Teenagers in anime are a dime a dozen, but Yamamoto Yohko is a cut above the rest. Starring in a TV show (not the OVA, which doesn’t have the former’s stellar character development) centered among four high school girls recruited by the future as starship pilots, Yohko is probably the most endearing teenage pilot I’ve met.
What makes her special? The God-given talent that allows her to dominate in sports, video games, and starship battles? No–anyone can be born with that. Hard work and guts, then? Not really. Her spunk? Close, but not quite. Then what?
Emotions, that is.
The anime doesn’t let us forget for a moment that these are high school girls, with a lot of issues between them. The plot throws a lot of things at Yohko, who quickly realizes that she isn’t as invincible as she thought. She cries, quakes in her boots, gets depressed, and even goes batshit insane. And she doesn’t keep it to herself–Yohko gets into odds with her friends, and often come to blows–the resulting conflict is ugly, even petty, but never inauthentic. This is a show I could watch to see teenagers be teenagers, but not feel repulsed at all (because it’s very real, unlike the melodrama common in mech shows featuring teenage protagonists). Yohko is skilled, stalwart and shining, but also very vulnerable.
Nevertheless, Yohko never gets depressed for prolonged periods of time. With the amount of crazy stuff the show throws at her, I’d almost expect her to turn into a Shinji. But right after an emotionally exhaustive arc, she’d come back with her amazing wit and banter on the next one. That’s how she just rolls.
While I was watching the show, I had other girls in mind. Ayano pushes all the right buttons on my moe sensitivities (this in a 90’s show, to boot), and Madoka is unabashedly a mecha otaku. But after I had finished it, Yohko came back to my mind, and I can say that she’s really my ideal girl out of the team. She’s a better otaku waifu than Madoka, who in my case would almost count as masturbation instead.
So if you haven’t watched the TV version of Starship Girl Yamamoto Yohko, I suggest you give it a try. (The OVA version is not as good, but has PLANETARY BILLIARDS instead.) It’s one big crazy ride with the most varied eyecatches I’ve seen in an anime yet, and is directed by pre-SHAFT Shinbo.