Saturday, November 3, 2012

Six Favourite Science Fiction Anime

A great deal of anime are science fiction or fantasy oriented.  The setting might be a primary or secondary school (which half of anime seem to be set in), but there are these out of this world or speculative elements that kick the anime the extra step to avoid the normal 9 to 5 of reality.

Gundam 00 - pretty cool SF too, but see my Gundam post instead.

In this post I'm going to talk about six, out of hundreds of scifi anime, that I found entertaining because they had some very nice hard SF elements to them.  This means the science is "good" and stories are entertaining.  All of these shows were released on DVD in North America.  There are many other quality shows like Ghost in the Shell, Akira, Last Exile, FLAG, Appleseed (CG), Denno Coil, Ergo Proxy, Stein's Gate, The Girl Who Leapt Through Time, Zipang, Kiddy Grade, etc., that are also be worth writing about! Space Operas are another SF category worth a post at some point as shows like Gurren Lagaan, Heroic Age, Xenosaga, Macross, Space Battleship Yamato, and Crest of Star/Banner of Stars fall into this category.  Gundam is pretty fun SF too, but I would put it in its own category as it is GUNDAM!

Planetes is an anime released in 2003 about a crew of debris collectors that work out of an orbital station.  The space debris they collect is all the leftover junk and bits and pieces of mankind's venture into space.  Already, we steer shuttles and rockets clear of the thousands of pieces of orbital junk that need to be avoided as you would hate to hit one of these or have one of these zip through your satellite or capsule at rifle-like velocities.

This show has well scripted stories and the show is very realistic about how it deals with working in space.  There are great characters along with a nice romance between a hardened spacer and a newbie hire who is represents the happy, glasses are half-full type of spunky anime girl.  But it isn't all about debris as there are visits to the moon, a mission to Jupiter (but not to look for the 2001 monolith), and terrorists!
Pacing - this is not a fast paced anime or action oriented.  Other anime with near future themes set in space would be Rocket Girls and Stratos 4 (both with increased fan service - but not over the top, so you can either like it or hate it depending on your point of view).

This anime (released in 2003) is set 200 years after "close enough" supernova basically blasts the Earth and devastates it killing off most of everything.   Mankind has recovered and has re-entered space with far more advanced technology.  Students who qualify can attend one of many space academies to train for a spacer's life.  They also are key to defending the Earth by deploying a massive energy barrier to block an approaching second shockwave that will wipe us out the shield fails.

Stellvia stars the peppy young heroine, "Shima," who has just joined the Stellvia Space Academy and has lots to learn.  The show is vibrant and has some interesting takes on space school.  The characters develop and mature under the tutelage of their instructors.  The show takes an interesting turn halfway through as it shifts, but I found it to be pretty enjoyable overall.  Competing space academies with space races, and lots of interpersonal dynamics make this show stand out.  The great OP by Angela is also nice!  This show has a mecha.

Another show involving a space academy is Infinite Ryvius.  In this show a cruise goes badly wrong and the students end up in a "Lord of the Flies" situation which I didn't like much.

Geneshaft is a show (released in 2001) set in the far future that has some pretty interesting world building going on it.  Humanity is now a species governed by controlled breeding.  The vast majority of humanity is now composed of women in a 9:1 ratio with men.  The few males are in leadership positions as they are more risk takers and aggresive, but each man has an emotionless female minder watching them.  Genetic engineering plays a big role in this show as you can be bred for various attributes.  Even dogs have been uplifted to high intelligence.

The show is mostly about a mission to investigate these mysterious rings that show up around the Earth along with all of the political machinations that accompany it.  I enjoyed the show for the world building first and the other stuff second. I don't believe this show was particularly popular.  There is of course the customary giant mecha called a Shaft!

Starship Operators
Starship Operators is a fun little show (released in 2001) that is full of episodic starship duels.  Each starship duel is similar in concept to having anime superheroes battle it out with their signature moves but using starships instead.  The Amaterasu, the protaganists' ship, is a well balanced cruiser design that happens to be the last free roaming vessel that refuses to surrender to an attacking star empire.  In the series, the naval cadet crew must survive a series of duels with enemy ships, each of which have different strengths and weaknesses.  Lots of politics, good characters, reality TV, and starship tactics in this show. This show is a mecha free zone.

Scrapped Princess
Out of all of the shows I've mentioned I have a real soft spot for this particular anime series that was released in 2003. The somewhat spoiled Pacifica is the cursed or Scrapped Princess who is under a curse that has everyone out to kill her.  Fortunately, she has a wonderful brother and sister who protect her as a fighter and magic user respectively.  The show starts out as a fantasy series with swords and sorcery and develops as you find out more about Pacifica's curse.  I'm not going to say any more because this show is awesome SF!  If you like SF, I highly recommend Scrapped Princess if you can find it. Giant war machines - I hesitate to call them mecha - exist in this show.

Zegapain is another under rated show that aired back in 2006.  It is pretty much pure SF though.  It starts off in the typical fashion where a bunch of high school students attend school, but then it starts to get strange.  There are giant mechas called Zegapains that are piloted by the students to fight evil aliens called the Gards-orm.  The mystery deepens and you find out more and more about this weird world, but it all makes sense later on.  The show involves massive quantum computers and I can only say it is a bit Matrix-like.  I enjoyed this show and thought it was well done with giant mechas and all that.  I was cheering for the characters to win.

Other Six Favourite Anime Posts
I've also written some mecha anime inspired SF. It has received some good reviews. Visit here if you are interested.  I could always use some community support from anime fans!


  1. I agree with Stellvia and especially Zegapain. Stellvia was a great show with lots of really moving moments, and great art. Love the op theme, too. Zegapain was alas framed from the get go as an ad for the Xbox game, but the show itself was great. Good post!

    1. Hey, thanks for the kind comments. There are so many great scifi anime. I only picked 6 out of many shows that had some more hard sf elements. Strangely I did find that more SF shows seemed to have come out of Japan prior to the last 3 years. Hopefully another cycle will come about in the future.


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