|A complete story, used as much of the run-time as needed, good mystery, rare sci-fi treat||Some characters start out frustrating, bit rushed at points|
The space adventure seems like a forgotten type of show. Maybe it is just the part of me that grew up on different incarnations of Star Trek. But the universe is such a big place that it seems crazy that we barely see any anime that touch on it. Thus I am really happy that Kanata no Astra was made at all. But that alone wouldn’t have caught my attention since something mediocre is quickly forgotten. What truly makes me happy is that Astra was such a good show. It was the kind of show you’d hope for when a space adventure type series gets announced. This was a show that managed to take on a big adventure, build up the mystery, develop the main cast, and resolve itself in a well handled manner.
A great deal of credit should go to the staff at Studio Lerche. This show got the kind of treatment that few shows get these days. This series started up with a double-length first episode and ended in the same manner. That effectively turned this into a 14 episode series. That still required a bit of rush here and there to fit within a single cour. But I legitimately think that everything done with this show allowed it to not only be good, but be a pretty great show.
The setting has a lot in common with your standard “lost in space” scenario. A group of people that had few previous interactions with each other are gathered up. They end up flung out into the universe and must find their way back home. Just in this case the group were a collection of students. They were supposed to simply go out on a school outing to a relatively safe planet for a bit of camping. It was a glorified camping trip. It all blew up on them though when they ran into a mysterious orb. This orb flung them out into the depths of space where they found an abandoned ship and started on their way back home.
The setting and story isn’t all that complicated to start out. What works really well for this series is how the mystery slowly builds up. The questions piled up pretty fast. What was that sphere? Why was a ship parked outside a frozen planet? Who dragged this group into such a situation? The mysteries pile up faster than answers come. At least that is the case early on. But as the show moves into the second half the answers do start coming. I have no complaints about the rate we got answers. There are few if any mysteries left unsolved by the end. The story does throw a curve ball at us part way through, but even that one does tie into the overall narrative in a satisfactory way.
The characters are a main draw for the series. We get around 9 major characters in the show. That’s a fair amount of bodies to juggle. But the show does a decent job giving them all some development and background. We get to understand what makes them tick and motivates them. There are characters that start off straight up annoying. I can relate to those that weren’t hyped about dealing with those characters. But even in those cases the character did get key moments to develop and ended up fairly likable. For some characters to grow you need to give them a path to follow. That’s not to say I loved everyone in the cast. But I respect the path each character took.
We get a pretty good mix of characters in this show. For example: Kanata is the bold, but sometimes stupid leader. He’s got the ability to motivate and his experience in life threatening situations does colour his entire character arc. And then you have Aries who is a bit of an airhead, but also has the ability to lighten a tense mood. The list just goes on with various types of individuals. Considering the limited episode count and the size of the cast, it is pretty impressive that Kanata no Astra manages to give everyone some time to shine. It is fair to say though that after they get that moment…some of them do blend into the background a bit.
I quite enjoyed seeing this group come together as the show went along. They all have their quirks and their own skills. Everyone brings something to the table whether it is a valuable talent or a perspective that shines a light on the mystery. The Raffaeli sisters walk the line of doing both those things. Getting to see these characters grow closer, come into conflict, and get attached to each other never failed to keep me interested. The journey across the universe was fun, but it was the characters that kept me invested.
I would say the show held up fairly well visually. There wasn’t that much focus on traveling in space in a visual sense. Most of the time was spent in rooms on the ship or on the differing planets. But the Astra ship looked pretty good and the visuals held up fine there. What I did enjoy was seeing the various worlds. The story built them up pretty well in showing off different planets that evolved in unique ways. Since they planned their route home to hit habitable planets the question was always about how they’d find a way to gather food/water and not if it was at all possible.
The locations and the characters honestly looked good. There was some real life to the characters and how they were animated. A cool character like Kanata got to be more dramatic in action. While a lovely heroine like Aries was all the lovelier in motion. I’d say a decent effort was put into giving the various alien species their own design. Sure, there are some limits to that. But I never got frustrated by the kinds of creatures and environments I saw. There were times I really thought the moments in space were beautiful. It is a bit regretful that more “space walks” didn’t happen during the run-time. But the moments we got were quite nice. The characters were well voiced and I thought each actor/actress did a great job. The music was pretty average.
This wasn’t the best show of the season. But it was a great one. The mystery had me speculating for much of the running time. Some things I got right and others wrong. But I was always looking forward to the next phase of the adventure. What kinds of creatures would the cast run into? Who would step up among the cast and get some focus? These sorts of questions kept me excited for the next episode and enjoying what was happening.
What we got with Kanata no Astra was a great space adventure. The pacing did get a bit rushed at points, but the show gave itself as much time as it possibly could. I think even the weak points in this show ended up playing to its strengths. I didn’t love Quitterie when we first met her. But as the show went along she at least was in the middle of the pack for likability. The situation for each person is going to differ of course. But if you have any interest in a mystery or a sci-fi series then I can’t do anything but recommend it. Just give that massive first episode a look and see what you think. For me this is a pretty enjoyable A- show.
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