Space is supposedly the last frontier. Because you know, humanity needs to send itself further. There are so many things we do not know about the infinite number of planets, stars, and galaxies that reside in the heavens above our own. Space anime love to paint the picture that humanity has somehow made it beyond the solar system and is continuing to expand. Sure, issues that plague humanity currently seem to be bothering us in the future still, but it’s always guaranteed to be in another, usually unique form. Space anime is something that hasn’t been as popular as of late, but that does not mean that there are not a myriad of series that absolutely deserve to be checked out. So check your oxygen tanks, make sure you have fuel and snacks, and lets jet off into space to explore a whole nother genre of anime for those new to it.
It’s Space…In the Future... Duh
Of all the things that can be said about space anime, it would be that humans tend to not be terribly different from how they are now. Vying for that next adventure into space, humans set out, just it doesn’t take us six months to reach Mars. Spaceships are everywhere, and sometimes there are even aliens that our human main characters come into contact with. If you want what is essentially a western in space–R.I.P. Firefly–we have one classic in mind that is an excellent starting point for any anime fan.
- Episodes: 26
- Aired: Apr. 1998 - Apr. 1999
The future is now. At least, it’s about 80 years into the future. Humanity has left Earth behind and moved to the stars. The problem is, along with the normies who have moved on, crime has as well. The police are there, but they cannot always get to every crime every time and are spread thin, so what they do is enlist bounty hunters to get the job done. Sometimes referred to as cowboys, these hunters watch shows that advertise criminals, hunt them down, and try to cash them in for massive rewards. Spike and Jet are two such individuals. After accidentally picking up Faye, another bounty hunter with terrible luck but good looks, Ein, a supercomputer of a Corgi, and Ed, a genius hacker, they set off to not only uncover parts of each other’s pasts, but act almost like a family to bring those criminals in and try to get the rewards that should offset their starving stomachs for a little while longer.
To say that Cowboy Bebop is in the top 10 anime that anyone who claims to be an anime fan should watch and be knowledgeable about is an understatement. The series did mildly okay in Japan, but American viewers are what catapulted this series to the fame that it enjoys today. Spaceships, aliens, space truckers, crime, gambling, and exotic foods are just some things that we think about when it comes to Space shows. Cowboy Bebop has all of these and more including action scenes, fantastic characterization, and storytelling. Watching Jet and Spike struggle to eat as they go from job to job trying to land more criminals and thus, bounties makes for a fantastic story. That, and the worlds that they visit are different, though there is a definite western twist to it all, meaning that you more or less are introduced to a new world with each episode.
The ignorance of humans is boundless and another big thing that people always seem to fail to account for is that there might be other intelligent life out there including beings that look and act just like us. They also might not take kindly to us showing up and colonizing worlds that they may be a part of or areas where they hold influence. The other issue that often arises is that some people get too big for their britches and rather than be civil and hold discussions about it, people take to their weapons, robots, and ships to shoot at those in power or flee to another world. It happens time after time in series, and it makes an excellent tool for the story. Not to mention too, we get mech! If you love robots, then try robots in space a la Gundam.
- Episodes: 25
- Aired: Apr 2008 - Sept 2008
Humanity has escaped from the Zentradi and thus, is no longer facing being destroyed. However, they are alive on a ship somewhere in space known as the Macross Frontier. Life has returned to normal however, there are robots and training and military that is still working to keep them safe. And safe they will have to keep everyone as the Vajra are now here to ruin the day. When Alto comes face to face with them while working on a show for the singer Sheryl, this fate is forever changed. He saves a girl named Ranka, and the military notes this. Soon, he is recruited to fight against a new alien menace that threatens humanity and its existence.
Macross Frontier is often argued to be one of the best installments in the Macross franchise–this author remains neutral, however–and it shows just about anything and everything that one would expect in a space anime. Humanity has escaped one threat only to land itself in the crosshairs of another with the Vajra after invading where the Vajra are. Living on a spaceship is something right out of a dream for most people and it really is shown fully in macross Frontier even having realistic sunrises and sunsets within the ship itself. Naturally too, the Vajra are fought using mechs that seem a million light-years away from where our current technology is. It just so happens that two individuals have some sort of magical music power to assist these mechs and their pilots.
Ginga Eiyuu Densetsu: Die Neue These Kaikou (The Legend of the Galactic Heroes: The New Thesis - Encounter)
- Episodes: 12
- Aired: Apr 2018 - June 2018
Space may be the place where where humanity aimed for, but peace was not present. The Galactic Empire, run by oligarchs, is locked in war with the Free Planets Alliance, a breakaway group that more or less has their own functioning society outside of the rules of the Empire. However, the Empire wants them back and under their rule. Thus they are engaged in a long, semi-never-ending war. Reinhard von Lohengramm hates what he serves but is a capable commander for the Empire, while Wen-li Yang fights to preserve and maintain the freedom that the Free Planets Alliance enjoys. These two will face each other over and over again on the battlefield that is space.
Ginga Eiyuu Densetsu: Die Neue These Kaikou is more or less the central concept of a space anime. Now, it is a remake of the series which is 100+ episodes long from the 80s and 90s, but do not be alarmed, fans can wet their feet with this one and then go back to the original if they please. Spaceships, battles, power struggles, a government that has been in power for too long, and an underdog of a government to cheer for are the big space anime themes to be enjoyed here. Sure, it’s not as personal as Cowboy Bebop, but the main characters are prominent enough that they are memorable and enjoyable. Plus, you will want to hold onto that information if you go back to the earlier series.
Ginga Eiyuu Densentsu: Die Neue These Kaikou PV:
It’s Not That Serious
Something that is also great about space anime, is that they don’t always take themselves so seriously. Sure, there are very tense moments, but there are also comical and lighthearted ones that show humans who might not be complete successes right out of the starting gun.
- Episodes: 13
- Aired: Jan 2014 - Mar 2014
Dandy is a bounty hunter who hunts down unclassified aliens in order to get them registered with the government and get a reward. Sadly, he always seems to find his prey and somehow then subsequently lose it. He hangs out with QT, a sentient robot vacuum and a cat alien named Meow. Dandy likes to regroup at his favorite place Boobies, a food and fanservice joint, when he is not sure what to do or he is licking his wounds. Just know that wherever Dandy does go, he encounters the most bizarre setups leading him to have brain-melting experiences frequently.
Space Dandy is such a lighthearted series as a final entry. Shinichiro Watanabe and Masahiko Minami both return from their Cowboy Bebop days to bring up something a bit more unique and yet, well-liked in the anime series. Each episode features a new style of animation from animators making it a strange yet oddly cohesive anime. Again here, we have spaceships, aliens, humans living on ships in space, other worlds and more. This is all encased in a lighter tone meaning that we are going to get more of what we love with a lighter message.
Space Dandy Trailer
We hope you enjoyed this intro into the beginnings of space anime! We avoided putting Gundam here first since the universe is so wide and not generally accessible. However, if you are really into space anime and want to go down the rabbit hole with it, then by all means dive on in. There are other great shows too like Tenchi Muyo and Outlaw Star that deserve recognition. Again though, this article is for newcomers, so if you think you are a seasoned pro, be sure to drop some recommendations of your own as well! Till next time!