Astra Lost In Space Episode #11

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

We’ve finally arrived at Astra’s pentulmate episode, and if you’ve been a little overwhelmed by the show’s seemingly endless barrage of mysteries, you can rest assured this one dials things down considerably to focus on it’s latest revelation. That doesn’t mean this one is any less intense though, as the real truth behind Charice is a pretty wild ride of it’s own, and manages to throws a couple more curveballs into the mix. More importantly, it manages perfectly encompass all of the show’s themes up until now, and makes for not only it’s hardest hitting episodes to date, but one that has helped to firmly set the series into one of this year’s strongest anime offerings.

As we learned last week, Charice is a clone just like the rest of the kids, and specifically a clone of the king of Vixia. He was raised with the knowledge that he was a clone, and therefore worthless outside of his value as an eventual replacement body, and the only real freedom he knew growing up, was in the time he spent with the kingdom’s princess, Seira. Seira was opposed to her father indulging in cloning since she believes that clones are just as human as their originals, and when she discovered that her father had made a clone of her in secret to use for spare organs , she had that clone taken away to be raised by one of her handmaids in secret. That clone was Aries, and while Charice’s original mission was in fact to kill the others and die along with them, he decided to change plans upon realizing Aries true identity, since the real Seira was assassinated long ago, and he sees her as a replacement that could help the king to get over his grief.

Even when I first went through the manga, I was kind of curious how throwing a king into this show’s giant conspiracy would shake things up, but as it turns out he’s just as vunerable to the possibility of being outed as a criminal by the recent Genome Act as the rest of this show’s horrible “parents”, and by all accounts he’s easily the worst of the bunch. While the others also didn’t see their clones as anything but replacements, they at least gave them some semblance of an identity, even if it was one their parents could literally project themselves onto. Charice was told right from the start that he was nothing more than a tool for his original, and has been so thoroughly brainwashed by this that he has pretty much zero sense of self. Even with how messed up some of the other kids have been Charice feels especially broken, and what’s really sad is that he’s been so indoctrinated into the idea that he’s just a shell for the king’s use, that he doesn’t even realize how he’s been harmed, and that his desire to see Aries as a replacement for Princess Seira is effectively perpetuating the same kind of horrible projection the king forced onto him all those years. It’s pretty much the ultimate culmination of all this show’s themes regarding how a parent who doesn’t see their child as their own person, can destroy that child’s sense of identity, and it feels especially fitting that this struggle serves as the final major obstacle for the kids to overcome.

Charice’s story would feel like a tragedy in a less optimistic show, but this is still Astra, so even he manages to find some hope to latch onto. That hope of course, comes from Kanata, who cuts straight through Charice’s facade to reveal his true emotions. While Charice might have only thought he was pretending to be a part of the team throughout this whole journey, he truly did come to care about the others, and his joy at constantly discovering the unknown was just as sincere. Charice really just wants the chance to live his life just like anyone else does, and while he still tries to convince himself that dying and allowing Aries to placate the king’s grief would be the best outcome, Kanata gets him to realize that he’s the one who’s grieving the most over her. It’s clear that at least part of Charice’s self-loathing is rooted in the idea that he can’t forgive himself for watching her die in front of him, and even if he does ultimately want to be happy, it’s not something he feels he deserves, especially since the king opted to directly place the blame for Seira’s death on him.

Unfortunately, this is all way too much for Charice to process at once, and when his conflicting emotions become too much for him, he attempts to commit suicide via the portable worm hole. Kanata manages to beat some much needed sense into him before he gets the opportunity to follow through on it, but this comes at the cost of Kanata losing his arm in the process as it gets sucked through the wormhole. The shock of this whole situation convinces Charice that he wants to live after all, and since he previously expressed interest in being Kanata’s second in command someday when Kanata achieves his dream of being a proper space captain, Kanata convinces him to quite literally dedicate himself towards being his right-hand man. Subtle this is not, but it drives the show’s point home, that people don’t have to be a product of their parents, and that people don’t have to be blood related to be truly considered family. Something that’s best exemplified not in Kanata and Charice’s shouting match, but in Aries’s earlier flashback to her memories with her mom after discovering the two of them weren’t related after all. While the timing of that flashback would give the impression that Aries feels a strong resentment towards her mom for lying to her all those years, even through her tears, it’s more obvious that Aries feels gratitude for all the love her mom showed her, and that she’s who she is now because of it. It’s a wonderful moment that really speaks to the heart of this show, and I’m glad that so much care went into it’s execution since it helped to bump up this episode from a merely great one, to one of the best episodes of anime from this year in general.

On the whole this episode was fantastic, and I really can’t stop thinking of reasons to gush about it. Everything from the direction to the pacing was really on point this week, and I have to give some especially strong props to the great performances from Yoshimasa Hosoya and Nobunaga Shimazaki as Kanata and Charice respectively, since the raw energy of their delivery during that whole conversation really helped to give it some extra punch. Even though this was only the second-to-last episode of Astra and we still have a whole hour-long finale to get through, this one really felt like the climax of the story, and it resonated with so much of an emotional punch, that’s pretty hard to believe anything that happens in the actual conclusion could top of it. Whether or not that actually proves to be true though, one thing that’s for sure is that regardless of what lies in next week’s finale, this show has already proven itself to be an absolute standout, and if it manages to stick the landing, it could have all the makings of a classic.

Rating: 10/10

Available on Funimation

Astra Lost in Space Episode #10 Review

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

Astra might be heading into its home stretch, but the show certainly isn’t slowing down because the mysteries just keep on coming. At this point, the extent to which the show is able to one-up itself with dense plot twists is kind of impressive in and of itself, and this episode’s showings really take the cake in that area, as we not only deal with last week’s giant cliffhanger, but the long awaited answer of who the traitor among the kids is. Unlike with last week’s shenanigans, this doesn’t quite leave enough room for any of the show’s trademark character drama, but what we do get here certainly helps in setting up this show’s endgame, and it’s looking like it could be a whole lot bigger than expected.

Jumping right into what was established with last week’s bombshell, the kids are from a planet called Astra while Polina is from the Earth we all know. Kanata briefly suggests the idea that she could be an alien (by their point of view), but that theory doesn’t hold much water. She definitely speaks the same language they do, and when Polina brings up that she was originally from Russia, Aries has at least heard of Russia, even if the very concept of countries (and religion by the looks of things since none of the kids have ever heard of “God” before) is considered outdated by Planet Astra. After Polina and the kids compare their worlds’ timelines side-by-side it seems as though history on Earth and history on Astra are roughly similar until about 1963. While we had the Cuban Missile Crisis that threatened to cause World War III, Astra actually did experience WWIII, and the devastation was so massive that humanity gave up on the concept of war entirely and formed one unified world government, with countries and guns being abolished.

Meanwhile in Polina’s timeline, which is presumably the same as ours, around 2049, it was projected that an asteroid would destroy the Earth in eight years. Humanity then began a mass exodus plan to search for a new world using several ships, among which the Astra was one of them. This was done via artificial wormhole technology which was likely the same as the sphere used to warp the kids into space to begin with, and the icy planet where the kids first came across the Astra was likely the ravaged planet Earth after the asteroid hit. However on Astra, the year 2057 has already passed, and while Polina concludes that it’s likely Astra was one of the planets that the Earth colonized, the fact that it seems to have put together such an organized civilization in a just a few years is more than a little bizarre.

Woof. If that all seems pretty dense and confusing to you, rest assured that the actual explanation is even more complicated than my summary, and even with Astra technically being a sci-fi anime, this is still a lot to take in. Long story short though, it’s almost certain that the kids and the other citizens of planet Astra are descended from humanity on Earth, but the question remains of why Astra has such a convoluted timeline to begin with, and why the kids have no knowledge of the threat that caused humanity to vacate Earth in the first place. As Ulgar aptly puts it, “the adults are always hiding something” and given that the citizens of Astra seem to have been carefully educated not to dig too much into history, it’s likely that some other catastrophe happened that the world government decided to cover up.

Whatever it is they’re hiding is anyone’s guess at this point, and given that we only have two more episodes to address it, I imagine we’ll learn about it sooner rather than later. Regardless of what the truth might be though, one thing I can say for sure is that I once again have to give the show some serious props for its foreshadowing. As ridiculously complex as this whole twist is (I mean seriously, just look at it), the show’s dropped more than enough hints here and there that it all still feels like it makes sense, and that the show is rewarding your patience. Granted it still feels like there’s more questions than answers here, but this is all fascinating enough that seeing where this will all lead still feels exciting (even if I do know the answer already).

But while there’s plenty to chew on with that, the show still has other mysteries to address as it’s finally to end the game of “spot the traitor” that’s been building over it’s run. As the crew heads towards the final planet, Kanata goes what happened when they all got launched through the wormhole, and asks Aries to do a favor for him
(as well as offering to walk her home when this is all over, which might be his indirect way of asking her out, but it’s hard to tell with how dense he generally is) and identify who was the last person to get sucked through the wormhole since they’re probably the traitor. Thanks to that ,he deduces the traitor is none other than Ulgar and comes up with a masterful plan to catch him in the ac- alright let’s not kind ourselves here folks. The traitor is actually *surprise* Charice, and Kanata’s “plan” to catch Ulgar was really just his way of getting Charice to slip up and reveal that he’s been carrying the artificial wormhole that’s been following them around this whole time.

As impressive as many of this show’s mysteries and revelations have been up until now, Charice being the traitor was almost ridiculously obvious in comparison. Even putting aside how overly melodramatic his “backstory” was compared to everyone else’s and that it had nothing to do with this show’s consistent theme of bad parenting, neither his folks or Aries’s mom showed up to last week’s League of Extraordinarily Evil Parents meeting. This left either him or Aries as potential traitor suspects and as wacky of a twist as Aries being the traitor might have been, we’ve seen way too many of her thoughts for that to be plausible, so it only left our favorite blond. Luckily if you were a little underwhelmed by how obvious this answer was (I would be, but again, it just demonstrates that this show actually understands good foreshadowing with mysteries) the truth behind his reasoning might actually be the bigger twist here. Like the others, he’s a clone, and he was dispatched to make sure the others were dead before dying himself. Specifically though, he’s a clone of Noah Vix, the king of the Vixia Royal Quarter.

Given that the girl from Charice’s fake backstory seemed to be real, it’s interesting, but not super surprising that he at least wasn’t lying about where he was from. However, this just raises more questions. While all of the kids “parents” have been shown to be influential members of society in some way, throwing an actual king into the mix changes up the dynamic behind this conspiracy considerably, and begs a few questions. Mainly, why he’d risk getting involved in a plan like this to begin with, as well as whether or not he had his own agenda in doing so. It’s quite a lot to think about. Heck this whole episode is a lot to think about, so it should certainly be fun to see how the show hopes to answer all the new questions its raised with the two remaining episodes it has left. Of course, if what went down here is any indication, this show’s story seems more than well thought out enough that there’s hardly any room to doubt those answers won’t be satisfying.

Rating: 8.3/10

Available on Funimation

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

Astra Lost In Space Episode #08

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

Well kids, it’s time to hop into the mystery van again, because we’ve got some mysteries to solve. With how big last week’s cliffhanger was, it’s not too surprising the show would opt to focus on it’s mystery-thriller angle for this week, but even though we get a few answers here and there, this episode only ends up dishing out even more questions, including one that could very well shake this show’s entire premise on it’s head. It’s pretty exciting stuff, and while the emphasis on this means we’re once again short changed in the character drama department, there’s more than enough to chew on here to help balance that out.

Before we get too deep into this episode’s biggest revelation, we should address last week’s twist. Upon stumbling upon what seems to be a second ship identical to the Astra, the kids find a woman named Polina who shut herself in that ship’s hibernation pod waiting to be rescued. As it turns out, Polina was an astronaut on a mission to colonize other worlds, and when her crew landed on the planet the kids are currently stuck on, they were attacked by the same plants that damaged the Astra, and the rest of her crew died trying to search the area. While Polina herself doesn’t seem too interesting of a character so far, the mysteries surrounding her certainly are, as when she asks the kids about the current year being 2063 A.D and learns that it’s only been 12 years since she was frozen, she seems to express some kind of major regret about that. There’s been a few hints here and there that there could be something up with this show’s timeline, and this raises that suspicion to a certainty. While we’re not likely to get any immediate answers on that since Polina seems to be suffering from partial memory loss, it definitely seems like her past could be pretty important, and that could factor into some of the larger questions surrounding this show.

In terms of more immediate issues though, Aries quickly realizes that while Polina’s ship has also been damaged, it wasn’t in the same spot the Astra was, and if they were to combine the functional parts of both ships together the Astra could be repaired. It’s a bit too obvious a solution to feel super satisfying, but it seemed like the show got any mileage it was going to about the danger of the kids being permanently stranded in last week’s episode, so I guess I can appreciate that it’s kind enough to keep things moving along. We also get a nice little moment between Zack and Quitterie afterwards where Zack talks about his dream of becoming a space pilot and how he decided not to be like his father. While his father wasn’t particularly abusive to him growing up, it seemed like he never viewed Zack as anything more than an object, and he never quite got over that.

Once again this is pretty in-line with the show’s ongoing theme concerning bad parenting, but since Zack seems to be pretty well-adjusted despite his father’s neglect, his flashback doesn’t quite have the same level of emotional impact the other kids’ did. What saves it though, is how this leads into Quitterie confessing that her dream is to become Zack’s wife, only for him to respond that he thought they were already engaged since they promised to marry each other when they were kids. I can’t quite say I was expecting this show to use a sad backstory for a punchline, and given how seriously it’s taken everyone else’s, this really shouldn’t work as well as it does, but boy did it work, and it was by far one of the funniest scenes in the series thus far.

From there, things transition to the gang making a pit-stop before leaving the planet in order for Polina to go to the last known location of her missing comrades. While they’re all obviously long dead, Kanata manages to retrieve their ID tags from some of the killer plant life, allowing Polina to get a bit of catharsis. It’s a nice scene, and it does help to give a bit more character to Polina, but the show also using it as an excuse to have Kanata show off his athletic skills again kind of undercuts it a little bit, and that rubbed me the wrong way enough that I didn’t get quite as invested in this scene as the show probably intended me to be.

What did win me over though, was this episode’s final twist. As the crew makes way for the last planet on their journey, Quitterie notices that when she was collecting blood samples from everyone, her and Funi’s blood types appeared to be perfectly identical. Since the two of them aren’t actually blood related, this is more than a little strange, and when Zack decides to run a DNA test on them to see if they’re actually real sisters after all, he stumbles upon something else entirely: The two of them are genetically the same person. Since this show at least seemingly takes place in the future (depending on how the whole timeline mystery pans out) and this at least something of a sci-fi setting it wouldn’t exactly be out of place for some kind of advanced cloning shenanigans to be going on, and if they are, it would certainly explain why someone would at least want the two of them killed. Of course if they’re clones, this also raises the question of whether or not they’re the only ones, and if they aren’t it could certainly shed some interesting light on this whole assassination plot, and the kids’ varying parent issues. We’ll have to wait to next week to get an idea of what the full implications of this might be, and while I do already know where this is all going, having read the manga, it’s clear that regardless of the details, things are only about to get even more wild.

Rating: 8.4/10

Available on Funimation

Astra Lost in Space Episode #07 Review

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

Boy, that escalated quickly. If you thought last week’s episode of Astra was pretty packed, this one is even more stuffed as we dive into Charice’s backstory and the kids find themselves in their greatest crisis yet. This all leaves the show with even more than usual to accomplish in a single episode, and while not everything here sticks perfectly, it manages to lay some pretty good groundwork for what’s to come

Following up on last week’s cliffhanger, as everyone grills Charice for answers regarding his lie about being in the same class as Aries, we learn he’s actually a transfer student and he came to the school around the same time she did. This automatically makes him the most suspicious person in the room, and when the others proceed to immediately point this out, he’s left with no choice but to talk about his past. Charice was born into the royal family of Vixia, the last nation on Earth allowed to be ruled by monarchy after the rest of the world merged into one unified government after a World War in the 1960’s (more or less confirming this show takes in some kind of alternate timeline, rather than the distant future). His childhood friend, Seira, on the other hand, was a commoner, and when she was found sneaking into the nobles’ territory with Charice, she ended up being horribly injured in an accident and is now in a coma. Eventually her family moved her away, and Charice decided to throw away his nobility to start a new life.

This makes Charice’s story one of the most immediately interesting ones compared to what we’ve gotten with the other kids, but at the same time it’s also the most lacking in substance. While it does help to explain more of the show’s setting, and it does kind of break the ongoing chain of having every character’s backstory connected to bad parenting in some way, the whole bad parenting angle also helped to give the other stories a little more weight, and this feels a little too cliche and melodramatic in comparison. At the same time though, while the kids all seem to be pretty moved by this story, it’s clear that there’s probably more to it than what Charice told them, so hopefully whatever that is ends up being more interesting than what we’ve gotten so far.

Fortunately, (or unfortunately for the kids) Charice’s story is far from this episode’s biggest development. When the gang arrives on the fourth planet of their journey, they run into some unexpected trouble when some of the plant wildlife attacks and damages the ship, leaving them stranded. On top of that the planet itself is the most inhospitable of the ones they’ve landed on, with everything outside of its epicenter being either too hot or too cold for most life to survive in. Even though they’ve faced plenty of dangers up until now, this the most hopeless the kids have ever felt about their situation, and Quitterie in particular has an especially bad time accepting her new reality. However, Zack mentions that there is one potential way for her to escape this crisis: going into the Astra’s hibernation pod and hoping that someone someday comes across the ship and rescues her. Of course, while this would save her, it would also leave her alone as the others are left behind to die, and she sees this as too terrible of an option to be worth considering. It’s not a particularly big scene in and of itself, but it at least helps to demonstrate how much she’s come to care for everyone compared to where she started at the beginning of this show.

Dark as things are though, there is some potential light at the end of the tunnel for the kids, as they happen to stumble across what appears to be a second ship that resembles the Astra. The ship itself is even more damaged than the Astra, but it does seem to be inhabited as it also has a hibernation pod, and a mysterious woman inside of it. As many questions as this development raises, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little disappointed at how little time it took for the kids to find a possible way out of their current crisis. Ideally, I kinda wish the episode had ended before this little discovery, just to make the stakes here feel heavier, but I’m also aware that there’s still plenty of the manga left for this show to run through, and only so much time to spare, so I can live with it. Crammed as some of this episode was, everything here still more or less worked, and with an even bigger mystery now being dangled in front of us, I’m plenty excited to see how it all unfolds.

Rating: 8.3/10

Available on Funimation

Astra Lost in Space Episode #06

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

Woo boy. So even though I’ve been pretty pleased with what the Astra anime’s had to offer so far, this episode was the one I was anticipating the most. Luca and Ulgar’s stories take center stage this week, and Luca’s in particular covers one of the most sensitive topics this show has dealt with so far. With how consistently the anime’s been knocking it out of the park, I was excited to see how this would be handled, and while the execution here didn’t quite meet my expectations, what we do get still makes for one of the show’s strongest entries to date.

Before we get into Luca’s story though, let’s talk about Ulgar’s whole deal, which is also quite a lot. Where we last left our local edgelord, he was holding Luca at gunpoint, and we discover that he holds a grudge against Luca’s father. Ulgar’s brother was a journalist who was investigating Luca’s father for campaign finance allegations, and ended up “mysteriously” commiting suicide. This pretty much screams covert assassination, and Ulgar believes that since Luca is the heir to his father’s political dynasty, killing Luca will cause Luca’s father to feel the same pain he does. As is pretty much par the course for this show, Ulgar’s thirst for vengeance doesn’t exactly feel fresh (if anything it just makes the Sasuke Uchiha jokes even more on point) but it’s elevated by how well the show manages to contextualize Ulgar’s feelings.

Ulgar says that he’s always felt like an outcast in his family compared to his near-perfect older brother, but his brother was also the only person in his family who actually cared about him. He feels like his brother mattered to the world a lot more than he did, and it’s a sentiment that seems to at least partially stem from his father literally telling him that he should have been the one to die instead, making us 4-0 on the scoreboard of crappy parenting in this show. Needless to say that while he hasn’t been as big on showing his emotions as the rest of the cast, Ulgar has about as big a chip on his shoulder as the rest of them, and Kouki Uchiyama’s performance here really did a lot to make me feel for this kid.

Neat as this all is though, the big attention grabber here (and something I expect will garner a lot of…discussion) is in regards to Luca, as he claims that Ulgar’s master plan won’t work because he isn’t actually his father’s heir. That distinction belongs to his younger brother, and it all has to do with a secret he’s been hiding from the gang all this time: he’s intersexual. An intersexual person, as the show itself explains, is someone born with both male and female sex characteristics, and cannot be strictly identified as either of those genders (not to be confused with hermaphrodites who are biologically both). While Luca was raised as a male and identifies as one (hence why I’m still using male pronouns) his body meant that he could never take over his father’s position and was viewed by him as disposable.

So…yeah this is a lot. While anime’s certainly no stranger to tackling LGBT topics, it’s rare for a shonen to dive into them, and the topic of intersex people in general is even rarer, to the point where I wasn’t even familiar with it until I came across it in the original manga. It’s honestly pretty cool seeing a series aimed at teens going into a subject even a lot of media for adults hasn’t ever seemed to really talk about, and hopefully like with me, this’ll help to educate people on it a bit. Speaking of the manga though, if there’s one point I have to knock the anime down for here, it’s that it omits a few lines of dialogue where Luca goes into his sexuality, and mentions how he’s found himself attracted to both Kanata and Aries, more or less confirming he’s bi. While the anime does leave in a line where Luca remarks about how “cool” Kanata is after he saves him and Ulgar from a sudden tidal wave, it’s a little more ambiguous if this means he’s attracted to him, and making that more vague where it was previously spelled out directly, is a little disappointing (especially since if this was a time constraint thing, the anime’s show that it’s more than willing to cut the OP and ED songs for a few extra scenes if deemed necessary). Still, as I said before it’s rare for this particular subject to get covered at all in media (and as a hetero dude I’m obviously far from the most qualified person to talk about this anyway) so it’s not a dealbreaker or anything for me, but with how much the anime’s knocked things out of the part in almost every other instance, it’s a little shame it didn’t completely deliver on this one.

At any rate, Luca’s big confession about his identity ends up being enough for Ulgar to give up on killing him, and while Ulgar still doesn’t feel he’s really worth anything, his feelings change a bit when Kanata saves him, and reminds him of his older brother. While Ulgar hasn’t completely given up on his desire for revenge, he decides to do it as a journalist, and vows to expose the crimes Luca’s father committed, which seems about as good a way to wrap that up as any. He’s still a bit prickly, but the experience here does get him to open up to the others a little more, and it’s pretty nice. As for Luca, while he’s clear that he’s always been comfortable with who he is, it’s refreshing that the others choose not to think of him that differently, and still opt to treat him as a boy. This isn’t totally perfect but it’s certainly sweet, and if nothing else I’m glad the show was able to make both Ulgar and Luca’s stories feel satisfying.

Far as the broader story goes, we also get a few more advancements on that end towards the end of the episode. Kanata slowly realizes that all the kids seem to share a mostly similar connection in having issues with their parents, but it doesn’t quite explain why anyone would want them dead over it. However it does lend a little more credit to the theory that their parents are all hiding something, as the kids realize that Luca’s father likely had Ulgar’s brother killed for something much larger than a campaign finance scandal. That leaves us quite a bit to chew on with the bigmystery surrounding this show, but there’s more immediate things for the kids to worry about as Charice is now starting to look a little suspect. When Quitterie notices that Charice seems to fawn over Aries a lot despite having only met her during this camping trip, he attempts to deflect this with a lie about having known her from school, and it quickly becomes obvious he’s holding onto some kind of secret of his own. As for what said secret is, we probably won’t know till next week, but whatever it is, it’s bound to be pretty interesting. Far as this week’s events are concerned though, while this was still a solid episode overall, it’s also probably the first time I was a little let down by the anime’s execution. That said, it’s track record up till now has been consistent enough that I’m not super worried about how it’ll handle what lies ahead, and I’m still very much looking forward to the rest of this adaption.

Rating: 8.5/10

Available on Funimation

Astra Lost in Space Episode #05 Review

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.S

The Review

Even when they’re set in the vast reaches out outer space it seems like its impossible for just about any anime to escape an obligatory beach episode. Having the characters get some downtime seems a little at odds with the show’s basic premise, but with how hectic the last couple of episodes have been, it’s not like those kids haven’t earned it so I guess I can’t complain. On the downside, things being low-key here sure doesn’t leave me with much to talk about, but even in a breather episode this show still has a few things going on, and most of them seem like a pretty good set-up for what’s to come.

Before we get too deep into the nitty-gritty here though, I’d like to take a moment to appreciate that the show actually does take a few minutes to follow up on things with Yunhua from last week. After soothing everyone with her singing and revealing her dream of becoming a singer, it’s confirmed that Yunhua’s mother is indeed a famous singer herself, making her actions to snuff out Yunhua’s ambitions all the crueler. Even so, Yunhua’s experiences during last week’s adventure taught her the importance of self-expression, and she decides to try standing out a little more, starting with a new haircut. It’s certainly nothing original, but if it works it works, and I thought it was a pretty good way of wrapping up Yunhua’s character arc for now.

From there we shift perspectives back to Earth as we see how the kids’ parents have been reacting to their disappearance. Since its been a good 40 days since the kids have vanished, the government has stopped their search for them, and only Aries’s mom seems to be holding onto the hope that the kids are all still alive. The rest of the parents on the other hand, seem to have already accepted the supposed fate of their children, and seem almost a little too uncaring about the whole situation, even with how strained some of the relationships we’ve seen with their kids have been. It seems like there might be something bigger going on here, because when Ulgar’s father attempts to console Aries’s mom by telling her how much he feels like his heart has also been ripped in two over the disappearance of his son, Luca’s father, a politician, says something similar to the media when asked about the situation, and it sounds almost rehearsed. Piecing all that together, it sure seems like at least some of the parents might have an idea of the circumstances behind whatever plot is behind the kids’ space warp in the first place, and it’ll certainly be something to keep an eye on in the coming weeks.

Aside from that though, the rest of this episode is pretty lax as the kids’ latest “adventure” finds them on a planet so peaceful it almost feels like a resort. This of course, means plenty of fanservice, and while the show certainly hasn’t shied away from it before, the amount on display here, does kind of feel at least a little at odds with the general tone of the show up till now. If bikins aren’t you’re thing though, this episode is also pretty heavy in the shipping department, as it also spends a good amount of time on the possibility of Kanata and Aries hooking up. Since it’s well…Kanata and Aries it pretty much goes without saying that they’re both suck dorks that this ship doesn’t look like it’s gonna sail anytime soon, but Aries’s awkward attempts to ask Kanata about his love life do make for some pretty good laughs. In general, it’s kinda nice seeing all of the kids getting along better here, and even Ulgar seems to be slowly fitting in as Luca makes an extra-effort to try befriending him. That friendship might be pretty short-lived though, because when Luca reveals his last name, and his father’s identity to Ulgar, he ends up holding Luca at gunpoint. It seems like whatever Ulgar’s been hiding is about to come out, and whatever’s in store for the kids next, it’s pretty clear this week’s shenanigans were just the calm before the storm.

Rating: 8/10

Available on Funimation

Astra Lost in Space Episode #04 Review

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.

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

After spending most of last time on the traitor subplot, this week it’s back to space exploration, as the crew arrives at their second destination, Planet Shummoor. Of course with a new planet comes a new set of problems for them to face both, with the planet itself, and their own personal hangups, as Yunhua’s end up taking the spotlight this time around. This ends up making a lot of the episode a bit of a balancing act in terms of material, but like with the gang’s first planetary stop, it’s one the anime proves to be more than equipped to handle.

Having avoided a potentially fatal crash, the gang’s first order of business after landing on Shummoor is to put the matter of the traitor behind them for now since whoever it is seems to be cooperating for now. With that issue put to the side, they begin exploring the planet, and like with the first one they landed on, I really dig how unique its environment feels. While the kids encounter some helpful animals they dub Grupples (because why not) it’s also inhabited by large fungi that actually feed on some of the herbivores, and serve as the planet’s dominate species since they produce spores that are lethal to the animals. I wouldn’t exactly call myself a huge science nerd or anything, but I’ve always been fascinated by different ecosystems and how the creatures living in them have adapted for their survival, so the fact that this one was pretty well detailed was a neat touch, and it helped to add a little more spice to the show’s exploration angle.

Unfortunately, the kids end up learning this little lesson about the circle of life the hard way, as several of them end up falling victim to the toxins. Their hopes end up resting in the hands of Kanata and Yunhua, with the latter getting the most amount of focus this time around. While most everyone else seems to have found a way to contribute to the team, Yunhua still feels like she’s the weak link, and Ulgar and Luca’s backhanded comments only make her even more anxious about it. She eventually decides to try running away, but when Kanata goes after her we learn a little more about the reasons behind her self-loathing. Yunhua dreamed of becoming a singer when she was little, but her mother squashed her dreams and demanded that she simply stay in the background as much as possible, saying she was “too useless” to be the center of attention. Her mother’s words continued Yunhua deeper and deeper into her own little shell as she grew up, and now she’s afraid of standing out at all, since she only sees her self as a burden to others. While we don’t know the details on why Yunhua’s mother was so desperate to keep her out of the spotlight, since she was a singer herself it’s likely that at the very least, she probably saw Yunhua’s talent as obstacle for her own success, and wanted to nip it in the bud as soon as possible. Regardless of her actual motives though, it’s very emotionally abusive parenting, and like with Quitterie’s story in episode 2, I’m glad this series is continuing to be extremely upfront about the kinds of scars that can leave on kids.

Thankfully all’s not lost for Yunhua, as while she might not see herself as valuable, some of her actions here end up saving the day. On a more direct front, she happens to come across a plant that the planet’s animals use as an antidote for the mushrooms’ spores, which helps Kanata in tracking them down, and on a much softer level, her singing ends up being a source of comfort for the others while they attempt to fight off the poison. On the downside we don’t get an immediate resolution to the poison problem, since the episode ends a little before we see Kanata safely return with the antidote, but Yunhua trying to help the others ends up reigniting her passion for singing, so we at least get to see her character arc cap off on a high note. That being said, we also don’t really get to see anyone besides Kanata react to her dream of being a singer, so I do hope we get at least a little bit more with her and the others next week. Putting all that aside for now though, I’m glad the show was able to deliver on another good one-two punch of cool space exploration, and good character drama, and while not everything here wraps up perfectly, it’s certainly consistent, and I’m happy this trek through space still has plenty left to offer.

Rating: 8.5/10

Astra Lost in Space Episode #03 Review

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

After two jam packed episodes in a row, Astra takes a bit of a breather this week in order to put the spotlight on last week’s big reveal. With the threat of a potential traitor among the group, it’s hard to tell who exactly can be trusted, and the show is already making some strides to point us at a prime suspect. It goes without saying that this all makes for some of the most exciting stakes the series has had to offer thus far, and while the episode is a little light on character development compared to the first two, there’s still plenty going on here to keep things entertaining.

With the knowledge that the gang has a traitor in their midst, Kanata begins observing everyone in order to come up with some potential suspects. Unfortunately everyone seems suspicious in one way or another, and things only get made worse when Funi throws another wrench into the mystery: Right before she was brought adopted into Quitterie’s family, she overheard a conversation suggesting that everyone being together on this ship was no mere coincidence and that they were all supposed to be eliminated. This also means that since the traitor’s survival was never guaranteed, they might have been prepared to die with the others from the very beginning, and may not hesitate to try killing everyone again.

With such a big bombshell dropped on the crew, Kanata is left with no choice but to tell the rest of the group about the possibility of a traitor existing, and it comes as no surprise that everyone is quick to freak out and start throwing out accusations. While Aries manages manages to break some of the tension between the group for the time being, they quickly find themselves in a new crisis when the ship’s power gets disrupted and they end up in danger of crashing into a nearby planet. With some quick thinking, the kids manage to come together to restore the power, but while they’ve avoided any immediate danger for the moment, it seems like we might have already discovered the traitor’s identity.

As you can probably tell by the heavy recapping here, this episode was mostly just a whole lot of plot, which sadly doesn’t leave me with a whole ton to talk about aside from those details. The twists regarding the group being caught up in some kind of assassination plot, and the traitor also facing the same risks as them are both pretty effective at raising the stakes for the rest of the gang’s journey, but the episode’s a little lacking in any kind of immediate payoff on that end, so it seems like we’ll be waiting a good while to get those mysteries solved. In the meantime, while this episode is light on character drama compared to what the first two episodes offered, there’s still some pretty interesting stuff here concerning our two outcasts of the group, Yunhua and Ulgar.

While Yunhua hasn’t really ventured too far out her “shy clumsy girl” archetype, said clumsiness ends up putting her in the most amount of danger during the crew’s scramble to avoid crashing the ship, and the brief flashback we get of an adult figure in her life mentioning how useless she is suggests there might be a story behind her reserved behavior. Of course the bigger standout here is probably our resident emo-boy Ulgar, who has so far spent the entire trip being as callous to everyone as possible, but reveals a couple of “interesting” things about himself in this episode. Firstly we learn that his father is the vice-principal of the school everyone attends, and that the two of them don’t have the best relationship, making his surprise at the thought of getting assassinated a little muted compared to everyone else’s. Secondly we learn that he’s pretty handy with a gun, and while guns seem to have been outlawed in this show’s not-so-distant future, he’s been secretly carrying one with him this whole time. Combine those facts together, and it shoots him right up to the top of the list in the “spot the traitor” game. Of course since I’ve read the manga I already know exactly who said traitor is, but in the meantime I’ll leave it to your imaginations as to whether or not he’s the one.

Overall, I’d say Astra’s third episode was another solid one for the show. While there’s still plenty of mysteries left to be solved here, everything here still moves quickly enough to keep the episode fun in spite of not getting any immediate answers. Knowing most of the big twists here already made this episode a little weaker for me compared to the first two by default, but on the bright side, there were a few bits of foreshadowing here that stood out to me, and knowing what lies ahead for this series, there should be some pretty solid payoff when the answers finally start coming. For now though, I’m glad this show is still going pretty strong, and even with this episode’s bigger focus on mystery over drama, it’s still holding up as one of the summer season’s biggest standouts.

Rating: 8.2/10

Astra Lost in Space Episode #02 Review

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

After a knockout of a premiere last week, Astra continues chugging right along with it’s journey through space as the gang arrives at their first stop, Planet Vilvarus. There’s a lot to see and do here, both for them, and the show in general, as this episode has a lot going on between the kids exploring the planet and the show’s general character drama. It’s quite a lot for the show to juggle this early into its run, and I was more than a little concerned as to how this would all be paced considering this show has a fair amount of material to burn through if it it hopes to cover the whole manga. Once again though, this adaption’s exceeded my expectations in terms of presentation, and it manages to deliver on another fine entry that also helps to add some extra stakes to this story.

After landing on the planet, Kanata decides to split everyone into groups in order to search for food and water. While everyone else is mostly on board with Kanata taking charge as the leader, Quitterie still remains skeptical about if he’s up to the task. This only gets made worse when Charce’s science know-how proves more reliable than Kanata’s survival tips, and Quitterie’s constant insults cause Kanata to run off in an attempt to prove himself. We soon learn that Quitterie’s bad attitude mostly stems from her upbringing as she never had a father, and her mother largely ignored her growing up, leading to her getting spoiled and not knowing how to interact with other people. It’s especially bad in the case of dealing with her adopted sister Funi, as Quitterie has no idea how to act like an older sister, and resents that her mother took responsibility for another child when she barely made time for her.

While this isn’t exactly the most dramatic backstory out there, it works pretty well for giving us an idea of why Quitterie isn’t exactly the friendliest person in the group, and I appreciate that the overall execution on it feels thoughtful and well-directed in spite of how simple the material is on the surface. However even though Quitterie claims she doesn’t really know how to love anyone else, she’s clearly more concerned about others than she lets on, and her problem seems to be less a lack of understanding love, and more not really knowing how to express it. Something that’s made even more apparent when Funi finds herself in danger and Quitterie is among the first to rush to her rescue. After seeing her sister in trouble, and that Funi still likes her in spite of her general attitude, Quitterie admits that she’s not good at being honest about her feelings and wants to make an effort to improve on it. This is a surprisingly efficient character arc for the span of single episode, and while all of it could have easily felt rushed or unearned, the show manages to make all of this come out pretty naturally and it’s a testament both to how strong the material is and how well the anime’s been handling it thus far.

Even more impressive is that while Quitterie’s stuff is the biggest focus of this episode, it’s far from the only highlight. When Kanata also attempts to rescue Funi, the others take note of how athletic he is and we learn that he used to be a track and field star on the behalf of his father who constantly pushed him to the point of abuse. Kanata changed when met the teacher that got him into space travel, and after failing to save him during the accident at camp, Kanata vowed to live for the dream of someday going on his own space exploration, and stopped living for his father’s. Seeing Kanata and Quitterie’s stories back to back provides a pretty good demonstration of the effects bad parenting can have on the children subjected to them, and since that’s a theme that’s only going to become more prevalent going forward, I’m glad that the anime seems to understand it’s importance.

I’m also glad that even in the midst of all this, the show still finds time to have the kids explore their new environment a bit, and while there’s a little less detail in some of the science behind how everything on this planet thrives compared to manga, it still feels pretty interesting, and it also helps in letting us get to know a little more about the other characters, even when they aren’t exactly the focus of the episode. It’s a bit of a relief since this particular element of the series seemed like it’d be the most expendable in the show’s bid to cover the entire story, and I’m glad it seems like the anime staff is making a clear attempt to balance those elements in between all the character drama. Said story also gets a pretty major shakeup in the last few minutes, as while the group is slowly starting to come together as friends, it seems like one of them is sabotaging their little expedition, and might be behind the mysterious black orb that transported them all in the first place.

As you can clearly see by how much I wrote here, this episode had quite a bit to run through, and while it easily could have felt rushed in the character drama department, it all managed to come together really well. Both Quitterie and Kanata’s backstories feel strong in spite of how simple they are, and the show manages to combine that with the kids learning how to survive the dangers of the planet to make for an episode that was equal parts exciting and heartwarming. I was a little worried the rest of this adaption might not be able to hold up to the premiere, but if this episode’s any indication, it’s still in extremely good shape, and I’m eager to see how it tackles what’s coming next.

Rating: 8.5/10

Available on Funimation