Space – Anime’s True Frontier


Space; anime’s true frontier. These are the episodes where true creative genius can thrive. To boldly let plot and character go where no man or woman has gone before.

I’ll admit. I’m a space nerd. Growing up, my parents were happy to feed into my curiosity. Books, shows, visits to museums and the Smithsonian all expanded my mind. And a little family involvement didn’t hurt either. My grandfather was an employee of NASA during the golden age of early explorationnasalogo and lunar landings. His proudest achievement was being a member of the lunar lander development team for the Apollo program. His involved in the development and testing of the explosive bolts that held the lunar module to it’s base. When the module was ready to escape the moon, this bolts would explode, separating the two and allowing the crew to join back up with the orbiter and head home. Needles to say their team accomplished their task, as no astronaut was left on the moon.

But to the present. I love the futuristic techno feel of a plot based in space. And for good reason. Space offers something that earth bound shows typically cannot; a nearly limitless environment from which to  develop in. Since so little is known about the universe outside our minuscule piece of it, there is nothing to back what an author can imagine. The universe is an oyster, ready for whatever pearl an author can make of it.

irresponsible-captain-tylorAnd anime has done just that. It has created a fantastic assortment. Assortment of shows, built around a diverse set of environments. In Cowboy Bebop, mankind has expanded across the galaxy, the mix of high and low tech makes for a wide diversity of worlds and people from which to build on, even without an ‘aliens’.  Captain Tylor shows us how space can have its humorous aspects as well. That in mankind’s quest to conquer the galaxy, that sometimes a low stress approach is better. And it might even help you become a young alien princess’s pet.  And space travel should be full of adventure and fortune. Fighting pirates and seeking fortune with Gene Starwind in Outlaw Star kept my interest in each episode. I love how the mix if aliens, humans, science, and magic all mix together to create a fantastic series.

And space has influenced other bloggers as well. Here are a few series that have made their favorites list.


My favorite anime series that’s based in space… also happens to be my most favorite anime of all time. Super Dimension Fortress Macross is all the love I remember — a show I discovered way back when I was around 8 years old. It was all sorts of ridiculousness: how would F14 Tomcat fighter planes “fly” in space? What? They transform into robots? Never mind I’m gonna love this forever!

Never looked back, really. Of course, that was just my way in. What made me stay was this riveting love story between three extraordinary but very flawed people. They were talented and driven and acted at the center of significant events in human history, but otherwise they were very ordinary humans with all sorts of failures of behavior and character. It took me some time to appreciate that this was the meat of the show, set against the backdrop of these great space battles.

Why should anyone watch this? It is fun, a very fun show. It gives you a veneer of seriousness, and it does become dark when it needs to should you view it in certain contexts. Otherwise it’s a light viewing with lots of flashy action and romantic-comic-soapy hijinks. And finally, it is musical. It has an incredible pop-idol soundtrack as well as early ’80s BGM that works really well in an overall audiovisual experience.

Kadian1364 – The Nihon Review

Space is so vast and deep; you can get lost in its grand expanse, its cosmic landscapes, its limitless possibilities. Yet what really captures my affinity are the quiet, human stories within this ethereal realm, which I can think no anime better at portraying than Crest of the Stars.

Sure, it has futuristic science fiction concepts, planet-hopping adventure, and a thought-provoking stew of ideological and cultural constructs set on the backdrop of galactic war. But the main draw of the Crest and Banner of the Star series are the genuine, layered individuals at the core. Set apart from their societies, main characters Jinto and Lafiel see in one another kindred souls. Their blossoming relationship is sweet and understated, aided by dialogue that’s subtle and playful at times, but at others direct and powerful. Even supporting players like Captain Lexshue, Baron Febdashe, and Admiral Spoor each express themselves in wonderfully characteristic ways; one comes to understand the essence of their personalities and spirit in short time. If characters are the heart and soul of a narrative, then I love the insightful, complex, and ultimately beautiful heart and soul of Crest of the Stars.

Shinmaru – Unmei Kaihen

Planetes is my favorite anime set in space because of how it simultaneously romanticizes outer space and makes it mundane due to its choice of main planetescharacters. The crew of the Toy Box are folks who do important work but find themselves demeaned by others because their work is so blue-collar. Indeed, such an amazing experience as space travel has been made ordinary and irritating because the work is thankless and difficult. However, that does not stop these characters from dreaming and reaching out for what drove them to space in the first place. That the show breaks down the romance of space and proceeds to build it up again is amazing to me.

I’d absolutely recommend Planetes for anyone. The show has great characters who are appealing and sympathetic but also allowed to be flawed in an interesting way. That humanity is the most interesting part of the series. Planetes also has an excellent sense of humor: Some of the wackiness is occasionally weird (those space ninja!), but oftentimes it works, and there’s plenty of great workplace humor and satire. And, of course, there’s lots of good, old-fashioned hard science-fiction goodness for folks who need that itch scratched.

26 thoughts on “Space – Anime’s True Frontier

  1. foshizzel

    I loveeeee me some Outlaw star! Gene has a crazy crew and one awesome looking ship, if you watch Mouretsu Pirates it looks somewhat like the Bentenmaru it just needs a pair of giant mechanical arms…I just loved how they did combat in Outlaw star soooo much fun.

    1. JoeAnimated Post author

      Starting Sunday, we are going through Outlaw Star in Classics. You’ll have to come join us! Outlaw is one of my favorites. I’m trying to convince Ghost to watch it. I think I’ll probably write a few posts on it as we go through it as well.

  2. Matt Wells

    I’m a sucker for the golden age of space exploration. Something about a hadful of men pitting themselves against the most hostile enviroment imagineable with the most primitive technology… strikes a real chord you know? Last of the great explorers. Your Grandpa sounds amazing!

    It may be short, but there’s a very effective scene along similar lines in Tetsujin 28 (2004), around episode 11. Spoilers abound, but its about a former antagonist desperately trying to reach Space before he dies. The first time you see it, he’s a pathetic villain trying to sabotage the future. When you get the full picture at the very end, it breaks your goddamn heart. You watch him cling to that rocket and you hope against hope that he makes it.

    I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention perhaps the most famous depiction of outer space in anime: Gainax’s “Wings of Honneamise”. Truly beautiful film; all the ambition and pioneer spirit of the real space race mired with touching optimism for the human spirit. Almost perfect (except for THAT one scene).

    Have you read a manga called “Space Brothers”? Its an adult series about two brothers, one an astronaut and the other a former salaryman, as they attempt a manned space mission. Very touching and well written piece, it captures that indelible romance of space that only the best works of fction manage.

    1. JoeAnimated Post author

      My Grandpa lived an interesting life. Too young for WWI, too old for WWII, he accomplished a lot without a college education. At one point during WWII, he taught radio theory to servicemen as part of their training before heading overseas. As old as he was when I was born, I was fortunate to spend time with him at all.

      I’ll have to take a look at “Space Brothers”. Sounds like it might be interesting.

    2. Reid

      “Wings…” is something to see, so I’m told. I heard there was some awesome dogfighting that happens all around the rocket-launch as well.

  3. Johan Joestar

    I loved the writeup on Planetes. While Cowboy Bebop and LotGH are easily my favourite anime set in space, I don’t think any series has ever made me love space itself as much as Planetes.

  4. megaroad1

    Space based anime are also my main love and all 3 shows that you have mentioned are among my favourites. Space does offer a limitless setting that allows imagination to just run riot.

    I don’t know if you’ve watched Crest/Banner of the Stars all the way to its conclusion in Banner of the Stars III. If not, please do so, because Jinto and Lafiel’s relationship is rounded up beautifully and is as you so correctly termed it “the insightful, complex, and ultimately beautiful heart and soul of Crest of the Stars.” Really great and underrated saga.

  5. Wraith

    Although very little of the series is actually in space, check out “Twin Spica”, which is all about the yearning to get in to space. It’s a near-future story about a group of high-schoolers training at a specialized school that offers various space-related tracks, from medicine to engineering. The story follows a group in the first astronaut training class offered by the school.
    The manga in available in English (the final volume is out next month), but the anime and live-action TV series have never been licensed. Which is a pity, because the anime has a great soundtrack.

  6. sadakups

    I mentioned it in another article, but I love me some space cowboys. Outlaw Star, Trigun, Cowboy Bebop – it made me change my perspective at the time I saw them wherein I always associated space with robots.

    1. JoeAnimated Post author

      Since I’ve never a lot of Gundam (don’t tell the blog owner), most of my space references come from those shows. I’m actually re-watching Outlaw Star with a group of friends, and I love hearing the reactions of those that are new to the series.

  7. Pingback: Outlaw Star and its Perfect Opening | We Remember Love

  8. SignOfZeta

    Macross is awesome. The “space” part is kind of downplayed a bit though since they never leave the solar system and they can cruise around at insane speeds with little to no difficulty (when they don’t accidentally warp to Pluto, of course).

    Two shows that are intrinsically “space”: Aim for the Top! and Wings of Honneamise. Top puts a great emphasis on scale, as in “space is big, really big” and is also the only series I can think of that routinely addresses the issue of time dilation at reletivistic speeds. Honneamise is much smaller in scale, just trying to get a single dumb-ass into orbit, but the task is made to seem almost insurmountable.


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