We present to your attention a selection of five anime, in which we are talking about space exploration. The first flight into space in an alternative world, the space race for helium-3 and the difficulties of training astronauts — all this can be seen in these films and TV series.
Serious anime about space
The Japanese animation industry annually releases dozens of films and TV series devoted to a variety of topics and designed for different categories of viewers. Most of them are quite frivolous, do not pretend to be realistic and are designed primarily for children and young people. Unfortunately, anime is most often judged by it.
Space is not the most popular topic in anime. Nevertheless, this category includes dozens of films and TV series. Among them there are those that can be put on a par with such masterpieces of the “space opera” genre as “Star Trek” and “Star Wars” with full confidence.
But now we are not talking about them, but about much less well-known anime, which carry a minimum of a fantastic element. They quite realistically show not only the technical side of space flights, but also those social, psychological, political and even philosophical problems that are associated with it.
“Royal Space Force: The Wings of Honneamise” (1987)
The full-length animated film “Royal Space Force: The Wings of Honneamise” was released in 1987, when Japan was just starting its own space program. It tells the story of the first flight into space in an alternative world in which the state of Honneamise and its neighbor exist, with which it is in hostile relations. The level of technology development in this world roughly corresponds to 50-60 years.
The anime is notable for the fact that the artists paid great attention to every little thing that appears in the frame. Despite the fact that local cars and airplanes have no direct analogues in the real world, their appearance is based on real-life projects and every detail is in its place. The same goes for everything else in the film: money, the alphabet, military uniforms, even the design of the first spacecraft. We could have had all of them.
The most interesting thing about the flight of the first cosmonaut of the Honneamise country is that no one takes him seriously. For most, he is only a suicide who wants to sit on a pile of explosives and set it on fire. Therefore, they perceive him as a fashionable media character, then as a means to gain political capital, then in general as a tool for provoking war. And only a small handful of fanatical scientists know that he will have to take the most important step in the history of mankind and be the first to come out of his cradle.
In the end, Shirots Ladat, as the main character is called, still manages to reach orbit. But the questions he asks himself and others are very different from “Useful things people can get from space exploration”. Instead, he ponders whether people will be able to bring anything to the universe other than senseless fuss, intrigue, blood and garbage.
The 26-episode series about the everyday life of space scavengers is called “Planetes”, which is sometimes translated as “Travelers”. But this is not entirely true, because it contains a play on words. After all, for the history itself, not only those who move between orbits are important, but also the most celestial bodies, once called by this word because of their tricky trajectories.
The events take place in the year 2075. Humanity reached the Moon and Mars and founded small settlements on them. There are several large space stations orbiting the Earth. Passenger suborbital flights became a reality. A spacecraft is preparing to launch for a flight to Jupiter.
And all this is based on technologies that somehow exist now. In the series, there is no artificial gravity except created by centrifugal forces. Sounds do not spread in a vacuum. The spacecraft use chemical, plasma or thermonuclear jet engines.
With all this, the main characters of the series are employees of the anti-space debris department of one of the corporations. There are already so many debris in orbit that they really lead to the death of people. Despite this, the relevant departments of companies that have undertaken to explore near-Earth space are always understaffed and only the most dedicated supporters of this cause work there.
But even bigger space fanatics are being selected for a flight to Jupiter. Whether to forget everything around for the sake of flying there is decided by one of the main characters. At the same time, a terrorist group appears, which has even more questions for this spacecraft. After all, while rich countries are having fun traveling to other planets, the poor cannot solve their earthly problems.
“Moonlight Mile” (2007)
The events of the series “Moonlight Mile” turn around at the beginning of the 21st century almost today. But in the world of the series, space is conquered much more intensively. Autonomous robots can be seen next to the familiar International Space Station, and a base is being built on the Moon.
The main events of the series turn around the last one. Humanity is flying to the Moon not so much for the sake of knowledge as for the source of energy. The lunar regolith is full of helium-3, used as a thermonuclear fuel. And around it, earthly governments and corporations are playing complex, dirty and sometimes bloody games.
Two friends — Goro Saruvatari and Jack Woodbridge, who dream of space, are involved in this whole story. They make their path there each in their own way, but in the end they meet on the Moon.
In addition to peace, the military confrontation between the United States and China continues in space. Both countries are secretly developing new technologies from the rest of the world and have put combat spacecraft into orbit that look extremely realistic. And they are even fighting, not caring that the debris may damage civilian infrastructure.
The series is notable for the frankness of the content. And it’s not just about obscene language, scenes of sex, blood and death. There are no white and fluffy ones among the parties to the conflict. Even Japan, which seems to be trying to stay away from the confrontation, is really very corrupt, but at the same time, for the sake of its own space ambitions, it is ready to play against the allies.
It should also be noted that the two 12-episode seasons contain only part of the plot of the manga (comics) on which they were filmed. In the unscreened part, we are talking about a military conflict between the United States and China on the Moon and a big city on it, which was built a decade and a half after that.
“Space Brothers” (2012)
The series “Space Brothers” was released in 2012. It is based on the manga of the same name, which is published to this day and covers only part of its plot. Despite this, it consists of as many as 99 episodes, telling about the path of the two Nanba brothers into space.
At the same time, the series is almost devoid of a fantastic component. The main focus is on astronaut training, and the space agencies of Japan (JAXA) and the United States (NASA) are shown as they really are. Real astronauts even act as heroes in it. In particular, Soichi Noguchi voiced himself in it directly from the ISS.
The events of the series begin in 2025, when people begin to build a lunar base. At the same time, it should be remembered that he was filmed at a time when the Constellation program was considered the main option for returning to the Moon. Therefore, there is no colossal SLS rocket in it. But Ares I and Ares V are shown very realistically.
The main focus of the series is on Mutto’s older brother, who is being selected and trained as an astronaut. It turns out that it is very interesting to follow this, because it is organized like a real quest. In which failure at every stage will mean postponing the realization of the dream of flying.
Hibito’s younger brother, who is just flying to the Moon, is not forgotten by attention. The series shows that walking on it can be extremely dangerous and can leave an imprint on the astronaut’s health, which will forever block his way into space.
The series shows a lot of details concerning the launch of spacecraft into space. For example, flight training of astronauts is mandatory, which takes place on T-38 jets. Or, for example, the work of engineers designing a “lunar buggy” and parachute systems for returning the capsule to Earth. A lot of attention is paid to the radio telescope on the back of our moon.
The strongest side of the series is the disclosure of minor characters. In “Space Brothers” it is clearly shown that there are no random personalities among the selected astronauts. Each of them has a history that led here, outstanding abilities and extraordinary motivation.
“Classroom Crisis” (2017)
There is an opinion that anime is a frivolous video about schoolchildren, their clubs, trips to the beach and school festivals. And the 13-episode series “Classroom Crisis” fully confirms this opinion. The nuance is that the school, or rather the academy to which the heroes go, is located on the Mars of the future, when humanity has already conquered the entire Solar System.
It’s just that the corporation, which rose thanks to the production of plasma engines for spacecraft, decided to solve the problem of engineering personnel by selecting capable children and giving them the opportunity to have appropriate skills in production laboratories even in high school.
And already among this mass, even more gifted students were selected, for whom they created A-TEC — a hybrid of an elite class with a design bureau. As a class teacher, they were assigned a talented young engineer, given a huge budget and offered to create new models of engines and boats for the race to demonstrate their capabilities.
The plot begins when a new student is transferred to the class, which turns out to be connected with the management of the corporation. At first glance, he came to destroy the class-design bureau, which did not meet the expectations of the management, but in the end it turns out to be much more difficult.
The Classroom Crisis looks like a funny and rustic series about the future. But the further away, the darker, more complex and sometimes bloody the space industry looks. It clearly shows that orbiting is not just about spacecraft and cosmonauts. These are also budgets, presentations, contractors, trade unions and even the support of politicians.
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