Space Family Carlvinson

With the rise of online streaming, full seasons of television shows have become available in a way never before imaginable. In college, my VHS collection of anime competed with my roommate's Star Trek: The Next Generation collection for space. It was far easier to collect one-shots in those days than entire series not only in terms of storage but in terms of cost -- after all, a laser disc from Japan could easily set you back $100. Now, when there are hundreds of series available to watch legally at no fee whatsoever (save for an Internet connection), one-shots might seem irrelevant. But I still find them worthwhile. Sometimes, a short OVA is all you need to recharge your batteries and give you a smile. Space Family Carlvinson, a 45-minute OVA from 1988, fits the bill perfectly. Based on the manga by Asari Yoshitoh, it's a comedic romp that never exactly gave me huge belly laughs, but it planted a smile on my face the whole running time.

A theater troupe of aliens is heading to their next show when their spaceship is nearly involved in a collision with another vessel that crashlands. They go to investigate, finding only one survivor -- an infant girl named Corona. They scour the ship's logs to find out how they might raise her in human fashion, and two members of the troupe unofficially adopt her. But little ones grow up quickly, and pretty soon she's going to realize that a puffball and a doltish mecha aren't really her parents. Will she want to search the galaxy looking for her own people, or will she accept this slightly dysfunctional family as her own?

Space Family Calvinson is not a show you watch for great animation. It's simplistic, drawn in a style not wildly dissimilar from Dr. Slump, Doraemon, or other shows geared for children. Yet it's always effective for what's being accomplished. (When one of your lead characters is a gigantic purple tribble, it's probably hard to go off-model.) While the artwork itself is functional, it is surprising how good the show still looks; the subbed version floating around the web is very solid.

It would be easy to relegate this to the bin for kiddy shows, and yet there's something much deeper here. My 3-year-old watched with me, and I occasionally translated a line or two, but he found it fun to watch for the physical humor, which is abundant. But at the core of Carlvinson is the desire to belong, to know and be known. Her parents may be intergalactic aliens, but they love Corona and desperately hope that she will stay with them even if she discovers other humans.  Their story tugs gently at the proverbial heartstrings. The underlying themes will make this one parents and kids alike -- and even a few teenagers -- will enjoy. Is it a revelation? No, but it is sweet. And while all the aliens fall into "cute" territory, it's nice to find otherworldly beings that don't just look human with tails and ears. (Well, mostly.)

The only thing I can really bring against Carlvinson is that it's not terribly funny. There are some bits that are definitely cute and gags that make you chuckle, but the comedy is gentle. I appreciate that simply because there are few anime I could show to my family unreservedly, and this kind of humor works far better for me than some of the raunchiness that's out there. Nevertheless, it's not the second coming of Urusei Yatsura -- or whatever classic anime comedy really floats your boat. It's also too short to develop its secondary characters, but then again, it doesn't need to.

As a parent, there's the possibility I'm enjoying this through my kids' eyes more than through clear lenses. But you know what? Occasionally, that's OK. Sometimes I need a little extra cheer in my life, and Space Family Carlvinson has it in spades.

Space Family Carlvinson -- nothing objectionable -- A-