TO: 2001 Nights

Tom Smith voyages into Yukinobu Hoshino’s TO: 2001 Nights.

TO: 2001 Nights

Yukinobu Hoshino has had a long history of penning science fiction. He dropped out of university in the mid-seventies in order to focus on his debut manga, one of his defining features ever since has been a penchant for futuristic twists on some of mankind’s oldest stories and mythologies. As the name implies, his manga series 2001 Nights crashes the scattered stories of the Arabian Nights into the epic tale of human evolution to be found in 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Starting with near-future stories of space shuttles and satellites, it eventually expands into vignettes about the outer solar system, mankind’s first off-world colonies and beyond. But although Hoshino’s tales often have an exuberant sense of wonder, they also introduce a sense of foreboding and humility. His characters might spout the same confident dialogue as their counterparts from the American Golden Age of SF, but the artwork tells a different story. Space dwarfs them. It turns them into insignificant specks. In Hoshino’s future history, man doesn’t conquer space; space conquers man.

In his computer-animated adaptation of Hoshino’s work, director Fumihiko Sori (last seen here helming Vexille) selects two of Hoshino’s stories: ‘Night 12: Symbiotic Planet’ and ‘Night 14: Elliptical Orbit’. Although released in Japan as “TO” (Distant/Faraway), a change in name can’t hide the powerful influences of the original inspirations. Like Arabian Nights, it’s a collection of stories – some loosely related to others. 2001 Nights is a melancholy look into the future as man gradually migrates from Earth – or, you could say, as the human race begins its ‘space odyssey’.

The stories selected for TO: 2001 Nights have no direct relationship to each other in terms of plot or characters. Elliptical Orbit follows the crew of a deep-space mining vessel, the Flying Dutchman, as they return to base after a 15-year excursion. Their mission: to transport a valuable energy source that has the power to answer all of Earth’s energy needs for the next decade.

Due to time dilation, the ship’s captain Maria has remained youthful, aging a mere two years, while her lover back at base is now middle-aged. The sudden age gap less of a problem than the argument they left unfinished 15 years, but when terrorists try to steal the newly-arrived cargo, their relationship is stretched to breaking point.

Symbiotic Planet, the second story on the disc, contains a much heavier romantic theme: forbidden love. Ion and Alena are star-crossed lovers from opposing outposts locked in a territorial dispute that’s about to explode into all-out war. This owes more to 2010 than 2001, with humans bickering over petty disputes from Earth, surrounded by far wiser and nobler aliens.

With the 2001 Nights manga out of print, and a month to go before another Hoshino manga title is released in the UK, the TO: 2001 Nights disc is your best chance to catch an introduction to the work of this incredible creator. At least for the near future.

TO: 2001 Nights is out on 26th September on UK DVD and Blu-Ray from Manga

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