Sci-fi space adventures aren’t typically my thing but when I read the synopsis for Chikyuugai Shounen Shoujo (aka Off-Earth Boys & Girls, The Orbital Children, or Extraterrestrial Boys and Girls depending on your preferred translation) kind of reminded me of an anime version of Apollo 13… except we’re trading away a space ship for an entire space station that doubles as a space hotel. It seemed different enough to pique my curiosity and since it was a Netflix series, all six episodes were available to binge-watch without having to wait for a new one each week!
Was this show able to sway me, a person who doesn’t care for space adventures, and hold my interest?
Where the hell do I even start with this? Netflix jammed so much story into six episodes that when you watch it, it all flows and makes sense but at the same time I could tell the entire story in a bullet point checklist because there were just that many things happening all at once.
I will try my best to summarize it all for you.
The internet and artificial intelligence have advanced along with technology. Because of these advancements, humans have begun to colonize space. The story follows Touya and Konoha, two of fifteen children that were born on the moon. Due to being born in zero gravity, their bodies haven’t been able to adapt like normal Earth-born humans.
Once upon a time, before it went “lunatic,” there was the smartest A.I. in the world known as Seven. Seven created implants that were placed into their minds to help stabilize their bodies. Normally, an implant will dissolve into liquids that will help feed the body once the body has matured but for Touya and Konoha, their implants only partially dissolved and, thus, have decreased their life expectancy.
Touya is asked to welcome some Earth children to the space station as they won a contest by a group called Deegle. Once the children arrive, they discover Touya is a live streamer and conspiracy theorist with over 100 million followers… something that Mina is jealous of since she, as a live streamer as well, doesn’t get anywhere near that many and wishes to become famous. Along for the ride is Mina’s brother Hiroshi who has a HUGE man-crush on Touya, and a boy named Taiyou who ends up being a secret member of the UN2.1 (new version of the United Nations).
With me so far?
A comet is approaching the Earth so the UN2.1 sends up a nuke and blows it up; however, the nuke causes an EMP and wipes out communication with the space station. They recover just in time to be struck by fragments of the comment, thus creating a disaster. The children are trapped in the space station and separated from the main control room. They have a girl named Nasa Houston (Yes, her name is Nasa Houston) and the station’s mascot named Chief to guide them; however, getting back to the main control room proves to be… difficult (I mean, this wouldn’t be much of a show if they just opened a door and got back safe, right?)
I should probably stop here because the rest does venture into spoiler territory but there are a LOT of twists and turns along the way from the UN’s involvement, what the comet really is, the truth behind Seven and a poem created by the A.I. that foretells the future, an activist group named John Doe that worships the poem, something about humanity going extinct, A.I. companions fighting with flashing lenses only to have make-up sex later (you’ll understand that joke more once you watch it) and so much more.
As I said, there’s a LOT of story crammed into six episodes!
Touya is just your average eighth-grader! He has a sharp tongue, hates Earthers, and wishes that a meteorite would crash into Earth killing 1/3 of the population! You know, just kid stuff! Also, he seems to be a genius with technology and is finding a way to hack his partially dissolved implant in his mind using a next-gen Nintendo Power Glove. Again… just average eighth-grader stuff!
In all seriousness, you being by understanding Touya’s plight and why he believes nobody should live on Earth. Then, as the series progresses, because of his exposure to Mina, Taiyou, and Hiroshi, he begins to realize that humans from Earth aren’t all that bad. He begins to warm up to them and you see his personality begin to change. It doesn’t change completely as he does retain some of those venomous hisses every now and then but it does bring great life to his character. He was certainly an interesting MC that goes through a pretty acceptable redemption arc and I really enjoyed him!
Konoha is more or less in the background for the majority of the series until it comes time for her to shine. There is an obvious love interest between her and Touya but neither one will really admit it. Konoha is your typical sweet, yet, reserved girl but the big mystery about her is the fact that she keeps having visions and hearing voices throughout the series. This plot point comes into play towards the end but until that moment, she’s a bug on the wall and nothing more.
When her part comes in, though… get ready for some real sci-fi stuff to go down. The ending to the show makes sense but is confusing at the same time. They do a great job building up to it and while it is a bit out there in terms of believability, because of the world they established beforehand, it doesn’t really seem all that far-fetched and Konoha plays a central part in everything. In the end, she ends up being a decent character but because of the lack of attention paid to her in the first couple of episodes, it’s really hard to buy into her emotionally. Had this series had a few more episodes to REALLY explore her relationship with Touya, things might have turned out a bit differently.
She works on the space station and is charge of looking after the children when they come to visit from Earth. She also helps with Touya’s physical therapy that is meant to train his body to withstand Earth’s gravity as he is, eventually, going be sent there (kicking and screaming, might I add). Nasa is annoyed by kids… not in the sense that she hates them but she would rather not have to be the one to look after them. Outside of that, she is pretty protective and even takes one for the team during the comet collision by protecting Mina and Hiroshi.
MinnaMinna…. Mina! God that got annoying after a while…
Mina is a YouTube, SpaceTuber, whatever the hell you want to call it. She live streams almost every moment of her trip to the space station and cares very little about anything except for how many viewers that she gets. Even when facing disaster and being brought back to reality once her internet access is cut off, right when you think she’s going to turn out to be a decent character, she goes right back to live streaming the split second she gets her signal back.
But as annoying as she was, she does have some heartwarming moments towards the end of the series… giving you hope that she would turn out to be someone who could become a good friend and see that the spotlight isn’t what’s important in life… but then the ending hits and all that goes out the window. God, I found her annoying…
Yes, he is Mina’s brother as aforementioned but their parents split so he has a different last name. Hiroshi is the PERFECT plot device character. He comes in and worships the ground Touya floats over (zero gravity in space… get it? I know.. that was dumb), believes in the same conspiracy theories he does, and has conveniently studied things that helps them out during the disaster.
While that makes Hiroshi seem like the deus ex machina solution to every problem… the refreshing thing about his character is that… he isn’t. He’s just a semi-smart kid that just happens to be a Touya fanboy but he does have his useful moments. Outside of those; however, there really isn’t much to him at all.
Now HERE’s the TRUE deus ex machina character. Taiyou comes on board as a regular kid but he’s actually a member of the United Nations to investigate why Touya’s A.I. companion, Dakky, has his UN limiter disabled. Since it’s a violation of law, Taiyou is there to arrest him… until the disaster hits. The two mix like oil and water at first; however, the two of them do grow closer as the show goes on which is actually quite heartwarming as you see a genuine friendship develop between two people who were first perceived as bitter enemies.
When the proverbial excrement hits the fan; though, it’s Taiyou who conveniently uses his UN clearance to grant levels of access to their A.I. companions to help solve some of the problems that they are facing… which would be more believable if Taiyou wasn’t the same age as the other kids and also WASN’T A PART-TIME MEMBER OF THE UN AND NOT AN ACTUAL OFFICIAL FULL-FLEDGED MEMBER.
Yeah… I had to spoil that plot point just to point out the massive flaw in his character and why all of the solutions they come up with seem so forced and contrived. While I do love Taiyou’s transformation over the series, him being the major solution to their problems at the most perfect and convenient times was a little too much to swallow.
Art, Animation, and Sound
I have never heard of Production +h before and after looking up their profile on MyAnimeList I can see why… this is their very first anime project!
I think they knocked it out of the park! The character designs weren’t really anything to write home about at first but when they suited up in their ONIQLO suits (parody of UNIQLO anyone?), some of the actual space suits, and the creation of the mascot characters such as Chief and Twelve, their creativity really shined through. They were able to take this advanced tech environment and implicate it perfectly. You saw a mixture of high-tech stuff such as the hologloves that can broadcast the internet and take phone calls (essentially smartphones on a very very thin piece of flexible plastic you wear on your hand), mixed with current space-age tech that has some futuristic modifications made to it.
This kind of futuristic environment seemed futuristic but not in a way where it seemed too far off. Everything that was presented seemed as if it could exist today with the technology that we have. It was like looking through a lens only ten or so years into our own future… until you got to the Seven A.I. aspect of the show and that… well… that’s probably a LONG ways off.
The animation was pretty decent, too. There was some clunkiness to it but nothing too bad and the usage of CG was done very well to where it integrated into the rest of the environment nicely. The soundtrack was also very ambient and stirred things up when it needed to; however, it’s not the kind of soundtrack that I’m going to run out and buy.
The lack of an opening song was a bit odd but the ending, “Oarana” by Harusaruhi fit the atmosphere of the show perfectly and I loved it!
For a short series, I have to say that this delivered. I didn’t feel as if I was marathoning it for the sake of pumping out a review mid-season. I was genuinely interested in seeing what happened in the next episode. The story pulled me in and while there was a LOT to digest, things played out rather smoothly and didn’t seem as overwhelming. That’s how you know you have a show with phenomenal pacing.
When you can take in everything episode-by-episode, follow along with it, and then look back after everything is said and done and go “DAMN… a lot of stuff really happened, didn’t it?” that’s the making of fantastic storytelling. The only thing that really hurt the show was diverseness in the characters.
Yes… the characters had diversity but it was pretty imbalanced.
What do I mean by that?
Konoha is a great example. As I said before, she felt like a nothing character in the beginning and her lack of development early on caused me to not become emotionally invested in her when it was her time to make an impact. In the case of Taiyou, they didn’t really give a believable reason for him to become a deus ex machina solution. Nasa had a bit of a plot twist but you could see it coming if you paid close attention and after that twist, her character became more comedic than something to take seriously.
I think they tried to be TOO diverse with their archetypes and failed in their execution. I’m not trying to say the character work was terrible nor am I saying the execution was a complete failure as there was a lot here to like and enjoy about these characters but it’s like the execution leaned to heavy in some parts and not enough in others. Had it been more balanced, I think the characters would have shined just a little bit more but it’s still a good, solid cast.
In the end, I liked the show. Maybe it’s because I marathoned it but I was still thinking about it 24 hours later and all of the great moments that were had in it. This is a pretty deep and layered story that packs a TON of information into it but does so at a pace that allows you to digest everything. Plus, with it being on Netflix, the episodes were a flat 30 minutes each instead of the 23 minutes and change with normal anime so when you add it up, it has the content of about eight episodes of a normal TV anime and that little extra added up and stopped the story from being rushed.
Despite some of my gripes with the show, it was just too good to not recommend and it was a very impressive debut show for Production +h. I’d love to see what they learn from this and how they apply it to their next work! If it’s as good as this one, I’ll definitely be watching it!
Chikyuugai Shounen Shoujo
Chikyuugai Shounen Shoujo accomplishes a lot in a short time frame and what you are left with is a very solid sci-fi story for survival mixed with characters that shine in some spots but feel a little too contrived in others. Still, a very enjoyable experience!
Believable sci-fi pretenses
Amazing backgrounds and artwork
Good characters to a point
Characters don’t seem to have their development balanced