A huge thank you to Lita Kino for sharing my recent review of A Perfect Insider on her blog! 🙂
When Mutta Nanba unexpectedly loses his job, he returns home to his parents. Whilst he is there, his younger brother Hibito gets in touch, reminding him of a promise they made to each other as kids to become astronauts. Hibito is on his way to fulfilling his part of the promise, already a trained astronaut and awaiting his first outer space assignment to be the first Japanese astronaut on the moon. Mutta remembers his promise as a child to outdo Hibito and go to Mars, and decides he will begin the process towards becoming an astronaut himself.
Based on the long running manga by Chuya Koyama, Space Brothers is 99 episodes long, as it follows Mutta’s long journey towards fulfilling his dream with painstaking accuracy and attention to detail. For starters, the show refers to NASA and JAXA, rather than making up fictional space agencies. The astronaut application process shown is also extremely accurate to real life, with Mutta taking part in exams, interviews, official and unofficial tests all designed to intensely scrutinise his suitability for working in outer space. I found this makes the anime hugely enjoyable in its own right. Even if you don’t have an interest in space, being able to watch the entire process and see the kinds of tests that are assigned – some simple, some amusingly clever – is a fascinating insight into what it really takes to prove you can become an astronaut.
However, what really stands Space Brothers out as a classic anime is the combination of this scientific testing process with complex, fallible human characters. Mutta has dreamed of being an astronaut since he was just a wide eyed kid going to talks to see astronauts he admired. But everyone else applying alongside him wants it just as much. Mutta’s perfect blend of a serious passion for his goal, and a slight daftness when it comes to social situations makes him easily relatable, and it’s easy to connect with the other characters through his relationships with them.
Space Brothers details the terrifying and awe inspiring process of following your dreams, and all the fear, heartache and excitement that goes with it, whilst keeping its characters grounded and emotionally honest. This is a must see anime for anyone, especially if you’re a space fan.
One of the things that has often helped make an anime memorable is its music. Anime theme tunes have really become popular in their own right, with opening sequences often featuring amusing dance routines or other quirky gimicks. Having watched a lot of anime over the years, I wanted to share my favourite anime music. If listening to these great songs and backing soundtracks doesn’t inspire you to give these anime a go, I don’t know what will!
Goose House – Hikaru Nara
The above song was used as the first opening sequence for Your Lie in April (Shigatsu Wa Kimi no Uso). Your Lie in April was an anime I reviewed earlier this year, which revolves around the lives and loves of a group of friends – two of whom are budding musicians. It is fitting then that this should be such a great musical number in its own right! The contagious energy is a perfect match for such a vibrant anime.
A Lull in the Sea – Cry for the Moon
Although I have fallen in love with a few anime this year, A Lull in the Sea (Nagi No Asukara) has really stolen my heart. The graphics are stunning, and the love stories are emotive – which are helped very much by a truly stunning soundtrack. It was hard to choose just one piece but this simple piano piece really captures the raw, honest emotions of the characters.
Sakura Trick – Won’t Chu Kiss Me
I find it impossible not to bop to this theme tune for the shoujo ai anime Sakura Trick. If you can sit through this ten hour loop of it….well, I applaud you.
Space Brothers – Feel So Moon
I am currently working my way through the epic 99 long anime that is Space Brothers – revolving around two brothers and their quest to make it into space, a dream they have shared since childhood. This theme tune is light hearted but passionate, just like the show. Feel so mooooon!
Paprika – Parade
Paprika is easily in my top five anime for an outstanding, inventive story (that supposedly inspired the movie Inception), and this piece is as wacky and joyful as the dream sequences it depicts.
There’s so much more great anime music out there but I hope you enjoyed my selection! I tried to cover a variety of music from the boisterous, to the beautiful, to the downright goofy!
Humanity has split into two subspecies, those who live on the land, and those who live in the sea. When four teenagers from a village in the sea are forced to attend a new school on land, they begin to discover the depth of mistrust between their own people and those of the world above.
Hikari, a spiky stubborn teen, is forced to rethink his preconceptions of land dwellers when he sees his childhood friend Manaka, and his older sister Akari both fall for men on the surface world. He struggles more still when he realises his own feelings for Manaka go beyond brotherly protection and into uncharted waters of love. Futher complicating things, their mutual friend Chisaki harbours a hidden yearning for Hikari, as does their other mutual friend Kaname secretly long for Chisaki. Yes, it’s one long love train.
The touching innocence of each teenager discovering and trying to make sense of their romantic desires is contrasted, often painfully against the escalating tensions between the adults of the land and sea, and an ever changing world, thrown into uncertain chaos. When the young foursome discover that anyone from Shioshishio (their village under the sea) who enters into a romantic relationship from someone on the surface is banished from the village to the surface world, it throws a harsh light of danger onto their already confused feelings.
Nagi no Asukara is a visually gorgeous anime, and it really makes the most of its setting, with stunning blue skies, rich, evocative ocean scenery and of course, the sparkling vibrant blue eyes of the sea dwelling teens. The world building of the lives and culture of those from the land and sea is well rounded, and the often unrequited romantic feelings zipping back and forth are not hammed up but feel genuine. What results is an involving and affecting story about teenagers caught in a storm between the sea and land, between the people they love, and ultimately, between their childhood freedoms, and adult responsibilities. Whilst this anime uses some obvious character tropes for its teenagers – the brash teenage boy trying to come to terms with his feelings, the sweet innocent girl who doesn’t want to grow up, the emotionally mature girl who wants to be selfish with her feelings but doesn’t know how – each situation feels absorbing, and the emotions and heartache are easily relatable.
While this anime will certainly err too much on the sentimental, emotional side for some, it knows how to balance each emotional confession and significant moment against the minutiae of everyday life, and it touches movingly on the pain, confusion and beauty of that precious era of teenage youth and first love, with the mystical elements of the history of the land and sea to build a wider picture. If you’re looking for a beautifully animated feels fest, give this one a watch.
Click on the link below to watch the opening credits for the first half of Nagi No Asukara – it’s become one of my favourites!
One fateful day, Mari Wakatake is sent away to Kaio Academy by her grandmother, who is slowly dying and can no longer homeschool Mari. Mari is very upset to leave her grandmother and does not want to go, but a chance encounter with a beautiful dark haired girl surrounded by birds distracts her.
Mari meets this unusual girl, named Hagino Senkoji, at Kaio Academy. They get off to a confusing start when Hagino tries to strangle Mari. It soon emerges Hagino has a secret identity as a commander of an alien ship, known as Commander Evaril to her crew. The alien race are known as the Arume and consist entirely of women.
My main issue with this anime was that for the majority of it, it wasn’t clear where it was going. Logically, Hagino’s alter ego as an alien spaceship commander would seem pretty important, right? But even though Mari uncovers the extraterrestrial elements fairly early on, the plotline is largely put on the backburner during which time the show focuses on happenings at the school. While I appreciate them not wanting to give away the juicy bits too soon, it was incredulous that Mari would find out a girl her age is commanding an alien spaceship and not really ask any questions.
The show also falls under the shoujo ai genre. Shoujo ai means “girl’s love” and depicts romantic relationships and attraction between women. This is hinted at between the schoolgirls with the occasional blush and romantic moment such as a ferris wheel ride or an embrace. On Hagino’s ship we are also shown of a romance between two female officers, one of whom has died, leaving the other to mourn. In a way, even the small moments between the women in Blue Drop are rendered more significant as we see so few male characters. Blue Drop inhabits an almost entirely female world.
For a while it will not seem clear where Blue Drop is going, and the random story detours may frustrate some. But if you have the patience, it will reward you when it begins to tie some of the threads together. A strong sci fi anime does not always need many complex ideas, sometimes focusing on just a few can allow the emotion and message to shine through, and Blue Drop demonstrates this well, once it becomes clearer where everything falls.
Blue Drop moves to a moving conclusion and comes to beautifully portray love and goodness across human and alienkind. With a beautiful animation style and soundtrack and understated characterisation, this has the makings of a classic sci fi anime. I may need to watch it again to make a bit more sense of it, but I certainly enjoyed the ride.
If you are looking for a sci fi anime with a focus on female characters, and lesbian romance throughout, give Blue Drop a go.