Previously on Astra Lost in Space
A group of high school kids get ready to embark on a short summer camp journey where they’d have to travel to a different planet and fend for themselves for a short while. However, shortly after arriving to said planet, they get sucked into a giant mysterious glowing orb and are immediately teleported to the exosphere of an unknown world where the true fight for survival begins.
For more information, please visit my First Impressions post, where I chat about some cool reasons for watching this anime if you’re a fan of sci-fi mysteries. Moving forward in this post, there will be spoilers for the first three episodes, so please read at your own discretion, thank you!
After last week’s fantastic pilot, I wanted to see the development of friendships and teamwork between this motley crew of kids, with some tiny rough patches for conflict and better storytelling, as well as some kind of explanation (or the start of) what the initial intention was of sending kids alone into space. While I suspect it is some sort of coming-of-age ritual, I also can’t help but wonder if it’s a population control utility as well (which has it’s own set of gaping holes, such as, why send only a handful of teens at a time, when one could send much, much more?). Episodes two and three definitely gave me a nice splash of the things that I wanted but it also left me wanting for even more than before.
In the second segment, the kids land on a planet to stock up on food and water so they have enough resources to help them survive and traverse to the next destination on their journey as they slowly try to meander their way back home. A couple of things that I noticed after wrapping this up is the formulaic foundation that the episodes seem to be setting up for themselves in terms of storytelling style, and the concentrated ways in which character development appears to be occurring.
Like the previous segment, this one kicks off with a bunch of on-the-nose comedic elements, poking fun of itself and it’s tropey sense of humour. Then once we hit that second half mark, something unexpected occurs, causing the team to panic and go into Survival Mode, so to speak, knocking the tension and ambiance away from laughs and into some serious territory. I liked this balance because it really does make the series more curious and depicts their situation as both slightly light-hearted as well as quite mortifying. My only real concern is that if it maintains this exact setup, it can cause the narrative to become predictable (to an extent) or at the very least to create a tepid expectation that shall detract from the overall suspense that’s been totally ass-kicking.
With respect to the character development, episode two mostly centred on one character and her specific pitfalls as well as how to help hone those shortcomings into something productive that would not only contribute to the team, but also make her more bearable to be around. I won’t lie, I find the lady to be grotesquely annoying and there were many instances where I just wanted her to shut. The. Hell. Up. Even so, the focus on her and her tantrums were smoothly interwoven into areas that led to vital teamwork and togetherness. This adds a neat layer of dimension to everyone’s interactions and potential growth as individuals as much as a cohesive crew or singular unit.
Everything here wraps up with a hint of a saboteur on board, which I feel can add tons more excitement to an already rather compelling series, however, if it ends up being overdone, I’m really afraid it shall degrade the awesome potential that the anime has going for it. I’m going to remain cautiously optimistic and hope that it’s the former rather than the latter.
With the third episode, the suspicion of the saboteur weighs heavily on the captain’s mind as he methodically contemplates every person’s specialised skill sets and how it may or may not contribute to the chances of them being the traitor. When the prospect of there being a vandal is revealed to everyone else, the theories of what’s truly going on start filling up the space with tight tension. Then the second half continues with the crew having to resolve yet another unexpected set-back.
Episode three really shoves things off with a serious tone here and I found it pleasantly surprising, given that my anticipation was for ten minutes of straight comedic blathering. This helped it to become my favourite segment yet!
One of the main theories the kids toss around, to various degrees, is that they are being executed and the saboteur is assisting in the execution as a willing participant in what would amount to their own suicide. Each teen is marvellously intelligent and capable in their own individualised ways and chosen fields, which is societally perceived as being a highly sought after attribute for people to compete against in attaining. The idea of destroying people because they’re “too smart” just doesn’t feel right to me here. Rather, it would be a test for the brightest and most intellectually-abled individual to come out above the rest. Nevertheless, if that is really what is going on, then throwing them into the vastness of space and hoping for them to kill each other (or having the environs kill them off) seems too risky to me (the chances of them surviving, albeit slim, is still strong enough for them to return and stir up trouble). It reminds me a tiny, tiny bit of the anime/manga, BTOOOM, where people are nominated to be executed based on how damaging they are to their loved ones and communities, via an island where they fight to the death for ultimate survivorship. In Astra, even though everyone is smart, they also have some serious character flaws that I can see petty people trying to justify as needing elimination.
My personal guess is (and you can 1000% blame my love and obsession of the Alien franchise on this) that there is some kind of android or robot on board that is pretending to be human, and this robot has been tasked with killing everyone. Either as some kind of scientific project or experimentation or due to some other politically motivated agenda. It’s the most out there theory I can think of (thank you Alien) and I’m just going to go with it. I don’t expect this to be true at all, and I’m mostly making this outrageous guess because it feels fun. Nonetheless, that’s my two cents on the situation.
My final thoughts with regards to these two segments is actually very good. I’m digging Astra Lost in Space quite enthusiastically and I’m tempted to watch ahead because I really want to know what is going on, but alas. I shall practise the virtue of patience, even though I’m horrendous at it. The continued theme of maintaining fortitude and hopeful gumption in the face of these frustrating tribulations helps to keep the optimism for survival alive, even if I do wish for more intense scenes of paranoia and the fear of the unknown. The anxiety that would come with it would add a level of sincerity to their plight that I personally would find quite indulgent. Additionally, the challenges of flying a ship in space and the various issues that keep coming up (such as acquiring damage whilst pushing through an asteroid field) is making the sci-fi nerd within me geek out in absolutely fabulous ways, and I just love this feeling. It’s an incredible reminder as to why sci-fi is my favourite genre across all mediums that I consume.
Anyhoo, I can’t wait for the next batch of episodic mutterings, which shall hit the decks promptly on Monday morning. If you’ve seen this anime, or are joining us for AniTwitWatches this time around, please come share your thoughts with me! I’d love to know what you think of Astra Lost in Space. My only request is to not drop any spoilers here that go beyond episode three. Thanks, chums!
Source: Manga by Kenta Shinohara
Season: Summer 2019
Director: Masaomi Andō
Content Warnings: Theft. Brief violence. Mildly intense paranoia and anxiety. Caution advisory for claustrophobia, kenophobia, acrophobia, and nyctophobia. Mild language. Preparation and consumption of food. Brief bullying.
AniList: Kanata no Astra
Streaming: Funimation, Hulu, Anime Lab (Aus)