A tiny mountain village in a remote woodland region. Five primary school kids have come together in this idyllic spot in order to spend their summer holidays at a camp. At first the children enjoy carefree days amidst unspoiled nature far away from adult supervision. But their life changes dramatically when they come across what they believe to be a small dog, badly in need of help. The creature—known as Pochi—turns out not to be a dog at all but an alien on an important mission.
It seems there is a mysterious substance on earth that is coveted throughout the universe. Pochi had almost found it but was so badly injured during a fight that he had to give up his search. Thanks to the children's help, the alien survives—and decides to reward them generously. "Where would you most like to trave?!" is the question Pochi puts to his rescuers. Their answer is prompt, if vague: "As far as possible!" Pochi suggests they try the moon first of all, and so, the alien whisks away the kids to the satellite next door. This marks the beginning of an absolutely amazing adventure.
During the course of their travels, they discover that the substance coveted throughout the universe is in fact also integral to Japanese cuisine—and it just so happens that one of the kids has some of this mysterious substance in his pocket.
Leave any child unattended for a length of time and they will undoubtedly find themselves in some sort of mischief, even if they weren't looking to get into trouble, and all world weary parents, teachers and carers will attest to this as truth. The main reason for it is because kids are naturally curious individuals (when you're young the universe tends to be a fascinating place), and are more willing to accept as fact things that many adults would find preposterous, ridiculous, or just plain crazy.
The irony is that while the "mature" population of the world will often scoff or smile condescendingly at children's tales
of visits to strange worlds, encounters with weird creatures, travels on spaceships, fights with monsters, and other such flights of fancy, that doesn't stop adults from creating stories about children in exactly those situations.
Uchuu Show e Youkoso (Welcome To The Space Show), is simply the latest in the long tradition of adults stealing ideas off kids.
The movie follows the adventures of a group of children from a rural Japanese village who are attending an unsupervised week long summer camp in the local school building. During the first day they decide to search for a missing pet rabbit, but what they find are crop circles and an injured dog ...
Cue the madness.
The storyline is a rather interesting take on the whole idea of alien encounters, but there is a degree of predictability to proceedings due to the rather simplistic nature of the plot. That said, given that the movie is billed as family entertainment, it's nice to see that efforts have been made to make the whole thing more appealing to adults and children alike. Part of this is reflected in the visuals and audio, but the lion's share of focus undoubtedly falls on the story itself, so it's unfortunate that this is also the area where matters become somewhat ... confusing.
Too much effort can sometimes be a bad thing, and that seems to be the main problem with Welcome To The Space Show as it simply tries too hard to be everything to everyone. Unfortunately this is very much at odds with the simplicity of the plot, and the result is a tale that lacks the finesse of rival features. In addition to this there are a number of themes "borrowed" from other stories, and while plagiarism may be the first form of flattery, moderation is the word that director Masunari Koji and screenplay writer Kurata Hideyuki seem to have forgotten.
Now many people will automatically draw comparisons between Welcome To The Space Show and certain other anime movies, in particular Spirited Away, Galaxy Express 999 , My Neighbour Totoro (they find a strange friendly creature in the forest), and Oblivion Island, Production I.G.s 3D feature from 2009, and that's just from the East. There are also themes taken from the novel Five Children & It by Edith Nesbit (which was adapted into a live action movie in 2004), The Chronicles of Narnia, and the 1985 movie The Explorers. This rather dizzying array of influences initially looks like a disaster waiting to happen, so it's surprising that this narrative cacophony is not only understandable, but also entertaining.
When it comes to the looks though, this movie seems to shift into a higher gear.
Welcome To The Space Show is a creatively visual feast that, like Oblivion Island, easily surpasses Spirited Away when it comes to imaginative design. The opening sequence is simply a taste of things to come, and A-1 Pictures have put a great deal of thought into bringing home the idea that the children really have gone to another world. This is partly achieved through the use of bright, vivid, and sometimes clashing colour schemes that impart a slightly unearthly quality to a good portion of the movie. When this is coupled with some very creative character and feature designs the sense of not being in Kansas anymore really does come to the fore. The scenery is especially noteworthy for its detail and quality, and viewers may find themselves simply admiring the picturesque vistas from time to time. There's also a nice combination of static and layered backgrounds that add a degree of depth and character to certain scenes.
Unfortunately it's not all sweetness and light. Although Ishihama Masashi's designs are highly imaginative, consistency seems to be the problem as the quality of the visuals tends to drop from time to time, and there are occasions where the characters look more like animated cave paintings rather than defined figures. There are also a few scenes that the film could have done without as they serve no real purpose, as well as a few issues with the animation itself. While the majority of the movie features crisp, fluid movements and sequences, the drops in the quality of the visuals tend to be accompanied by actions that are almost stop motion.
Which, strangely enough, leads me on to Susan Boyle.
It's a very strange world that we live in, and one of the things that many people would probably rank as highly unlikely (if not nigh on impossible), is for a song by the "star" of Britain's Got Talent to be used as a theme tune to an anime. Truth is always stranger than fiction though, and thus her song Who I Was Born To Be is the featured track for Welcome To The Space Show. That said, she's actually no stranger to Japanese movies as the song that shot her to fame, I Dreamed A Dream from the hit musical Les Miserables, has also been used as the theme tune for the third Eagle Talon film (an animated flash movie that's the brainchild of Asahi TV's late night host, Frogman).
As for the rest of the noise, there are a variety of tracks on offer that range from dramatic classical pieces to ditties played on a banjo, as well as some very good audio effects that are often very crisp and clean. Unfortunately, Welcome To The Space Show suffers from a problem that plagues many other anime out there, and that is its choreography, or more specifically, its timing. The majority of the movie is actually very good in this department, but there are several occasions where something happens on screen a split second before the viewer hears it.
The most surprising thing about this film is Aniplex's decision to cast a group of relatively unknown 11 to 14 year olds in each of the child roles, and while the idea isn't new in anime (Ghibli have done it before), it's a gamble that pays off as only children can really act like children. The rest of the cast is made up of experienced seiyuu who play their parts quite well, but this movie is about kids having an adventure, and they really do steal the show thanks to some clever scripting and a sense that their characters really are inquisitive, curious, and pretty much everything one would expect a child to be.
Now given that this is a family movie there is bound to be some drama that forces the characters to learn and grow. The only problem is that rather than having one or two occurrences of these events, Welcome To The Space Show tries to throw too much into the mix. The movie can basically be broken up into four parts, and in each section the children are put in situations where they must learn certain lessons in order to carry on (the importance of work, looking out for one another, etc). The development verges on the formulaic for the most part, and any possible natural progression is hampered by the fact that the main theme for that section of the story never really reaches a conclusion. Instead it simply gets smothered by the next plot thread, or simply peters out, and this can leave the viewer trying to work out how the children got from A to B.
That said, the visuals do detract from the stolid, check box approach to character development, and while the storyline may contain far too many different influences and events, the obvious enthusiasm with which the child seiyuu approach the script offers some genuinely fun moments.
Welcome To The Space Show is a flawed creation that attempts to take on the might of Ghibli, and while there are areas where it clearly falls flat on its face, there are also parts that really are brilliant. The movie is slightly more tongue in cheek than one might expect, but at the same time possesses an edge to it that sets it apart from the somewhat saccharine nature of family entertainment. All of the flaws in the film can be forgiven on the basis of one fact - it's one of the more imaginative and creative anime movies to appear in the last few years. Yes, it "borrows" heavily from numerous influences, and yes, there are issues in almost every department, but it also takes the viewer on an adventure to strange and fascinating new worlds, and this aspect is probably the most understated thing in the movie.
After all, one should never underestimate the power of a good adventure story, and it's actually pretty easy to disregard the problems with Welcome To The Space Show. While an examination of the individual characteristics will highlight quite a few issues, this is one of those rare occasions where the whole really is greater than the sum of its parts. The movie may not be as slick a production as Summer Wars, Oblivion Island, or any of the Ghibli affairs, but even with that handicap it manages to convey a sense of discovery and wonderment, and when all the plusses are added together it's pretty easy to see why I enjoyed this film.
And before you ask, no, the movie isn't a glorified advert for wasabi.
When I think of the word "imagination", my thoughts immediately run towards my childhood and the experience of discovering and understanding new things on my own, without asking or needing an actual definition. It makes me remember the times when consuming any piece of media I had on my hands was immediately proceeded with imagining my own expansions for it.
Nowadays, that definition somewhat changed. I feel like with age, imagination attempts to turn itself away from inspiration, trying to get to a point where only the overarching ideas remain from anything you experience. It's a natural way of things, as you go through more and
more there's less and less for you to find.
But there's always room for something different, for exploration and experiencing the originality of others, for that childish feeling to emerge again and remind you of its existence. I feel like that's exactly what Welcome to the Space show aimed to do. It tried to take overarching ideas we've seen again and again, even as children, and put them in a reality, a realm that was always an inspiration to humans - the vast and unexplored space. Not only that, but through those means it seems to give its best shot at reviving the inspiration and the imagination of anyone who watches it, giving the viewers tons of assets to work with in every minute of its runtime.
The story begins on Earth, where a group of friends are on their break decide to spend a week in their school all alone. We quickly get to understand their rather simplistic characters and relationships thanks to the montage proceeding the events of the movie, and a couple of scenes afterwards. In summary: we have the main character Natsuki; who is somewhat of an energetic airhead and a tomboy and her young cousin Amane, who's very emotional and caring. Then there's Noriko, a rather stock up; trendy girl who dreams of being an idol. Koji, a bookworm passionate about space; the brains of the group, their leader Kiyoshi, who's the most grown up person in the group. And finally Pochi..... a talking alien dog.
The children find him wounded in an alien-made crop shape, take him to their staying place and treat his wounds. Upon waking up they are greeted with a huge surprise. The dog that they thought is, well, a dog is actually an alien! As a reward for helping him, he takes kids to the furthest place humanity has reached - the Moon! Turns out though, that we haven't really seen the true moon. On the other, unexplored side of it lies a huge city, and the kids get the chance to explore it. From there, everything so great about the movie begins to show its head, one by one, although it's biggest strength can be noticed even before that.
Beginning with an intense, action packed scene where aliens jump around mountains and shoot each other with lasers, the movie wastes no time to flaunt it's main asset - the visuals. A-1 Pictures may have garnered quite a bad reputation as of late when it comes to character designs or lazy animation, but it goes to show that when enough talent and passion (and most likely money) is put into a project, it doesn't matter what studio makes it.
Welcome to the Space Show is more than 2 hours long, and at no point does it not impress me. No matter if it's the grassy plains of Earth, the overwhelming city on the Moon, or the grand, bright finale of epic proportions, the movie manages to find its style for each place it decides to showcase, feeling truly unique and inspiring at every angle, switching up the color pallet, the style of architecture and the alien races. This on the other hand directly ties to what is my personal favorite thing about the movie - it's structure and how it correlates with the places the characters are at.
As mentioned, the time spent on Earth is mostly used as exposition and the set up. The true fun begins on the Moon. The experience of watching the characters explore the Moon for the first time can only be explained as a total clusterfuck of ideas and designs. Every shot feels completely ridiculous, the aliens walking around look even crazier and weirder than the ones we see in the first minutes of the movie, the place makes no sense whatsoever and wrapping your head around it is not even eligible, because most disappear as soon as they appear. This hecticness makes sense however if you think of the context of kids exploring the space civilization for the first time.
Also worth noting that this is the place where the kids see the Space Show for the first time. That cut was made completely by Yuasa Masaaki.
After a while everything settles down a bit, as the kids find jobs their dreams and plans face reality, giving them a more mature feeling before we're taken on a ride to another planet inside of a big space worm. There we witness about the same amount of new things, but at this point, we as the audience, as well as the kids are more familiar with space, making for a much more concentrated experience. This is also the point where a lot of foreshadowing takes place, as well as kids planning their nearest future.
Proceeding onward they arrive on the dog planet, which heavily resembles Earth. That fact Allows for a breather. Giving a sense of familiarity, be that with the designs, seeing Pochi's family, his backstory on his own planet and the events that take place there, directly ties to the topics discussed at that time, those being relationships between the characters and the strive to help others, be that as doctors, heroes or normal people.
And finally, the big ending. Much more collected and much more focused, we follow few perspectives at once, we see new designs, but this is the point after we saw so many similarly weird things, had the time to digest it and take it in as a normality, making for a finale that, just as the rest of the places we've seen, introduces new elements to the galaxy and gives the viewer more things to work with, but at the same time is a clear picture, something you can get behind because you understand the world dynamics, the character dynamics, the themes, the ideas, and everything the movie has thrown at you, making for a fun and interesting conclusion, wrapping the story of the kids and the movie's themes up, but leaving out a lot for the viewer to just delve in it on his own. Nothing that was necessary has been left alone, that's for sure.
And isn't this the same feeling as finishing, for example, WALL-E or The Incredibles? There's a good reason for that, it was meant to be that way, stories for children live by different rules. While narratively this could be a legit claim that I can understand, the vast amounts of unnecessary information is not a good thing, of course, but I don't believe it's an actual negative when looking into the movie's themes, especially the one of the Space Show itself, the mindless aliens taking their entertainment for granted, not giving a care about how its made, not wanting anything new.
If there was a particular flaw with the movie, I would say it is the directing in the first half. The very first scene has massive problems with establishing space, the camera is often too close to the action. Later, on the Moon, while I defended it, the hecticness could've been contained more, randomness is often distracting and the weirdness factor wears off faster than it should. Luckily, the show gains its footings afterwards and is able to form a much better idea of space and weight of movement. The action can still be a bit confusing, but it’s never really hard to follow.
My final thoughts about Space Show won't be long, because they don't need to be. You're out of Disney movies? You're out of inspiration? You're running low on energy? Space Show has you covered on all sides. Everyone deserves a little kiddie movie once in a while, and one as good as this is a rarity nowadays. Pure, exciting and fresh, Welcome to the Space Show is a movie that has a huge chance to get everyone's brains going again. If you're interested, sit down, and enjoy the show, but don't forget to do so actively. You don't want to turn into a mindless alien, do you now?
As always, this is purely my opinion, I highly recommend you to develop your own.
Space: the final frontier. Not many get to experience being in space or even know much about it, but many people dream. For these 5 kids, it's a real adventure. Uchuu Show e Youkoso, or Welcome to the Space Show in English, is one big adventure in space, trying to get back home. We see how much the kids are willing to do and learn to get back home in time.
The story starts in rural Japan, during summer vacation where 5 kids go to camp for a week... with no adult supervision of any kind? Okay. Everything is normal until they find an injured "dog"
whom they healed, but it turns out he's an alien and takes them on an adventure which involves a space show (duh), drugs (kinda) and an evil plot. I'll keep it at that to try an be as spoiler free as possible. The story's okay and quite simple. Right for kids. I like science-fiction and out-of-this-world things, but some stuff don't make sense, like why is everyone on Earth an idiot by not realizing that there's a huge city on the moon? They did mention that Earth isn't part of the Space Federation, so they probably kept it a secret. But why didn't Earth join the federation then? I know it's just a kid's movie so they keep it simple, but it would have been nice to know. About the simplicity, they keep every name simple. Space Federation, Space show, space this, space that, etc. It's like the entirety of the universe is all connected and earth, for some reason, is out of this, which makes me more curious about this. One last major complaint I have about this is that the ending is very anti-climactic. I'm not going to spoil anything, but it was very boring compared to the rest of the action in the movie. The story is simple, great for kids, but adults feel wanting more, you know, story. It relied to much on visuals and pretty colors.
Art: I loved the art, which is probably the movie's strongest point. The animation, like in most movies, is very nice through out. The art in this movie reminds me a lot of The Girl Who Leapt Through Time (for the Village scenes) and Summer Wars (for the Space scenes). The village has a very calm feel to it, like it should, but it's the space scenes that are extremely nice. Many different colors and designs to keep any kid's attention. Space itself looked great as well. My one qualm with this is that some of the designs feel generic. I wanted to be more wowed by weird designs of the ships, buildings, etc. but it disappointed. Still, the art is very good nonetheless.
Sound: The sound and music is great as well. The music fits nicely and they know when to use silence as well. There wasn't a song that stuck out to me as amazing, but that doesn't matter. The voice acting does it's job well. Thta's about all I have to say.
Characters: This is probably the movies biggest downfall. The characters are boring paper cutouts. We have the strong heroine, the little sister, the perfect helpful guy, the nerdy guy, and the helpless girl. It's a real shame because I liked a lot of the supporting characters. I liked Boga, Kool-aid Tony, Ink, and even Neppo. I would have really liked to see more of the bad guys and learn about their backgrounds, which is never really clearly explained. The robot at the end gets barely anytime at all and comes out of no where. Oh well.
All in all, this movie isn't really that bad. It's a very nice adventure through space, learning about what really goes on out there. This is more of a visual/auditory experience because of the simplistic characters and story. "Welcome to the Space Show" is a very accurate title.
I loved this movie. It reminded me of a Miyazaki Film.
The story is really fun. It's enjoyable for all ages. mostly comedic with action and emotional times stirred in. It makes for a great ride.
The characters are your basic mix for an adventure story. You have the older responsible one, bookworm, cute kid, girly girl, and engergetic character. Even though we've all seen these character types before they each have their own unique feel to them as the develop.
Art is Great hands down, only complaint any one could have is when they fly over the moon.
As i said i abosolutly loved this film, it
should get picked up in theaters. It just might be a little long for younger kids at 2 1/2 hours roughly