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.
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
I tend to do exhaustive research on most media before I commit to watching/reading it. Many reviews of this film gave it moderately positive scores, but many also commented that it was too long (especially in the second half) and could have been edited down to be a better film. Being the crotchety old guy that I am, I just guessed that these comments were being made by people with abbreviated attention spans. However, after watching it I found myself agreeing with those other reviewers.
I just purchased a new projector for my home theater and have been watching films that are advertised or reviewed as
being very strong visually. Well, this film is quite spectacular visually in a Fantasia sort of way...lots of bright colors and a "circus in space" aesthetic that makes for fun eye candy. I would imagine that young children would be quite happy to just melt into this movie and not even worry that there is very little by way of story.
For me, the story...or lack thereof...is what caused me to give this only a fair rating. The only aspect of the story I connected to at all was when there was an effort to develop relationships between the young group of earthlings. The most successful example of this was between Natsuki and Amani, cousins who have a difficult yet ultimately tender "big sis little sis" relationship. The film as a whole tried so hard to be BIG and spectacular that it spread itself out too far and too thin for any individual aspect to attain importance. When things quieted down for a moment here and there to allow the characters to develop...then it had my interest. The rest was fun but in a somewhat superficial way.
This is by no means a bad film. I just feel it spread itself out too far and lost focus on anything to make me really care.