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efaardvark

Hard Science Fiction

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One subject near-and-dear to my heart is science fiction, with extreme emphasis on the science. Star Wars is not what I would call science fiction. It is swords and sorcery with fantastic, impossible weapons and “space ships” that fly and maneuver like airplanes.. even in the airlessness of space!  It doesn’t care about physics, not even its own. It doesn’t even understand that a parsec is a distance, not a speed. It is “science” fiction only because somebody dropped it in the genre and was too lazy to fish it out. Star Trek is also not science fiction. It uses science-ish words in a generally self-consistent manner, but it abuses them to hand-wave impossible technology like “warp” drives into existence. It is about as plausible science-wise as Neon Genesis Evangelion. A more appropriate name might be bafflegab fiction.

And just to short-circuit any heated "discussion" about the relative merits of the above as they pertain to entertainment, I happen to like Star Wars, Star Trek, and Neon Genesis Evangelion.  I'm not saying that they're in any way "bad".  However, for the purposes of this topic they are hereby declared to be "not-science fiction".  Not what I'm looking for and not what I'm here to discuss.  I cite them only because they are well-known examples of the sort of "science" fiction that I'm trying to get past.

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No, what I’m looking for here is science-themed anime (or manga, or books) based on real science. What I mean by science-themed is that science or technology or engineering must be a central element of the plot, character(s), and/or setting, and nothing important to the plot or setting of the story should contradict generally-accepted, real-universe physical laws as science currently understands them. It may extend them, or speculate at the edges of that body of knowledge, but it must not contradict their core.

Tools and devices used must at least be theoretically possible to create and operate in the real universe, and ideally practically so.  Space ships made out of unobtanium or requiring energy equal to the mass of the universe to function for example are not practical and would be disallowed.  Likewise things like “psionics” or “superpowers” would be considered to be just different pronunciations of “magic” and likewise excluded from the category.

Note however that applications of Clarke’s 3rd law are allowed, even encouraged, provided the “magic” can be explained using science and fabricated with real-world engineering techniques. In other words, no wizards, unless they’re really cyborgs with their own wifi-controlled nanite swarms.  "Telepathy" between normal humans is allowed, if they've had the appropriate hardware surgically implanted.

If you’re still not clear on the concept, take a look at this page (Mohs Scale)  I’m looking for a 5 or 6 on the “Mohs scale”.

Examples of anime that might make the cut:

  • Planetes
  • Dennou Coil (basically AR, just with really advanced hardware, and we already have stuff like pokemon go and Minecraft Earth)
  • Sword Art Online, "Aincrad" arc (fantasy on top, yes, but a “hard” core of plausibly real-world technology underneath)
  • Ghost in the Shell
  • Space Brothers (borderline, could be considered simply slice-of-life or drama, but a focus on science and engineering as central to the setting and plot development saves it.)
  • Moonlight Mile
  • Rocket Girls

Note that I’m making no claims as to the entertainment quality of any of the above, just stating that they have reasonably solid basis in real-world physics and engineering. IOW, they could be real in an alternate timeline or at some point in the foreseeable future.

I've seen all of the above.  If anyone has any others to recommend I’d love to hear about them. Many places, even book and movie stores, have “science fiction and fantasy” sections. Ugh.  Do a google search on “science fiction” and you’ll get Star Trek, Star Wars, Dune, etc. at the top of the list. With so many not-science topics obscuring the field it is hard to find the “real” science fiction that I’m after here.

 

Edited by efaardvark
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Have you seen Psycho Pass?

https://myanimelist.net/anime/13601/Psycho-Pass

It has been out for a while, but perhaps it wasn't on your radar. 

The sci fi themes here are very intriguing, though I am not qualified to say how possible they are, so you'll have to take a look.

There are cyborgs, humans who live on past their normal life length being preserved for around an extra lifetime in duration by technology, having cybernetic bodies and preserving their brains. However, their brains must continue to be stimulated or it would deteriorate more rapidly.

There are other components to this sci fi world, but they seem to be within reason. Let me know what you think of this rec.

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I'll carefully throw Ergo proxy in here.

I wasn't sure at first if i should or not but seeing as it is one of my favorite animes and it is sci-fi but just like Seshi said, you be the judge

when it comes down to the science part. If i had to describe it it without giving away anything, i'd say it's like mixing philosophy with cyberpunk.

 

Also, thumbs up for the Psycho Pass recommendetion.

It's perhaps closer to what you're looking for than Ergo Proxy

 

 

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@Seshi I think I saw a few early episodes of Psycho-Pass.  Didn't seem like my kind of thing and some of the underlying science parts are .. dubious but I'll spend a little more time with it.  Maybe they explain things better later in the series.

@Tv-Crimes Ergo Proxy was close.  As with psycho-pass some of the science part is questionable though.  Not a bad anime, but in terms of SF and this thread I'd like it "harder".

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Oh man, I can't believe I forgot Patlabor!  A great (mostly) "hard" anime that was overshadowed by other mecha like the Gundam series that were more spectacular but less "hard".
 

 

Edited by efaardvark

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I want to say Knights of Sidonia up to a point. I don't know if you have seen it already but I found it very enjoyable and in depth in regards to how they handle their science stuff. It might be really science fantasy after a certain level but I think it is overally a very good anime definately worth checking out. I will say the animation still was a bit rough at first, but it is by no means bad or unwatchable.

 

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Dropping this movie since you enjoyed Rocket Girls 

https://myanimelist.net/anime/1034/Ouritsu_Uchuugun__Honneamise_no_Tsubasa

and Ova There's supposed to be a full length anime for Uru in Blue releasing in 2022.

Its "an alternate history retelling of the early Space Race from the POV of the Soviet Union".

I haven't watched them yet myself, but you have spurred my interest in this field now so its in my PTW. I hope you find them interesting. If not, my bad xD

 

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