- Genre: Supernatural, Magical Girl, Comedy, Action Science Fiction
- Episodes: 12
- Studio: A-1 Pictures
Kids, don’t run away from home. I understand, your dad may be a hard, unkind man and you would rather avoid becoming like him but try to work it out. It’s not worth risking the dangers waiting for you in the dark streets. You’ll get hungry, cold, tricked into joining a surprisingly loving band of super powered terrorists… There may be things you just don’t know. Maybe your town is built on the ruins of an ancient magical civilization. Maybe secret organizations have been fighting for control behind the scenes in an ongoing turf war. Maybe Yakuzas are recycling themselves as costumed vigilantes. Just stay put! Odds are you will not be as lucky as Asuta and stumble into a home finally able to give him the love, support and acceptance you deserve. Where his cooking is appreciated (that’s important in a home) and every night everyone plans to conquer the world! (You have to read that last bit in a Brain voice!).
Zvezda means star in Russian. Also in Ukranian (like Natascha) and Bulgarian (which I suspect is the lesser known useless fact. The chant may the light of Zvezda shine over the world is actually just a sweet if somewhat useless statement. May the light of the star shine over the world… There’s a lot of Russian names in this story and the sci fi and surreal touches do have a certain Slavic flavour. Everything’s better with a certain slavic flavour 😉
Why am I telling you this? I’m not entirely sure. they never talk about this in any way in the show but I thought maybe it had some meaning. Maybe not though. The writer could have simply stumbled onto the word and thought it sounded pretty, and everything else is coincidence. You can enjoy the entire show to the fullest without knowing this information. I did know it though, and it was this random little touch I could assign all matter of significance to that let my mind joyously run wild and free. Basically, the whole series was like that!
Zvezda is a beautiful show. Like really pretty. The designs are interesting and extremely varied. The costumes are super fun. This is cosplay bait if I’ve ever seen it. The art style uses modern softer aesthetics with some interesting choice in feature exaggeration. The colours are downright fantastic. One of my favourite palettes in a long time. And the backgrounds are textured. As in there’s some type of pattern texture looking overlay covering all large surfaces which adds interesting visual contrast and an almost tactile presence to environments. Did that sound fancy? I thought it did…
Voice acting and sound designs are both very good. However, I was way more taken with the use of actual sound effects. Cheesy fun ones. For instance old school modem sounds which accompanied huge fantastic mechas. Oh yeah, there are mechas in this show… These small touches of audio whimsy just enhanced the sense of fun that dripped from every scene.
And the animation was nothing to sneer at either. At it’s best, battle scenes gave me shades of Kill la Kill with huge exaggerated but extremely fluid mouvments and fantastic camera blocking. Basically, Zvezda is one highly polished product almost unwaveringly impressive in its production values.
One aspect that fascinated me, and I want to share with you, is that despite having a few very attractive characters in super revealing outfits (or occasionally no outfits at all), somehow the characters and scenes remained decidedly unsexual. The director’s gaze and narrative focus was tightly centered on the action or character development. What I mean is that either through visual language or narrative flow (probably both) you were constantly lead to consider characters actions and dialogue rather than simply their appearance. I truly enjoyed this as both a technical and artistic crafting technique that we don’t see all that often. Also the costumes were really the bomb guys. I don’t think I’m properly conveying this.
I watched this show because Dawnstorm told me to. That’s it. I could make it sound fancier but basically my reader said hey, I think you’d like this, it’s an absurdist comedy and I was like “on it”!. It makes me so happy that a reader manage to figure out my tastes so accurately.
Right before starting Zvezda, I finished Magical Girl Ore. It was a fun little show that I enjoyed thoroughly. I wrote in my review for it, that I couldn’t understand why it had the dirt low rating of 6.5 or so, as it was very amusing and generally enjoyable. More so that many much higher rated shows. I huffed a little about how MAL users have no sense of humour and are all fussy. I sulked a little.
Zvezda has pretty much the same rating and let me tell you, you guys are missing out. This isn’t a pleasant forgettable little show, Zvezda is good. I’ve already gushed on the technical aspects but the narrative more than keeps up! At its core a surreal coming of age story that sometimes gets very weird, potentially going off the deep end at its climax but remains charming and surprisingly touching. There are many supernatural elements that are never explained in any way and the viewers are expected to just accept a truly odd and expansive universe on good faith. Plush toys are also nuclear weapons, tiny ball creatures which may or may not be robots and can fuse together to create anything. This world is brimming with weirdness, and if you long for aclearly defined universe, you could be offput. Moreover some minor plot points are dropped and a lot of the characters are limited in their development. This show could easily have been expanded to 24 episodes and would probably have been better for it.
But these are all minor gripes, a lot of them only made noticeable because of the strengths of the series. I say charas could have used more development, because all of them are intriguing and complex with rich and engaging backstories. Selfishly I wanted to know more. And it’s not like we didn’t get any deep character growth!
Zvezda is a celebration of second chances. We see Natascha as an exceptionally brilliant child, both admired for and isolated by her gifts. We see how the weight of expectations put on the best of us splinters even the most basic relationships. In later scenes, we see her battling huge mechas which, if you look carefully enough, are deformed constructs of the childhood toys which were her only friends. Symbolically tearing down those past obstacles now that she has found people who accept her for who she is without condition.
The glimpses we get of the Yakuza past of some of the Zvezda leaders show a surprisingly serious world of organized crime and betrayal. And what lies after the final gunshot. Asuta himself is a lost child trying to grapple with the difficulties of being raised by a man he both dislikes and admires. Of trying to find the edge of the enormous shadow this man casts. Constantly juggling the fear that he will become his father, a cruel man he hates, or he will end up nothing at all.
All the while Kate remains a complete mystery. An unchaging 10 year old girl with no parents in sigh and obvious unexplained super powers.
While these themes are heavy and occasionally sad, they are treated with a pleasant balance of deference and joy. A small child crying at their mother’s funeral is used as a springboard for adventure. Every loss is a chance for discovery. The entire series breathes hope in every element. And there are more than a few truly funny jokes that will make you laugh out loud.
I found myself thinking back to Tsuritama a lot. The two shows share more than a few visual and plot themes. But Zvezda is the better anime in my opinion…so why is it almost 2 points lower? Like I said, you guys are really missing out.
A series full of sarcastic metaphors with little touches of narrative consistency that reward careful viewer and a huge tender heart. It may be bad now but tomorrow is going to be better. And together, we will conquer the world!
Favorite character: Plamya
What this anime taught me: It’s never too late to rule!
I make beer disappear, what’s your superpower?
Suggested drink: Norman Conquest
- Every time Odin is in trouble – take a sip
- Every time Asuta runs away – take a sip
- if he fails – take another
- Every time anyone calls Asuta not by his name – take a sip
- Every time anyone is starving – get a snack
- Every time Kate uses or looses her plushie – take a sip
- Every time Natscha invents something – applaud
- Every time there’s an Epic Battle – cheer!
- Every time “Kuru Kuru” – take a sip
- Every time Asuta is having a rough day – take a sip for him
- Every time anyone says Udo – get another snack
- Every time we see Miki sama – courtsey
- Every time Yasu pretends to be cool – laugh
Lincoln had potential!