Today's National Space Day, so let's take a look at some old and new favorites that celebrate the wonder of exploring worlds outside our own!
It’s the third of May, and you know what that means: today we celebrate National Space Day, or the ways humankind have dared to go into space exploration and research what’s (and what’s not) out there. Sure, you can wait till night time to check out the stars, or read up on the latest discoveries and the news, but why not celebrate the journey of space expedition through perusing through Crunchyroll’s catalog and checking out ten incredibly fantastic series that all have to do with the galactic unknown?
So without further ado, here are ten anime series that are quite literally, out of this world:
Cowboy Bebop - A beloved and iconic series by Shinichiro Watanabe, this one’s always a great show to start off with if you’re new to anime (or space series in general), or a rewatch if you’ve seen it already. Laidback space bounty hunter Spike Spiegel is joined by a dysfunctional and yet endearing crew of misfits (and a dog) as they take on various cases to hunt down crime across the galaxy. This show has it all: action, drama, romance, with a story that stands the test of time over two decades later. Also, space. Lots of space.
Gundam Wing - another beloved series, Gundam Wing is representative of some of the Gundam franchise’s best moments. Heated intergalactic political forces at war, character-driven conflicts amongst different central protagonists, and exploring what it means to fight for what you believe in: Wing has all of these things and more. It also features some of the coolest mecha fights for its time, and nearly all of its main cast are memorable. If you’d like to check out some intense space battles, this one’s for you.
Legend of the Galactic Heroes - an adaptation of the celebrated classic, this show takes a look at the start of a long running space opera as two masterminds face each other in an intergalactic and complex war. For those that enjoy the political and strategic thinking involved in any Gundam show, LOGH is bound to satisfy you with its heavy characterization and detailed discussions. Many have compared it to an anime Star Wars, and they’re not wrong, but few will find a space series as compelling, detailed, grand and emotionally intense as Legend of the Galactic Heroes.
Space Battleship Yamato 2199- This series is an adaptation of the classic space opera, and while that may not mean much at a first glance, upon further inspection, Space Battleship Yamato 2199 is a complex and masterful narrative about war and conquest. Humankind has whittled down to its last resources as alien creatures invade their planet, and the Yamato is the world’s last hope for survival and victory. If LOGH’s daunting length or long winded strategic commentary is a little too much for you, Yamato might be more feasible: it easily mixes in some great dialogue with heavy action and strong characterization. Plus, it’s much shorter!
Edit: Sadly, this is no longer available on Crunchyroll! Sorry about that, folks.
Gundam 00 - While not as moody and classic as Wing, Gundam 00 has enough on its plate to keep you invested. If you enjoyed Gundam Wing, 00 might be for you: it’s just as politically involved, if not more, and features some of the best animated mecha fights in the Gundam franchise. Combine it with a solid cast of interesting characters, each with their own tragedies and trauma to overcome, with an interesting focus on themes like child slavery, religious extremism, and martyrdom, and you’ve got an incredibly solid Gundam series from start to finish.
Gundam Build Fighters - This is a bit of a copout, since Build Fighters doesn’t necessarily take place in space, but it’s still got some excellent mecha action if you’ve been wanting more of that or didn’t have enough after seeing Yamato or Gundam Wing! In this version, there are no political battles or serious life-or-death stakes to be found here: instead, children build their Gundam models via Gunpla and duel against each other for a greater prize. As a result, the show’s tone is laid back, simple and fun, so it’s an easy breeze compared to other Gundam series.
Space Dandy - piggybacking off of its predecessor, Cowboy Bebop, Space Dandy is a heavily inspired series also directed by Shinichiro Watanabe, that takes a looser and more comedic approach to the idea of ‘space bounty hunter’. It works more cohesively as an animator showcase of sorts, as nearly each episode was directed by an entirely different person. If you’re looking for pure zany fun and hilarious gags that range from small moments to intergalactic conflicts, parallel dimensions, and over the top space battles, this show’s for you.
Planetes - On equal footing is the beautiful Planetes which is about a crew of janitors in space. While that initially doesn’t sound satisfying, Planetes makes up for its simple plot with a strong case of drama and romance that’s bound to keep you emotionally reeled long after the last episode. It wears its heart on its sleeve, and while it has no qualms in taking you in for a slow ride, it’s equally about how we relate and communicate with one another as it is about our lives pitched against the grand and inspiring night abyss of space. It’s heartwarming, beautiful, and I highly recommend it to anyone who wants a sweet and fun slice of life.
Gunbuster 2/Diebuster - Don’t let the name fool you; Gunbuster 2, or more commonly known as Diebuster, is a spinoff standalone series that doesn’t require Gunbuster to enjoy (though it definitely helps and it’s worth saying that Gunbuster is a fantastic space series to watch if you can get your hands on it!). Directed by Tsurumaki Kazuya, the mind behind FLCL, Diebuster contains many of GAINAX’s signature traits: over the top drama, explosive action, lots of yelling, and heartfelt coming-of-age storytelling. If you’ve ever wondered where that criss-crossing of arms pose comes from, you’ll find it here: Diebuster is an intense but fun dive. Nono is a random cheerful girl who somehow pairs up with ‘Topless’ pilot Lal'C Melk Mark as they pilot Buster Machines to fight against the dangerous Space Monsters.
Space Brothers - Saving the best for last, and perhaps the most realistic and down to earth space series in this article, Space Brothers is, well, about, two brothers who want to go to space. The premise sounds awfully simple, but it nails the hardship, frustration, and challenges presented to anyone who wants to become an astronaut, while also tackling bigger themes like mid-life crisis, insecurities, moral obligations, and adulthood without sacrificing charm and heart. It’s 99 episodes but I can’t emphasize how powerful of a story it is, and if there is anyone who truly wants to learn about the process of going to space and the sacrifices made to get there.
Hopefully these shows should keep you busy till night time so you can celebrate the wonders and strangeness of space in all of its glory. Have any other recommendations for National Space Day? Leave a comment below!