While this anime might take place in the future, it’s still high school, which means it’s time for a class trip. But the future does hold some benefits. Today’s select group of students will get to travel off world and participate in a miniature survival camp expedition. But trouble awaits them. What kind of an anime did ASTRA LOST IN SPACE turn out to be? Read on to find out.
Shortly after landing on their new planet, a strange sphere appears and begins chasing the group of students. One by one they’re sucked into the sphere and are transported into outer space, orbiting an uncharted planet. Luckily, an abandoned space craft is within reach, and the students are able to board it. With little food and a long journey, they set a course that will allow them to planet hop for resources while slowly making their way home. If they are to survive and solve the mystery of the sphere that attacked them, they’ll need to work together.
This premise worked very well for ASTRA LOST IN SPACE. If there is one thing they mastered, it’s the art of the cliffhanger. They were able to pace the mystery out in such a way that it never really stagnated. Each episode revealed a little more about who the characters were and why they were stranded without revealing absolutely everything until the last episode. Week to week we were left with the promise that even more will be revealed in the next episode. A great thing this did was prevent filler episodes. With only 12 total episodes, they needed to focus on the plot and keep everything moving, and they did just that.
Another area in which they excelled was character development. A tried-and-true method of revealing the backgrounds of your characters is to make most of them strangers to one another. If done correctly, we can watch them learn about one another as they spend time together, giving us all the same information at the same time. It has to be a natural flow of conversation to keep it feeling organic rather than like a dryly scripted monologue, putting you to sleep with a “tell don’t show” delivery. While there were definitely moments of unnatural feeling dialogue in ASTRA, it rarely had to do with the characters.
There are times where watching ASTRA LOST IN SPACE feels like watching two separate anime: one, a gritty sci-fi action adventure, the other an adventure through space on a ship powered by friendship. The two tones feel very different, and occasionally the transition from one to the other is so abrupt that it’s a little jarring. There are even moments where all suspense is seemingly drained by this tone shift before it can take hold. It takes you out of the immersion and can make it really hard to settle in and enjoy the ride.
That isn’t to say that each tone doesn’t work by itself. The moments of exciting adventure are well paced and (for lack of a better term) fun. The planets they visit are diverse and allow for a lot of unconventional set pieces and enchanting moments of discovery. As the crew explores for resources and information, they encounter moments of peril that tickle your imagination more than anything. It really feels very creative.
The moments of friendship also have their place. Given that most of the crew members aren’t particularly close in the beginning, it makes sense that they’ll have to learn to rely on one another very quickly if they’re going to survive. Naturally, deeper friendships form and become essential to their survival during moments of panic and distrust. My only wish is that they had been a little more subtle with the dialogue and overt nature of these scenes. Genuine friendship is something that can be easily sensed by most humans; conversely, spelling it out so plainly can give it an emptier feeling. This is perhaps the part that was most jarring.
This is easily one of the more polished anime to come out of the summer 2019 season. Visuals are crisp, cinematography is creative without going overboard, the music fits the plot and helps set the tone, and the voice actors were well cast. All together, it really sells the story they want to tell. The pilot especially felt near cinema quality as a double length episode.
Just as it opened with a double length episode, they also closed it as such rather than extending the anime to a 13th episode. While it felt like a great closing to the anime, it isn’t perfect. When the mystery is all finally revealed and put together in the end, there is very little action involving the kids when it comes to handing out justice for their stranding; there’s very little on-screen action at all. Honestly, this is probably how it should be. High school students would never be involved in handing out justice in reality; it just feels like a bit of a cheat to not have a front row seat to justice as an audience member.
But, as an alternative, we’re treated to an extended look at the lives of the crew after they return home. We get to see how they are treated just after arrival as well as time jumping ahead to see them as adults. Like I said, it doesn’t feel perfect, but it feels like the correct decision. It would be a shame to just see them return home and spend all of our time ignoring them as they adjust in favor of courtroom proceedings. We get to see them enjoying the fruits of their labor: a return to normalcy.
This is definitely one of the more satisfying anime to come out of summer 2019. It opens with the promise of big action and a fun mystery, delivers on all of that, and gives us bonus content at the end of their lives after the stranding. And it does it all in 12 episodes. It never felt like they were cutting corners or rushing the plot. They paced it well and didn’t leave us hanging in the end. That feels like a win in my book. I highly recommend giving this one a try, doubly so if you love stories about adventures in space.