Xebec is a strange animation company after all. You never see them among the big guys and most of their works are seemingly mediocre, and yet as I watch more of their works I have to admit that they somehow hit the mark a surprising amount of times. If I had to mention something at which most of their great works stand out at, it’s the way in which they put in a lot of slice of life and quiet scenes in seemingly action-packed premises; only Pandora Hearts doesn’t have this and I have to admit that it’s not really the best thing to advertise your series with. Still, it does work; Stellvia again shows how when it takes a premise doomed for failure and yet turns it into a very enjoyable series.
Stellvia of the Universe starts out with a really flawed premise: in a certain science fiction setting, a seemingly average girl boards a space pilot school, suddenly turns out to be a l33t hax0r and somehow ends up piloting the mecha that holds the fate of humanity in its hands. I watched the entire series and still find it hard to believe how far she came in only one year. On top of that, this series also has some utterly horrid character-designs to work with, along with CG that really doesn’t try to integrate with the rest of the show.
And yet the characters made this premise work somehow. The above mentioned slow pacing really allows for the creators to show the daily lives of the protagonists, which allows the characters to get fleshed out really well; this doesn’t just go for the main characters, but also the side ones, and because of this they become able to carry the faulty premise of this series. Obviously you don’t want to watch this just for the drama, but eventually the drama that does come out is poignant and genuine.
Near the ending however, the series does get a bit annoying, though. It keeps focusing on the angsty romance between the two lead characters a bit more than what’s healthy for this series, especially because the romance tends to get in the way of just about everything else that also needs attention. Because of that, the finale lacks a bit of the impact it could have had.
Nevertheless, this series definitely has its good points and even the graphics don’t get much in the way as soon as you get used to the horrible designs. Science fiction is obviously a very popular genre in anime, but Stellvia does stand on its own amongst some of the behemoths of this genre, rather than being a mish-mash of other series. It’s neither the best from Xebec or science fiction obviously, but a very nice watch nonetheless.