TO: A Space Fantasy Review

Plot: Based off of the sci-fi manga 2001 Nights, TO adapts chapter 14, Elliptical Orbit, and chapter 15, Symbiotic Planet, in two episodes.

Breakdown: Yet another ‘anime’ adaptation of the wonderful 2001 Nights manga, this OVA brings us two more stories from the anthology. However, unlike the previous OVA, this one is done entirely in CGI.

And, really, that is the only difference between the two as this is an incredibly loyal adaptation of the manga’s stories – so close, I’d be tempted to believe they made the storyboard directly out of the manga pages. Since they’re so close together, I’ll give my individual opinions on each story.

The first episode, Elliptical Orbit, centers around the return of a ‘ghost ship’ called the Flying Dutchman returning from 15 years of being in Alpha Centauri to mine liquid hydrogen. The cargo transport station, the Midnight Bazooka, accepts their shipment as the Dutchmen docks with them.

The captain of the Bazooka, Dan, has an existing relationship with one of the crew members of the Dutchman, Maria. While she happily reports on the success of their trip, the tone turns to somber when Dan updates her on how his life has been going in her absence, including the death of someone dear to both of them.

A group of pirates then hijack the ship, demanding that some of the liquid hydrogen be shot towards the moon base, which would result in the death of over 300,000 people.

The pirates reveal that they’re from a continent that lost in the African war. They experience 300,000 deaths every day due to starvation when those in space have more than enough food and other supplies. Hearing this over the intercom, Maria and Dan decide to fight back to save the people on the moon base as well the rest of the liquid hydrogen from being stolen by the pirates.

This story was confusing to me when I first read it due to the ambiguity on the relationship between Dan and Maria, and I will admit that it’s really not one of my top favorite stories in the manga. However, it’s still a pretty solid story with good characters and a decent twist at the end.

The second episode, Symbiotic Planet, centers around a romance between a man from a European/American colony, Ion, and a woman from the nation of Eurasia, Alena, both of which are at odds with each other and may be on the verge of war. Figureheads on both sides know of the relationship and try to end it, but neither half of the couple are willing to abandon the other for petty politics. The two nations are trying to coincide on a newly colonized planet that is covered in weird balloon-like creatures called picards and clouds of unidentified spores.

Ion, a biologist working to determine if the environment is safe enough to traverse without helmets and suits, later gets contaminated by the spores in his lab and tries to quarantine himself.

In a meeting addressing water needs for each nation, tensions come to a head when the Eurasian government suggests the creation of a river, which the European/American colonizers take as a border, indicating territories and land claims. As the meeting goes on a break, Alena is lead to Ion’s laboratory where he updates her on the situation, which might not be as dire as they believe. While he and the laboratory rats were in pain earlier, they are no longer as such. He experiments to see if the spores really have any adverse affect on the human body before releasing himself from the quarantine.

In an odd strafe from the manga, the anime has Alena walk away reluctantly from the laboratory while the manga has her opening the door in desperation to see Ion, despite the danger of infecting herself with the potentially dangerous spores. This change is odd because it forces the removal of a pretty dramatic scene in the manga – Ion carrying a seemingly lifeless Alena into a room full of people and solemnly announcing that the entire colony is now infected.

Instead, they don’t reveal who opened the doors, though it’s heavily implied that some random person from Eurasia did for whatever reason as he was listening the entire time. In an effort to have the best outcome in this, some of the Eurasians take a ship and leave the colony while alerting people at their military base that the colony had become infected with a deadly spore and lethal action has to be taken in order to keep it from spreading. Ion has to take it upon himself to save the colony, even if they may all be doomed either way.

I really like this story, even if one particular side effect of the spores seems a little deus ex machina-ish at the end in regards to the political tensions.

I would really like to know why that one scene was changed. There are some things added to the movie, perhaps for the sake of extending the time, such as Alena meeting her mother about her relationship with Ion, but there was no real reason to change the part at the lab door other than to make Eurasia look bad and maybe make it seem like they had planned this all along.

In the manga, neither side is clearly the villain. It’s a largely gray area. I have no idea why they would actively try to create an antagonist.

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Since the stories are almost entirely loyal to the manga, you really have to judge this adaptation on how well it portrays the characters and emotions through the medium they have chosen, and, sadly, I just don’t think the CGI works well.

Don’t get me wrong, they did a great job recreating almost all of the character designs and environments, even if Maria got a completely different hairstyle for whatever reason, her mother was made to look older yet somehow much more beautiful than her manga counterpart, and the bearded crew member from the Dutchman looks like his beard was bought from a dollar store.

However, I don’t think the faces are expressive enough in this format to properly convey the feelings behind the reactions and dialogue like they do in the manga. In other words, the characters sometimes seem like they’re plastic doll versions of the manga characters. They move just fine, but their faces only seem to match well about half the time.

Plus, while they also did a pretty decent job on the ship designs, they still can’t match the beautifully detailed art of the manga that made you really feel like you were on the ship, planet or even floating in the vast emptiness of space.

The voice acting, Japanese version, was very well done. While some voices were a little on the shaky side, others were simply fantastic.

The music was also incredibly well done and fitting for the stories, and the ED is simply beautiful.

Bottom Line: This is a very well made and loyal adaptation of two stories from 2001 Nights, but one could argue that, since they’re so loyal, with their only changes being ultimately unnecessary and somewhat damaging to the overall plot, that this could be one of those times when ‘just go read the manga’ would be appropriate.

This adaptation, while being good, also doesn’t bring anything new to the table for people who have read the manga. As much as people complain about changes between original sources and adaptations, one of the points of adaptations is to bring somewhat of a new view or spin to the story to make it worth retelling. This one basically just copy-pasted the manga chapters while putting a CGI veil over it. That’s not really bad, per se, it just doesn’t give me any reason to really fall in love with it or revisit it.

Considering that the CGI is one of the few significant problems with this OVA, that makes it even worse. Space Fantasia: 2001 Nights may not have been a visual spectacle either, but at least I felt like they were trying to use what they had to work with to their advantage instead of trying to be a complete carbon copy of the source material in regards to visuals.

In the end, this is still a great watch for both fans of the manga and people who haven’t read it. However, fans of the manga won’t find any reason to rewatch it and those who haven’t read the manga should read the manga version before or after watching this for more detailed and emotive visuals. I usually don’t like suggesting that, but I feel this is one situation where it may be beneficial.

Additional Information and Notes: TO: A Space Fantasy was directed by Fumihiko Sori, who also directed Ping Pong and the 2017 live-action Fullmetal Alchemist movie. It was produced by Avex and is currently licensed in the US by Funimation.

Episodes: 2

Year: 2009

Recommended Audience: The only real note here is that several people die of laser blasts in the first episode, and the resulting wounds are slightly graphic, but not really considering they cauterize the wound immediately and the wounds are kept in shadow due to the lighting. There’s also one instance of non-sexual nudity. 10+


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2001+5 (Manga) Review

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Plot: A continuation of the short sci-fi stories of 2001 Nights.

Breakdown: Despite this being just additional stories in the 2001 Nights universe, there actually is more to talk about than merely ‘This is just as good as 2001 Nights.’

Yokinobu Hoshino released these stories as a collection of unreleased sci-fi shorts for the magazine Super Action. The longest work in 2001+5, Starship Adventure: Star Field, was a stand-alone serialization project that Hoshino himself admits was poorly prepped. He started it without having planned out a solid story nor a fully fleshed out plot, and to make matters worse, the magazine in which the series was being published got canceled, and he had no desire to continue on. This leaves the entirety of this story slightly confusing and completely unfinished.

It is a shame that the story went unfinished, but I can see why he had no drive to go on with it. While the story is fairly interesting with decent characters, it doesn’t seem to stand up very well in contrast to most other 2001 Nights stories.

Speaking of seemingly unfinished works, there are three incredibly short ‘stories’ that are only three to four pages long each that only cover very basic aspects of what appears to be a much bigger story, or merely waxing poetic about some aspect of space.

There are completed works in here such as Ocean of Night, which actually was intended all along to be an addition to 2001 Nights, Vessel of Wrath, Phobos and Deimos and finally Planet of Fog.

While Phobos and Deimos is probably the weakest entry of these, all of the other stories seem pretty well-fitted for the 2001 Nights universe in tone, storytelling, characters and plot. We even get blessed with some full-color shots to really amaze you with what Hoshino can do.

Overall, the discontinued weak story drags it down a bit, and the very short stories confuse me somewhat, but the other stories offer a pretty strong continuation of the 2001 Nights universe for anyone who was yearning for more. You can even view this mostly as a stand-alone even if Ocean of Night is a sequel to a 2001 Nights story.

Additional Information and Notes: 2001+5 was written and drawn by Yokinobu Hoshino.

Volumes: 1

Year: 2006

Recommended Audience: There is some mild nudity, tastefully done single shot of a sex scene, violence and intense situations. 14+


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Space Fantasia: 2001 Nights Review

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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. In one of the first efforts to establish human life on another 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 century’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 the length of it. However, as the ship nears the planet, the space age continues to thrive back on earth with more projects and 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 harsh 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.

I think they adapted the Robinson arc very well. There are three separate stories here, subsequently making the three acts of our movie.

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 prepared to take on primitive life on a new planet. At the end of this section, they are finally 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, 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. He wants Ozma to 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.

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 family.

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. 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 where the movie really 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.

Bottom Line: This is a great movie for anyone with even a small interest in sci-fi. If it’s not apparent, I cannot recommend the manga enough whether you like the movie or not. 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.

Additional Information and Notes: Space Fantasia: 2001 Nights was directed by Toshio Takeuchi and produced by TMS Entertainment.

Runtime: 60 Minutes

Year: 1987

Recommended Audience: There is some tastefully done nudity. No sex, no swearing, no violence or blood. 13+


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2001 Nights (Manga) Review

Plot: Humanity is reaching out farther and farther into space to colonize, learn, explore and discover. With so much to explore, it’s hard to think that it ever ends. Will humanity find everything that it ever wished for beyond the stars, or were humans not meant to traverse outside of earth at all? This is a collection of somewhat connected short sci-fi stories filled with adventure, friendship, mystery, tragedy, love, family and amazement.

Breakdown:….Best manga I’ve ever read.

Not kidding. I cannot sing the praises of this manga enough. I love sci-fi, I love anthologies, especially when there are links between the stories, the art is PHENOMENAL, the stories are intriguing and beautifully written, the characters are realistic and likable, and I recommend this manga to anyone who finds the premise even the slightest bit interesting.

It’s hard for me to think of anything I didn’t like. The ending concluded a certain early storyline, and while abrupt and a little confusing, still seemed like a great and fitting end to the series. Like most anthologies, some stories are stronger than others, and some of the stories, called ‘Nights’ are just a little weird or confusing. Time traveling birds is all I have to say in that regard.

The style sometimes seems inspired by 2001: A Space Odyssey, which is great, and takes some notes from other more well known stories of sci-fi. If this has been a big project made in homage to the sci-fi space genre as a whole, then it succeeded in being a truly honorable tribute.

Bottom LIne: I know this is short, but this is really a masterpiece in manga. It’s beautiful in all respects, and I suggest everyone give it a read.

Additional Information and Notes: 2001 Nights was written and illustrated by Yokinobu Hoshino. This manga had a spin-off book called 2001+5 that I’m excited to watch, as well as an anime movie of the same name and a two episode OVA called TO both of which I’m looking forward to.

Volumes: 3

Year: 1984-1986

As a bonus, here’s some of the awesome artwork shown in this series!

Recommended Audience: It’s all tastefully done, but the series does contain some nudity, slight bits of sexual situations, minor swearing, a little bit of blood and death as well as disturbing imagery. The subject matter might also be over the heads of children much of the time. 14+


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