despite the fact that his crew is made up of assorted malcontents and low-grade nutjobs who mutiny on day 1. While it is tempting to describe this anime as “Great Teacher Onizuka in Spppaaaaacccceee”, that isn’t accurate, and this is down to the differences in leads. Tyler isn’t a cartoonish and tough ganger, more a stubby weakling, and where Onizuka is easy to get a handle on; Tyler is more of an enigma. The key question of this series is this: Is Tyler a genius or a lucky moron? Or something in between? It invites you to draw your own conclusion, and this is a big part of the animes appeal.
There’s certainly plenty of evidence for the “moron” opinion, Tyler has no interest in military decorum and on several occasions pulls off victories thanks to coincidence. In the genius camp, you have to credit his way of dealing with people, and how his approach to combat utterly confuses and infuriates his enemies. It’s both a running gag and a plot device, as Tyler fascinates and irritates people in equal measure, attracting no end of enemies and a few admirers, ultimately foiling both through his apparent idiocy. On the subject of admirers, he has a somewhat atypical relationship with the opposite sex for a comedy male. Tyler is not romantically disabled or an outright pervert, merely a good-natured flirt, happy to enjoy female company and the odd beauty contest, but he is almost as hard to read in this area as in others. There is no designated love interest for Tyler, and nor does he seek to abuse his position, and the situation almost reaches harem proportions, until this is neatly shutdown by one of the comedy highlights. Tyler is at the very least an original. Of course, this means that any character development he has is debatable; if you don’t know what a character is in the first place, how can you say if it develops? However, he is the cause of growth in the rest of the cast, especially the girls. There are some fairly big plot threads about how a character spends time with him, and find themselves changed as a result, most notably nurse Harumi. The anime is not really about Tyler at the end of the day, it’s about how people react to him, and there’s more going on here than just comedy. The latter third of the series is especially good on this point.
The humour is still damn funny though; even if it can take its time to get to the punch line. A lot of the comedy is based around a delayed reaction to Tyler, those few seconds where people process what he just did, perhaps try to discourage him or just look dumbfounded, while the audience waits with anticipation to see how it will all play out. Episodes 3 & 4 are a good example of this. Most of the running time is other characters scratching their heads at the total doofus who manages make everything worse. Then the punch line hits, the pay off for two episodes worth of build up, and trust me, it’s worth the wait. Fortunately, the anime is creative enough in its use so it doesn’t become boring, and doesn’t rely on this one ploy. The crew of the Soyokaze do have their individual moments and funny quirks (like Jason, you will know him when you see him), as do Tyler’s assorted enemies. Overall, this anime is interesting and consistently entertaining, though not without flaw.
At this point, as tradition demands, I have to start addressing the weaknesses of this anime. Beyond predictable comments like “humour is subjective”, and “slow and old looking”, the anime does seem to suffer from the flaws that I have noticed recently in light novel adaptations, the lack of an on-going story. Look at the more recent Full Metal Panic, Spice & Wolf, and Haruhi animes: these have similarly good characters, and easily a match on the comedy and drama front, but they are only partial adaptations of ongoing series. The result is something that is basically incomplete, and the narrative can be a bit off as novels function differently than TV. It’s the same here, more or less, the anime ambles along aimlessly while things happen, rather like young Tyler, with a lull in the middle as the Soyokaze is sent to the middle of nowhere. Irresponsible Captain Tyler is more “together” than the animes mentioned above, for the simple reason that it chooses a good point to end on, bbuuuuuttttt there isn’t really an on-going plot, which is a touch odd as there is supposed to be a war going on off-screen. This wouldn’t be an issue if the anime was pure comedy, but as it does spend a lot of time building characters I found myself wanting a little more. I also suspect that there’s something being lost in translation. Given that Japanese society is much more formal than ours, and Tyler is so informal, I wonder if something fundamental isn’t crossing the language barrier, and the presence of liner notes on the DVDs all but confirms this. However, none of this amount to a critical flaw. While the anime doesn’t offer the deep insights of Genshiken or the laughs per minute of Full Metal Panic? Fumoffu, it’s a consistently enjoyable series with good characters with the occasional strike of comedy genius.
Like House M.D, Irresponsible Captain Tyler is a great example of how a memorable and distinctive character can make a series. Interesting and funny, this anime is worth your time. Sure, its lightweight fluff, but its good and clever lightweight fluff.