Astra: Lost in Space
Caird High School's Class-B5 is on a class trip to Planet McPa, but they are waylaid by a mysterious glowing sphere that throws them into deep space. Fortunately, they find a long-abandoned (but still functioning) spaceship, which they name the Astra, in orbit around an icy planet below; unfortunately, they find that they're 5,000 light-years from home, which even in hyperdrive would take a journey of about four months- and the ship can only store enough food and water for this many people for a journey of about three weeks. And that's not the only problem they're faced with; they soon realize that this was all part of a plot to kill them- and the assassin may be one of their own number.
I've got a little history with THIS one. Back in 2017, I visited Japan, and picked up a manga there; I can't read Japanese, but it turned out to be one volume of THIS series, and it certainly looked interesting (Sci-Fi remains one of my loves), so when the English version of the series was released, I purchased all of it. It was also my introduction to Kenta Shinohara (SKET Dance).
Shinohara, in the manga, acknowledged that he'd never done this kind of Sci-Fi before. I think he mostly did a pretty credible job; like a show like Beatless, he throws a lot of ideas into the pot; but UNLIKE Beatless, he always ties the ideas he uses together in a coherent fashion. And yet there are some major plot holes and lapses of logic here. In descending order of glaring-ness (and with some care to avoid spoilage):
(1) At some point in the past, an exotic technology, and extraordinary effort, were made to deal with a crisis, when, if it happened in the timeframe and under the circumstances described, could have been dealt with in a much simpler fashion with technology we actually possess (or which is at least on our drawing boards.)
(2) The storyline has The Mother Of All Conspiracies in its past. Now we've all, sadly, seen in real life how cover-ups can be maintained, and the truth suppressed, by the powerful simply refusing to cooperate with inquiries, but this really only keeps things out of the official record; I just couldn't accept that there wouldn't at least have been rumors about all this, especially given the number of people that would have had to perpetrate the lie.
(3) This is a more minor quibble, which arose out of the anime's adaptation of the manga. The Astra anime mostly follows the manga nearly verbatim, but there are two notable deletions: one is a particular feat of derring-do by Kanata, which is hardly a problem, since he ALREADY has so many others; but the other one is a revelation about our crew. In that case, a sweeping conclusion is drawn, really just based on a single example, in the anime version; in the manga drawing a general conclusion is much more justified, since a couple of other examples were also produced.
So those are my gripes. Now let's meet the cast:
Kanata Hoshijima is our athletic, heroic captain, who rescues most of the crew from one peril or another. Like several of the other members of the crew, his desired future career (space exploration) is at odds with the desires of a parent (his father, in this case.) Kanata is a very take-charge individual, who feels he should be Captain right from the very beginning. I personally tend to agree with some of the others- Kanata's a bit Pollyanna-ish at times.
Aries Spring is our leading lady. She's an oddly mixed character (even her eyes!), prone to verbal malaprops, and yet possessing a photographic memory- the latter trait will be important later on. She's a generally cheerful girl, easily moved to laughter (or tears), and of course naïve. She nevertheless gets a few inspired ideas that get the crew out of some seemingly insoluble dilemmas.
Zack Walker has scientific training, and maybe even more important, a spaceship pilot's license. He's a tech-nerd who rarely displays emotion; his personality is very much like Switch's was in Sket Dance, except he CAN talk without a computer.
Quitterie Rafaeli has a kogal appearance, and is VERY prone to emotional outbursts, particularly angry ones. The person who knows her best in the crew describes her as poorly socialized, with no other friends. She serves as the ship's doctor (her mom is a doctor.)
Yunhua Lu is a quiet girl with absolutely no self-confidence, a condition deliberately created by her mother. Several of our crew, in fact, had parents who were neglectful and/or discouraged them from standing out in any way. There IS a reason for this.
Charce Lacroix has one of those "sparkling" (literally), gregarious, ingratiating personalities. He's got a vast amount of biological knowledge, which helps the crew out of quite a few jams. (Shinohara does a credible job of creating alien ecologies on the various planets our cast will visit, though his plants are usually more interesting than his animals- but in some cases there's not much difference between flora and fauna.)
Luca Esposito is the artistic/creative member of the crew. Luca loves to tease others (particularly Ulgar, with whom Luca develops what we will say is a very changeable relationship.) Luca's got an interesting secret.
Ulgar Zweig is a surly guy in a stocking cap. A loner, Ulgar easily becomes a prime suspect for the assassin within the group.
And finally, there's Funicia, a blonde little girl who looks just like a younger version of Quitterie. She's supposedly Quitterie's adopted sister, so her startling resemblance to the older girl seems strange. She has a hand-puppet named Beego, which has a semi-autonomous personality.
The show's well-paced. It STARTS with a scene that's very atmospheric metaphorically, though LITERALLY quite the opposite. (Shinohara used a strictly chronological presentation in the manga; the opening of the anime here is a great improvement in immediately catching the audience's attention.) The character design and scene art, as with the story, follow Shinohara's designs quite closely. (There's a lovely moment late in the show where Kanata and Aries are enjoying a beautiful sunset (well, STARset).) I gotta say, it all looks SO much better in color!!!
It's a story rich in ideas and interesting characters, though the final few episodes, of necessity I suppose, get awfully involved in filling in the details of the show's backstory (again, the manga did the same.) The question was whether to go 4 or 5 stars here. I did consider the lapses of logic in the show's backstory, but I also did consider that this is the best "hard" Sci-Fi anime series I've seen in a LONG time. And the members of our cast DID very much overcome the evil influence many of them experienced from their own parents to become, in the end, their OWN individual selves. Which in their case (for reasons I won't spoil) was quite a challenge. — Allen Moody
Recommended Audience: Some violence, including dismemberment. Some intense action scenes. FUNimation rates TV-14.
Version(s) Viewed: Blu-Ray Disc
Review Status: Full (12/12)
Astra: Lost in Space © 2019 Lerche
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