Astra Lost in Space
by Steve Jones,
How would you rate episode 12 of
Astra Lost in Space ?
The intrepid Astra has finally carried our clone kids home, but perhaps the most important ship on their journey was actually the friendship they made along the way.
Look, I can't not start my review like that when the final episode is literally titled “Friend-Ship,” which is cheesy in a way that the show has earned. In its final double-length act, Astra Lost in Space ties a neat little bow around itself both narratively and thematically, providing a satisfying conclusion to its space escapades. We finally get the full story about Earth's migration (I was mostly right), a lot of terrible adults get arrested, and we even got to see the lovable team B5 all grown up. Like the premiere, it uses its extended length well, although there are some places where it's noticeable that the production was scrambling to get finished in time. Still, I'm glad Astra got the extra time it needed to do its story and characters justice, even if that necessitated skipping the OP and ED half the time. I haven't read the manga, so I can't comment on anything that might have been left out, but I feel that the anime kept a good pace going throughout. Pace is especially important for stories that rely on wild cliffhangers and twists, so it's to the adaptation's credit that it rarely felt too fast or too slow.
Of course, Astra isn't just about the twists. It's a found family story about the power of victims banding together and supporting each other in their efforts to break free from their pasts and deal with their traumas. The finale extends this opportunity not just to Charce but to the entire human population, drawing a clear thematic link between the way this crew was deceived and how the whole world was deceived. The logistics of a planetwide conspiracy are a tall order to portray, but the more important point is that it's a bigger riff on Astra's same theme: a bunch of people with power pulled the wool over the eyes of people without it. Certainly, the generation who migrated to Astra had much nobler intentions than the bunch of adults who wanted to live forever, but I like that extra layer of complexity. There will be portions of the audience who agree with the decision to cover up the truth for the sake of the future. Even members of the Astra crew have doubts about whether they're doing the right thing by blowing the whistle on it. It's an ethical quandary without an easy answer, and even I still find myself arguing both ways.
The Astra crew's decision is undeniably the correct one for them. It falls in line with their own narrative, where learning an earth-shattering truth did not break them but instead forged their bonds to be even stronger. Astra does not shy away from showing the dark side of humanity; it's powerfully blunt about the devastation of nuclear war cause by our pettiest conflicts. Nonetheless, it retains the hope that people can find strength in each other to do good, overcome adversity, and follow our more constructive instincts. It's exceedingly easy for me to feel cynical about pretty much everything these days, so I have respect for stories like Astra that argue human society holds the potential to make changes for the better.
In Astra's final act, the whole global conspiracy thing naturally overshadows the cast's individual stories, but thankfully the finale takes time to give each character some closure, along with emphasizing their emotional journeys. I want to focus on Ulgar's, because he gets a particularly good scene with his “father.” Ulgar grows up to be a journalist, like his brother—not because it was his preordained path, but because it's what he wanted to do. I want to say that he visited his dad primarily to rub how good he was doing in his face. Is that somewhat vindictive? Sure. Did he earn it? Hell yes, he did! Tellingly, his father can only lament the loss of his “real” son and says some downright nasty stuff to Ulgar, but he's in prison now and there's nothing he can do about it. I like this acknowledgement that some people do just turn rotten and never recover. There's no redemption arc for any of these villains, and they don't deserve any. They're doomed to a life of lamenting what could have been, while their clones do more good with their lives than their originals ever did. Ulgar doesn't have a reason to visit his dad again now, and I don't think he ever will. He's his own person now.
Of course, Ulgar being his own person doesn't mean he isn't crashing at Luca's place when he feels like it. (Incidentally, my favorite space ship in the show is Luca and Ulgar.) Luca also appears much more femme-presenting in the epilogue, which was heartwarming to see based on their earlier conversation about how their feelings about gender might change over time. I like this small and sweet acknowledgment of the fluidity of gender identity and presentation. It's also sweet to see that Quitterie and Zack already got married (of course), while Kanata only just popped the question to Aries (also of course). Asking Charce for his “daughter's” hand in marriage also made me step back and reflect on how truly bizarre some of these relationships are if you think about them. The finale was full of quick little jokes like these, and they did a good job balancing the gravity of the surrounding material. Even when the jokes don't land, Astra's sense of humor is integral to its flexible yet unique tone.
Overall, Astra ends in a sweet place where everyone is still friends and still following their dreams. If I had to quibble, it's almost too clean an ending for my liking, but it does feel right for Astra. This is not the kind of show I see myself revisiting, since a lot of its fun stemmed from the barrage of twists and turns, but there's plenty of room for popcorn entertainment, and Astra is better than most at that appeal. Unfortunately, the final scene smacks of some gender essentialism, with the women (and femme-presenting) characters attending a concert while the men go out to explore space and do investigative journalism. It's not egregious, but I had to roll my eyes a little, especially after plenty of equal-opportunity adventuring. However, I do appreciate the sentiment that Kanata and the boys are just beginning their first mission of many, so it's not like they're leaving home and their other friends behind. They'll be back, and there will be opportunities for everyone to explore together. Astra doesn't end on a note of finality. As Yunhua sings, both Kanata and Aries find themselves looking in the same direction toward the future. These kids, along with the rest of humanity, are lost no more, and the cosmic ocean awaits.
Steve is lost in space, but he can still stream anime so it's okay. A communications relay has been established on his Twitter.
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