The Orbital Children happen in the year 2045, Internet and artificial intelligence have become widespread in the outer space. Following a massive accident at a space station, a group of children are left behind. Using narrowband and SNS, low intelligence AI, and smartphone-controlled drones, they overcome numerous crises.
Set in the near-future, Orbital Children focuses on a trio of Earth children brought upon a commercial space station to meet Touya Sagami, a young boy who is the first of a number of children born in space undergoing physical therapy on the space colony to adapt to Earth’s gravity. However, a collision with a comet leads the computer systems on the space station to malfunction, leaving the children having to figure out a means on their own how to survive without adult assistance.
The animation style and story focus on children and technology for Orbital Children may look familiar to those who have seen or heard about the 2007 anime, Dennou Coil. This is because both are directed by Mitsuo Iso, who is well known for his unique style of animation that emphasizes dense motion while working with simplistic-looking character designs.
The animation style works effectively to convey the complicated movement of drones, gravity, and orbital vehicles aboard the space station that Touya and others deal with throughout the series, though the look of the character and mechanical designs may take getting used to for some folks looking for visuals that are a bit more detailed or elaborate considering this is a sci-fi title set within in a near-futuristic setting.
For the technological adventure with children in this series, Orbital Children explores interactions with artificial intelligence as the space station staff rely on AI within drones to aid in their operations. AI within the series have restrictions in place with their capabilities to prevent them from becoming too smart and potentially becoming a threat to humanity, a story element that becomes relevant in later episodes of the ONA as far as the issues facing the children and adult space station crew go.
The series shows the different paths that can occur when AIs come to different conclusions about the humans they serve as they acquire different levels of understanding on the complexities of humanity.
The adventure in the series has its equal share of engaging story and character developments that drive the children and adults aboard the space station. While attempting to find the means to survive in space, the characters also come to learn more about the mysterious comet that collided with the space station and some shocking facts revealed about some major characters aboard.
The series does a convincing job creating genuine and believable suspense out of the ordeals faced by the children as they deal with risky situations in their adventure, including showing how each of the children react differently to their situation. Touya’s character does undergo a good deal of character development throughout the series as he learns to get over his prejudice toward humans from Earth and grasping the reality of what his thoughts on Earth have for him.
In short, Orbital Children carries the same engaging qualities that got me to enjoy Dennou Coil with their focus on interactions children have with technologies and getting into an adventure involving them to some capacity.
The story here does have some bigger stakes compared to Dennou Coil as the children here are in more risky, life-threatening situations. But the mix of adventure, exploration of its near-futuristic world, and character development still make it an engaging title I’d recommend sci-fi anime fans to check out.