What did YOU do on your summer vacation?
From, the creators of R.O.D. The TV, here’s a whimsical, family-friendly anime that blasts viewers off into a vision of outer space like no other.
It’s summer vacation. Preteen sisters Natsuki and Amane head into the woods to search for their missing pet rabbit, when the find an injured dog. They take the dog, named Pochi, home, only to learn that not only can he talk, but he’s an alien botanist who has secretly come to Earth in search of a rare plant. As thanks for saving his life, Pochi takes the sisters and their friends into space for a “field trip.” The kids see the sights, meet new alien pals, and enjoy the Space Show, which is the universe’s most popular entertainment. Things get complicated, however, when all travel to and from Earth is restricted, so the kids and Pochi have to find another way home.
After a brief prologue with some aliens running around, Welcome to the Space Show spends a considerable amount of time with these kids hanging out during summer vacation. They ride bikes around town, they go for hikes, they play an impromptu backyard baseball game, and so on. The creators know that we know that aliens and cosmic craziness are on the way, so they’re content with letting the Earthbound scenes play out at a relaxed pace. That “lazy summer” tone continues once we finally reach outer space. There’s not a lot of narrative drive. Sure, the characters have no way to get back home, but they don’t seem all too concerned about it. There’s just too much space-y stuff to see and do.
This movie worships at the altar of Miyazaki, and I was reminded of Kiki’s Delivery Service, a movie that is mostly plotless, but viewers don’t mind because they enjoy spending time with the likable characters in their cute fantasy world. Welcome to the Space Show follows a similar formula, with long stretches of nothing happening except the characters hanging out. Only that instead of Kiki’s quaint small town, this one takes place in the most bonkers-looking intergalactic locales imaginable.
That space-y stuff is the movie’s big selling point, and there’s certainly a lot of it. Once we’re in space, it’s an onslaught of outrageous, over-the-top designs. We’re bombarded with whimsical creatures, tech, ships, and landscapes at every turn. These are fantasy visuals, with jellyfish spaceships and anthropomorphic animal aliens. Internet whiners who insist that sci-fi have 100 percent scientific accuracy need not apply. At more than two hours, though, it gets to be too much, almost an assault of cuteness on the senses. Add to that a case of Multiple Endings Syndrome, and Welcome to the Space Show goes on for just too long.
In the movie’s final third, the plot finally takes over. First we get some drama as one of the sisters learns a valuable lesson about apologies, and then with some action as our young heroes take on the black marketers who are after the rare plant, all during the titular Space Show. It’s all running around and “action-lite” antics, but all the finale craziness comes after so much meandering plot craziness makes it too much. When every single frame is loaded with so much over-the-top character creation and attention to detail, it wears you out after a while.
The good news is that all those eye-popping visuals truly shine on this disc, with brilliantly vivid colors, smooth animation, and deep blacks. The 5.1 sound, in both the original Japanese and a surprisingly good English dub, is solid as well, nicely balanced with a lot of small details coming from the rear speakers. The disc contains an interview featurette with the director and character designer, a second featurette looking at the storyboards, as well as trailers and TV spots.