This Week in Anime
Astra Lost in Space is Off to a Stellar Start

by Nicholas Dupree & Andy Pfeiffer,

Astra Lost in Space rockets forth into drama and adventure with its intriguing new cast of spacefaring characters. This week, Nick and Andy discuss their favorite moments and future predictions for this exciting sci fi series.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed by the participants in this chatlog are not the views of Anime News Network. Spoiler Warning for discussion of the series ahead. [Not Safe For Work warning for content and language.]

@Lossthief @Liuwdere @A_Tasty_Sub @vestenet


Nick
Andy it's finally time to dig into the new season of anime, and I couldn't be happier than to open with all these very good pictures of my precious children.
Andy
Excuse me, that picture is missing your one dumb son.
Oh of course, how could I forget my beloved..uh...
Well, whatever his name is, we're kicking off the season with my most anticipated new series: Astra Lost in Space. I've basically been in Hype Mode ever since I was blindsided with the anime announcement, so let me apologize up front for being That Guy and just gushing about this series for the rest of the season.
I, on the other hand, wasn't really familiar with Astra before now. I read a lot of Jump titles, but this one somehow slipped through the cracks. Guess that means I'll be fully enjoying every new twist and turn this show has to offer!
Funny story about that: the manga actually published exclusively on Jump's "Jump+" digital service, as one of the first original series they offered. It's also written by Kenta Shinohara, who created the criminally underrated Sket Dance years ago. That's why I was shocked to hear it was getting adapted, not only as the first digital-only Jump series to get an anime, but getting one well after the series wrapped up. And I was even more shocked to see it being helmed by Scum's Wish director Masaomi Andō. This whole project feels eerily like it was made for me.
I did not make the connection at all, probably because I bounced hard off Sket Dance after a few chapters, but Astra has me totally engaged so far. Masaomi Andō is proving he can do sci-fi high schooler hijinks just as well as he could absolutely gut-wrenching teenage horny-ness. But at the core of it all, I absolutely loved the idea of Space Camp as a child, and it turns out that adult me is totally into the premise of Future Kids in Space Society GOING TO SPACE CAMP.
That's right, all these teens are going to camp in space, roughing it in the coolest school field trip imaginable. And I'm sure nothing at all will go wrong with it either!
Ah shit, we forgot about the Hell Orb.
Nah I'm sure it's nice. Let's go make a new friend!
Okay, I took your advice and embraced the orb. This is the new friend I made. His name is Larry.
Also help I'm thousands of light years from home and can't fend for myself.
So yeah, the hook of Astra is both simple and complicated. Complicated in that it takes a lot of twists and mysteries to set up, but simple in that the appeal is easy to grasp. All these disparate personalities are trapped at the edge of the galaxy trying to get home, with only each other to rely on. Fortunately, they have a brave, daring, and confident leader.

No parents or pseudo-parents allowed on this ride. Guess we'll have to settle for this guy:
Note: every other line of dialogue from him up to this point was to declare himself Captain. He's that guy.
Kanata's your standard shounen hero: loud, confident, and ready to take action. Except he's also not because all that's a front to cope with his past trauma.

And I think that's what makes Astra such a strong series, even in the beginning where it keeps its cards close to its chest. The characters all seem like broad stereotypes at first, but there's a lot more going on under the surface once it lets you in.
He's totally uncool, but part of his charm is that he's aware of that. The projection may be an act, but it's one people need in times of crisis. That's a lot of burden for a kid to take upon himself, especially when he's also lived a life of having others' burdens placed on him.
That he escaped from the pressure of one dream by embracing another makes me hope he eventually discovers his own path forward, but until then he's got the job of keeping our cast focused on working together to make it home.
Thankfully, he's got a reliable second-in-command who he can trust to shoulder the burden.
If you've got a thing for anime dumbasses, then here's your girl:
Aries is uh...well she tries her best.

If for no other reason, I recommend the show for the rescue sequence in which her communicator is broken, so throughout the scene she makes noises that sound like a hamster attempting to become a virtual youtuber. Words cannot do it justice.
For real though, Aries is still a solid character. Ditzy female leads are nothing new in shonen, but it's clear that despite being bad with words and not "reading the room", Aries has a strong intuition for helping others in a group. Like when she breaks the tension by scaring the bejeezus out of Yunhua.
Can't wait till we get more into her character beyond, uh, her boobs.
I gotta respect the detail that her spacesuit still needs underwire. Without spoiling anything, Yunhua gets one of my favorite moments in the whole series, but for now she's stuck in the Quiet Kids Corner with Sasuke.
How did you know my first reaction upon seeing him was to point at the screen and declare "That's a Sasuke". There better not be a magical space eye behind that emo bang.
You can always spot Ulgar in a group shot because he's the one purposefully posing next to the window, trying to look mysterious. Thankfully, the literal child in the group is able to pull him out of his shell long enough to share with the rest of the class for a second.
The child who has the Space Age equivalent of Triumph the Insult Comic Dog.
I appreciate Beepo. Without him, Funi (no relation to the company streaming this) would feel a little too precious. But with him, you can tell she's got as much of a bratty side as any 10-year-old.
The logistics behind her puppet broadcasting her unspoken thoughts absolutely has to come into play further down the road, and I am bracing myself for that day.
If the dog says a cuss, does Quitterie yell at her or the puppet?
Honestly, I think Quitterie yells at whoever deserved the cuss in the first place.
Quitterie is definitely the most standoffish of the crew at the start—while everyone else takes their planet-hopping mission in relative stride, she's clearly not handling the stress well, which leads to a lot of friction.
 
 
I'm glad we quickly got to her first character arc, because as much as anime loves their Rich Asshole Characters, this particular situation doesn't really need one. And boy does her backstory set the tone for where this cheery space adventure could go.
 
 
Quitterie's backstory is A Lot. I'd actually forgotten the particulars from the manga, so revisiting it was a kick in the teeth. That one line about never being taught how to love tells you immediately why she's ended up treating Funi the same way she was treated by her mother. Anime's no stranger to Bad Parents, but the really good series are the ones that grapple with how kids pick up things from even abusive or neglectful families.
But thankfully, Quitterie's wrong about herself. Even if she's bad at showing it, she does love her sister, and their make-up scene is so god damn heartwarming.

Those were some good tears.
And lemme tell you, there's plenty more tears where that came from! Also some very weird mushrooms, but that'll come in its own time. For now, I'm just excited to see everyone else enjoying everything Astra has to offer.
There's gotta be so much in store. We've still got plenty of the crew to delve into, and if things go as planned for our Lost in Space children, there's about four more planets to explore.
There's a lot to look forward to, but I'm also just enjoying seeing the series' unique energy realized so well. The scene of them exploring the forest on their first planet perfectly captures the excitement of discovering something new about the world around you.
 
 
I really like how the first danger they encounter is the very same thing they felt perfectly safe on earlier.
That's the spirit of adventure! Every new discovery is a chance for joy or terror, often both. And that's the energy Astra lives on when it's not concerned with character drama. I'm glad Masaomi Andō's captured it so well. Dude knows how to direct.
I particularly like the picture-in-picture closeups we get.

I was a little iffy on the constant pseudo-anamorphic aspect ratio gimmick, but I think it ends up suiting the series well. Especially when they choose to drop it for the Important Shots.
There's also the little touch of Kanata's flashbacks being in the style of a damaged film reel.
My favorite aspect is also the hardest to demonstrate though: the sound work. You mentioned Aries' chipmunk Christmas album already, but in these first two episodes the music's been used perfectly, be it ramping up dramatic moments, providing stings for punchlines, or cutting from one piece to another when there's an anticlimax.
The sound work is simply incredible so far! Bad sound effects can make sci-fi stories feel hammy and lame, but that hasn't even been close to a problem so far. Everything feels plausible, from the way their tech works to the alien creature designs. Especially this thing:
That taste-tester thing is beautiful. The fact that Zack, the most stoic and serious character in the cast (sorry Ulgar) made a goofy thing like that tells you that even he has some hidden depths to plumb.
I'm so glad he's not the one proclaiming the heights of his IQ, because the last thing this group needed was a MENSA dude.
So far, while he's easily the most stoic of the cast, his actions have been among the most empathetic. Part of that is being the one to know Quitterie's story before the audience and seeing him push her to open up, but the other shoe drops when he makes a goofy taste tester.
Oh sorry, I meant when he works to keep everyone together by not telling the group that there's a traitor in their midst.
I hope these kids are ready for the highest stakes game of One Night Werewolf ever! Much like its alien planets, Astra Lost in Space always throws out a new twist to keep you guessing. So in that spirit I have to ask, who do you think is the traitor?
You're really putting me on the spot here, but with all the new information I've got on hand, I'm gonna go out on a limb and say this dude:

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