Lost in Space: Space Family Carlvinson

USS Carl Vinson has been in the news lately for political reasons entirely outside the scope of Zimmerit, but it’s an excuse to talk about a charming if forgettable, OVA from the late ‘80s.

Space Family Carlvinson (1988) was based on a manga of the same name by Yoshitoh Asari. In it, an oddball circus troupe of aliens and robots respond to an S.O.S. signal and discover a derelict spaceship straight out of ALIEN with an abandoned human infant inside. Mike Toole described it as “…a gentle domestic comedy with a variety of weird-ass monsters gamely trying to give a good [life] to an energetic little girl…” Turning the concept of ALIEN on its head with ample helpings of both Swiss Family Robinson and Lost in Space thrown in for good measure is an amusing gimmick, but it’s difficult to believe the premise sustained a manga for 13 volumes.

Nope, nothing to see here.

As you’d expect, most of the aliens don’t know what to do with a human child and the know-it-all robot has access to plenty of information on humans, but damned if that knowledge doesn’t translate into any actual parenting skill. Hijinks and gags ensue. The result is a cartoon that’s entertaining for 45 minutes, but won’t leave a lasting impression beyond, “Yeah, that was alright.” Given how resolutely bad or boring many OVAs were during the late ’80s, that’s not necessarily a complaint.

The name, as you can surmise, seems have been taken from a U.S. aircraft carrier (named for a congressman from Georgia) that’s been active in the Pacific since it launched in 1980. Perhaps Asari, like Kazutaka Miyatake, spent time looking at U.S. aircraft carriers in port.

OVAs adapted from popular manga series were a definite thing in the ‘80s, as they were a great way to target existing fans and get buy-in from publishers to help with production costs. A huge success could also pave the way for a TV deal. If I had to guess, I’d assume that Carlvinson was created with the same motivation. But, like many other one-shot OVAs from the ‘80s, it was passed over years later in the shift from VHS to DVD. Though maybe it wasn’t entirely forgotten — Megahouse released a toy based on Carlvinson ten years ago.

Even if you’ve never heard of Asari, you’ve probably seen something he’s done, the guy designed some of the more distinctive Angels from Neon Genesis Evangelion (Sachiel, Samshel, and Zeruel) and worked on video games like Kiki Kaikai and Parodius. He also ran in lolicon fan circles in the early ’80s, creating character designs for the Studio Awake short I wrote about last year and lots of doujin.

Given the OVA’s length and sweet, lighthearted storyline, it’s surprising someone didn’t try to release it in English during the ’90s. But then again, Asari’s rounder, lolicon-style characters would have been at odds with the “girls n’ guns” preference of western fans during that decade. Decades later, Carlvinson holds up better than it has any right to and it’s easy to recommend.

Further Reading