The Nihon Review - Anime Reviews & Editorials

Welcome to the Space Show

Title: Welcome to the Space Show aka Uchuu Show e Youkoso
Genre: Action/Drama
Company: A-1 Pictures
Format: Movie, 136 minutes
Date: 18 Feb 2010

Synopsis: Five primary school kids spend their days together during summer vacation in a quiet village. One day, however, they find what appears to be a small dog; in reality, though, it is an alien on an important mission to find a mysterious plant on Earth. Because the children fix his wounds following a fight, the alien, Pochi, decides to take them wherever they wish in the universe.

The Highlights
Visuals: Absolutely gorgeous, with fluid, detailed animation and imaginative settings.
Characters: Quite fun, particularly the kids, all of whom are quite cute and sympathetic.
Story: A good time for the first hour but falls apart afterward.
Running time: Far too long.
Villains: Crap.

It warms my heart that a non-Ghibli studio would make a movie like Welcome to the Space Show in such uncertain times for animation. From the team behind Kamichu!, this movie clearly has quite a bit of effort put into it, and is not without ambition, considering the unusually lengthy running time for an animated feature. Unfortunately, Welcome to the Space Show does not cash in on that considerable ambition.

What the movie does get correct is its visual style. The animation is stunning. The characters move naturally and fluidly, and there are tons of subtle background details that immerse the viewer further in each setting. From the bright, calming village to the awe-inspiring expanses of outer space, there is no shortage of eye candy in Welcome to the Space Show.

Additionally, the settings – particularly those in space – come to life with imaginative touches that show the artists had an amazing time putting them from mind to film. The moonside locales are a mixture of the pristine futures from science-fiction’s origins and the “lived-in” futures popularized by Star Wars and Blade Runner. Not matter how ridiculous and crazy the invention or mode of transportation, somehow it seems practical in this world. Certain items even morph in fun, creative ways. This universe is a child’s paradise.

That’s what drives the sense of fun and excitement in the movie’s first hour. It comes off like what would happen if My Neighbor Totoro had gone beyond the confines of our planet – and that’s not a bad premise at all, mind. It helps that the movie’s five children act their age (with the appropriate sense of awe) without being annoying or bratty. They all see a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and grab hold of it. Even when the five get stuck on the moon for a while, their solution befits their age and brought a smile to my face.

However, Welcome to the Space Show breaks away from that fun premise in the final hour in a number of bizarre ways. How the story shifts to a more serious tone is particularly jarring: Pochi’s hunt for a particular plant on Earth ties in to a plot for a pair of villains to control the universe … or become gods … or inherit some sort of mystical power … or something. There are so many random twists and revelations at the end that it’s difficult to take the plot in and form some logical coherence out of it. Doesn’t help that the villainous pair receive only rudimentary development and may as well be twirling their mustaches and sneering at Pochi and the kids all the while.

There are also many attempts at social commentary that seem totally out of place. A couple of them are subtle and amusing (there’s some satire of working life at one point in the story), but by the end of the movie, Pochi and his villainous opposite trade blows in a swordfight and spout their respective philosophies like a pair of Gundam pilots without their mobile suits. And what it comes down to is a silly battle between socialism and capitalism that seems ripped straight out of a 1980s Cold War flick, complete with total lack of nuance. It’s utterly incomprehensible in the flow of the movie and leaves you wondering why the creators decided to go that route.

Ultimately, Welcome to the Space Show would have benefited greatly from more editing. It’s far too long and aimless for what it wants to accomplish. If the movie had stuck with being a science-fiction Totoro, then it could have been a hell of a family picture. Alas, it reaches for the stars and burns to a crisp in the effort.

The Rating: 6
6/10

Reviewed by: Shinmaru

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