Take Starblazers. Add some Tranzor-Z and a touch of Robotech. Now mix in some modern love polygons, shove them all in a blender, set to purée, and out comes Martian Successor Nadesico.
In the year 2195, mankind has colonized the moon and Mars, when it finds itself at war with a mysterious alien race from Jupiter. Named the "Jovian Lizards," the actual nature of the race is unknown, as their primary means of attack is to teleport unmanned, robotic attack drones through large warp gates known as "Tulips." In their initial attack, the Jovian Lizards invade Mars. A year later, due to their superior technology, the Jovian Lizards have taken over the moon, and the invasion of Earth is imminent.
Back on Earth, a large corporation, Nergal, decides to take matters into its own hands and builds a state-of-the-art battleship named the Nadesico. Using new technologies comparable to those of the Jovian Lizards, the Nadesico outclasses all of Earth's military and can compete against the Jovian Lizards.
However, being a private ship and with trained military personnel in short supply, Nergal is forced to crew the Nadesico with an unorthodox mixture composed primarily of civilians from various walks of life. The pilot is an eleven-year-old genius, the communications officer is a former voice actress, and the chief engineer has a major mad scientist streak.
Our "hero," Akito Tenkawa, was a survivor of the initial attack on Mars. Not your typical hero, Akito is rather indifferent to the war, his experiences on Mars leaving him with heavy emotional scars. He ends up on the crew as a cook, but he quickly becomes pressed into service as an Aestivalis, a robotic fighter unit, pilot.
Akito's love interest, or so she would like to believe, is the captain of the Nadesico, Yurika Misumaru. Fresh out of the academy, Yurika is actually a brilliant tactician, but she appears to be on the airheaded side with her youthful enthusiasm and naiveté.
Not your typical battleship captain, Yurika is oddly appropriate to lead the crew into battle.
Nadesico is a hilarious series that parodies many classic science fiction anime in the process of telling its own story. Nadesico's most obvious source of "inspiration" is the classic Space Battleship Yamato, better known in the US as Starblazers. Fans will notice the similarity between the Yamato's and the Nadesico's hyper-powerful main cannon.
Another element to watch for is the use of the fictional anime Gekiganger III, a story within the story of Nadesico. Gekiganger III is reminiscent of the classic big-robot anime Mazinger Z, better known as Tranzor-Z in the US. A number of the characters in Nadesico are fans of Gekiganger, and it gains an important role in the series. Various situations and commentary regarding Gekiganger are meant to portray and address the very people watching Nadesico: you, the anime fan.