What’s it about? Kanata Hoshijima is no stranger to surviving against the odds. As a child, he watched his beloved teacher fall to his death after their class got lost in the mountains. Only by pulling together did he and his classmates manage to survive. Now, he’s a high school student, and he and his classmates are heading to survival camp on the planet McPa. Tragedy strikes again when they’re swallowed by a strange sphere and find themselves floating in space, with no way to get back.
First of all, let’s address the elephant in the room: McPa is a completely ridiculous name for anything, let alone a planet. It’s bad to read, bad to hear, bad to say,
The great news is that having to experience “McPa” over and over is the low point of the episode. Astra Lost in Space was one of my top picks for the season after hearing loads of positive word-of-mouth about the manga, and I’m thrilled that my friends didn’t steer me wrong.
Astra Lost in Space takes a fairly unusual approach to establishing its characters. It kicks off from the perspective of Aries Spring, who is unusually klutzy and totally incapable of reading the room; by the time the double-length episode finishes, however, it becomes clear that Kanata is very much the protagonist. Normally, I’d object to the perspective shift, but it’s quite clear that Kanata is the more compelling character. Using Aries, who is a new student and doesn’t know anyone yet, serves as a great entry point for the audience, and our brief peek into her life helps build tension for when their trip takes a sharp downward turn.
Aries couldn’t really have carried the series, anyway; if she had stayed the POV character, I would have inevitably started complaining about why a ditzy “ordinary” girl is the main character when surrounded by a much more interesting ensemble. Kanata, on the other hand, has way more star power. His tragic past instantly gives him motivation and insight into their situation – he’s survived against terrible odds before, and he knows they can only do it by pulling together as a team.
He’s honestly a pretty typical shonen protagonist, a goodhearted-but-brash boy who prefers action over thought. He has a sweetness and charm to him that, combined with the goal of survival rather than power or wealth, keeps him from feeling like a total retread. His past makes his motivation and leadership feel wholly believable and allows him to lead not just through sheer charisma or “burning spirit” but experience and knowledge as well. Between Kanata and Demon Slayer’s Tanjiro, I’m starting to hope that gentle-natured protagonists could become more and more prominent in shonen anime.
Astra Lost in Space is an ensemble show, of course, so a lot of its success will depend on the strength of the entire cast, not just Kanata and Aries. There’s not a whole lot to say about them, yet, since they haven’t really shown much personality beyond their most basic traits. It is, however, notably gender-balanced, with four boys, four girls, and one ambiguously-gendered character. There is also, thankfully, no tiny horny boy there to be a sex pest to all the female characters.
In fact, my only quibble (other than the terrible scourge of the name “McPa”) is that the female characters’ uniforms have skirts. This seems ridiculously impractical to me – skirts and zero gravity just don’t seem like they’d play nice together. If this were an ecchi anime with pantyshots… well, I still wouldn’t like it, but at least it would make sense. The boys (and Luca) are dressed much more pragmatically in bike shorts.
Minor costume design complaints aside, Astra Lost in Space is the first good anime to air this summer season. Hopefully these good boys and girls can find their way home.