Spaced Out

Even if they’re late in getting the word out, Otakon always manages to deliver something interesting at the last second. In the case of Otakon 2010, that something was the US premier of Welcome to the Space Show, an original movie by those wackos who brought us Read or Die and Kamichu!. I don’t really think I have the guts to deliver a full on review of this film, but I’ll try anyway!

Space Show follows the exploits of five kids, Natsuki, Amane, Noriko, Koji, and Kiyoshi. They’ve decided to make a retreat out into an old school house for one week during the summer to get their homework done, amongst other things. Other things including searching for Amane’s lost pet rabbit, who Natsuki accidentally set free during a lapse of stupidity. They end up finding an injured dog during their search, and decide to take him in. Upon awakening, the children are amazed to find that the dog can talk, and is in fact an alien.

Turns out this alien–hilariously named Pochi–came down to Earth on a recon mission, searching for a rare plant which is naturally occurring on Earth. In return for saving him, Pochi offers the kids a trip up to the dark side of the moon. However, upon reporting his findings about Earth, government authorities cut off all flights between the Earth and the moon. The rest of the film is devoted to the kids finding their way back home, and an underlying conspiracy revolving around the rare plant Pochi was after, and the galaxy’s most popular TV show–The Space Show.

I suppose what’s worth mentioning first and foremost is that Space Show truly is an original film. I mean original in the sense that there is no GENSAKU to RAPE. There is no Original Way to escape down. Space Show materialized completely on its own. This is pretty rare, since even a lot of anime classics like Ghost in the Shell and Akira are based on existing works, and that alone makes Space Show worth noting. The movie also seems to be part of a developing trend in making original anime movies, possibly starting with Shinkai Makoto’s works, and Hosoda’s Summer Wars.

Space Show is loaded with heart, creativity, and admittedly lots of lolicon service for weirdos like me.  The female characters, which are the main draw for me, are quite cute. While I don’t typically like the genki, sporty girl; Natsuki captured my heart as soon as her ass-hugging short-shorts filled the screen with all their glory, and as she moved deeper into the shot I fell further in love with her sexy, bare legs. I mean, she has a great personality, too. Childish, but not annoyingly so (Coming from a man who feels Index is the best character in her show.) and determined. Her younger sister, Amane, is a touch too serious for me, but she also has inspired moments of cuteness. Lastly, Noriko, provides an excellent, down to Earth, straightman. I suppose there are male characters, too.

Much like Kamichu!, there are strange creatures (In this case aliens, not kami.) that inhabit and bring life to the alien world the movie presents us. Okama delivers a varied compliment of strange and unusual designs that actually look like aliens from another planet.  There is only one design I don’t like, and it’s an obvious Totoro ripoff, but that’s balanced out by his cool personality. However, the rest of the designs are overflowing with creativity, and always find a moment to shine, even if it’s a split second in the background, doing something weird. This creativity can be extended to the world in which this all happens in as well, which I assume Okama also had a hand in.

There’s some serious production values at work here for a little movie that some kimoi otaku put together for mainstream consumption. The animation is generally very fluid, making everything in the film from the characters, aliens, and backgrounds living and breathing. Cuts of animation are inconsistent here and there, but that gives the movie more soul than anything else.

One of the main flaws of the movie is its plot. While a collection of interesting ideas, the main underlying story seems to be trying too hard to be a kids movie. Kids get whisked away from home, can’t go back, have to find a way back, and wind up needing to defeat an evil baddie by the end, too. This isn’t to say formulas like these don’t work, but given the movie’s somewhat amateurish plotting, it doesn’t really seem to know where things are going. Some aspects of the plot are just poorly explained, if explained at all. It kind of finds its footing after a particularly dramatic event, but after that it simply feels as if we’re just going through the motions. Things do come back together nicely for a wonderfully heartwarming ending, though. And if there’s anything this movie gets right, it’s heart.

Another issue with this movie is that it’s just a big ol’ otaku fest dressed as a kids movie. This isn’t an issue for me, obviously, but considering this is some big movie for normal people to watch, that’s not a good thing! Yeah, I love seeing Natsuki sprawled out on a bed with skimpy clothes on, too, but a normal person just thinks that’s creepy! But even on a more fundamental level, these girls are simply too sexy to be cute and approachable Miyazaki heroines. But perhaps I’m just projecting.

Anyway, if you’re down for a fun movie with lots of neat ideas, cute characters, and lots of heart–even if somewhat unfocused–I think you’re gonna dig Space Show. It probably helps if you’re a dirty lolicon, too, but that certainly isn’t a requirement.  I got a kick out of it, for the most part.