Plot: Based on the 1984 manga by Yoshino Yokinobu, Space Fantasia: 2001 Nights follows the main Robinson plot of the manga. Humanity is yearning to enter into not just space exploration but also expansion into space. In one of the first efforts to establish human life on a distant planet, the Robinsons are selected to be donors of sperm and eggs that will be frozen and sent to a distant planet where the resulting children will start their lives, starting a centurie’s long glimmer of hope for the possibilities of colonizing in space if successful.
Their parents will never see their faces nor will they ever see the day that their ship even gets close to the target planet as the trip is much too long for them to survive through. However, as the ship nears the planet, the space age continues to thrive back on earth with more projects and more colonization efforts in store. Not just for the curiosity, but also for the hope of humanity’s survival on their ever-deteriorating planet. But space is vast and harsh….maybe too much for humanity to handle.
Breakdown: I love 2001 Nights. It is a masterpiece of sci-fi and manga to me. The art is fantastic, the stories are creative and fascinating, the characters are great and realistic, the tone is perfect and I loved every chapter. Space Fantasia: 2001 Nights only contains the main story arc of the Robinsons, which is but one of many stories in this vast anthology. I was most disappointed that they didn’t cover the Lucifer arc, but considering we only have one movie to work with, I understand that the main overarching plotline was the one to focus on.
So how did this fare? Well, I think it represented this arc very well. There are three separate stories here, subsequently making the three acts of our movie. Each section is based off of one mini-arc/chapter of the Robinson arc.
The first section is called Orphans of Space. Here we see the start of the Robinson Project while also fast forwarding into the results of the project. The children, of which there are 22 overall survivors, are being born and raised while orbiting the planet Ozma, their intended home planet. They need to stay on the ship while analyzing the planet extensively to ensure that the planet is suitable for human life. While on the ship, the children are cared for by the Robinsons. Not the actual ones, mind you, but android stand-ins meant to be caretakers and teachers to the children to help keep them alive, healthy and ready to take on primitive life on a new planet. They finally are prompted to land on the surface of Ozma to start their new lives.
The second section called “A Present from Earth” takes place a few decades after the Robinson Project was launched. Utilizing anti-matter energy from the newly discovered planet of Lucifer, of which I’ve already slightly grumbled about, and utilizing new forms of hyperspace travel, the Robinson’s ‘legit’ son, Adam, traverses into space ahead of his younger….err older? Siblings to Ozma with a huge team of workers to terraform Ozma and make it mimic Earth to give the children a glimpse of their origins as well as a more suitable and lush place to live.
The final section is called Song of a Distant Earth. A few years after the first section, Adam, now an old man, again traverses into space one last time. He lands on Ozma where his brothers and sisters have already established a new life with the hopes of bringing one last batch of colonizers to a paradise in space. See, the space expansion project has proven to be mostly a failure. While humans have successfully colonized on various planets, wars, plagues and natural disasters have wiped out the colonizers and colonies that were established on those planets and the space age has been effectively shut down entirely by the government. Earth is now a shell of what it once was. It is terribly polluted, damaged beyond repair and suffers every day. Despite the failure of the project as a whole, the Robinson children stand as a spark of hope for humanity’s survival, and Adam wished to see his brothers and sisters at least once on the planet he helped form while also making one more attempt at colonizing others in space, without intruding on the planet given to his siblings.
The story is very well told, the atmosphere is solid, and I really believe that this movie did justice to the manga. It saddens me that this movie seems to get moderate to low marks by other reviewers. I don’t feel like I’m blinded by my adoration of the manga. Hell, if anything, I should be especially critical of adaptations of things I love. No, it doesn’t match the quality of the manga exactly, but I still think it did a good job of telling this story, especially given the resources of the time.
Art and Animation: Being an anime movie made in 1987, I was not surprised that they really couldn’t match the amazing visuals of the manga. They do make a pretty darn good effort, especially in the space environments, backgrounds and objects, but the movie does show its age and possibly budget. The designs of the people are very much 80’s style, but they are well detailed in their features, no one really looks awkward, and they all look realistic for the most part. The animation is obviously going to be a little rough. I really don’t expect the best of animation from 1987. It’s not terrible, it’s not even really that bad, but it is rough and a little jumpy sometimes.
Music: The music is really where the movie shows its age. Some of the tracks are definitely more fitting in a ‘space’ atmosphere than others while some are just downright unfitting period. Sadly, all of the music is stuck in the 80’s with the unfitting tracks sounding like 80’s techno and the fitting tracks sounding like something from an old space documentary.
Voice Acting: Japanese – The voice acting was well done. I can’t really think of any instances of unfitting voices or bad acting.
Bottomline: This is a great movie for anyone with even a small interest in sci-fi. And if it’s not apparent, I cannot recommend the manga enough if the movie doesn’t hook you enough. It is a pretty solid adaptation, even if it does shows its age sometimes. Like the manga, there are also plenty of nudges to old sci-fi movies and shows. For example, the Robinsons’ name in itself is a reference to Lost in Space and there are many visual pokes at 2001 A Space Odyssey.
Recommended Audience: There is some tastefully done nudity. No sex, no swearing, no violence or blood. 13+