I knew nothing about this anime when I first watched it. All I saw was the initial trailer and figured sure, I’ll watch what seems to be the anime Sandra Bullock in the anime version of Gravity. While that wasn’t at all what it ended up being, it was a series that I felt drawn to and by the middle of it, I was confident that I’d come away from it with some sort of fondness.
What I didn’t expect was for it to totally exceed my expectations and end up being one of my favorite animes of 2019.
Astra Lost In Space is based on the 2016 manga of the same name by Kenta Shinohara, who’s also known for his manga Sket Dance. For the anime adaptations of both, Shinohara would find more time to involve himself with the production of the former. While both are comedy mangas, Astra Lost In Space differs in its sci-fi setting.
The story begins with a group of students who are on their way to planetary camp, a common trip where high school students spend a week on a deserted planet all by themselves. They only have a minute to enjoy their surroundings after being dropped off as a giant white sphere appears and floats towards them.
Their attempts to escape it prove futile as it absorbs all of them and sends them into the depths of space. It’s only by pure coincidence that they find a nearby derelict ship.
From here on out it’s a fight for survival as the group does their best to work together and make it back home. Relationships are formed and tested with each day they spend together, further impacted by the darker plot they begin to uncover.
It’s easy to label the series as one of comedy and sci-fi, with a mix of slice-of-life and a nice dose of romance, but it’s not right to define it by just the genres it’s made up of. This is a story of family, and what that means beyond your DNA.
Honestly, I’m trying to hold back from gushing about the series. I enjoy my sci-fi and this managed to hit just the right beats for me to really love the series.
The comedy is excellently placed, the romance isn’t overbearing, the characters are unique, and the plot went to places I wasn’t expecting it to. It’s a wonderful series and I recommend it to everybody, especially if you love sci-fi stories in space.
Speaking of characters, it’s hard to talk about this series without introducing them first. I’ll only be going over the crew of the Astra since they’re who you spend the most time with. There’s nine in the crew in total, so I’ll try my best to mention them without spoiling essential plot points.
Kanata Hoshijima – The main protagonist and captain of the Astra ship. He can be bullheaded, and his advice is vague and optimistic, but he’s the first one to risk it all to save someone.
His prior experiences echo with what happens to him and the other students, motivating him to do his best to rule. It’s thanks to his training as a decathlon athlete that he’s able to perform the incredible physical feats that he does.
Aries Spring – The most friendly and seemingly empty-headed of the group. Although some initially dismiss her positive attitude, everyone comes to appreciate her ability to lift people’s spirits. She has a habit of getting her words wrong (i.e. saying “beef” instead of “thief”).
Quitterie Raffaelli – One of the colder students aboard the Astra. Coming from a rich family and a work-absorbed mother, she’s grown to be snooty. She works as a doctor aboard the Astra.
Funicia Raffaelli – The younger adopted sister of Quitterie. Although she’s friendly with everyone, she wishes most to ger along with her sister. She occasionally talks through a hand puppet.
Zack Walker – A genius student who serves as the pilot of the Astra. He’s a childhood friend of Quitterie and one of the only people that she’s initially close with. He is also one of the few who can remain calm in the most distressing of situations.
Charce Lacroix – The charming one of the group, who’s also a bio student. Thanks to his expertise in botany, he’s able to quickly deduce the environment and nature around him. This also places him as the best choice to be the crews’ cook.
Ulgar Zweig – One of the more aloof students in the group that few get along with initially. While he’s antisocial, he’s also highly observant. He’s a skilled marksman and one of the best hunters.
Luca Esposito – An upbeat student who’s very handy. They take on the role of the engineer for the ship. Their inquisitive nature helps them become close with everyone, even the more aloof students such as Ulgar.
Yun-Hua Lu – The quietest and shiest student in the crew. She does her best to not stand out and apologizes profusely when she’s noticed. Underneath this closed-off personality though, is someone with a goal.
Before I go fully into what makes this anime so special, I figure there may be some that haven’t seen it. Although the manga was well-received enough to win some awards and the anime adaptation would be well-received by fans and viewers new to the series alike, it would be (in my opinion) overlooked by many outside of its season.
For those that haven’t watched it but think it might be something for them, I implore you to watch it when you can and come back to this article after because I can’t go in-depth without venturing into serious spoiler territory. I’ll be listing your options for experiencing the series below!
How To Get Lost In The Manga or The Anime
If you’re interested in checking out the anime, you can watch it exclusively on Funimation. It’s available with the Japanese dub or the English dub. If you’re more interested in reading the manga instead, the whole series is available to read digitally on VIZ with a membership. And at 49 chapters it’s not too long of a read at all.
Why This Series Is Great
I found myself pulled in pretty quickly. I love sci-fi and I love space stories (Interstellar is one of my favorite movies) so it didn’t take much to intrigue me. Compound that with characters and comedy I liked from the get-go and I was strapped in for the ride.
And what a ride the show is. It’s a bunch of kids trying to survive and have fun (they went there for camp after all) and they’re just hit with bleak realities and dark revelations throughout.
But they do their best to focus on keeping a positive atmosphere, which is mentioned multiple times as an important aspect of keeping them all alive. I believe the helpful balance between these extremes is the mystery.
The white-sphere (later revealed to be a wormhole) that sends them into space is an unknown that lasts for most of the series. The revelation that there is an enemy among them is a wonderful addition that creates an unease in the backs of their minds.
Although they don’t show it on the outside and continue enjoying themselves, it’s shown that they are all thinking about it. They simply reason that their enemy wants to survive too and with the hopeless situation they’re in there’s no reason to cause further strife by pointing fingers.
It’s a very logical response, that’s heralded by the quick-thinking of these intelligent kids. At the same time, you have to wonder if it’s because they’re kids that it comes a bit from naivety. Most adults certainly wouldn’t want to trust each other like nothing is wrong after such a revelation. Or maybe it’s because of the terrible upbringing that many of them have that they feel attached to each other.
Speaking of terrible upbringing, WOW are their parents terrible. As you get to know more of them you see that each one is pretty awful and it’s presented in a sensible or not way depending on the child’s understanding of it.
This is all made suddenly worse with the reveal that they are all clones and their parents are obsessed with getting another chance in life. The idea of having more than one clone just for spare body parts is even mentioned which is just the perfect aspect to cement your dislike for these awful people.
And if you think that’s the last twist of the show, you have absolutely no idea. The clone twist only happens after the finding of another woman in an identical ship twist, pulling a gun and threatening to kill another member of the crew twist, and all before the Charce and Aries are clones of royalty twists and the former is there to kill them all twists.
It’s possible you might think these sound like far too many twists (there’s at least a couple I didn’t even mention), but the show manages to go on with a decent pace and I never got the feeling that they were just being piled on to pad the series out.
Even though the final episode (which runs for the length of two episodes just like the first episode does) feels like a bit of an info dump, I don’t have any complaints when it comes to the pacing.
Story beats follow along at a great pace and character development feels natural. There’s also scenes that show tensions rising or falling, so even among certain revelations, the comedy never feels out of place.
The comedy is one of my favorite parts of the show in fact. It manages to balance a serious plot (a majority of these kids were essentially sent by their “parents” to die in space) with impeccably timed comedy.
Whether it was the absurdness of making a device capable of testing edibility and responding with different characters voicing “YUMMY” or the disconnect in the romance scenes that Zack and Kanata have with their respective love interests.
Nothing made me laugh harder than seeing the whole crew break down sobbing when they have to leave behind the adorable bird creatures they had befriended in the previous episode.
And that last scene actually represents my absolute favorite part of the show: how it manages to nail the small details. The crew pressing their faces against the window and crying and yelling out to these alien bird-like creatures that don’t reciprocate their feelings is hilarious but it also makes total sense when you remember how old they are.
There’s constant quips at each other and hilarious conversations you can miss because a character is thinking to themselves while others are talking around them. The show also does a great job at expressing that they’re more than just emotional teenagers when we’re brought to Kanata’s mindset and he’s always trying to put together what connects them.
Why It’s Not Perfect, But I Still Love It
I do want to briefly explain a couple of common critiques I see people have with it. Many argue that there are far too many conveniences and I can absolutely see where that’s coming from.
I mean the chances of them being sucked up by a wormhole in the first episode and then sent close to the derelict ship that they’d use for the rest of the series are so small I immediately assumed it was a plot element that would be used later, but it really was just pure coincidence.
Typically I don’t mind when a story is arranged to show off the skills of each character (plot coincidences and formulaic format aside), but I’ll admit that even I got a little tired with Kanata showing every aspect of his decathlon skills throughout.
But I argue that coincidences can be a good thing. A lot of people don’t like stories hinging on one, so it’s become a plot element that either requires a believable set-up of events or the right level of disbelief from your audience which is meant to be crafted from the rest of the story.
I think a majority of them are believable due to circumstances (they find the other ship because the planet was safe in certain areas, the wide variety of skills they have is mostly due to the impressive people they were cloned after, etc.) and the big one of them finding the ship is very bluntly meant to be just coincidence.
The kids themselves remark how lucky they were to find it and even Ulgar’s “father” expresses grievance that everything would have gone to plan if not for the kids being sent near the ship.
I don’t believe this is an example of bad writing. Coincidences are a real-life concept and they do occur! Moreover, the series doesn’t attempt to downplay what happened by presenting it as an example of destiny that caused them to be transported near the ship, nor does it ham it up by going over the one-in-a-hundred-trillion odds this occurring in a world of chance and chaos, etc.
It’s just accepted as a coincidence that the characters go over at times but don’t overanalyze because they’re happy to be alive and they have bigger things to worry about
Another common critique is that the series can be a bit of an information overload at times. I actually find myself agreeing with this one because there were times where I found myself thinking ahead or wondering how certain events could even work in the timeline.
Thankfully, they do a good job of summarizing a lot of things soon after. But that doesn’t help near the end when you’re introduced to a lot of concepts in one episode that is immediately broken down.
This is especially noticeable in the last two episodes where Charce explains his role as an assassin, upbringing as a host body for the king, and the history of their world. To be honest, I already felt weird that in this world of spaceships and anti-gravity shoes there was a section that chose to be medieval.
I’m confident I know all that was presented but maybe there was a line I missed that would have made it more sensible to me or maybe I just can’t suspend my disbelief for that aspect of the story, because it never made complete sense to me.
I had less trouble believing the overarching history of the world and that involves getting a generation of people to lie.
It doesn’t help that although I think the show is well-paced if not tightly-paced (they used two double-length episodes for crying out loud), the culmination of events for Vixia at the end are very sudden.
We’re introduced to the idea that someone outside of the King’s cloning schemes is trying to position themselves into succeeding him. It’s just too late of a reveal for what seems to be an important villain and it confuses me what power they’re willing to kill for if a cop can just arrest the king no problem.
Whether it’s for the title or some other advantage that I’m unaware of, I’m left to wonder his reasoning besides “I want to be king.”
Yet, even with these critiques, I can’t deny how entertained and enthralled I was throughout the series. The nearly hour-long final episode is just as entertaining and satisfying as the similarly lengthed first episode.
I came to care about every single one of the crew members of the Astra and I honestly can’t remember the last time I cared as much about that many characters in a one-cour anime.
The show manages to run by at a great pace with a lot of information packed in. It’s so packed in that there were two double-length episodes and I think only they showed the opening maybe four times, and yet it still feels like a great adaptation of a similarly packed manga.
Fitting the entire story in “technically” 12 episodes seems crazy, but the source material being a 49 chapter manga is crazy too.
I could write that I don’t know how they managed to adapt the story and characters so well, but I’d be lying. Obviously there’s a lot of talented people involved in the production and it certainly helps to have the author there to help out when needed.
But, I think what helps this adaptation stand out is the amount of love and care for the source material that was put into it. And when that love is noticeable, sometimes it can outshine the blemishes.