Astra Lost in Space’s premise is simple enough: set in the distant future where space travel is a normal, everyday occurrence, a group of high schoolers, while on their class trip, suddenly find themselves transported to the far reaches of uncharted space. There they find an abandoned spaceship and soon begin their perilous journey back home, touching down on each planet they pass in the hopes of scavenging resources. Surprisingly, deadly aliens aren’t the only threat our characters face. In fact, the real threat turns out to be much closer to home. Astra may seem like an odd choice for my hidden gems series. After all, it only finished airing last year and hasn’t yet had the time to fade into obscurity like my other choices. Nevertheless, I feel that Astra, with its less-than-stellar marketing, was oft-overlooked in favour of anime like Fire Force, Dr. Stone, and Demon Slayer. I’m hoping that this review will convince you to give the show a try if you, too, passed up on it last year.
The strongest weapon in Astra’s arsenal was by far its story. Its story, which may seem simple, even cliche, at first glance, was actually full of twists and turns. What started out as a group of teens’ jaunty trek through uncharted space soon turned into a story rife with intrigue and mystery. It’s not long before the anime reveals that the enemy isn’t anything as straightforward as hunger, sickness, or aliens (though these, too, are very real threats), but something much closer to home. This was such a fantastic twist. This complete and utter betrayal of everything that the characters knew and loved turned out to be far scarier than any deadly alien they encountered…
I also liked that each episode of Astra featured a different planet complete with a different set of threats and challenges. It was kind of like the show was adhering to the monster of the week format, which suited me just fine! This weekly change of scene kept Astra feeling fresh and exciting, as I was always wondering what the characters’ next stop would be like. And they rarely disappointed! Even the planets that seemed like paradise at first glance would soon reveal themselves to be hiding a deadly secret.
Here are a few other things that I liked about Astra’s story: each episode ended on a cliffhanger, guaranteeing that I would tune in again the following week to see what happened, a story that ends in its characters coming to the end of a long journey is almost always satisfying, this show is no exception, and, finally, Astra has infinitely better comedic timing than its mangaka’s other series: Sket Dance (which, for the record, I loathed). It knew when it was time to be serious, when it was time to crack a knee-slapper, and shifted between the two moods with ease.
Now, onto Astra’s characters… At first glance, it seems as though it’d be pretty easy to slot them all into archetypes. Oh, that’s the jock… OK, there’s the class clown… Yeah, that must be the wallflower… And so on. But give the characters a chance and you’ll soon find that there’s more to them than what meets the eye. Each and every one of them has their own strange, unique quirk, like Aries’ photographic memory, and interesting backstory. It was so much fun getting to know them all. Not only that, but it was amazing to watch them form very real, very tight bonds with each other, as the threats that they faced (both from outside and within) forced them to band together and protect one another.
My favourite of all Astra’s characters would have to be Luca. Luca’s unwavering confidence in themselves and relentlessly upbeat attitude in spite of everything that was happening around them was downright inspiring. And, while every character had their secrets, Luca’s came as the biggest shock to me!
If I had to choose a few words to describe Astra’s art, they would be: clean, crisp, and colourful. Though there was nothing especially unique about the way the show looked, each character had their own distinct design, each planet, its own unique colour palette, and the linework that made up the show was neat and tidy. Nothing to write home about, but pleasing to the eye, nonetheless…
In terms of sound design… Astra’s opening was catchy, but I really liked its ending, which seemed to capture both the spirit of teamwork and of adventure. The show had some really pretty insert songs too (courtesy of the fact that one of its characters was an aspiring singer). Though I tried my best to find out who performed them, I was unsuccessful in my search. Regardless, their voice was strong, stirring, and beautiful.
To conclude, though I’ve always been a fan of shows set in space, my expectations going into Astra were fairly low. Its premise struck me as kind of unoriginal and my hatred for Sket Dance, its mangaka’s other series, still burns strong to this day. That being said, this show surprised me. Its story wasn’t cliche, but full of interesting twists and turns, and its characters weren’t one-dimensional archetypes, but quirky and well fleshed out. And while Astra’s visuals and sound design weren’t exactly groundbreaking, they both scored a passing grade. This all combined to make up a show that was better than I ever thought possible, one that I’d urge you to try. I’d recommend Astra if you enjoyed Infinite Ryvius (kids get lost in space and are forced to rely on each other to survive) or The Promised Neverland (kids discover that they’ve been deceived their whole lives and find themselves up against a foe much stronger than they are).