Libraries are great places, not just because of the wonderful books you can discover there, but also because of the wonderful movies that are just waiting to be discovered. I recently came across “Welcome to the Space Show” (宇宙ショーへようこそ), an anime movie made in 2010 by a studio I had never heard of (A-1 Pictures), and decided to check it out.
The story centers on a small group of children who meet a mysterious dog that turns out to actually be a creature from outer space, and they end up leaving the planet and traveling far, far away from Earth. Much of the movie is devoted to how they find their way back home, including those that help––or interfere––with their objective.
At over two hours, this movie is quite long, and perhaps this will have a negative influence on some people’s enjoyment. But even though it took me three sittings to finish the movie, I thoroughly enjoyed the adventure.
While the story was good, including a very fulfilling ending, to be honest the thing that impressed me the most about “Welcome to the Space Show” was its world-building. Throughout the movie there are a variety of alien races and alien places, and the creativity involved in their design is just astounding. To be honest, I can’t think of an anime movie in the last few years that comes close in terms of creating such a unique world.
There are a few things about the movie that make it feel aged––the presence of a retro-looking cellphone (that isn’t a smartphone) and a few characters whose large eyes remind me of 90’s anime––but overall the visuals were done quite skillfully, including the use of CG in some of the scenes. In particular, the color palettes used and textures of some of the objects really helped create the sense of a distant alien world.
Generally I don’t read reviews of anime (especially before writing my own review), but I did read a portion of the Wikipedia page here that talked about some of the movie’s reception. Besides complaints about the length, which is no surprise, there was also comments about the film’s “moe” element, as well as the claim of “drawing too much material from the works of Hayao Miyazaki”.
Regarding the moe element, there is one character (a young girl) who has particularly short shorts, as well as some other scenes with well-endowed characters, but I didn’t feel it distracted too much from the story as a whole. It’s such a minor thing I don’t think it will affect your enjoyment of the movie as a whole.
I think the comment about the Miyazaki influence is totally off base: not only do the characters look totally different than your average Ghibli movie, but I felt the world in “Welcome to the Space Show” was much more creatively designed than that of many Miyazaki films (although I think the raw visual quality of the average Ghibli movie can be said to be a little higher).
Though I don’t watch enough anime these days to be able to judge fairly, of the movies I have seen in the last few years this is definitely one of my favorite. Engaging story and adept world-building make up for its length and the fact the main characters don’t really stand out.
For those of you are curious, it turns out the screenwriter for this movie, Hideyuki Kurata (倉田英之), has worked on many classic anime works including R.O.D. and Excel Saga.