• Titles: Kanata no Astra, Astra Lost in Space
  • Genre: Science Fiction, action, adventure, dystopia
  • Episodes: 12
  • Studio: Lerche

Aries is about to embark on a great adventure. 5 full days at space camp. A school camp on Planet McPa with 8 other students. What trouble will they get up to? Will she make lifelong friends? Maybe she’ll even meet a special boy… Ok, so Aries is 17, I’m not sure why I’m talking like she’s 8 or something. Still, things don’t quite work out as planned when Aries, along with the rest of group B5, find themselves thrown out in the farthest reaches of space with only a decommissioned spaceship and supplies for a couple of days. And home is months away. Even worse, there’s reason to suspect that there is a traitor in their midst. But that’s no reason to get depressed. If they all work together, surely they’ll find a way to make it back. And now they’ll have a chance to explore much more than just planet McPa. Aries is about to embark on the greatest adventure of her life!

I wanted to watch Astra Lost in Space the second I heard about it. I mean that title is fantastic. It has the familiar feel of 60s sci-fi classics and the images I saw were a myriad of candy-coloured worlds and pretty anime characters. Even before I had seen a single episode, I was thinking: What’s not to love?

this is basically the first image in the show!

Production

Studio Lerche is slowly creeping up my list of favourite studios. It currently sits in the number 4 position with some titles I really like such as Assassination Classroom, Given, School-Live, Magical Girl Raising Project and Hanako-Kun. I was surprised to see that it was also the studio behind Danganronpa, Hamatora, Scums Wish and Asobi Asobase. Do you know what those titles all have in common? They all look completely different. Ok, that’s not how common works….

Honestly, though, a lot of those titles are very visually striking. And then Given has competent but extremely conventional visuals.

Lerche obviously doesn’t have the resources of studios like BONES. You can see that the animation is quite as smooth and fluid. But it is a studio that takes a lot of chances and tries new things when it comes to art styles and palettes. This is what has allowed it to create some signature looks.

I figured signature looks…signature dishes…

Admittedly, Astra Lost in Space falls more on the conventional side of the visual spectrum. It’s not a show I would recommend solely on the strength of its production. But even here there are a few interesting visual touches. The aspect ratio goes to full screen occasionally and there is a story-related reason but it’s never spelled out. You’ll miss it if you don’t pay attention. There is also a very interesting use of light throughout the series. But by far the best element is the sound design. It brought life to the planets and sucked it out of outer space in a powerful way.

no it’s great!

Story & Characters

Astra Lost in Space has 2 “twists” and a surprise reveal, all of which come fairly close to one another, towards the end of the series. I somehow guessed the second twist and not the first which is odd as it’s very similar to one of my favourite books. And I’m not going to spoil any of them for you here. I will say that the end of the series, in an effort to tie everything together gets pretty convoluted and if you think too hard about certain elements, it’s rather silly.

But, that didn’t really matter to me. And here’s why.

First of all, by the time it gets to the reveals, I was seriously invested in both the story and the characters so unless they destroyed the internal integrity of the narrative, a few exaggerated twists weren’t going to ruin anything. Moreover, the twists themselves aren’t bad, I think we didn’t need so many of them and they layed it on a bit thick, but any one in isolation is pretty good. Mostly though, Astra Lost in Space is a good anime.

If I were to single one thing out, I would say that Atra Lost in Space is one of the best paced stories I have ever seen. The pacing is carefully balanced to make sure the story is easy to follow and unwaveringly interesting. You get ample time to connect with the characters and their situation without ever getting bogged down in a single spot. It’s great.

trust me on this

Moreover, most of the series is structured as a light-hearted survival adventure, complete with very well thought-out alien ecosystems. Honestly, I was just engrossed in the descriptions of the planets, I wish they had visited some more. Mixed in with all that is a traditional whodunit mystery. Although the mystery takes a bit of a back seat to the action, they do make sure to scatter enough clues and mention it frequently so that it always stays in the mind of the viewer. That really made me engage with the story while remaining utterly entertained. let me tell you, it was hard to close the tv. I had every intention of stopping at episode 6 a Monday evening after work and hours later, as I was finishing up the last episode, I honestly wondered how anyone could have watched it on a weekly basis.

I should also mention the characters. I really love this cast. However, if I were to look at it completely objectively, the characters aren’t exactly great. Most of them are in fact just archetypes that we’ve seen over and over. They are only as developed as they have to be for the purposes of the narrative and they sometimes get a bit inconsistent. BUT, the dialogue is fantastic. The writing includes some great banter and care has been put into making sure that all the characters interact with each other creating a lot of different dynamics.

And I skipped voice acting in the production section for a reason. The voice acting is what really elevates these characters. The actors took these someone standard characters and latched on to the great lines and brought these people to life. These are a group of high school kids that have become great friends through shared hardships. I have no doubt about that. Because I could clearly hear it. So although the characters weren’t developed as much as they could have been, they felt like real people to me.

Exactly

So when you put the intrigue of the premise together with the efficiency of the pacing, the charm of the acting and the great story-telling prowess, you end up with a really good anime. Whatever flaws I can find in the plot are entirely made up for in my opinion. And I honestly can’t think of anyone that wouldn’t enjoy Astra Lost in Space on some level.

SPOILERS – Spoilers here! They don’t spoil much but still. And besides, you’ll have no clue what I’m talking about if you haven’t watched the show…

“Imagine there’s no countries
It isn’t hard to do
Nothin’ to kill or die for
And no religion, too

There is a line in the latter half of Astra Lost in Space that specifically says that Astra is a world without countries and without religions. If that’s not the exact quote, it’s really very close. And in the reality of the series, it’s framed as a bad thing.

Now I know that the issue is that the state was controlling information and not so much that they had abolished these concepts but still. That sentence does get associated with what the series frames as the antagonistic element. Which for a second gave me an odd anti-socialism vibe that completely clashes with the working together towards a greater goal and prioritizing the group over the individual message that the series puts out.

I realize that there’s probably something lost in translation here. And maybe Imagine isn’t quite the cultural touchstone in Japan as it is here. Still, it really jumped out at me and I wanted to share that tidbit with you.

You might like this anime if:

You have eyes. OK, let’s go the other way, you might not like this anime if you don’t like animated shows or spaceships.

My favourite character:

Luca. I just love this kid.

Suggested drink:

The Buzz Aldrin

  • Every time Aries misspeaks – take a sip
  • Every time we see Kanata’s old teacher – pour some out
  • Every time Aries is an airhead – giggle
  • Every time Charce sparkles – gasp!
  • Every time we see the space sphere – run guys!!!
  • Every time Kanata’s survival tips are super vague – take a sip
  • Every time there’s a camp log – pay attention
  • Every time they cook alien food – get a snack
  • Every time Quitterie has a fit  – take a sip
  • Every time we see the yummy meter – appraise your snacks
  • Every time Yun-Hua gets embarassed – take a small sip
  • Every time the image goes full screen – take note
  • Every time someone has complicated family issues – take a sip
  • Every time Kanata tells someone they “did well” – smile
  • Every time anyone says Aye Yeah – cheer!
  • Every time anyone falls from a great height – oh no!
  • Every time somebody cries – switch to water

I save all my screencaps on my Pinterest and you can find more there if you are interested. But I still like to show you a few in the post. If you’re like me, screencaps are something that really helps you decide to watch an anime or not.

2 thoughts

  1. Luca was my easy favourite, too.

    Going through your list of Studio Lerche shows, I notice quite a lot of them are directed by Masaomi Andou:

    Astra Lost in Space
    School Live
    Hanako-kun
    Scum’s Wish

    And it turns out one of those you didn’t mention is also Lerche:

    Hakumei to Mikochi (working woman sclice-of-life in a fantasy setting; actually my favourite of his)

    I hadn’t realised that he’s this involved with the studio until I read this post.

    I had great fun with the show, though I don’t particularly remember the twists. It was just great fun seeing them planet hopping. The settings were greatly varid and fun to watch. And I really liked the cast, too.

    Someone told me when it was airing that the planet names all had meta-meanings, I think (I might misremember). I can’t remember any of them excapt that McPa is an anagram for “camp”. I wish I’d noticed on my own, but I didn’t. It’s not the most memorable show on the planet; I’ve forgotten lots. But it’s one that makes me look back fondly whenever it comes it up. I had great fun watching it.

    1. I would say I’m the same. Now that a little time has passed the story is sort of blurry but I clearly remember that I had a blast watching it. Might be something I actually watch again some day

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