TOP 10. The best anime of the space opera genre

Anime is a kind of animation art that covers a huge number of topics and genres. Many full-length films and TV series are about space. There are both serious “hard” science fiction and something more entertaining, known as “space opera”. And today we decided to introduce you to the best examples of the latter.

Спейсопера в аніме

Space opera in anime

Anime is not a genre of animation, as it is often written about, but a type of animation common in Japan. It has its own traditions and a certain general style. However, it is extremely diverse in terms of themes and consists of many genres, both unique to it and inherent in other areas of world culture.

Anime has not ignored the theme of space. Here we can distinguish both serious works that can rightly be called “hard” science fiction and something much lighter, not overburdened by strict adherence to the laws of stellar physics.

This genre is usually called “space opera”. In fact, it is an adventure in space, the very genre where the main character rescues the princess of a starry empire, and somewhere in the background the Death Star explodes with a roar that shakes the whole universe.

So we have prepared for you a selection of the best anime films and series in the space opera genre. However, you won’t find any “hard” science fiction here, as there is a separate article about it. However, the films on the list are as good as Star Wars and Star Trek.

1. Space battleship “Yamato”

When people talk about Japanese space opera, the first thing that comes to mind is Space Battleship “Yamato”. Created in 1973-74, the series was the debut work for director Leiji Matsumoto, who went on to create a large number of space-themed anime.

Аніме «Космічний лінкор «Ямато»
Anime “Space battleship Yamato”. Source:

The plot of the series begins in 2199. The Earth has been invaded by the alien race Gamilusians. Our space fleet has been defeated, cities and even the ecosystem itself have been destroyed. However, an offer to help comes from the distant planet Iskander.

It is there that the crew of the starship “Yamato” is sent. The goal of their quest is to bring a means of saving the planet to Earth. The ship itself in the original series was a rebuilt battleship from the Second World War. In the 2010s remake, it is simply stylised to look like this ancient beauty.

You shouldn’t watch Battleship “Yamato” for its realistic physics. The main thing about the film is the technology described in every detail, both realistic and futuristic, and the bright and visually appealing characters. And in this respect, the remake is even superior to the original series, or rather, series.

Ремейк серіалу
Remake of the series

It’s also worth mentioning that the rest of the films and TV series created by Leiji Matsumoto, such as Harlock: Space Pirate and Galaxy Express 999, are no less worth watching. They all have a distinctive style and are connected by a common fictional universe.

2. Space Adventure Cobra

Space Adventure Cobra, which was broadcast in 1982, can also rightly be called a classic of world space opera. This is the story you’ve definitely read or watched somewhere, but can’t remember where.

In the future, an ordinary office worker realises that he is actually a space pirate and adventurer named Cobra and begins a journey full of various adventures. He has his own spaceship and a cannon built into his arm.

Аніме «Космічні пригоди Кобри»
The Space Adventures of Cobra anime

There is a lot women in revealing outfits, androids, alien monsters and agents of corporations and secret organisations running around. In short, everything the viewer expects from a cheap space adventure film. And it is in this genre that Space Adventure Cobra is truly unsurpassed.

3. Hyperspace Fortress Macross

Hyperspace Fortress Macross is the very series that you are most likely to have seen if you are over 30 years old. It was released in 1982, and later in the US it was completely dubbed, re-edited, with fragments from other anime added, and called Robotech. It was this series that was shown on television in the 1990s.

The plot of the series is that a giant alien ship falls to Earth. Humanity explores it, learns new technologies and repairs it. It gets the name “Macross”. At the same time, a new generation of spacecraft is being developed that can transform into robots, called Valkyries. The plot of the original anime and its numerous sequels, which are still being filmed, revolves around their pilots.

In the first series, the ship is followed by its former owners, who are quite technologically and numerically superior to humans, but humans manage to fight back. An interesting feature of both the first Macross and all its sequels is the role of music in its plot.

Incredibly beautiful soundtracks have been a characteristic feature of anime space operas before, but only the creators of Macross have figured out how to make music an important part of the universe. Here, it can really influence the course of events, and this is what has become a distinctive feature of the franchise for many decades to come.

4. Legend of the Galactic Heroes

In 1982, the Japanese science fiction writer Yoshiki Tanaka began publishing a series of novels called Legend of the Galactic Heroes. In 1988-2000, his works were adapted into a huge anime series lasting 110 episodes. Both the series and the novels are still wildly popular not only in Japan but also abroad.

Аніме «Легенда про героїв Галактики»
Legend of the Galactic Heroes anime. Source:

It is due to one of the largest and best-designed worlds ever created in space fiction. The action takes place in the 35th century, when the space inhabited by humans is divided between several state formations, the largest of which are the authoritarian Galactic Empire and the Democratic Union of Free Planets. The war between them has been going on for several decades, both in space and on the surface of the planets.

The strength of the anime is its extremely successful combination of space battles, politics and really interesting characters. Showing all this the series is realistic to the point of cynicism. Behind the facade of a magnificent and efficient machine of the empire lies a cult of power and human lives are worthless before the will of the monarch.

The Democratic Union of the Free Planets is simply drowning in bureaucracy and populism, and because of this, it is ready to lose even where its military leaders have won battles.

5. Cowboy Bebop

The title of this anime is actually a bit confusing, for it implies that the anime is about some cowboy named Bebop. The title of the 1998 series is a reference to bebop, which is a style of jazz.

Герої «Ковбойського Бібопу»
Heroes of Cowboy Bebop

Actually, the Cowboy Bebop series is a kind of stylisation of adventure films about cowboys and American gangsters of the early twentieth century, where this very jazz style sounds somewhere in the background.

The main characters in the film are four heroes who are partly on the “other side of the law” and travel through space in their own spaceship. The solar system, meanwhile, has turned into a mixture of gangster Chicago and the Wild West. So, according to the laws of the genre, the heroes will have many funny but tragic adventures.

6. Crest of the Stars / Banner of the Stars

In the 1990s, the writer Hiroyuki Morioka created a series of novels about the space world of the distant future. The first of them were named Crest of the Stars, and the later ones — Banner of the Stars. When they were adapted into an anime series in 1999, these titles were retained, which can lead to confusion about the title of the whole story.

Аніме «Зоряний стяг»
The anime Banner of the Stars. Source:

The peculiarity of the series is the extremely complex background of this world. In the future, humanity settled on thousands of planets. Then the Av race, genetically modified for life in space, was created. It set itself the task of ending all interstellar conflicts by military means, for which it created its own star empire.

The plot of the first series is quite simple, but it takes place against the backdrop of global events. The young nobleman Jinto and the empire’s princess Lafil flee from the war into depth of space. However, not everything in this journey is as simple as it seems.

7. Interstella 5555

Technically speaking, Interstella 5555 (the full title of this audiovisual work looks like Interstella 5555: The 5tory of the 5ecret 5tar 5system) is not an anime at all. In 2003, the French band Daft Punk commissioned Japanese animators to create a series of videos for their new album.

But as the aforementioned Leiji Matsumoto and several of his talented students took up the task, all those individual clips eventually formed something that is difficult to define. It is, in the fullest sense of the word, a space opera in the house style.

Герої аніме Interstella 5555
Characters from the anime Interstella 5555

The characters of Interstella 5555 do not speak a single word. However, the plot of the film is quite clear from the visuals. On a distant planet inhabited by humanoids, unknown criminals from outer space kidnap a famous music band.

Later it turns out that an Earth resident is behind it all, who wants to give the kidnapped people the appearance of humans and thus gain popularity all over the world. A real space hero sets off on a journey to rescue the musicians.

Interstella 5555 is one of the most amazing anime ever created. And it’s worth watching for that alone.

8. Starship Operators

The 2005 series Starship Operators can be called a space opera of the twenty-first century. According to the canon, it is about the distant future, in which humanity has settled throughout the galaxy.

Аніме «Пілоти зоряних кораблів»
Characters of the Starship Operators anime

At the beginning, a group of cadets goes on a training flight on the Amaterasu training ship. But while they are away from home, the planet is invaded by a neighbouring state. They find themselves the only ship capable of resisting. It is extremely difficult for them to do so. However, the young people find a way out by selling the right to broadcast their heroic struggle to a galactic news service as a reality show.

9. Heroic Age

The title of the 2007 anime Heroic Age is a word play. After all, the main character of this series is really named Age, so “Heroic Age” is a perfectly correct description of that person. On the other hand, the literal translation “Heroic Age” is also quite in line with its spirit.

The authors of the series took the ancient myth that several races (the gold, silver, bronze and iron ones) existed on Earth in the past and transferred this concept to the space of the future. The result is a very unusual space opera.

It features spaceships, robots controlled by humans, giant beetles, a princess with paranormal powers, and a protagonist who can turn into a monster — all of which combine to create an extremely harmonious effect.

10. Astra Lost in Space

In the 2019 anime Astra Lost in Space, events unfold in the future. Schoolchildren who go on a study trip to another planet. There, they encounter an anomaly that throws them into the orbit of an unknown space body, where they find the abandoned Astra ship.

Астра, загублена у космосі
Astra, Lost in Space

This is how their journey to civilised places begins. On the way, they will find many amazing planets where adventures await them. The series is interesting primarily because of the interaction of the protagonists’ extraordinary characters and mysteries.

It soon turns out that this story is much more than just a simple return home. The main characters will have to learn many secrets of their own civilisation.