Astra Lost in Space – 08 – Four Funerals and a Wedding

Last week much of our gallant student crew was ready to give up on ever leaving Planet Icriss and were starting to make plans for how they’d live out the rest of their lives there. That is, until they found a second wrecked ship almost identical to theirs, with a single occupant in hibernation.

When she wakes up, she identifies herself as Polina Livinskaya, an astronaut who, along with four others, was on a planetary survey mission. There’s no good way to tell her that despite having been rescued, she’s still technically stranded with the rest of them due to the Astra’s reactor being kaput. When she learns this, it’s to much to take and she passes out.

However, when Zack uses the slices of an orange-like alien fruit to illustrate how it wasn’t that unlikely to find another ship in Icriss’ narrow safe zone, it dawns on Aries that, like two fruits sliced into equal pieces, the two Ark-class ships can be separated into three segments each.

They maneuver the Astra to the Ark VI, and replace the former’s ruined reactor section with the latter’s intact one. This process probably happens a bit too easily, but hey, when you’re in space, modularization is key, so I’m just glad it worked out.

With Yunhua, Ulgar, and Charce all but ruled out as potential traitors, Polina seems well-positioned to be the latest chaos-causing wild card, but she spends most of the episode in a daze (understandable, considering how long she’s been out) and distressed that so much time has passed.

As the crew gathers food (including very edible animal-like plants), Zack and Quitterie end up talking about their dreams. Zack admires his father, but learned long ago that his dad doesn’t actually like him very much, which he chalks up to how deep he got into human memory research. Therefore Zack is committed to not following in those particular footsteps, lest it change him too.

Zack tells Quitterie she should do as he and Kanata are doing and simply go for it, but she protests that it’s not so easy when her real dream isn’t to be a doctor, but to be Zack’s wife. Zack expresses puzzlement at that, because he’s been assuming all along that he and Quitterie were going to get married, recalling a promise they made back when they were kids, and affirms that he’s always loved her in his usual stoic Zack Walker style.

I love how matter-of-fact he is about the whole thing, and how Quitterie didn’t really ever need to worry, except about the fact that Zack is a lot like his father, and she’ll have to make sure his research doesn’t take him too far away from the person he loves.

With repairs complete and food and water gathered, the Astra is ready to depart from Icriss. But first, they make a detour to the last reported position of Polina’s four crewmates, just in case. This turns out to be a fool’s errand, as every additional second they’re on Icriss is a risk that they and/or the Astra could get damaged or destroyed by more homicidal plants.

They manage to find the Ark VI’s rover, oddly upturned in an otherwise flat landscape, as well as several suspicious mounds I initially thought were graves. Turns out they are the locations of gigantic bamboo-like shoots that rise out of the ground with tentacles that reach out for the crew.

Everyone retreats but Kanata, who uses his pole-vaulting skills to retrieve the dog tag of Glen, one of Polina’s crewmates. It’s nice she was able to secure at least something tangible to remember them, but it still wasn’t worth risking everything and everyone in my books.

With that, the Astra takes off and pulls away from Icriss, and prepares to jump to the next and final planet on the journey. Before that, Kanata suggests they throw a party to celebrate escaping Icriss and to welcome Polina. Unfortunately a comedy of antigrav-related blunders results in Charce’s freshly-baked cake ends up in Arie’s face.

Things then shift to blood; specifically, that Quitterie and Funi have the same kind, as she learns when she drew everyone’s blood to donate to Polina. Polina assumed (as I did earlier in the show) that they were blood sisters anyway due to their strikingly similar features.

Sure enough, after an exhaustive DNA analysis, Zack discovers something very strange and shocking, which he first reports only to Kanata: not only are Quitterie and Funi related…they are the same person—clones. What the heck was Quitterie’s mother up to with these two, and does this have anything to do with why they were set up to be lost in space together?

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Astra Lost in Space – 07 – Accepting Hopelessness

When the unsubtle episode title “PAST” appeared in the corner of the screen, and Charce was forced to bring up his own dark (and monochromatic) past, it felt like here we go, another episode that sticks to the formula of revealing a character’s backstory in order to eventually strengthen their bond with the rest of the crew.

Now, that did happen, but it didn’t take the whole episode; just five minutes. That wasn’t a lot, but Charce didn’t mince words: he’s from the only part of Mars where a (technologically stunted) kingdom was allowed to exist, he was part of a noble family, and befriended a commoner girl, who was accidentally shoved off a high wall when police caught her in restricted territory.

She didn’t die, but one day her family up and left, and Charce wasn’t far behind, leaving the noble Luddite life behind. But he never found her again. It’s for this reason, and the fact he’d just transferred into the class before space camp, that he gave off a suspicious aura. But when they learn how tragic his past was, the crew surrounds him with empathy and affection.

Strangely, the girl, Seira, sure sounded like she was voiced by Minase Inori, who also voices Aries, whom Charce remarks is “just like” Seira. Cold Aries be Seira, her lost memories of Vixia and Charce a result of her fall? Just something to chew on.

But as I said, the repeating structure of the last few episodes was completed in the first five minutes. From there, we move on to the arrival at the newest planet, Icriss, which despite the singing of the school choir members does not spin, or rather has a rotation that’s precisely in line with its orbit. One side is perpetually baked in the sun, the other frozen in the darkness.

The only safe zone where there’s water, life, and food is the narrow belt between the zones. They descend through the atmosphere and encounter a bizarre jungle of immense plants and menagerie of equally gigantic animals, with some plants preying on the animals through use of electrical charges. One of those plants reaches out and grabs the Astra. That’s when things start to get bad.

With a series of evasive maneuvers, Zack is able to wrest free from the sinewy grip of the plant…thing…but the Astra takes damage. Zack loses attitude and decel control, and the ship will no longer yaw to port. He tries to ease the ship down but a gust of wind shoves it into some canyon rock, and the ship crashes and shuts down. That’s when things get worse.

Zack’s damage report is pretty dire. The Astra can move a bit, and is still capable of supporting life, but with a key reactor destroyed and no dock or parts or skilled engineers to repair it, they will never be able to return to space, much less attain FTL speed. He thus declares their voyage over. Their only course now is to find a way to live out their lives on Icriss.

As Kanata mentions while they’re still airborne, there were simply “too many things” that went wrong to end their journey, and they were unbelievably lucky to survive as long and travel as far as they did. But being commended for their achievements thus far is of no solace whatsoever. Quitterie, true to her character, has the most trouble accepting that where they are is where they’ll stay, barring extremely unlikely possibilities.

Zack is the opposite, calming down even more in the face of Quitterie’s panic, and it takes him time to drop the Vulcan stoicism and simply comfort someone who needs more time to process everything. Kanata, noted tough son-of-a-bitch, doesn’t claim not to be ready, but as the captain he recognizes he needs to give the appearance of being ready to move forward without hesitation. For her part, Aries is fine with waiting things out there, as long as Kanata he’s around.

Then, the game changes again, when Funi finds a second wreck, of a ship nearly identical to the Astra. Kanata, Zack, and Ulgar board her, and learn that she’s not spaceworthy anymore—though she could still have viable parts the Astra needs. While there’s no sign of any crew, there’s a message reading “Help me” on the monitor, and Zack realizes there’s probably someone in the ship’s single hibernation chamber.

Just before, he was suggesting to Quitterie if she really can’t accept living on Icriss, she could enter the Astra’s chamber and wait there in deep freeze for however many years, decades, or centuries it would take for someone to find and rescue her. Quitterie refused, but here it is, that very scenario playing out on the other ship, only it “only” took twelve years for someone to find them. The chamber’s occupant is awakened and revealed to be a beautiful blonde woman with pale blue eyes. And that is unfortunately when the credits roll.

Suffice it to say, this is exactly what Astra needed: something to shatter the status quo in a big way. Real peril and the toughest problem yet. While before there always seemed to be a way to science a solution and continue the journey, now in every instance it seems to be closing the door. Despite their smarts, talent, and moxie, the inexperience of the crew, even Zack, was exposed in a big way.

Still, I seriously doubt they’ll spend the rest of the show on Icriss, so between the second ship and its no-longer-sleeping beauty, there’s still plenty of hope to go around.

Shoujo Shuumatsu Ryokou – 12 (Fin)

Aboard the derelict sub, the girls find a clean boat, chocolate…and a kind of patchwork history of everybody and everything that came before them, thanks to the camera auto-syncing with the monitors on the bridge. In addition to all the pictures they took, and those Hanakawa took before them, the camera is a veritable cornucopia of visual (and audiovisual) information.

The content ranges from simple images of life and death, to the reports of a school robotic research club, to news reports of a worsening geopolitical situation that leads to large-scale war and genocide. On the whole, though, Chito and Yuuri feel less lonely, now that they were able to watch how others lived.

Suddenly processing more information than they ever had before proves exhausting for the girls, who fall asleep under the consoles and dream of their escape from their town.

When Chito wakes, she’s too late to do anything about Yuuri getting swallowed up by a giant version of Cut. Chito suspects Cut might’ve been some kind of lure used by the bigger ones, but Cut’s body language suggests that’s not the case.

Chito runs through the submarine, desperate to find her one and only companion, and eventually emerges from the conning tower to find the Big Cut isn’t interested in eating living humans, and spits Yuuri out. It then transforms to reveal it’s a kind of semi-sentient mushroom.

The mushroom has a mix of good and bad news…though I guess it’s mostly bad for humanity. They are systematically ridding the earth of toxins leftover from the human population after it destroyed itself with war. Yuuri and Chito are the last two humans left, by the mushrooms’ reckoning.

All machinery will shut down around them, and after they’ve passed away, the world will enter a period of rest and inactivity, as the mushrooms hibernate. With that all said, mushrooms emerge from the nuclear missile tubes of the sub and they all ascend into the sky, likely to start “cleaning” the higher levels.

There’s not much for Chito and Yuuri to do but continue on their tour, with the goal of reaching the highest level. Even with their companion/pet Cut gone off with its brethren, Chito and Yuuri aren’t lonely, nor do they care if the world ends, because they have one another.

As with so much relating to this show, it’s simultaneously a deeply bittersweet ending, conveying the lesson to not be troubled by things life you can’t control (like the ending of the world) and take comfort in those you can—like who you choose to spend your days with.

Nagi no Asukara – 13

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The day of the Ofunehiki and the hibernation arrives. Manaka tells Hikari she’ll tell him her answer after the ceremony, while Chisaki is still thinking about Kaname’s confession. When the ceremony begins with Akari as the Ojoushi-sama, Uroko uses the sacred fire to light her way, then knocks out Hikari’s dad along with the rest of Shioshishio. Multiple whirlpools open up; Akari and Tsumugu are thrown overboard. Chisaki, Manaka, and Hikari dive in after them. Chisaki rescues Tsumugu, but Kaname is crushed by a fallen concrete bridge pier. Shioshishio is cloaked in some kind of barrier. Manaka offers herself to the sea god so Akari is spared. Hikari tries to reach out to her but the sea pushes him away. Akari surfaces safe and sound.

We’ve reach the midpoint of the series, to where everything has been building up: the Ofunehiki. There’s a little more buildup early in the episode as characters arrive at peaceful places in their lives prior to the big event. In bittersweet scenes we see Manaka tucking her sleeping parents in, Chisaki’s parents letting her go, and even Hikari’s dad and Uroko cordially seeing off the four. Manaka and Chisaki haven’t properly addressed the confessions they’ve received, but both Hikari and Kaname assure them they’ll love them no matter the response. In all of these instances, with the focus on everyone’s lives and the futures they’re stepping towards, their personal affairs and conflicts loom large and prominent. And then nature—courtesy of the sea god, if you will—cruelly proceeds to dwarf and dash all of those hopes and dreams.

The episode gives the start of the Ofunehiki a proper level of pomp and ceremony: the fires, the flags, the fishing fleet. Akari and Hikari are transformed by their new traditional garb. In lighting the way, Uroko seems to be holding out an olive branch to the surface. But things turn sinister and it looks like the sea god really will try to claim Akari. While she survives, the town now seems to be totally asleep (and covered by…something), Kaname is taken out of the picture altogether by a freak accident, and the fate of Hikari and most importantly Manaka is left up in the air. If she became a sacrifice and Hikari surfaces, that’s a hell of a turn. We have no idea where the series will go in the second half, but all the upheaval here left us eager to find out.

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Rating: 8 
(Great)

Nagi no Asukara – 12

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Akari and Hikari’s dad meets Miuna. Tsumugu, Manaka and Chisaki go into town to buy a kimono. Tsumugu runs into his mother, with whom he’s not close. Akari has a conciliatory talk with her dad. Hikari volunteers to bear one of the huge flags that will guide the Ojoushi-sama during the Ofunehiki. Hikari, Manaka, Chisaki and Kaname return to Shioshishio to find the younger children have already started to hibernate. While reminiscing at their old school, Kaname asks Hikari about Manaka, and he says he loves her. She freaks out and runs away. Hikari runs after her, but stops and turns back when Chisaki falls, and she in turn confesses to him.

As the growing evidence all around them attests, it won’t be long before this quartet of friends starts drifitng off into a hibernation of indeterminate time, and there’s no guarantee they’ll ever be together if and when it ends. As unpopular as the general opinion is about confronting various matters, Kaname takes it upon himself to be the guy to force a confrontation. It’s something Manaka still isn’t ready for, since she’s not sure who she’s in love with, and so it comes off as cruel, but thanks to Kaname, everyone finally knows who likes whom (again, except Manaka). The parties involved can either pretend these truths never came out and continue maintaining the status quo until the end, or they can act on the information, one way or another.

All we can say is, thank God for Kaname and his forthrightness; if not for him the awkwardness would only continue. As things stand, Hikari is glad he was finally able to express his feelings clearly to Manaka, regardless of how she took the news, while Chisaki is equally glad she was able express hers to him. They were alike in their hesitation out of fear of destroying friendships, and both seem to take solace in knowing they’re not alone in their frustration, and never were. Manaka can’t find such solace, as she’s still too unsure of her feelings. No doubt adding to her anxiety is the fact that her uncertainty won’t change just because time is running out. While Akari had time to grow up and choose her path before calamity came, Manaka isn’t so lucky.

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Rating: 8 
(Great)

Nagi no Asukara – 10

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Uroko and Hikari’s dad inform Hikari and Manaka the saltflake snow will continue to fall above and below the see, causing a cold period during which all those with ena must hibernate to survive. As preparations for a final feast and ena-thickening fasting commence, Hikari convinces Uroko to let him and the others keep going to school until its time to sleep. Hikari vows to have the Ofunehiki no matter what. After avoiding him for some time, Manaka’s feelings for Hikari deepen, while Kaname confesses to Chisaki.

Trials continue continue to mount for our quartet of burdened middle schoolers, who wrestle with their hearts as the gentle but unrelenting snow threatens to snuff out their existence. The apparent solution to hibernate was straight out of left field, and the global implications of the snow were unexpected, but the poor state of the village up to this point justifies such desperate measures. Humans above and below the sea have enjoyed a pleasant world up until this point, but by abandoning the sea god, he has enough power to adversely affect that world, and the surface dwellers are apparently SOL. At this point, Hikari’s wish to proceed with the Ofunehiki seems like too little too late, but there’s no harm in trying.

Meanwhile, all of this is a bit too much for Manaka, who reverts to crybaby mode in the face of all of this drastic change and looming uncertainty. When she’s alone with her thoughts and a red-bellied sea slug, she seems to be somewhat possibly coming around to Hikari…maybe. Chisaki copes by making sushi. Kaname not only takes things in relative stride, but also decides at this point he’s done watching and waiting for his friends to sort how who likes whom; he likes Chisaki and makes sure she knows it. Even if nothing about the world is certain, his feeling for her are. Will his bold action inspire the others to follow suit? The time for sleep draws near.

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Rating:7 (Very Good)