Title: Kanata no Astra / Astra Lost in Space
Length: 12 x ? minute episodes
Genre: Sci-fi, space, thriller
Year of release: 2019
Ah, I love being treated to a double-length special premiere. Especially one that uses its time as well as this one. Though, it’s also a bit messy.
After a brief excursion to the dangerous moment later in the plot, Kanata no Astra goes back in time to attempt a laid-back, humorous cold-open. Kanata is a goofy do-gooder who chases down purse snatchers, only to get mysteriously carried away by the police, and our other major protagonist, Aries Spring (what a name!), is the typically pink-haired airhead. Both are en route to their Summer camp given a delicious sci-fi twist – a week alone on a mostly isolated planet. There’s a handful of other characters, but it’s not until later that we really get to meet them. With the hodgepodge of chronology, the poor usage of ultra-widescreen (mostly storyboarded as 16:9 and simply cropped for dramatic effect) and the mediocre the-louder-you-shout-the-funnier-it-is comedy routine, this portion falls somewhat flat – but the series is making no allusion to the things bubbling under the surface. Each character has a bit more to them, and the world (or, universe) is a precarious place; the drip-drip-drip of foreshadowing and world-building is almost exciting as somebody who reads too much into the little details. The journey through space to McApa continues this feeling of intrigue bubbling beneath surface-level genericism.
It’s later in the episode, when they touch down on McApa, that things get actually exciting. The leadership capabilities that Kanata is so interested in embodying are developed through his actions, but the just-in-time juxtaposition of his backstory to explain this feels like a case over-punctuation. As a member is stranded in space, there’s genuine stress as they can’t even remember who it is, and the team develop as a group to solve this problem. The group likewise throw their centrepiece gimmicks into the ring – the super-smart-one, with super-smart-one-glasses finds their route home in spectacularly feel-good fashion, but they all talk and contribute to this problem solving.
I expect Kanata no Astra to follow in this vein; bland characters with a bland rapport become interesting due to the group setting amidst a well-paced mystery story. That is, unless the pacing goes haywire, which for a 5 volume manga stretched across 12 episodes, could be likely without more double episodes.