Saori HayamiHitomi NabatameYoshimasa HosoyaNobunaga Shimazaki
Astra Lost in Space
Episode 1 also reviewed here: Anime 1st episodes 2019: A
Also known as: Kanata no Astra
Medium: TV, series
Year: 2019
Director: Masaomi Ando
Writer: Norimitsu Kaiho
Original creator: Kenta Shinohara
Actor: Hina Kino, Hitomi Nabatame, Inori Minase, Kouki Uchiyama, Nobunaga Shimazaki, Risae Matsuda, Saori Hayami, Shunsuke Takeuchi, Tomoyo Kurosawa, Yoshimasa Hosoya
Keywords: anime, SF
Country: Japan
Language: Japanese
Format: 12 episodes but effectively 14, because the first and last are double-length
Website category: Anime 2019
Review date: 11 September 2022
Astra lost space
I'd been enjoying this show, but then the last episode lost me. It's good fun until then, though, with a bit of hard SF and a lot of messed-up parenting. Kids get thrown into space and have to find their way back home. Eps.1-11 are all recommendable, despite some plot holes and logic leaps, but ep.12 then turbo-boosts the idiocy and breaks everything.
Eight teenagers are being sent off to camp... but this is the future, so it's on another planet! There's also a ten-year-old in the group, for arbitrary-sounding reasons. Our gang is Kanata (hero and self-proclaimed captain), Aries (pink-haired all-loving cutie, deceptively clever once you've got past her incompetence with names and words), Quitterie (tsundere and a doctor's daughter), Zack (emotionless, stoic and super-intelligent), Yun-hua (crippling confidence issues), Luca (playful, mischievous), Ulgar (hates everyone), Charce (ever-smiling pretty boy who loves aliens) and Funicia (Quitterie's ten-year-old sister).
By the end of ep.1, they're over 5,000 light-years across the galaxy. Their spaceship can do that in three months... but they don't have enough food and water, while their ship can only carry twenty days of food at once. (This sounds like bullshit to me and I spy a plot contrivance to make our heroes visit lots of planets. The ship's big and could easily hold far more than twenty days' supplies. If it's a problem of fridge space, there are creative solutions to this, e.g. freeze-drying in outer space, or else food that doesn't need refrigeration. There are enough megabrains among our heroes to solve tougher problems than this... but no, it's planet-hopping time!)
Anyway, the show's pretty good. The secrets, plot twists and nifty alien planets are entertaining. There's only one grotesque science failure, on the tidally locked world where the day-locked side boils and the night-locked side freezes. Yes, you'd have a narrow temperate zone at the boundary... but you'd also have titanic winds due to the temperature difference. (I'm also not sure if I believe in the Yummy Sensor, which would surely have killed everyone eventually by not detecting some obscure alien toxin, but that's acceptable since even being right 90% of the time would still make it their best option.)
The characters generally seem intelligent, but occasionally aren't. They're too slow to think of antidotes in ep.4 and spare parts in ep.8, while later in that episode they forget too quickly how dangerous this planet is. I enjoyed Kanata's idiocies, though, because they're in-character and brilliant. His big moment of courage in ep.4 is the stupidest thing you've ever seen (although it works) and had me in stitches. Then, in the next episode, he jumps to a perfect, dumb conclusion. The gun-toting moment is clearly NOT the action of a saboteur.
Then, though, came ep.12.
There's a Big Secret. A decision had been made to keep this gigantic, absurd, unkeepable secret because... uh, it's a bit embarrassing? There's also been suppression of a super-technology that had saved mankind and would transform galactic exploration. Why? Mankind Is Not Ready or something. Our heroes spill the beans and of course everything is completely okay. That final episode also skips over an entire season's worth of drama. Stuff conveniently happens without our heroes doing anything, yielding unearned happy endings and lots of "Where They Are Now" years later. I also dislike the gender splitting of roles right at the end.
Until then, though, the show's good. It's funny. I like the cast, although Funicia needed more story focus. (She's more like a plot piece than a person.) The interactions are a laugh and some of the parenting failures are horrifying. Yun-hua's mother... holy shit. What happened is disgusting. I also like the way everything's tied together with an ingenious explanation that avoids alternate universes. Characters learn and grow. There's comedy romance. I enjoyed Aries's Sherlock tendencies, from a character who could easily be mistaken for an adorable airhead.
By all means, watch this show... but either stop at ep.11 or send your expectations to the basement and turn ep.12 into a drinking game.