Astra Lost in Space Episode #09

Synopsis: On a trip to another planet for a school sanctioned camp experience, a group of nine kids suddenly finds themselves transported 5,000 light years away with little hope of survival. Their only chance of making it back home lies in an abandoned ship known as the Astra, which was found floating near where they warped. Now this group of strangers will have to come together, and make a journey across several planets in order to safely make it back home

The Review

I guess it’s pretty much to be expected with an episode literally called “Revelation”, but it’s great to see that all of this show’s mysteries are finally paying off. After last week’s twist regarding Quitterie and Funi being genetically the same person, this week’s events dive into the full implications of what that means for everyone else, and how it all ties into the larger conspiracy that’s been looming over things the last few weeks. While this sounds like it would be a lot (and it is), this all actually results in one of Astra’s quietest episodes to date, as the fallout over the big revelations ends up taking center stage. It’s certainly not a bad thing though, as the show allowing itself to be a bit more focused than usual makes this episode a real knockout.

So now that I’m done being vague, we might as well get down to it: after seeing that Quitterie and Funi have the exact same DNA, Zack comes to the conclusion that all of the kids are clones. Zack knows that his father has been experimenting with memory transplants meaning that it would be possible to take memories, and place them onto a clone, effectively allowing the original person to be reborn with a second chance at life. This was the goal of the kids’ “parents” who all came together to use their individual spheres of influence (Zack’s dad’s research for the plan, Quitterie’s mom providing a hospital for the surgery, etc.) to make this plan a success. However, the government’s recent Genome act, requiring citizens to have their DNA tested to help snuff out illegal cloning put a wrench in that, and they decided to chuck all the kids into space to kill them and get rid of any evidence.

It’s…quite the conspiracy, and I gotta say that in a lesser show this would probably be the moment where the series would be officially seen as going off the rails. Fortunately this revelation not only sticks the landing, but it actually feels like a natural conclusion for the audience to come to based on how carefully the show has laid out clues about this whole situation. Pulling off this kind of gigantic twist while making it feel like what everything’s been leading up to is usually what ends up causing a lot similar mystery-thrillers to fall flat on their face, so I’m glad this didn’t fall into the same trap, and having read the original manga, I can actually say that hindsight allowed for clues like the parents’ general apathy towards the kids having gone missing, or Yunhua’s mom immediately shutting down any chance for her to stand out, to stick out a bit more and on the whole, this all feels pretty earned.

Speaking of the parents, we do get to see them sitting around as they deal with the aftermath of their plan. This scene helps in filling in some of the blanks in Zack’s theory, such as why some of the “parents” were around their kids more than others, and we learn that Quitterie, Kanata, and Zack’s specifically needed to pass their skills onto their “vessels”, but didn’t have any emotional attachment towards them beyond that. While the way they discuss this whole thing makes them feel a bit like mustache-twirling villains at points (complete with Luca’s original not being his adopted father, but an artist who wanted an intersex body in order to “transcend gender and be a perfect being”), it helps to get across the message that not a single one of them had any love for their children and that they’re all pretty despicable. Terrible as their plan was though, the kids are still alive, and if they can successfully return home, they get their originals exposed and arrested, and then start over their lives as literally new people. It’s perfect revenge for the kids after everything they’ve gone through, and even though they may not have the love of their parents, the experience they’ve had together has allowed them to become a real family, and Kanata’s bold declaration of this helps to soften the emotional blow of this whole thing for the others.

Neat as all these answers are though, the real heart of this episode lies in how each of the kids reacts to the revelation afterwards. While Luca and Yunhua were both troubled by their pasts, the two of them are looking forward to their new future, with Luca wanting to enjoy himself as much as possible, and Yunhua wanting to stand out and live her dream of becoming a singer. Ulgar and Charice on the other hand are a bit more indifferent about it, as Charice had already cut ties with his family, (though considering no one “related” to him was spotted in the League of Crappy Parents earlier in the episode, this only raises the question of what he’s still hiding) while Ulgar feels relieved that he won’t have to feel guilty about sending Luca’s father to jail, and can take solace in that even though he’ll be separated from his family, he’s found a new one in Kanata and the others. With how much material this adaption has had to cram into 12 episodes, I’m honestly a little amazed it was able to give time to let each of the kids have their moment to sort out their feelings, but I’m glad it did because each of these scenes serve as a testament to how much these kids have matured during their time together, and it’s hard not to feel proud of each and every one of them for how well they’ve overcome the pain their parents put them through.

However while the other crew members are mostly one one side of the fence or the other with their reactions, Kanata and Aries takes turn out to be the most interesting. Aries has the hardest time accepting this whole conspiracy, considering that her mom definitely seemed to care about her (considering that like Charice, her mother doesn’t show up to the evil meeting, this would seem to be accurate and makes her role in this thing as mysterious as his), and while she still isn’t totally sure how to process everything, she knows that the love her mother had for her was real and decides to trust in it. As for Kanata, he lived most of his life being forced to live out his father’s dream of becoming a great athlete, and even when his father gave him his blessing to go after his dream, he only okay-ed it because Kanata would still have a strong body for him to hijack someday. But for as much as he suffered under his father’s training, doing it was also what made him capable of being able to push towards his dream, and so he’s decided not be dominated by resentment for his father’s abuse and to instead continue pushing forward towards becoming a space captain.

Given that these two are by far the most straightforward members of the main cast, I can’t exactly say I was expecting them to have the most nuanced reactions of the bunch, but this show’s been full of surprises so far, so in hindsight I guess this is pretty much in-brand for it. Kanata’s scene in particular seems to best exemplify how kids don’t have to be defined their parents and must still ultimately choose for themselves the kind of people they want to be, and it’s a great way to wrap up that particular theme. While the effects of abusive parenting is far from new territory for anime, this show has handled it with a lot more grace than a lot of similar melodramas have, and it really speaks to original author, Kenta Shinohara’s writing ability, that he’s been able to tackle the subject from various angles so effectively.

Still, as heavy as this all is, it wouldn’t be a proper episode of Astra Lost in Space without at least a little comedy, and that comes in the form of Zack and Quitterie’s reactions. While the two of them are as torn on their feelings about their “parents” as the others are, the two of them still have a future together to look forward to, and decide to publicly say as much, as they announce their engagement to the rest of the crew. The others are of course appropriately shocked, and seeing them all flip out over the news is both pretty hilarious, and helps in breaking the earlier tension of the episode a bit. While a tone shift like that sounds like it would be annoying for such a serious episode, it was a good call because it also wouldn’t be an episode of Astra without another potential game changing twist in the mix. When the ship finally gets close enough to the Earth for the kids to see it on their monitor, Polina is confused because the planet doesn’t seem to quite resemble it. The kids on the other hand, are even more weirded out by her reaction as they’ve never even heard of the Earth before, and the home planet they belong to is known as Planet Astra.

WOW. That one’s even more of a mouthful than the whole cloning thing, and while this is yet again going to be another one of those things to be answered in the coming episode, what exactly this means is a bit more unclear. Given that Polina was involved in some kind of space exploration project, and Planet Astra’s timeline seems to be different from the one we know on Earth, it’s entirely possible she was asleep for a heck of a lot longer than just 12 years and Astra is a colonized planet, but it wouldn’t quite explain why the kids don’t have any knowledge of Earth at all. It’s a lot to chew on, but for whatever mysteries lie ahead going forward, I’m pretty satisfied with the time the show took to stew on the answers it offered this week. This has been a pretty solid show up till now, but this episode in particular made it feel really special, and if the show can carry that momentum into it’s final act, I have now doubt this could hold up as one of the strongest anime of the year.

Rating: 9.5/10

Available on Funimation

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