“Your assumptions are your windows on the world. Scrub them off every once in a while, or the light won’t come in.” –Isaac Asimov
Instructor Yuki’s plans to have a riverside outing are realised, and after spending the afternoon and early evening enjoying both barbeque and bread from the Suzuya Bakery, Mikage introduces Mira to the joys of rock collecting, only to be brought back to reality when the interesting rocks she’s gathered are too heavy to carry. When darkness sets in, the girls set up a refractor telescope and get acquainted with the night skies: Mari demonstrates how to properly configure the telescope, and then the girls get their first glimpse at Jupiter and four of its largest moons. When Mikage looks through the telescope, the skies have shifted from Earth’s rotation, so the telescope must be re-positioned to be pointing at Jupiter. The girls are just in time for a meteor shower, but after spotting a fireball, call it a night. Back at school, Mira struggles to come up with a suitable style for her newsletter publication, but after Ao asks her to provide illustrations for her, Mira realises that she can do a comic for her topic. The girls later unwind at a hot springs and learn that different types of hot springs have different properties. Later, Mira and Ao are revealed to have failed their exams (with Ao failing out of pure carelessness) and attempt to study for their make-up exams. Moe arrives and meets Misa, Mira’s older sister and the student council president. Mira and Ao pass their exams on their second run, and after finding themselves short of funds, decide to work at the Suzuya Bakery. On a quiet day, Mira and Ao run into Mai, who’s hanging out with Moe. After briefly tailing them and getting burned in the process, Mira and Ao learn that Mai’s into geolocation and cartography. She creates a small geocaching assignment for them, leading Mira, Ao and Moe to learn that Mai’s greatest treasure are her friends. Meanwhile, instructor Yuki speaks with Mari about plans for a summer outing. This is where Koisuru Asteroid stands after three episodes, striking a fine balance between the ordinary moments of everyday life and having Mira and Ao delve deeper into a club whose topic is broad and awaiting numerous adventures.
After three episodes, Koisuru Asteroid has fully established where it intends to go – the second and third episodes have shown that Earth Sciences is a topic that provides plenty of direction for the anime to explore, from rock hunting to stargazing, and so, the journey to Ao and Mira’s eventual dream of discovering their own asteroid means to be one filled with smaller milestones and treasured memories. This early in the game, Ao and Mira have looked through a telescope, but have yet to become familiar with observation techniques, equipment and subtleties. Instead, common everyday events are shown to indicate that while the technical aspects of Mira and Ao’s dream matter, so do the mundane things of everyday life. Koisuru Asteroid therefore does live up to its title, being part about a love of the extraordinary in the ordinary, and part about the technical skill necessary to realise a dream built on a promise. The first three episodes set the precedence for the remainder of the series, and from here on out, it is reasonable to expect that Ao and Mira will make strides in their journey towards their promise, while at the same time, really take the time to enjoy moments spent with Mari, Mikage, Mai and Moe. I therefore look forwards to seeing the series advance on both fronts: while the friendship elements are on a well-worn path and will conclude in a manner that is expected, the astronomy and geology piece that Koisuru Asteroid will take remains a bit of an intrigue. Seeing what tools and techniques Mira and Ao learn along the way will be equally as enjoyable to watch, and I am certain that viewers will come out of Koisuru Asteroid with a greater appreciation for the joys of the night sky, as well as the world around us.
Screenshots and Commentary
- The third episode introspective of Koisuru Asteroid comes precisely a week ahead of Chinese New Year, and so, we’re into the celebrations now. This year is going to be the Year of The Mouse, and preparations begin tomorrow as we make lo bak go, a delicious dish that is, at least in my family, a Chinese New Year’s tradition. Tonight, I had a rather extravagant seafood dinner with family: the menu included dishes like lobster with a rich cream, deep-fried stuffed crab claw, abalone and fish maw on snow-pea leaves, shark fin soup, scallops and snow pea bird’s nest, fresh fish, white-cut chicken and sticky rice, closed off with sweet yam Tong sui. Such a dinner was perfect for a cold evening such as this.
- The weather right now couldn’t be further from the beautiful conditions of Koisuru Asteroid: this past week, the thermometer never once rose above -25ºC, and evenings where the external temperature dropped below -40ºC were not uncommon. Starting a car was a challenge, and the mere act of walking in the wind was painful. I’m admittedly used to this: an extra sweater, a heavier coat, a scarf, bomber hat and heavy gloves means that I can go about my business as usual, and when the temperatures do warm back up, something like -15ºC becomes something I count as comfortable.
- With three episodes in the books, it suddenly strikes me that Mira resembles a combination of GochiUsa‘s Cocoa Hoto and Slow Start‘s Hana Ichinose, while Ao is Rize Tedeza, Kinro Mosaic‘s Aya Komichi and a few other familiar characters. Mira is voiced by Tomoyo Takayanagi, whose roles I’m not familiar with, and Ao is voiced by Megumi Yamaguchi (New Game!‘s Hifumi Takimoto). Here, Mira expresses disappointment that she’ll have to put some of her rocks back, but elects to keep a banded stone.
- Of course, the real star of the show comes once darkness falls, and Mari sets up a refractor telescope. Of all the telescopes available for amateur astronomers, the achromatic refractor telescope is probably the most ubiquitous choice as an entry level scope. A good scope retails for about 300 to 400 dollars; these telescopes offer a good aperture size, stable tripods and good lenses. Anything below this usually is not worth the money, as the lenses may introduce unacceptable chromatic aberration, or the tripods are too unstable to yield a good image, and one with a smaller budget will do well with binoculars, which are surprisingly versatile and effective in backyard astronomy.
- Koisuru Asteroid correctly details the steps taken to find an object of interest. At this point, we assume that Mari has already pointed the polar axis on the equatorial mount at the celestial pole, and then used the azimuth and altitude adjustments to precisely tune the telescope. From here, it’s a matter of finding an object using the finder scope: the girls start their journey by looking at Jupiter through the telescope: most novices begin their journey by looking for the planets and the moon, before learning techniques like star-hopping to locate more difficult-to-find entities.
- When it’s Mikage’s turn to look through the telescope, she finds nothing through the main eyepiece. Mira displays an unexpectedly mischievous side to her when she remarks that maybe Mikage’s geology background has caused the telescope to scorn her (leaving Mikage to wonder if Mira is picking a fight), but this phenomenon arises as a result of the Earth’s rotation. Telescopes amplify the movement of the east-to-west motion of the sky, and so, at lower magnifications, object can drift from the centre of the view to the edge in as little as two minutes. Higher-magnification optics accentuate this, with objects drifting off centre in as little as 20 seconds. The girls wonder what solutions there are beyond realigning the telescope, and Mari mentions that a motor drive would be needed to automatically keep a telescope pointed at objects of interest. These motor drives run for north of 70 dollars.
- The Earth Sciences club are shown to be using a Vixen-branded telescope: from the tube assembly, they’re using the A80Mf model, which runs for about 420 USD. With an 80mm aperture, 910 mm focal length and a focal ratio of f/11.4, the telescope also comes with a 6×30 finder scope with a 7º FOV. The telescope weighs 5.5 pounds and comes with essentially accessories like a dew shield (essential for keeping moisture off the main aperture, which in turn reduces image degradation). In practise, the A80Af easily fits Terence Dickinson’s description of a good beginner telescope. Vixen telescopes are manufactured in Japan, and in North America, Tele Vue markets them: Dickinson remarks that the Vixen brand is known for offering consistently good value.
- It turns out that, unable to bear the cold, instructor Yuki had retreated to her car to keep warm, and in the process, missed the lone fireball that the girls spot. Mari mentions that this is the Lyrid Meteor shower, which peaks in April with a maximum of five to twenty-five meteors per hour. Meteor showers occur when the Earth passes through a trail of comet debris, which can persist for thousands of years after a comet has passed through the Earth’s orbit.
- While Mira has much to say about her chosen topic for the Earth Science Club’s newsletter, she encounters considerable difficulty in putting these ideas onto paper, doubly so after Misa, her older sister, provides the feedback that her article on asteroids is very dense. When Ao asks Mira to provide her with an illustration for her article, Mira has a stroke of inspiration and decides to do a comic instead on the zodiac constellations.
- The Earth Science club’s first publication is a resounding success, organically drawing the student body’s interest and attention after it is readied. This is the first of the achievements for the fledgling club, and while it might appear to be a small milestone, it marks the first time that the girls have come together and taken those first steps in making their activities more widely known. Scientific communication is an entire discipline on its own, and one challenge scientists face in their work is conveying the implications to a lay population. Being able to convey complex idea in simple, approachable terms is a skill, and this is something I always strive towards.
- Misa is Mira’s older sister and is the student council president. Confident and reliable, Misa is voiced by Mai Fuchigami, whom I know best as Girls und Panzer‘s Miporin Nishizumi: Fuchigami portrays Misa with none of Miho’s traits, and in fact, Misa is perhaps more similar to Maho in terms of style. Both are a bit more reserved, but greatly support their younger siblings in their own way: some comics have shown Maho doting on Miho a little too much, and this is something I’d actually like to see presented in the Girls und Panzer series proper, since it is an incredibly heartwarming manner to behold.
- It was a bit of a surprise that Koisuru Asteroid would feature an onsen this early in the game. This still of the onsen‘s front exemplifies the sort of art style used in Koisuru Asteroid: while nowhere near as intricate or detailed as something from Kyoto Animation or Makoto Shinkai, the colours are well-chosen to create a sense of invitation and warmth. Many series have been successful in doing more with less, and in series like Koisuru Asteroid, striking a balance with the environment details means that the world the characters live in is sufficiently detailed to be convincing, without taking the viewers’ attention away from their interactions.
- Traditionally, onsen scenes are used as a means of fanservice, but in Koisuru Asteroid, the girls’ conversation turns towards the different kinds of mineral waters hot springs can have. A hot springs is defined as any natural source of water with temperatures exceeding 25ºC, and depending on the mineral content, the waters can have different properties. The sulfur springs of the Rocky Mountains can help improve skin hydration, and in British Columbia, there are also radium springs; bathing in their waters is said to help with digestion.
- Hot springs are a geological feature associated with tectonic activity, where in ground water is heated by geothermal sources and retains its heat when pushed to the surface (as is the case in Japan), although natural heat from radioactive decay can also heat water. The temperature of the hot springs vary depending on how much heat the water picks up (or subsequently loses), and in my experience, having relaxed in the Heritage Resort’s onsen, where the temperatures appeared to be around 35ºC, this sets the threshold for the temperatures that I prefer.
- After learning that instructor Yuki is a very dedicated instructor who’s still single, Mira gifts her a souvenir from their visit to her favourite onsen. The trope of a relatively youthful instructor with no partner is a commonplace one in slice-of-life series, and this is usually intentionally done so the instructor can spend more time with their students in their experiences. An married instructor, or someone who’s in a serious relationship wouldn’t be able to drive their students around or spend time with them on weekends quite to the same extent, so having a young, single instructor provides the maximum amount of flexibility for them within the story.
- It turns out that Ao’s mother is a scientific illustrator, and produces drawings that Mira are very fond of. Here, the two are supposed to be studying for a make-up exam after failing: Mira must redo her physics and English exam, while Ao is retaking her math exam. Mira does not seem the studious type and so, this outcome is not terribly unexpected, but Ao failing an exam seemed unlikely, until at least Ao reveals to the viewer (and quite privately) that she failed her exam on the basis that she put down the wrong name after being distracted by stargazing the previous evening.
- This brings to mind Brad Marchand’s latest shootout attempt: on January 13, after an overtime still saw the Boston Bruins deadlocked with the Philadelphia Flyers, on the fifth round, Marchand was brought out to shoot. He ended up overskating the puck, instantly forfeiting his shot and giving the Flyers a victory. Basically, carelessness can affect anyone at any level, and so, Ao’s mistake doesn’t seem all that implausible. I recall a similar story where during a social studies (the Canadian equivalent of history) exam, I had been going through my exam and accidentally missed one question, so all of my subsequent answers were one off. Because I did this towards the end of the exam, my overall grade was still passable, but it did come as a bit of a shock to me.
- At this point in Mira’s high school career, she’s studying Newtonian one-dimensional kinematics and is having trouble recalling the equations. Moe suggests singing the equations out to remember them, and while it is true that a melody or mnemonic can be a good tool for remembering, there is no substitute for learning and remembering something quite like frequent exposure to the material. For me, doing more problems was how I learnt something, and I never relied on memory tricks. The equations that are brought up are for expressing the relationship between acceleration, time and distance: they’re relatively straightforwards and, I’ve used these expressions to characterise the flight path of the .50 calibre bullet in Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare‘s “One Shot, One Kill” mission to satisfy myself that the numbers did indeed add up.
- After Moe helps Mira to remember basic kinematics equations with a song, she also reveals that she knows Mira’s dirtiest secret. It turns out that Mira’s composed a girls’ romance manga with herself and Ao as the lead characters, and as Mira mentions, it’s something unfit for human eyes. Thus, while we viewers are left to share a laugh at Mira’s expense, the implications are that Mira’s mind is actually quite fertile when it comes to what she thinks of Ao.
- Ao and Mira’s study session turns into a relaxed one when Moe arrives with cream puffs, and Misa follows. Moe seems to be enamoured with Misa’s composure and grace, but becomes jealous when Misa inspects Ao in greater detail. Later, Mira gives Misa the banded rock that she’d found during the barbeque, and Misa enshrines it, counting it a good-luck charm for her entrance exams. In the end, both Ao and Misa pass their makeup exams.
- In order to help secure funds for club activities, Ao and Mira work at the Suzuya Bakery, in a moment that brings to mind Cocoa’s return to help her family bakery in Dear My Sister. Insofar, Koisuru Asteroid has provided no shortage of interesting topics in amateur astronomy and geology to cover, but the series has also created numerous setups to show Mira and Ao’s experiences outside of club activities. Discussions with folks who have some background in either have proven to be worthwhile, as I’m able to learn about different techniques and aspects of the hobby that make them enjoyable for different people.
- While I’ve brought in a great deal of technical material into my talks on Koisuru Asteroid because the premise allows it, I note that I am doing my best to maintain intellectual humility, and so, I’ll note when I’m venturing into an area that may be outside of my knowledge. Knowing when to say “I don’t know” or “I’m not sure” is a sign of competence and skill, since it allows others to understand the extent of one’s knowledge and moreover, that they’re secure and open-minded enough to admit that they are willing to learn more. Not everyone thinks this way, though: for instance, Sam Curt, an old nemesis, has elected to focus on trivial minutiae in Koisuru Asteroid because they lack the background to lecture others on astronomy and geology. For Koisuru Asteroid, Sam Curt asserts that linguistic boundaries means that English-speakers will find the inclusion of astronomy in an Earth Sciences club would be counted as a “head-scratcher”, and that only those with a profound knowledge of Japanese high school curricula would understand why this is the case.
- This is false: no viewer has had any problems with the semantics surrounding the two clubs’ merger. While it is true that astronomy is typically considered to be a subset of physics (astronomy is grouped with the physics department at my University, for instance), the field of astronomy can be divided into two broad categories: observational astronomy and astrophysics. The latter is about quantifying the behaviours and properties of celestial objects and phenomena, while the former is observing the physical and chemical properties of objects outside of the atmosphere. Because Earth Sciences is a broad discipline that focuses on Earth’s characteristics, observational astronomy can be considered a superset of Earth Sciences (or if that’s a stretch, at least tangentially related). It doesn’t take a stretch of the imagination to see the observing of celestial bodies and their properties as applying Earth Sciences to celestial bodies, so viewers can accept that the merger is one that makes sense from a matter of semantics without trouble.
- Sam Curt’s approach in slice-of-life anime is not unique: even larger anime resources like Anime News Network have used this method when dealing with anime that have a technical component outside the realm of their knowledge. Not knowing the physical characteristics of the tanks or the fundamentals of ballistics have lead ANN’s writers to draft imaginary slights about Girls und Panzer Der Film in some of their talks, and with Hai-Furi The Movie hitting Japanese cinemas today, I am certain that ANN will almost certainly be writing about the film’s shortcomings and criticising the military-moé genre without an appreciation of the naval vessels and how their properties impact the plot, which would result in a review that was not written with the full picture. In other words, I am suggesting to readers that they take the ANN review of Hai-Furi The Movie with a grain of salt until the BDs come out, after which one has the chance to make their own judgement on the film. Naturally, I will be taking whoever writes their Hai-Furi The Movie review to school once I’ve got the opportunity to.
- The page quote I’ve got, then, is both for folks like Sam Curt and ANN’s writers. Back in Koisuru Asteroid, on a quiet day, Ao and Mira meet up with the intention of visiting bookstores and stationary shops. However, both have their curiosities piqued when they run into an unlikely pairing: Moe and Mai are hanging out together, and Ao and Mira immediately become interested to know what’s going on. Their efforts to tail Mai and Moe fail: since Mira is actively communicating her actions, she’s leaving a trail of breadcrumbs that lead her to get busted in minutes. In anime, lack of OPSEC is always utilised for laughs, and I’ve no problems whenever this happens.
- As it turns out, Mai is a big fan of cartography and geocaching-like activities, having fallen in love with the area when one of her friends created a map for her to find treasures with. Cartography and geolocation are tangentially related to geology and the Earth Sciences, so it is not terribly surprising that Mai joined up with the club: she states it was only recently that she really began to appreciate the nuances surrounding rocks. I’ve always been fond of maps: as a child, I would spend hours looking at the roadmaps my parents had, and wondered what it would be like to explore the paths marked out on said maps.
- In my youth, I was interested in everything under the realm of the natural sciences, and while my career choices mean that my focus is now largely on software development and technology, I still retain an interest in the natural sciences and will read about them in my spare time. As such, shows like Koisuru Asteroid are immediately compelling for me precisely because it’s a bit of a reminder of my childhood, and the fact that I used to spend hours with my nose in a natural sciences book.
- After Mira expresses an interest in going on a Ciste Hunt, Mai creates a map just for Ao, Mira and Moe. She initially finds it difficult to decide what treasure should be the prize at the end of the hunt, but with some reassurance from Mikage, figures it out. When classes end, Ao, Mira and Moe go on a short adventure through their school, finding the treasure on the back of the map that compelled Moe to join the geology club. The treasure turns out to be the photograph of Mai together with Moe, Mira and Ao. Moe immediately reacts warmly to the moment, and in general, her desire to take and preserve photographs of the others brings to mind the tendencies of numerous characters before her, whose traits were similarly comedic in nature.
- Doing the ciste hunt with Mai’s maps brings each of Ao, Mira and Moe closer with Mai, who reminds me somewhat of Yama no Susume‘s Kokona in mannerisms. This means that it is not outside of the realm of possibility for Mikage and Mari to have their own experiences with Ao, Mira and Moe. I also feel that as Koisuru Asteroid wears on, Moe’s joining the Earth Sciences club could be a very real possibility, as well.
- I’ve opted to bring the “after three” talk on Koisuru Asteroid to a close with this screenshot of a vivid spring day: the vast expanse of sky and focus on what’s above indicates that Koisuru Asteroid is only just getting started. I am admittedly disappointed on the general lack of discussion out there on Koisuru Asteroid: most viewers likely entered when yuri components appeared to be central, but since that’s been slower insofar, interest in the series has waned. For folks who are watching Koisuru Asteroid for more than just yuri, I will be writing about this series with increased frequency this season, and so, there will be at least one blog out there that will be covering this show to some capacity.
Manga Time Kirara adaptations are typically very familiar, even derivative, and so, while the characters and their dynamics are nothing I’ve not seen before, the choice of topic in astronomy and geology makes Koisuru Asteroid a curious series to follow. The series will provide plenty of small tidbits of information about both disciplines that add to the series’ enjoyment and also gently guide viewers along to ensure they are up to speed with what Ao and Mira do en route to discovery of an asteroid. With the combination of reacquainting myself with the Earth Sciences and a familiar set of interactions amongst the characters, Koisuru Asteroid offers a very comforting and relaxed series to take up each and every week. The reason I am so fond of these series, even where they do not (or cannot) innovate on the genre, is because they show how every discipline out there has its own intricacies. While such series may not always be entirely faithful or fully representative of its real-world counterpart, exploring the techniques and tools of the trade is a reminder that every discipline has its own challenges, reward and merit. Being able to see different disciplines means appreciating the effort and work people apply towards their own occupations and professions, and while slice-of-life anime may prima facie be a thinly-veiled excuse to see cute girls doing cute things, the reality is that they also provide an accessible portrayal of disciplines that one might otherwise pass over while in pursuit of their own objectives. Having this wider perspective leads to increased respect for folks in different fields, and may even offer one novel insights into their own areas of expertise.