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Astra Lost in Space

Entry updated 3 May 2021. Tagged: TV.

Japanese animated tv series (2019). Original title Kanata no Asutora. Based on the online Manga by Kenta Shinohara. Lerche. Directed by Masaomi Andō. Written by Norimitsu Kaihō. Voice cast includes Yoshimasa Hosoya, Risae Matsuda, Inori Minase, Hitomi Nabatame and Shunsuke Takeuchi. Twelve usually 24-minute episodes (1 and 12 double length). Colour.

In 2063, eight high school students and a ten-year-old are going to camp for five days together on the planet McPa, unsupervised. Things quickly go awry: they are swallowed by a floating sphere, then ejected into space near a deserted Spaceship. Once aboard they find they are 5,012 light years from home (McPa was only nine light years away), but calculate they can return by hopping from planet to planet, restocking food and water (and encountering Life on Other Worlds).

They discover that everyone is a Clone of a parent, with Zack (Takeuchi) recalling that his Scientist father was researching memory transplants. Their ageing parents had intended to use the children as vessels for their memories (see Identity Transfer), but the Global Government's Genome Control Act – intended to prevent cloning for spare parts – would have exposed them. Thus the camping holiday and sphere to dispose of the evidence (the spaceship being unplanned). The Global Government (see Politics) had been formed in 1966, following World War Three.

On one planet the students find a wrecked spaceship: inside its hibernation pod (see Suspended Animation) is Polina Levinskaya (Nabatame). Her shock on finding twelve years have passed pales to that experienced when she (and the viewer) learn the students' destination is not Earth but the planet Astra. The viewer's thoughts now flit from one red herring, Alternate History, to another, Parallel Worlds.

Polina explains that in 2049 an Asteroid was discovered heading for Earth; so, using artificial Wormholes, humanity emigrated to a new planet (see Colonization of Other Worlds) – the sphere experienced previously being part of that Technology. But if humanity emigrated to Astra only a few years previously, why does no one remember?

World War Three had indeed taken place, but was caused by the power struggle for Astra's resources, followed by the Global Government and a wish to bury the past: the calendar was rolled back 100 years, history re-written (see History in SF) – and Polina had slept for 112 years (see Conceptual Breakthrough).

Once these threads are resolved (along with another about a traitor in their midst) the story ends a little too smoothly, with the truth revealed to Astra's citizens and the parents arrested.

In terms of characterization, the show relies on somewhat Clichéd gender roles and personalities (see Feminism): for example, the three female students are respectively ditzy, spoilt and shy – though they are also shown as intelligent, and portrayed sympathetically. More positively, when Luca (Matsuda) reveals themself to be intersex (see Transgender SF), all are supportive.

Astra Lost in Space comes down clearly on the side of nurture not nature, understanding that family is not simply determined by genetic ties (see Sociology): as Kanata Hoshijima (Hosoya) remarks, they are each others' family now. Despite reliance on a couple of big coincidences, this is a rousing, absorbing Anime, rich in core sf tropes: it went on to win the Seiun Award for best media of the year. [SP]


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