I remember reading the manga for Astra a while back and it was a lot of fun. It’s not every day that you get a space exploration manga like this. It’s sort of like an anime version of Star Trek only all the exploration is for one singular purpose of getting back home. Part of what really makes the series succeed is the quality character roster. I like almost all of the characters and even the weakest ones still bring something to the table. The story here is very character focused so if the writing wasn’t on point or if the characters were forgettable then this could have easily been rather lackluster. Instead, it’s a great anime that I could easily recommend.
The series starts off with a group of kids getting ready for a field trip to space. Aries is excited for this since she can make some new friends. The trip almost comes to a screeching halt when a pickpocket steals her bag but Kanata shows up to foil this theft and introduces himself as the captain. The other kids don’t agree with this proclamation but quickly allow him to take the title. The heroes do some exploring on the first planet but before they can head home a black hole sucks them up. Fortunately a spaceship was nearby and the heroes manage to get inside. They are now many light years away from home. Their only chance to get back it to go from planet to planet grabbing supplies and doing what they can to survive. There’s only one problem…this was no accident. One member of the crew is attempting to murder everyone on board.
Including the bit about a murderer on board really helps to take the series to the next level. It’s just a great plot line because it also gives you extra reason to really look at each character. Every character gets at least an episode to themselves and they all have distinctive personalities. None of them appear to have a motive but of course they’ve only just met each other so technically they don’t even know a whole lot. Each character could easily have a motive here. This extra layer of danger is always present on the journey which changes this from potentially being more of a slice of life to a high stakes adventure. You’re always assuming that the murderer will help out while the heroes are stranded in space but of course at any time this could change. With that said, lets talk about all of the characters.
First we have the fearless leader Kanata. He’s a world class athlete who doesn’t believe in giving up. A friend of his died a long time ago when he fell off a cliff and Kanata wasn’t strong enough to hold on. He blames himself for this even now and it’s his motivation for becoming strong. He has a lot of survival tips and sayings that he utters throughout the series. They’re all rather basic so the other characters make fun of him but at the same time they are quite true. Kanata’s easily the best character in the series and that’s always the ideal situation for a show. When your main character is great then the show’s already off to a brilliant start. Is all this bravado and heroism just an act to bump everyone off?
Then you have Aries who is the main heroine. She can be a bit of a space case at times and her main quirk if that she sometimes can’t hear what someone says and instead thinks they said something that rhymes with it. Like if a character tells her “Go get some help” she might think they said “Go and fry some kelp” which leads to some tricky situations. It doesn’t happen very often though. She has a photographic memory and wants to be friends with everyone so she is always very nice to all of the characters. Aries is a fun character and is quite useful on the team. Having a photographic memory is no small potatoes after all. Of course that ability would also make it easy to systematically take down every character.
Next up is Luca. He’s got a quick wit and likes having fun with the rest of the characters. He’s the only person who can easily approach Ulgar. He quickly figures everyone out and as a result is able to connect with everyone. Luca’s got a pretty sunny disposition but of course that could just be his way of coping with guilt for blowing everyone up. Luca’s definitely a solid character, you really want to have someone like that on your team to keep people from feeling too tense or anything like that.
Following Luca is Charce. He’s really into science and all of the foreign wildlife in these planets is fascinating to him. Charce is a good cook and just a man of many talents. He can also be a bit of a flirt at times. From the main characters I would say he is one of the weaker ones. The science angle isn’t quite as interesting as some of the other character quirks. Of course by cooking a lot of the meals he could potentially poison everyone so that’s something the gang will have to take into account.
After Charce is Zack. Zack is the genius member of the group. He remains rather emotionless at all times and is ready to repair whatever gets broken. He tends to find out a lot of the clues for the mystery going on and always reports to Kanata. Of course discovering the clues should not make him any less of a suspect as it could be a way to deflect suspicion. Zack makes for a very solid right hand man to Kanata and may be the most important member of the crew. He’s definitely a very high quality character and the show wouldn’t be the same without him. It’s nice to have a genius character who isn’t a jerk or anything the whole time and is actually quite reliable when it counts.
Quitterie is the next heroine on the ship. She’s definitely more aggressive than Aries and being friends with everyone isn’t her goal in the slightest. She has a colder disposition to the rest of the crew initially including her younger sister. Quitterie just isn’t good with people so she always has a wall around her emotions and is quick to dish out insults. You can probably guess how her character arc will go and she is a very necessary member of the crew. You always need a character like her to balance out all the super friendly ones. She just tells it like it is and serves as the ship’s doctor. Of course that means it would be easy to give people the wrong treatment intentionally.
Then there’s her younger sister Funicia. While she may seem too young to be a suspect, that could be what she wants you to think. She also has a toy bear she talks through which always acts a little meaner. Based on the show’s explanation it seems like the Bear acts out her thoughts which explains the different personality but at times you get the feeling Funicia is just messing with everyone. She’s a charming little kid and doesn’t get in the way you might expect one too. That’s the main reason why she is pretty fun here. She does her best to contribute. She may get in trouble at times, but who doesn’t on this ship right?
Ulgar changes things up and makes Quitterie look nice in comparison. This guy gets set off by anything and doesn’t even want to talk to the other characters. He makes it clear that he’ll only help out when it’s life or death. Of course there are 100 reasons to suspect him but one big thing against that would be that it may feel too obvious. Ulgar is a solid character and I enjoyed him on the show. He talks a good game but I wouldn’t say he’s ever overly mean or anything. The closest is when he piles on Yun-Hua with everyone else and you wish she would speak up a bit. Ulgar helps keep the crew on edge.
Speaking of Yun-Hua, she would have to be the weakest character in the series. Her main gimmick is that she’s super timid and is afraid to ever speak up. She feels like she has no particular talents and this becomes a self fulfilling prophecy as her hesitant nature causes her to mess up at times. Perhaps she wants to bump everyone off so that she will have accomplished something. By the end of the series I don’t feel like she ever really left a big impact though. Even her big moment basically involved singing while everyone else did the work. I wouldn’t go as far as to call her a bad character but I admit that I just didn’t like her. Substituting her with another person for the final member would have worked out well.
There’s one other important character in Paulina, but she doesn’t appear until near the end of the series. She’s a nice enough character. I wouldn’t say she does enough to really leave much of an impact though and is mainly here for some more plot twists. Paulina may panic a little too much with her fainting spells though. You can cut her some slack for just being really surprised I guess. Eh, she’s basically just around so she doesn’t change much of anything in the dynamic.
Naturally we do get some meanwhile scenes on Earth. You have the classic round table meeting type scenes with a bunch of the hype characters. These discussions were always very interesting and naturally they are quite crucial to the plot. You definitely need them around and this is one time where I didn’t mind when we would cut away from the main plot. For a mystery like this you want to see other points of view so this worked out quite well. The parents of the kids naturally have to appear as well and this was a good way to do it. Naturally Kanata’s father was the most interesting member of the group to me. The guy just has a very cool disposition.
The show also did a good job with its pacing here. Pretty much every episode ends with some kind of plot twist. As a result there is a final scene (Like a movie’s after credits scene) quite often where the twist is unveiled. You may feel bad for Kanata in each case as it almost always happens when he’s getting ready for bed. I haven’t seen a show consistently dish out so many hype twists like this in each episode before so it was quite nice. This show was just built really well for the 12 episode format. It pretty much lines up perfectly with each episode.
As for the animation, it’s pretty good. There aren’t a lot of chances for the animation to really shine for a show like this since it isn’t very action packed of course, but the character designs are on point and the level backdrops work well too. There’s definitely nothing to really say against it. The soundtrack is relatively low key. You won’t be finding any standout tunes here but nothing holding it back here. It’s basically just a sci-fi 101 kind of ost.
I already talked about the writing and naturally it is great. The question is, was it enough to make you sympathize with the traitor once that person was outed? Well, I would say no. To me the traitor still loses a lot of points in the end. I can more or less get over the original attempt from episode 1 because the character didn’t really know the others yet and the backstory covers this really well. I can’t overlook the issues from the last episodes though. By that point the traitor has absolutely no reason to go through with this particularly because of everything they know at this point. The character would have been redeemed in my eyes if they had just admitted to the whole thing or even not made any more attempts. Let the whole thing be a secret to the end. So acting on this and trying to murder everyone again is why this character was no good.
With as many plot twists running around as Astra had, naturally you may not be able to buy into all of them. For me there was just one that I find to be super sketchy. Lets just say it involves historical revisions. The sheer scale of this one just makes it impractical to me to the point of being impossible. If it was hundreds of years or something then I can buy into it as things can easily be suppressed in a long enough period of time. It was all too recent for it to be this complete though. I think the only way it would work out is if we were introduced to the world as some kind of closed off dictatorship where information is heavily funneled. That would then work out quite nicely because even in modern days we see that countries or areas where information is regulated leads to a lot of misinformation. It wouldn’t be beyond the pale for this to happen here. The issue is that Astra’s land functions as a very well run place with a lot of safety and access to information. They can bump people off when they find out the truth but they would have to have done it a lot more often. So, I don’t really buy into this twist but I wouldn’t say that it hurts the show either.
Each planet was fairly different which helped the adventure angle. So you could look forward to the heroes hanging out at the ship but also all the unique dangers that each planet would bring. Whether it would be not having enough food to survive or giant plant monsters trying to eat everyone. The show always had a good contrast going which was nice to see. The episodes just really fly by because they’re all just very interesting. It makes for being a very complete show and one that could have easily been stretched into 26 episodes and I’m sure it would have worked out quite nicely.
Overall, Astra Lost In Space is definitely a great anime. Fitting in a classic adventure story with a good deal of mystery is always a good idea. The genres support each other really well and you’ve got an engaging watch here which is really what you were hoping to find. It’s a self contained anime that you can really watch at any time so I’d recommend it to fans of all genres. Of course I’d be down for a sequel even though there aren’t any real loose plot threads left. Just seeing the characters again would be fun and with space exploration there is naturally a whole lot that you could do with it if you really wanted too. We can see how Kanata would handle future situations.