The Infinite Zenith

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Category Archives: Anime: Reflections

Magia Record: Review and Reflections After Three

“Kamihama…you fear to go into those streets. The Magical Girls delved too greedily and too deep. You know what they awoke in the darkness of Satomi…shadow and flame.”

In a dream, Iroha learns that Ui might be in Kamihama City’s Satomi Medical Centre and sets off to investigate, against Nanami’s warning. She finds herself amidst a Witch’s labyrinth; the Witch itself is locked in combat with a team of magical girls. These girls are successful in destroying the Witch, but Iroha is knocked out. When she comes to, she finds herself in a sanctuary for magical girls: this team introduces themselves to her as Momoko Togame, Kaede Akino and Rena Minami. It turns out they’re searching for the elusive “Chain Witch”, but in spite of their objectives, agree to help Iroha look for Ui (although Rena is reluctant). Iroha enters the Satomi Medical Centre and learns that there was never a patient by Ui’s name in the records, and after the girls go out to discuss options, a verbal argument breaks out, culminating in Rena leaving. Kaede attempts to reconcile with Rena, but is captured by the Chain Witch. Iroha meets Yakumo Mitama, a Coordinator who operates the sanctuary, and learns that Yachiyo is also a member of their group. They agree to an operation to lure out the Chain Witch; it turns out that feigning a fight won’t draw the Witch out, but Rena’s feelings get the better of her. The Chain Witch materialises, and Kaede turns out to be okay. The girls subsequently engage and destroy the Chain Witch, aided by the smaller Kyubey, who points out a weak spot. When the battle ends, the lack of a Grief Seed leads Yachiyo to conclude the Chain Witch is not a conventional Witch. Rena later learns that the two other girls beside Ui in Iroha’s dream, Toka and Nemu, were indeed patients at Satomi, and elsewhere, Kyubey reveals that he’s unable to enter Kamihama: he sends one Mami Tomoe to investigate. With the third episode and the appearance of Mami, it is established the series’ events are being set prior to the events in Madoka Magica. The third episode of Madoka Magica became infamous for its brutal killing of Mami, who was consumed by a Witch during combat, and the marked contrast between Magia Record‘s third episode indicates that the themes here are unlikely to be as grave and sobering as those of Madoka Magica.

Indeed, Magia Record‘s premise of having Iroha investigate a mystery surrounding someone dear to her is already dramatically different than Madoka Magica: whereas the former was really about the toll that wishes extract, Magia Record‘s themes and goals seem much more consistent with that of a game, favouring exploration and discovery. The episodes to Magia Record have insofar focused on presenting how limited and inconsistent Iroha’s recollections are, which compels one to follow the story with the goal of watching this mystery unravel. Along the way, Iroha meets a group of Magical Girls who will, in time, act as resources and allies to fall back on in her adventures, and Iroha learns that Soul Gems can be boosted to increase the Magical Girls’ power and ability in battle. Drawing elements from a game, Magia Record‘s progression feels more purposeful, leaving no doubt that Iroha will be finding something during and towards the end of her journey. However, Magia Record also lacks the same grim and uncertain atmosphere of its predecessor: with no major deaths early on, Magia Record feels much more laid-back and conventional. As such, Magia Record must strike a balance between creating novel new events to keep viewers engaged, while at the same time, avoid venturing into the melodramatic territory that Madoka Magica ended up in. It goes without saying that Magia Record has some large shoes to fill, and in the shadows its predecessor left behind, Magia Record is seen as being something that faithfully captures the atmosphere and feel of Madoka Magica while simultaneously exploring new directions that add to the franchise. Fortunately, three episodes into Magia Record, the anime has proven engaging and enjoyable in its own right.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Inconsistencies in Iroha’s memories and the memories of those around her will immediately lead viewers to wonder whose version of reality is the right one. Until more is explored, viewers will be kept guessing, which is the main draw of Magia Record. Conversely, Madoka Magica kicked off the party in a much more unassuming manner and surprised them with Mami’s sudden death, only to have the series spiral out of control after it was revealed that Magical Girls became Witches.

  • Witches and Labyrinths were a central feature in Madoka Magica, and viewers spent countless hours studying every detail in a Labyrinth to guess at what that particular Witch’s origins were: the revelation that Witches were born of Magical Girls and Sayaka’s transformation into Oktavia von Seckendorff marked the first time that the connection could be drawn between a Magical Girl’s past and current form as a Witch: Oktavia von Seckendorff’s Labyrinth was a demented concert hall and perilous train wheels, mirroring Sayaka’s connection to music. From this, attributes in other Labyrinths were thought to offer some insight into the Witches’ pasts.

  • When Iroha enters a Labyrinth, she finds herself in a vast field under a starry sky. She quickly finds herself in the middle of a fierce battle: Kaede, Rena and Momoko exchange blows with the Witch. Kamihama’s Witches are said to be stronger than standard Witches, and even with more powerful Magical Girls on station, it still takes a team of them to consistently overcome Witches. Right out of the gates, however, the team that Iroha encounters is only barely holding together.

  • It ultimately takes a combined attack from Rena and Momoko to wrap up the combat: Momoko and Rena use this attack on the core of the Witch to take it out. In Madoka Magica, viewers had few moments to watch Magical Girls fighting together during the TV series proper, but in Rebellion, it was fun to see each of Madoka, Homura, Mami, Sayaka and Kyouko taking on a Nightmare using the combined scope of their abilities as a team, and with teams being a larger part in Magia Record, seeing groups of Magical Girls engaging a Witch together will likely yield more exciting combat sequences.

  • While the Magical Girls and their Coordinator headquarters are no Sanctum Sanctorum, Momoko notes that it does act as a place for Magical Girls to regroup and recover from their duties. This place is the one portrayed on promotional materials for the series; the use of blue lighting and geometric shapes gives a the headquarters a classical, holy feeling, but despite the cold, impersonal feeling such a space emanates, having good people present changes things dramatically.

  • In the space of about thirty seconds, Momoko has quickly become my favourite character in Magia Record: with the air of a responsible older sibling, Momoko takes on the role of supporting the younger Magical Girls. She’s said to be the middle sibling, which gives her both the perspective of a younger sibling and that of and older sibling. To this end, Momoko is easy-going and always has her eyes on her younger team members.

  • Right out of the gates, viewers get the sense that Momoko and Kaede are friendly, willing to help, whereas Rena is more hostile and distant: it is here that the “Chain Witch”, an unknown entity that’s said to whisk away the careless. Momoko and the others have been attempting to hunt it down for some time, with limited success, and so, when Iroha arrives, she and Kaede see an opportunity to help out.

  • Upon arriving at the Satomi Medical Centre and making inquiries, Iroha is shocked to learn that there’d never been a patient by the name of Ui Tamaki at their facility. The disconnect between Iroha’s memories and what’s being told to her builds up the suspense in Magia Record in a much more traditional sense than how Madoka Magica handled the progression: here, things seem much more gradual, while in Madoka Magica, once the defecation hit the oscillation, the story accelerated wildly and gripped its viewers.

  • Iroha (and the viewer) initially gains the impression that a pretty serious disagreement between Kaede and Rena has broken out, this time, over Rena’s casual use of her illusion magic to take on Momoka’s appearance. Behind Rena’s tough exterior lies someone who lacks confidence and is insecure; her original wish was to be anyone besides herself, having come from a family who moved a lot owing to her father’s job. Despite her difficult personality, she would open up to Momoko over time, although she still finds it difficult to accept Kaede.

  • The fast food restaurant the girls stop at after their unsuccessful attempt to learn of Ui’s whereabouts possesses an ultra-modern design and features a sophisticated set of windows that display various imagery. I’m certain that these are purely ornamental, although they do add an interesting visual break in things. After Kaede storms off, Momoko teasingly warns Rena that such actions may cause the Chain Witch to appear, and Rena runs off, feeling the joke to be in poor taste.

  • While Momoka might be the ‘big sister’ archetype, she readily admits that she’s got her faults, and apologises to Iroha, having felt that this time, things might truly be the end for Kaede and Rena. It is here that she explains to Iroha the story about the Chain Witch and its association with a staircase that’s said to end friendships. As the story goes, the two individuals interested in ending their friendship write their names on certain steps, and then from there, the first individual to want to reconcile with the other and apologise will be taken by the Chain Witch.

  • Owing to the way this story is framed in Magia record, there is no clear indicator as to whether or not the story coincided with the appearance of the Chain Witch in Kamihama, or if it has its origins in area folklore and urban legends even before the actual Chain Witch itself made an appearance. Madoka Magica made extensive use of large-scale to convey the notion that the girls were in situations far larger than themselves, and this created a sense of isolation. While Magia Record uses similar imagery, at least for the present, Iroha does not feel quite as alone on the virtue that she’s with Momoka, Kaede and Rena.

  • This is the stairwell mentioned in the rumour: by a curious turn of events, there is a very similar stairwell at the University of Calgary’s Social Sciences building: this narrow, winding set of stairs leads from the main floor to the roof, fourteen floors up, and I’ve made use of it in my time. The Social Sciences stairwell is very similar to the one in Magia Record in that there is also a legend surrounding it, but unlike Magia Record, our stairs have a different legend: the story Leon the Frog was written on the steps in 1974, and became somewhat of an institution around campus. A year after my graduation, restoration efforts led to the removal of this work, although students have since restored it.

  • My favourite part of the story can be found on the eighth floor, and since the entire poem is a lengthy one, I’ll leave a link to it here. The architecture and locations around the University of Calgary does bring to mind some locations in Madoka Magica, and in particular, the rooftop of Mitakihara Middle School reminds me very much of the Arts Parkade rooftop. This formed the basis for a special topics post I wrote some years ago about the choice of architecture in Madoka Magica. Back in Magia Record, after their fight, Kaede and Rena become more distant than before, and despite Kaede’s efforts at reconciliation, nothing seems to work.

  • The negative feelings amassing in Rena and Kaede manifest in a physical form, and as chains begin slithering across the screen, it becomes clear that this is the Chain Witch that has been the subject of much discussion amongst the Magical Girls. These spectral beings engulf Kaede, who subsequently goes missing. Rumours persist that those taken by the Chain Witch are lost forever, but this presumably only applies to civilians.

  • Besides the interior of the Magical Girls’ sanctum, the other location in Magia Record that stands out is Iroha’s room. While unremarkable in most cases, its main distinguishing feature is that precisely half of the room is empty. Since Thanos never affected the Madoka Magica universe, it’s another (not-so-subtle) sign that something is off: Iroha’s side has a very lived-in, welcoming feel, and the empty side is deliberately sterile to visually represent the extent of Ui’s absence.

  • When Iroha arrives at the sanctum next, she meets Yakumo Mitama. Unlike the other Magical Girls, Yakumo is not actively involved in combat: the game has her serve as a shop-keeper of sorts, and so, while she is capable in her own right, her primary role is support. Yakumo is seen making adjustment to another Magical Girl’s Soul Gem, which is simply stated to improve the Magical Girl’s overall performance in some way. Because of her unique role, Yakumo is well-respected by other Magical Girls and provides her services in exchange for Grief Seeds.

  • If I were to take up Magia Record, having a knowledge of the anime means that I would find myself more familiar with the mechanics of the game. This is unlikely to occur for the present: mobile games have never really been my forte, and for my part, I’ve always preferred titles that involve a combination of über-micro and reflexes. This is why my entire library is composed of shooters, with a few simulators here and there. It is not lost on me that most of the community is much more familiar with visual novels, JRPGs and the like, but for me, those move a little too slowly.

  • While Iroha and Rena might be ill-equipped to deal with an unknown such as the Chain Witch on their own, they do have Momoko and Yachiyo in their corner. The plan is set: Yachiyo and Momoko will feign a disagreement to draw out the Chain Witch, and then engage the Witch in combat to retrieve Kaede. The plan is simple enough, and all that’s left is the execution itself. Having taken a look around at things, Magia Record discussions have been quite disciplined so far, focused primarily on the progression of the story, differences between it and its predecessors, and how game elements are subtly present.

  • Up until now, we’ve not yet seen any of the Magical Girls of Magia Record do a full transformation; Yachiyo is the first to kick things off, and her transformation sequence is filled with water-related motifs. Wielding water magic means that Yachiyo’s personality is calm and fluid, adaptive and patient: her weapons bring to mind those of the Greek God, Poseidon, who was the patron deity of seas and storms. Poseidon wielded a trident, and Yachiyo’s spear is a three-bladed weapon that mirrors her affinity with water.

  • Momoko’s transformation is a very fiery one, and her primary weapon is a sword-sized machete. With her wish being to gain the courage to go through with a kokuhaku, her magic lies in the ability to support and encourage those around her. This is befitting of Momoko, who has similar confidence to Mami Tomoe. Her transformation sequence admittedly brings to mind Gin Minowa’s, which was also quite spirited.

  • Rena’s original wish gave her control over illusionary magic, and this is mirrored by the presence of mirrors during her sequence. Similar to Yachiyo, Rena has a water motif, and fights with a trident. Traditionally, transformation sequences have been counted an integral part of Magical Girl series: while fun to watch, they can become repetitive and dull with prolonged exposure, so many series choose to show these sequences early on, and then have the characters transform much more quickly as the series continues. Mecha series take a similar approach: both the Unicorn and 00 Raiser saw lengthy, detailed

  • Iroha has a very unique transformation of her own: she runs off the edge of a building and gradually picks up her signature cloak and crossbow as she descends, giving off the vibes of an angel in the process. Because her wish is rooted in health, Iroha has a considerable healing factor, similar to Sayaka Miki. Her offensive abilities are much weaker: she’s only armed with an automatic crossbow that, while possessing a high rate of fire, does not deal very much in the way of direct damage. In spite of this.

  • Momoko and Yachiyo are initially unsuccessful in bringing out the Chain Witch with their feigned fight. However, while up on the school rooftop, Rena begins to get lost in her thoughts. As feelings of resentment and regret come out, these negative emotions draw the Chain Witch out. With Yachiyo, Momoko and Iroha present, the Chain Witch feels like less of a threat: as Rena and the others begin probing its defenses and fighting it, they come across Kaede, who’s okay.

  • Kaede’s outfit and primary weapon resembles those of a mage, or perhaps one of the Istari: she carries a staff into battle, and with her original wish being to halt a construction project that threatened her family garden, Kaede is able to shift objects out of phase temporarily, reflecting on her wish’s nature. When the others find Kaede, she appears to be in fine spirits, and is immediately ready to join her friends in squaring off against the Chain Witch.

  • Being the weaker of the Magical Girls, Kaede and Rena provide support while Yachiyo and Momoko deal the real damage: they begin targetting a large bell-like object in the Labyrinth while hiraganakanji endless stairs and chains dominate the scenery: if and when I’m asked, the sum of these visual elements are intended to show how the fracturing of friendships begins with words, which bind two parties to a destiny, and where recovery is equivalent to climbing an unending flight of steps.

  • Even with the latter’s power, however, it isn’t until Iroha learns of the Chain Witch’s weak point from the small Kyubey and passes it along, that the girls are able to vanquish the Chain Witch. The Chain Witch, however, does not drop a Grief Seed. These constructs could either be willed into existence by the familiars (essentially, lesser Witches), and they would give birth to a full-fledged Witch over time, or else come from a Soul Gem that had given in to despair. While some have wondered how Grief Seeds can be used to purify Soul Gems when they themselves exude negative energy, as opposed to the Soul Gem’s positive energy, we would suppose that negative emotions work similarly to the phenomenon of coalescence: bringing a Soul Gem with some negative energy into proximity of a Grief Seed would cause the Grief Seed to absorb said negative energy.

  • With the Chain Witch neutralised, Kaede and Rena reconcile properly. It is here I note that the soundtrack for Magia Record is excellent: even just three episodes in, the combination of classic pieces of incidental music from Madoka Magica (like Sis Puella Magia) and new songs gives Magia Record a nostalgic feeling while simultaneously driving new motifs forward. The soundtrack is expected to release in parts, and the first will accompany the first BD volume.

  • Once Rena and Kaede’s relationship is mended, Iroha is able to turn her attention back to her search for Ui, and she grows excited when she learns that there were two other patients with her, per her dream. We’re now nearing the end of this post, and I note now that the bitter cold in the area has now passed. For the past week, temperatures have been exceedingly mild for this time of year. A few nights ago, I had the chance to use an air fryer to make home-made sweet and sour pork: unlike restaurants, the home-made incarnation was far meatier and had much less fat, yielding a lean and delicious result. This is particularly exciting, as it implies I have a shot at making home-made tempura, as well.

  • Whereas Mami lost her head in Madoka Magica‘s third episode, Magia Record‘s third episode has Mami making an appearance, promising to investigate an unusual phenomenon in Kamihama. I am rather curious now to see if Mami and Momoko ever meet up, and moreover, to see if Sayaka and the others might make cameo appearances in Magia Record. I’ve speculated that Mami’s appearance puts Magia Record as occurring before Madoka Magica, but there is a chance that this could be wrong, and I’m looking forwards to seeing what unfolds. With this post in the books, the last post I have planned for January will be for Halo Reach: after watching Room Camp, I’ve concluded that the three-minute episodes don’t offer me with enough to write about, and I’m going to do a single post for Room Camp once the shorts have concluded, similarly to how I wrote about Yama no Susume.

More so than any other element, the characters in Magia Record (and their interactions) have been the show’s strongest aspect: all of the characters, even Rena, are likeable in their own regard. Iroha represents the newcomer with limited experience and skill, but a strong motivation and open-mind that allows her to open up to others very quickly. Kaede is a girl with a gentle disposition who is willing to hear out Iroha, and Rena, despite her blunt words, is revealed to genuinely care for those around her. Momoko is similarly a captivating character, combining the maturity and confidence that Mami had, with the leadership traits from Yūki Yūna is a Hero’s Fū Inubouzaki. Friendly and composed, Momoko is also shown as being flippant and laid-back almost to a fault: when her friends fight, she makes off-hand remarks that worsens the situation. All of the characters have their strong points and flaws that make them relatable, giving viewers incentive to root for them as they work together to solve Kamihama’s mysteries, some of which could be as terrifying as Durin’s Bane. Of course, because Madoka Magica set the precedence for unexpected (and often unpleasant) surprises, it would not be unexpected for any one of Iroha’s new-found friends to suffer an untimely exit from Magia Record. With all of these items on the table, Magia Record is looking to put on a fantastic showing this season, and I look forwards to seeing what Iroha and the others find as a result of their quest for answers, as well as what these Magical Girls learn during the course of their time together. I will be returning once the series has concluded to write more comprehensively about Magia Record, and until then, I leave readers with a brief explanation of the page quote: we still don’t have a clear picture of what exactly is in Kamihama, but whatever it is, it’s going to be something at least as troubling as a Balrog of Morgoth.

Rifle is Beautiful, or The Chidori RSC: Whole-series Review and Reflection

“A sniper is like a genius – it’s not enough to be one, you have to be one at something.” –Steve Aylett

After training with Asaka High’s rifle shooting team, Hikari and the others seek out a club advisor; it turns out that the Rifle Shooting Club won’t be able to participate in any sort of competitions without a dedicated advisor, but manage to convince instructor Yūko Tsurumaki to advise for the club despite her lack of knowledge in competitive rifle shooting. The Chidori Rifle Shooting Club manage to make their way through the preliminary competitions and place for nationals, but before they can compete, Hikari and Yukio must pass their make-up exams. The club becomes excited to know that they will compete in Tsutsuga in Hiroshima, and while the team is nervous, they perform well during the group shooting match, placing second overall thanks to a strong performance from YuYūko kio and Hikari. Hikari, however, fails to perform during the individual competition and comes away disappointed, but recalls that her journey’s been filled with fun experiences and meetings with interesting, friendly folk. She resolves to continue training so she can shoot alongside the best in the future. This is Rifle is Beautiful: despite its title, the anime’s main premise proved to be unexpectedly muted in dealing with the sport of rifle shooting, and therefore, never garnered much discussions during its airing. Rifle is Beautiful was further hampered by an unexpected challenge during production. Besides an extra recap episode that pushed the series back a week, the finale aired a full three weeks after its originally-designated time. Thus, when Rifle is Beautiful was supposed to finish back during the final Sunday of 2019, the series ended up wrapping three weeks into 2020. However, with the finale in the books, Rifle is Beautiful certainly is beautiful in its own right, taking a rather unique spin on a sport that is, with due respect, quite dull to watch in reality and making it into something far more engaging.

The aspect that allows Rifle is Beautiful to keep viewers engaged during the decidedly unexciting sport of rifle shooting is the combined use of Hikari’s narration and the focus on a variety of perspectives during a match, in addition to the shooters themselves. By cycling through the thoughts and perspectives of active competitors, spectators and tying all of it together with Hikari’s thoughts, viewers are able to gain a modicum of insight into what everyone is competing for and what brought them into the sport, while simultaneously watching the competitors react to their performance during a match. Since rifle shooting is at the core of Rifle is Beautiful, this clever framing allows the viewer to appreciate that there is more to the sport than good stance, technique and preparation: a plethora of thoughts flit through the minds of shooters and audience members alike, all of which contribute to both their performance and attitudes towards shooting. In this manner, the competitors from other schools are humanised and become properly-developed individuals who have their own reasons for competing. This gives additional weight and urgency to Chidori’s performance: they are going up against other people, rather than faceless masses that represent a hurdle for Chidori to overcome, and as such, when the national competition comes to a close, despite having lost in the individual competition and coming in second, the learnings and discoveries that each of Hikari, Izumi, Yukio and Erika have are equally as important, giving them a proper experience of competition as a team and helping them to improve. The intrinsically slow pacing of Rifle is Beautiful means that the themes can quickly fall to the back of one’s mind had the anime focused purely on rifle shooting, but by capitalising on competition time to also explore the motivations and beliefs other competitors hold, Rifle is Beautiful manages to make the most of its core element to tell an engaging, if tried-and-true, story.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Yūko’s addition to Rifle is Beautiful is a welcome one: she’s presented as a relatively new instructor whose inexperience is offset by her kindness, and finds herself roped into being the advisor for the Rifle Shooting Club. Despite not knowing anything about rifle shooting, the girls persuade her to learn the basics and soon after, Yūko is able to keep up with the others. This comes just in time for the prefecture qualifying rounds.

  • I’ve mentioned this previously in the talk on Koisuru Asteroid: high school instructors in anime are typically younger in age and single. This choice is deliberate to accommodate the idea that an instructor could readily accompany the students on their adventures, and while some anime will emphaise the fact that they’re single (and unhappy for it), other series create the impression that the instructors are still relatively new to their roles and in a manner of speaking, learn alongside the main cast. The latter holds true for Rifle is Beautiful, and while Yūko’s still green, she does her best to be there for her students.

  • Hikari is shown as the sort of person who performs her best when the moment calls for it, but otherwise does not otherwise do all that well in practise. This trait is the source of much consternation from her teammates, who can never be sure whether or not Hikari will choke during a competition. Throughout Rifle is Beautiful, however, Hikari’s appearances belie a strong sense of determination, and she wins where it counts.

  • Like Locodol‘s Saori, Yūko is rather fond of her students, and has a camera on hand to photograph the Rifle Shooting Club’s members. Of course, the ISSF 10 meter air rifle competition is not particularly conducive towards exciting photographs, and even when writing about Rifle is Beautiful, there was only so much I could do with the moments spent during competitions.

  • Rifle is Beautiful is up front about the nature of shooting competitions: matches consist of 24 warm-up shots that allow participants to calibrate their sights and get a feel for things, followed with 60 live shots that count towards their scores. The athletes have 50 minutes to place their shots, which equates to around 1.2 shots per second; there is no inherent advantage to being a quick shot, but taking too long either will be detrimental.

  • Rifle is Beautiful uses the same rule set as the Olympics, and so, the maximum score count the shooters can achieve in a given match is 654 (with 10.9 being a perfect shot). While shooters are only 10 metres away from their target, the target itself is 45.5 mm in diameter, and the ring for scoring a 10 is 0.5 mm across. In general, any individual shot scoring above a 10.5 is considered solid, and excellent shooters have a shot grouping of no more than 4.5 mm.

  • Chidori High does well during their preliminary rounds and secures a spot to the national competition. Looking back, the preliminary rounds also acted as a bit of a warmup for Rifle is Beautiful, allowing the series to show how it would go about keeping the competition portions engaging when the competitors themselves were shooting. Even at the preliminaries, the outgoing and friendly Hikari befriend students from competing schools without difficulty.

  • In the aftermath of the preliminaries, the girls have precious little time to celebrate, but their success has drawn the admiration of their classmates. Early on, Rifle is Beautiful predominantly focuses on Hikari, Izumi, Erika and Yukio as they get to know one another better, and so, the story does feel a little quieter in the absence of other characters. This changes as the series shifts gears towards the nationals, where more characters are introduced.

  • However, before Chidori can visit Hiroshima, Erika and Izumi must first deal with their wayward friends, whose academic standings are jeopardised when they fail their exams. While Hikari seems the sort of person who may occasionally fail from carelessness or a lack of inclination to study, Yukio failing was a bit of a surprise. With this being said, appearances can be deceiving, and a part of the comedy in anime comes from unexpected moments such as these.

  • It is not lost on me that I’ve now thrown around the phrase “make up exam” in the past several of my anime discussions. Rin from Kandagawa Jet Girls, and both Mira and Ao of Koisuru Asteroid ended up failing exams, as well. Back in Rifle is Beautiful, Yukio’s response to Erika for having gotten a pitiful five percent on her exam is priceless. Back when I was in high school, I was a rather competitive and serious student who scored consistently in the mid-90s. My primarily inclination was that I enjoyed the materials, wanted to see where effort led and also had a penchant for collecting souvenirs of this effort.

  • Of course, this led me to be a rather arrogant and narrow-minded individual, and by the time university came around, a sound beating during my second year, followed by my decision to attempt the MCAT, led me to view things from a different perspective – learning for the sake of improvement is alone a worthwhile and meaningful motivation, and grades alone do not always represent how much one has learnt. While Erika beats down Yukio during their study session, Izumi takes on a much friendlier approach in tutoring Hikari.

  • With Hikari and Yukio passing their make up exams, Rifle is Beautiful returns its focus to rifle shooting and the nationals. At this point in time, I’ve found all of Chidori’s characters to be endearing and likeable in their own right; Hikari takes the archetypes of the ditz who manages to be skilful where needed, Izumi is the reliable and dependable one, Erika is a tsundere, and Yukio is more or less a carbon copy of Yuki Nagato, albeit with a more developed sense of humour. All of the characters bear familiar archetypes, but it’s ultimately their interactions together, rather than their individual traits, that make Rifle is Beautiful fun.

  • Hikari prepares to head off for the national competition and waves her parents off. Overall, the technical components (animation, artwork and sound) in Rifle is Beautiful were of a good quality, and in particular, one aspect of Rifle is Beautiful that I enjoyed was the soundtrack: the incidental music in slice-of-life series are often overlooked as little more than a background element, but listening to the music on its own really gives a sense of how the composers have written the music to fit with different moods and settings within the series. Rifle is Beautiful has a combination of both optimistic pieces, uplifting tracks and even feel military march-like pieces.

  • From here on out, it’s the nationals, and familiar faces make a return as Hikari meets up with the other qualifying teams from their prefecture. Rifle is Beautiful did the characters from the other schools justice to the best capacity the series allowed, and the closeness to each school that viewers end up getting corresponds with their distance to Chidori. Hikari and the others are the characters viewers immediately feel at home with, while Asaka’s students and those who were at the preliminary rounds are familiar faces. Come the nationals, new characters are introduced, as well.

  • When I look back at my time as a student, I travelled the most extensively in middle school; I had been a part of a concert band and, besides going around town to compete, I also went to band camp. My final year of middle school was marked by a trip to the British Columbia coast as a part of a character-building programme. The criteria for admission into this journey was strict: only students with high grades and good character could go, but the benefits of going were numerous. I learnt team work skills while spending time on a converted mine sweeper and made memories that have endured to this day.

  • In high school, I stopped going on outings: my extracurricular activities became working on the yearbook and other activities that remained largely on school grounds while I geared up for admissions into, and during my undergraduate degree, it was taking all I had to stay in satisfactory standing. On the other hand, I travelled in graduate school and then on a few occasions for work. I definitely appreciate being able to go places, but like Chidori, my travels haven’t purely to satisfy wunderlust, and while there’s a sense of yearning on such trips, I feel that the sense of purpose I get in travelling, to do something for someone, is admittedly a good one.

  • While Yukio is often thought of as being very poetic despite her stoic mannerisms, the reality is that she’s just not good with words, and the impression of a mind suited for eloquence is ill-placed: Yukio’s Mind is actually like Freeman’s Mind in that she thinks about completely irrelevant or irreverent stuff during the moment. During her awe-inspiring run in nationals, her competitors wonder what could go on in the mind of this machine-like shooter, and as it turns out, Yukio’s thinking about how she’s loving every moment of how hot the room is, how while her name is wintery in nature, she prefers the summer.

  • When Hikari’s eye is drawn by a special under-jacket, all of Izumi’s strength is insufficient to get Hikari to move on, and even a coin toss to help Hikari whether or not to buy the jacket ends up inconclusive. A coin landing on its edge looks to be an incredibly uncommon event, but a short study by Daniel Murray and Scott Teare published to Physical Review E in 1993 found that the probability of the American nickle landing on an edge is roughly 1:6000 (i.e. one in six thousand tosses). While a 0.01677 percent probability is very small, it is by no means impossible, and the occurrence is purely meant as a visual metaphor that shows how undecided the two are.

  • Erika is Chidori’s next shooter, and while she paints herself as being highly focused, disciplined and not given to flights of fancy like Hikari might be, even she is not immune to the pressures of competition. Of Chidori’s Rifle Shooting Club, Erika most resembles Haruhi in mannerisms, being dishonest about her feelings, hot-tempered, competitive and quick to point out flaws in others. Beyond this tough exterior is someone who seeks to be a part of something and has a tender aspect to her personality, as well. She and Yukio are an interesting combination because of the vast differences in their personality.

  • In the end, Erika becomes the weakest link and scores poorly, causing Chidori to drop out of the race for the coveted first place. Unable to hold back her emotions, Erika cries at the outcome, but fortunately, Chidori still has one shooter in reserve. It’s all eyes on Hikari, whose performance will determine Chidori’s fate. The competition is fierce, and there are plenty of incredibly skilled and experienced shooters in the competition. During matches, the perspective switches several times to focus on different characters and explore their motives for doing well. While I continue to cheer for Chidori, it was nice to see what the other shooters were thinking, too.

  • In the end, Hikari puts on her best performance yet, scoring so well she draws the attention of several of the competition’s most experienced shooters. This final push, however, falls slightly short, and Chidori ends up finishing second in the competition. While Hikari and the others are disappointed, a freshly-minted team of first years that was relatively unknown getting this far is no trivial feat.

  • The outcome of the team competition is actually is desirable from a narrative standpoint: staunch proponents of realism in slice-of-life anime will accept that a new team won’t be able to rise to the top that easily, and finishing second gives Rifle is Beautiful direction in the future should there be a continuation, as Chidori strives to improve and win the national competition. The page quote for this Rifle is Beautiful talk is speaks to the spirit of marksmanship but also applies to life in general: it isn’t sufficient to know something, but it’s also about being able to put one’s skills to use. This is something that the best shooters appreciate, and as Hikari and the others continue practising, this will become more apparent.

  • After their team competition, Chidori decide to hit the onsen and unwind after a tense day of shooting. Being in an onsen means Rifle is Beautiful has a chance to bring out a joke not seen since the earlier episodes: the size of Hikari’s bust is something that surprises and impresses all those who learn of the truth, and for my amusement, I’ve included one screenshot here. Hikari’s outward appearance is that of someone diminutive, so I’m guessing that this design choice was probably deliberate to introduce some cheap laughs.

  • While the girls might be disappointed in not winning, a part of life is also being able to take defeat, learn from them and come back stronger than before. This is one of Hikari’s best traits, and while she may feel downed by a setback, she’s quick to recover and make the most of things. After competition for teams draws to a close, she spends the evening with Asaka’s students enjoying fireworks.

  • While awaiting their turn in the individual shooting competition, Hikari and Yukio stop by a food truck for some lunch. It turns out that Yukio’s not good with spicy food and ends up ordering the mild curry, to Hikari’s surprise: Hikari believes that authentic curry must be enjoyed in the spiciest form possible. Japanese Curry is, incidentally, my favourite form of curry: in its base form, I enjoy it either chicken or beef, plus potatoes, carrots and onions on rice. I have cooked the dish before, and the key is to cook it for longer at a lower temperature to really allow the potatoes to soften.

  • Another trait in Hikari that is presented as a strength is her ability to seemingly dispel her nerves by being friendly and open to those around her, regardless of whether or not she knows them well. When another competitor is struggling to decide whether to pick up a souvenir, Hikari shows up, and her positivity prompts the other student to buy said souvenir.

  • However, mirroring the ups and downs of real life, Hikari performs poorly during the individual competition and is extremely disappointed, to the point of feeling as though she’d been dusted by Thanos’ Snap: this actually happens to her when Izumi finds her. I’m actually not sure if this is a callback to The Avengers: Infinity War, which saw characters literally become dust after Thanos acquired the Mind Stone and used the Infinity Gauntlet to harness their powers into realising his vision for the universe. Directors Joe and Anthony Russo decided on the effect because it was a plausible portrayal of accelerated decomposition and breakdown.

  • Had Hikari actually been dusted by Thanos, the anime community (or at least, the small subset of it actually watching Rifle is Beautiful) would’ve put a team together and done their utmost to bring Hikari back. Fortunately, this isn’t the case, and it’s simply the case that Hikari’s just suffered a setback: she begins to wonder if everything she’d accomplished up until now were chalked up to blind luck. After crying into Izumi’s arms, Hikari feels better and returns into the competition hall, wishing she’d stayed to watch and enjoy the performance of giants.

  • With the competition now over, Yūko rallies her students and tells them that summer break is upon them. This doesn’t help the other schools’ students’ image of her, but for me, it shows that Yūko does care for her students in her own way. I’m very nearly done a post that should’ve been written a few weeks back, and before I wrap up, I note that January’s been uncommonly active for posts because I’ve been playing catch-up with last season’s shows. I will need to come back and do a talk on Azur Lane at some point in the future: the final two episodes will roll in March, so I’ll likely take this one on in February. In the meantime, the only posts I have left for this month will be for Magia Record and Room Camp, as well as a lengthier talk on Halo: Reach now that I’ve finished the campaign.

  • Overall, Rifle is Beautiful earns a B grade (7.5 of 10, or 3.0 on a 4-point scale): I was impressed with how the anime was able to take something like rifle shooting and weave character growth into the sport to make an unexpectedly engaging series that has left me with a little more knowledge on how the ISSF 10 Metre Air Rifle sport works. With likeable characters and solid technical aspects (both audio and visual), I had fun watching this series. In the end, this is what matters, and since Rifle is Beautiful succeeds here, I count it as a series I enjoyed.

Admittedly, the pacing of Rifle is Beautiful is ultimately something that viewers will have to decide for themselves as to whether or not the anime is worth picking up and continuing with; while successful in conveying the atmospherics, technical aspects and tenor of rifle shooting, Rifle is Beautiful is a very slow anime, even more so than other slice-of-life series that I’ve gone through. In particular, the matches span multiple episodes, and it can be easy to forget who’s who. However, the slow, and often meandering flow in Rifle is Beautiful is very naturally presented, serving to remind viewers that Hikari’s opponents are not faceless machines, but ordinary people like herself, with intents and desires. Punctuating the more introspective moments with comedy help me to enjoy the presence of the other school’s characters. Seeing the human side of the competitors helps to also remind viewers that this story isn’t just about Hikari. As such, while I was rooting for Chidori, having Chidori perform admirably in the group competition and watching Hikari fail the individual matches was also a reminder that happy endings can come in different forms: the real win Hikari has in Rifle is Beautiful comes from being able to compete properly with a team and meet so many unique people. The slower pace thus serves to direct focus on these moments, and so, while Rifle is Beautiful may not be a rivetting anime about rifles, it certainly does have a charm of its own. With Rifle is Beautiful in the books, I do not imagine that a continuation is likely in the foreseeable future: the original manga’s been running since 2015, and there are a total of four volumes so far, the last of which releasing in October 2018. Sales figures and source material notwithstanding, Rifle is Beautiful‘s current animated adaptation has ended on a respectable and fairly conclusive note, so I wouldn’t be too disappointed if this is where Rifle is Beautiful‘s anime incarnation closed things off.

Koisuru Asteroid: Review and Reflections After Three

“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, 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.

Kandagawa Jet Girls: Whole Series Review and Reflections

“I count him braver who overcomes his desires than him who conquers his enemies; for the hardest victory is over self.” –Aristotle

Following the race with Fūka and Inori, Kiriko mentions that while Rin and Misa have definitely seen improvements as a team, the Orcano is lagging behind in terms of performance and could use an engine upgrade. With new-model engines costing upwards of three hundred thousand yen, the girls settle on a slightly older model that costs two hundred thousand yen, but would nonetheless confer a considerable performance boost for the Orcano. When Fumika refuses to sign off on the Jet Ski Racing club’s request, the girls decide to take up part-time jobs instead and earn enough money to secure the engine. Rin and Misa take up positions as waitresses at a Hell’s Kitchen café. They run into Emily and Jennifer, who have a special job for them: help out at a beachside restaurant. After a hard day’s work, the girls unwind and run into Manatsu and Yuzu, as well as Tina and Tsui. Upon hearing about a beach volleyball competition, Rin and Misa sign up, moving through the tournament until they face off against Tina and Tsui. However, before they can settle the game, Hell’s Kitchen’s manager arrives and hauls them off, leaving Rin and Misa to win by default. With the prize money, the Jet Ski Racing club now has enough funds to buy the latest engine. Once Kiriko installs it, Rin and Misa test it, but find that Rin’s piloting isn’t making full use of the Orcano’s power. Rin decides to return home and visit her family, where she comes to understand that she’d been following her mother’s racing style, and that her mother would’ve wanted her to find her own path. Meanwhile, Misa encounters Fūka and Inori while training. She decides to join them, and after sharing a conversation with them, decides to tell Rin why she’d originally wanted to quit Jet Ski racing as the gunner: long having lived in her sister’s shadow, Misa ended up losing a race when one of her shots failed to connect and began to lose her love of the sport. When Rin returns back in town, the two have a heart-to-heart talk. With their feelings and the truth in the open, they enter the final race for the Kandagawa Cup. Despite falling behind initially, Misa manages to create a pile-up with her sharpshooting that eliminates MKHU, Hell’s Kitchen and the Unkai Surfers. While Team Dress and Suiryukai are neck and neck, Misa lands an exceptionally tricky shot: together with Hell’s Kitchen, they disable Suiryukai and square off against one another in the race’s final moments. Ultimately, Rin and Misa win the race to take the Kandagawa Cup and promise to continue racing together into the future. This is Kandagawa Jet Girls, and with the series now in the books, this is one anime that proved to be surprisingly engaging and fun.

While Kandagawa Jet Girls might prima facie be an anime whose sole existence was to promote a video game and incentivise people to check it out by employing excesses of skin to draw attention, the anime itself presents surprisingly consistent and solid themes of teamwork, trust, honesty and sportsmanship. Towards Kandagawa Jet Girls‘ final quarter, Rin and Misa have gradually become more effective as a team, making considerable strides in communication and trusting one another: having seen Suiryukai’s performance in the final race, that Rin and Misa managed to race them to a draw is all the more impressive, indicative of their progress. As the girls work towards upgrading the Orcano, it is revealed that there is one final hurdle that is stopping Rin and Misa from being their best. Rin, having long admired her mother, attempts to emulate her style even when jet skis have advanced considerably and require a different mindset to operate. Misa had once considered quitting Jet Ski Racing altogether after a humiliating loss took away her sense of competition and enjoyment of the sport. When Rin returns from a trip back home, she and Misa openly discuss things that were bothering them, and with this talk, cast away the last vestiges of doubt they had, allowing them to truly race without being held back by their emotional baggage. The themes in Kandagawa Jet Girls are not particularly complex or innovative, but for a series that is probably better characterised by an ample amount of T & A than it is for character growth and development, the fact remains is that there’s a very coherent and clear progression that makes Misa and Rin’s journey worth following. Along the way, the two encounter a colourful and interesting cast of races, each with their own unique personalities and traits. Together with these racers, Rin and Misa discover the thrills of racing and the worth of sportsmanship, treating their competitors as friends rather than rivals. The end result of this is that Kandagawa Jet Girls succeeds in creating characters that players will now be familiar with should they choose to play the game, although even without the game, Kandagawa Jet Girls remains quite serviceable as an anime.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • The game mechanics of Kandagawa Jet Girls will likely involve an upgrade tree or parts for jet skis to bolster their performance, along with weapon upgrades. At the start of the final quarter, the girls go over Rin and Misa’s performance in their last race with Inori and Fūka; Kiriko believes that the time is due for the Orcano to be upgraded, since it’s likely that in the final race, the other competitors will have improved their jet skis, as well. However, engine parts are not inexpensive, and with club funds limited, the girls take on part-time jobs for extra cash.

  • Hina takes up a position at a local supermarket, responsible for manning a stand for cocktail sausage samples. Ever in love with food, Hina yields to temptations and eats one herself, but her ensuring reaction draws the attention of nearby customers – if the sausages are really this good, they reason, it must be worth buying. Kiriko works as a clerk at a convenience store, and contrasting her usual demeanour, immediately becomes embarrassed after serving her first customer.

  • Rin and Misa work at a Hell’s Kitchen Café as waitresses. Rin initially makes mistakes but catches on quickly, while Misa is embarrassed at being made to do the sorts of things expected of waitresses at a maid café. Both acclimatise over time, and in the blink of an eye, the Jet Ski Racing club begins to close in on their goal of securing the two hundred thousand yen needed for a suitable engine part. When the two encounter Jennifer and Emily, the latter suggest a special job to help Rin and Misa reach their goal faster.

  • After Rin and Misa’s presence leads to improved business at the seaside café that Jennifer and Emily work at, they are given a bonus, and some downtime to really enjoy the beaches under a hot summer sun. While Kandagawa Jet Girls is about Jet Ski racing, the number of detours the anime takes also gives plenty of time for the characters to loosen up. This is a crucial part of any anime that deals with a given activity: showing how characters are outside of their chosen interest serves to humanise the characters.

  • While it’s just Rin, Misa, Emily and Jennifer initially, soon, the entire party shows up: Manaka, Yuzu, Tina and Tsui appear, as well. Things are coincided with a beach volleyball tournament. Everyone decides to enter, spurred on by the prize money: the winnings are just enough for Rin and Misa to now purchase the latest model engine should they take home the tournament. The situation presented here is akin to a hardware enthusiast looking to upgrade their GPU at present: NVIDIA has both the RTX 2060 and the GTX 1660 Ti, both of which are considerable upgrades from the last-generation cards. There’s a 130 CAD gap (about a 25 percent difference) between the two cards, and the RTX 2060 offers a 15 percent increase in performance over the GTX 1660 Ti.

  • The last time I saw beach volleyball in an anime was Harukana Receive, and since Jet Ski Racing does have parallels with beach volleyball, watching Rin and Misa make their way through the tournament, defeating their opponents along the way, is meant to show that the pair have come a long way since the series’ beginnings. Whereas the two had trouble beating Manatsu and Yuzu in anything earlier and were decimated by Tsui and Tina, they manage to overcome the former, and manage to drive the latter into frustration. The match is ended when Tsui and Tina’s manager appears, putting a hilarious end to the competition, but going from how things were progressing, Tsui and Tina would’ve eventually lost.

  • The new engine parts give the Orcano a serious boost in performance, although in trial runs, Rin’s found to be running the designated course more slowly than the gains that were anticipated. It turns out that something’s bothering Rin, and this comes at a bit of a difficult time: Rin’s arranged to visit her home, and this means that she and Misa won’t be able to train as extensively for the upcoming competition. While Misa’s been holding together owing to her composure and experience, it turns out that she’s also been troubled by something.

  • Misa’s reason for quitting Jet Ski Racing is ultimately revealed in the penultimate episode: having long been inspired by her older sister, a natural gunner, Misa took up Jet Ski Racing as a gunner, but lost a critical race when it counted most, and became disillusioned when she overheard spectators comment that Misa was not her older sister. Devastated, Misa no longer wanted to race and since then, had avoided the sport until Rin appeared.

  • One of the running jokes throughout Kandagawa Jet Girls is that Misa rejects Rin’s efforts to update the Orcano’s front logo of one featuring the two of them: throughout Kandagawa Jet Girls, the Orcano is decorated with a logo of Rin’s design, and Rin’s persistent efforts to update it typically ends in failure owing to Misa’s embarrassment. Misa is similarly embarrassed when Rin shows a video promoting the race: she and Rin are considered to be the unknown dark horses who took everyone by storm, and although their rise to prominence is notable, they remain the underdog entering the final race.

  • When Rin returns to her hometown, she visits her mother’s grave and pays her respects. It’s a beautiful summer’s day, a far cry from the blistering cold that’s now moved into my area. For the next few days, we’re getting a daily high of no greater than -20°C, with windchills reaching up to -30°C. This scene here was another reminder of the technical excellence in Kandagawa Jet Girls with respect to the show’s visuals: despite being classified as an ecchi series driven by fanservice, the artwork is excellent.

  • Minor details like the sunbeams streaming through the frame, the subtle shimmer of the air from the heat, and the vivid colours of both sky and ocean all come together to create a captivating, immersive scene. When Rin turns around, she runs into Tina and Tsui, who reveal that they’d also known Rin’s mother and had been inspired by her to take up Jet Ski Racing. These two idols have been repesented as being competitive, arrogant and even immature up until now, but with a quiet moment amongst them, Rin’s able to share a conversation with them quite normally.

  • Tina and Tsui are mildly surprised to learn that Rin is the daughter of Ran, the famous Jet Ski racer, and reveal to Rin that they were originally inspired by Ran’s racing. Learning that one of their jobs would swing by Rin’s home island prompted them to come, and from this conversation, it’s clear that while Tsui and Tina might be perhaps a bit more arrogant and standoffish, they’re still friendly at heart and race for their own reasons.

  • While Rin’s back home, Misa’s training brings her on a chance encounter with Inori and Fūka. She decides to accompany them on their training, which is quite different than what she’s used to: the Japanese misogi ritual of standing under a waterfall has Shinto origins, but was adopted by martial artists as a form of meditation. Misa is quite unaccustomed to this, but her discipline allows her to at least keep up, and she spends the remainder of the day with the pair, resting in an onsen afterwards.

  • While back home, Rin finds the answer she had sought: Rin’s mother had always encouraged her to find her own path and approach to things. Remembering this, Rin understands that she should race in the manner that best suits her, and so, the last of Rin’s doubts are cast away. The conversation that the younger Rin had with her mother is set under brilliant skies and warm weather, mirroring the notion of unlimited possibility and hope for the future.

  • Weather and lighting accentuate the strength of a moment even in something like Kandagawa Jet Girls, and in general, for a series that was supposed to be an advertisement for an upcoming title, there’s plenty of moments and details in the anime that make it stand on its own merits. While not perfect by any stretch, Kandagawa Jet Girls does many of the basics well enough so that the anime overall is respectable. The incidental music is also of a passable standard: besides the sporty piece that reminds me a bit of Eye of the Tiger, the remainder of the incidental music does help the series to establish the mood of a moment. The soundtrack itself released just two days ago and runs for 3520 Yen, featuring forty-seven tracks over two disks.

  • When Rin returns for the final race in the finale, she and Misa have a heart-to-heart talk. Their exchange is presented as flashbacks during the race, breaking it up to strike a balance between the action of the race itself and the emotional growth that has allowed Rin and Misa to compete against the best Jet Racers in their league. With no more secrets between the two, this team enters the race with thoughts of victory on their mind.

  • Further symbolising the closing of the distance between Rin and Misa, the Kandagawa Jet Girls’ logo has been updated: it’s now the one that Rin’s been begging Misa to use as the decal on the Orcano. Their logo, along with the logos of other teams, are visible here behind Shōko and Aqua, who are doing the commentary for this race. Unlike the races before, which pitted two teams against one another, the final race has the top six competitors vying for victory.

  • With a larger number of teams on the waterway, the race itself is much more chaotic and frenzied. It is here that we see MKHU race for the first time: Manatsu is the pilot and Yuzu is the gunner. Initially, Rin and Misa start in the last position and therefore must contend with the other racers, but behind this seeming disadvantage lies an opportunity for Misa to patiently observe the competition.

  • Suiryukai’s choice of armament for one-on-one races seemed inappropriate, but against multiple opponents, having a rotary cannon weapon allows Inori to lay down a large volume of fire very quickly and suppress her enemies. Despite lacking acceleration, Suiryukai’s jet ski has a high mass and top speed, so early on in the race, they pull ahead of the competition and go toe-to-toe with Team Dress, whose jet ski has similar properties.

  • The whole of the Jet Ski Racing club’s members are out to watch the race. Fumika’s promise is not forgotten, and it turns out that Kaguya is related to Fumika, so some family rivalries exist between the two. This explains why Fumika is so determined to see Kaguya fall. Early in the race, even though Rin and Misa are at a disadvantage and remain in the sixth position, the team never stops cheering for them.

  • A nontrivial number of viewers approached Kandagawa Jet Girls as a yuri series with world-building and Jet Ski racing as secondary elements; these individuals left Kandagawa Jet Girls a trifle disappointed. One of the things about the anime community that I never particularly understood was why yuri is such a big deal: I tend to look past the fact that many series only deal with the issue in a tangential manner and focus on other aspects, so for the most part, I don’t have much to say about yuri – this attitude has resulted in my falling out of favour with many a reader.

  • When Rin and Misa enter the tunnel, Rin’s bold decision to engage her boost allows them to slowly catch up to the others: Misa here fires upon MKHU, pressuring them into engaging their boost. However, in the narrow turns of the tunnel, where Hell’s Kitchen and the Unkai Surfers are duking it out, their acceleration presents a new threat: they are unable to pass the others, resulting in a titanic collision that knocks out all three teams. With a bit of patience and skill, Misa’s singlehandedly simplified the race down to three teams.

  • Inori’s minigun is giving Kaguya and Kuromaru a difficult time, and sustained fire is actually slowing them down enough for Suiryukai to pull ahead. When it looks like they’re about to take the race, a shot from Misa’s MP5 strikes their jet ski, surprising them and slowing them down slightly. It is here that Misa’s skill as a marksman really shines: she manages to place a shot from a range that Kuromaru would’ve found challenging to hit, using a weapon that was intended for medium range combat to perform a shot that normally something suited for longer ranges.

  • Misa’s sharpshooting with the MP5 suggests that “assault” style water guns are capable at all ranges and when upgraded (or if the user’s skill points are properly invested), they can reach ranges approaching those of a sniper rifle. We’ll have to see if this is the case in the game, but back in Kandagawa Jet Girls, just for the time being, Kuromaru and Misa join forces to fire on Suiryukai, dealing enough damage to slow them down and causing them to spin out. Kaguya is completely okay with this, having longed to race Misa again properly.

  • With Suiryukai down for the count, the Kandagawa Jet Girls and Team Dress’ gunners discard their weapons and turn their focus towards winning the race. While the Orcano has a quicker initial acceleration, Team Dress’ Messie has a superior engine and greater top speed: even when boost is enabled, the Messie is able to catch up to the Orcano without too much effort. That Kaguya has used two boosts in this race shows that she’s serious about winning; her motivation for putting in her best is because she wants to carve out an achievement of her own that she can be proud of, having come from a wealthy and connected family where everything else comes easily.

  • However, it is the raggedy-ass, dark horse team that ultimately takes home first place in the race: Rin and Misa’s victory in Kandagawa Jet Girls shows that grit and determination can be a powerful combination. They’ve come a long way from their first race, and while the anime may not show every moment the two have spent training and preparing, character growth and spending time together is counted to be equally, if not more, important towards helping the two really understand and trust one another.

  • Altogether, the ending of Kanadagawa Jet Girls was superbly satisfying, and the outcome was one I greatly enjoyed. While the series would’ve had an equal impact even had Rin and Misa come in second, their win over Kaguya and Kuromaru was a nice bonus. Upon seeing the race’s outcome, Kiriko is seen cheering the loudest of anyone – she’s mortified after the fact. In this scene, it turns out Rin and Misa’s classmates have all come out to watch the race, and while not shown on screen, it seems that the two have had quite a positive impact at their school, as well.

  • Watching Rin and Misa win the Kandagawa Cup shows that Misa’s rediscovered her confidence in Jet Ski racing, while Rin’s found her own way. Team Dress and Suiryukai are in second and third place, respectively, and while perhaps a bit disappointed, they are also happy for Rin and Misa. The episode concludes with Kaguya and Kuromaru heading off into the sunset and train even harder than before; Kaguya is pleased to have gotten her wish of facing off against a properly determined and prepared Misa, and now realises that the two will only improve as time goes on.

  • Ultimately, Kandagawa Jet Girls showcased all but one team: Grindcore never made an appearance in the anime, and they’re supposed to race with a custom-built Jet Ski made out of mining equipment. Given the delays in Kandagawa Jet Girls and the series’ tendency to focus on quieter moments over racing towards the end, I imagine that there may have been challenges encountered during production that precluded Grindcore’s appearance. While it would’ve been nice to see Grindcore race, Kandagawa Jet Girls is not diminished to a noticeable extent in their absence.

  • For being an unexpected surprise and impressing more than I’d initially anticipated, Kandagawa Jet Girls is a B+ in my books (eight of ten). Reception to Kandagawa Jet Girls has been surprisingly positive; while there are the critics who feel the anime to be beneath them, there are actually also a fair number of people who enjoyed the series for what it did succeed in doing. With this, I’ve wrapped up the first of the anime that aired during the final season of 2019. I’ll be wrapping up Rifle is Beautiful soon, and as for Azur Lane, I will be dropping by to provide an update on what happened there. Of all the shows I’d watched last season, all of them suffered from delays in production to some extent – I’ll have a better idea of Rifle is Beautiful come next week, but for now, Kandagawa Jet Girls is in the books, and I’m glad to have taken the time to write about this one in depth.

Ultimately, while Kandagawa Jet Girls is not something I can readily recommend to all viewers, the anime itself remains a rather enjoyable watch in that it exceeded my initial expectations: after the first episode aired, I stated that the series would be satisfactory if it presented Rin and Misa’s growth as a team to a reasonable extent, as well as properly introducing viewers to the mechanics that would appear in Kandagawa Jet Girls‘ game. At the series’ end, the development I saw from the characters was more nuanced and engaging than I’d anticipated, having both Rin and Misa making discoveries that enhanced their abilities as a team. The anime also gives a fair amount of insight into how the game will work: each team will have their own unique characteristics that make them suited for different race courses and styles, the scoring and mechanics are explored in sufficient detail, and Kiriko’s upgrading of the Orcano suggests at the presence of a progression system that allow players to improve their jet ski (and perhaps weapons). As a tool to promote the upcoming game, Kandagawa Jet Girls‘ anime has done a respectable job of giving viewers a solid background entering the game, and even for folks who do not intend to purchase the game, Kandagawa Jet Girls is a respectable anime in spite of its brazen anatomy lessons, derivative themes and an ending that was unsurprising (though well-deserved, to be sure). In this regard, the series accomplished what it set out to do, and mirroring the girls’ remarks during the finale, having fun is the first and foremost aspect about racing; that the series does allow its viewers to have fun in watching it indicates that Kandagawa Jet Girls is faithful to its messages. Folks who do end up picking up the game after watching Kandagawa Jet Girls will feel right at home with the characters, mechanics and environment as they race their way to victory the same way Rin and Misa do; this certainly isn’t bad for a series whose reputation as being fanservice-driven endures above all of its other positive traits.

Their Promise: Koisuru Asteroid First Episode Impressions and Review

“I became an astronomer not to access the facts about the sky but to see and feel its majesty.” –David Levy

When she was camping as a child, Mira Konohata encountered Ao Manaka, who was stargazing. Thinking Ao to be a boy, Mira made a promise with her new friend: to eventually have a star named after Ao. Some years later, Mira enters high school and resolves to join the astronomy club so that she can fulfil her promise to Ao. However, thanks to dwindling numbers, the astronomy club and geology clubs were on the verge of being disbanded, and thus, were merged to form the Earth Sciences club. Mira meets club president Mari Morino, vice president Mikage Sakurai and senior Mai Inose, as well as a certain blue-haired girl – it turns out that Ao is attending the same school as Mira, and in the time that has passed, had not forgotten their promise. However, with the time that has passed, it’s an awkward reunion, with Mira and Ao struggling to find words to talk to one another. When Ao speaks with Moe, Mira’s childhood friend, she and Mira would go on to have a lengthy, enjoyable catching up under the stars. Later, when Mikage explains that the club’s limited activity resulted in a smaller budget, Mai suggests that the club starts by writing a newsletter to raise awareness of their activities and exploring some of the things they’re interested in. The girls come up with a name for their newsletter later that evening. Koisuru Asteroid (Asteroid in Love) is a four-panel manga serialised in Manga Time Kirara Carat and has been running since 2017. An anime adaptation was announced earlier last year, and as of now, holds the unique distinction of being the new decade’s first slice-of-life anime, as well as being the first Manga Time Kirara adaptation. Koisuru Asteroid (Asteroid in Love) thus has some large expectations to fulfil, but after one episode, the series is off to a solid start.

Out of the gates, Koisuru Asteroid has Mira establish her long term objective: the lofty goal of discovering a star and having it named after Ao. However, even the scaled-back goal of finding a new asteroid is a bit ambitious. Mira herself is named after Omicron Ceti, a variable red giant in the constellation Cetus, a sea monster. This red giant was the first variable star (a star whose magnitude, or brightness, fluctuates noticeably) to be discovered and has a regular period. Mira is also Latin for “wonderful”, which fits Mira’s bright and cheerful personality: befitting of a lead character in a Manga Time Kirara Work, Mira is optimistic, outgoing and driven, having spent the past few years catching up on astronomy so that she could help Ao fulfil their promise. Between Mira and Ao, the determination and excitement is certainly present, although at present, the Earth Sciences Club does have problems of its own: the discovery of asteroids is typically done by satellites equipped with sophisticated CCD chips, and it should be clear that the Earth Sciences Club is unlikely to have either the time or resources to commit towards anything approaching the Lincoln Near-Earth Asteroid Research (LINEAR) or Near-Earth Asteroid Tracking (NEAT) programmes: LINEAR has already found upwards of 147132 objects, of which 19266 have been classified as near-Earth objects. To expect professional tools and techniques in something like Koisuru Asteroid is to be unreasonable, and so, as the series continues, one would expect the Earth Sciences Club to focus on first righting the club, and then acquiring the basic equipment, like a good refractor telescope (these are suited for observing the planets because they have a right-side-up image and reach thermal stability quickly). The journey towards finding an asteroid to name after Ao would therefore be presented as a gentle and fun one as Mira and Ao grows closer together during their time in the Earth Sciences Club, being as much about friendship as much as it is about the astronomy.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • When Mira and Ao meet, Mira’s on a camping trip with family and notices Ao staring up into the stars. Ao passes Mira her binoculars, likely a 7×21. These numbers are commonly used to describe two critical attributes about binoculars, and the first value is the magnification. The second value is the size of the objective lens in millimetres, which determines how much light enters the binoculars. Thus, a 7×21 pair of binoculars would have a magnification of 7x and an objective lens that’s 21 mm across. For astronomy, 7×35 is the most commonly used, and I run with a pair of Bushnell 10x50s.

  • The fateful meeting has Mira learn of a star that she shares her name with, and speaking volumes to her personality, she immediately resolves to rectify the fact that there are no stars named Ao. This moment sets in motion the remainder of Koisuru Asteroid. Discussion on the series is presently limited, and most folks have taken to the potential yuri driven aspects of Koisuru Asteroid over the astronomy in what little talk that I have been able to find.

  • On the first day of high school, Mira has her heart set on joining the Astronomy Club, but is devastated to learn that what had existed previously no longer is present: Mira’s love for astronomy is such that during this high school’s previous culture festival, she’d visited the Astronomy Club and was hyped up about joining. This turn of events is par the course for many club-oriented slice-of-life series, and the rationale for using this as a plot point is that it forces characters to get creative, in turn helping them get closer to one another.

  • Upon hearing Mira’s desire to join the astronomy club, instructor Yuki Endō takes Mira and Moe to the club room. It’s a bit of a walk to the clubroom, which is located in an older part of campus. Yuki happens to be the Earth Science club’s advisor, and out of the gates, she seems reliable enough: such advisors are actually a bit rare in anime, and in most series of this type, the advisor’s lack of motivation, laziness and other eccentricities are usually deliberate to encourage comedy. By having Yuki be more mature and dependable, it would suggest to viewers that they needn’t worry about the club’s logistics, leaving them free to focus on the students.

  • At the clubroom, Mira and Moe meet the Earth Sciences club’s members for the first time: this club is helmed by president Mari, who was the president of the former Astronomy Club, She’s accompanied by Mikage, who is the vice president and is the most senior member of the former geology club, and Mai, who had previously been a former geology club member. Mikage is initially pleased; as a member of the former geology club, she’s very much into rocks and minerals and worries that the astronomy club will displace any geology-related activities.

  • When Mira explains her reason for joining the astronomy club, that she’s here to fulfil a promise to someone important to her, she learns that the Ao she’d met long ago is in fact the same Ao who’s now present. It’s a bit of an awkward reunion for the two; fate has brought the two together, marking the start of a new journey that will form the bulk of Koisuru Asteroid‘s story. The outcomes might be easy to estimate, but what matters most is the journey.

  • Having now been reunited with Mira, Ao begins to dig out her old astronomy books. My old astronomy books are now more than twenty years old: I bought them after developing a nascent interest in the night sky from reading library books and wanted guides to astronomy of my own. I was nine at the time, and after picking up a pair of 10×25 binoculars, I began exploring the night sky using Terence Dickinson’s Nightwatch. Through the book’s star charts and tips for binocular astronomers, I capitalised on these new binoculars to look at the moon and nebulae. While my edition is now somewhat dated, being over twenty years old, the tips and tricks in the book remain relevant and useful.

  • I ended up picking up The Backyard Astronomer’s Guide (Terence Dickinson and Alan Dyers) a few years later, which helped me to explore more advanced techniques for binocular astronomy and also appreciate what’s known as naked eye astronomy: there are many astronomical events that don’t require any more equipment than our own eyes to enjoy. Koisuru Asteroid has yet to delve to far into this, so beyond introducing the books, I won’t go too much into details until the anime explores them. For the first episode, audiences are instead treated to character establishment, and when Moe balances a paper bag on Mira’s head, I’m reminded of videos where an owner puts a small object on their pet’s head to gently tease them.

  • After a failed evening where neither Ao or Mira were able to talk to one another via messaging, Mira and Ao attempt to apologise for their seemingly incompatible messaging styles. For me, I am rather similar to Ao in style when it comes to online communication, preferring to use complete sentences and proper grammar unless I am speaking with someone I am very familiar with. In that case, I then devolve into leet-speak and deliberate misspellings. Mira, on the other hand, uses a very casual and relaxed style in her online communications.

  • Moe previously remarks that she likes to make trouble for anyone who gets too close to Mira, but she has no problems with someone like Ao befriending Mira. Mira views Ao as a very mature, composed individual, feeling herself to lack grace. Seconds later, the egg falls from her sandwich, and she rushes off to clean up, leaving Ao alone with Moe. It is here that Ao reveals that her composure is probably an illusion, and that she is in fact, very shy about her choice of words.

  • Moe reassures Ao to be herself and that the dream she shares with Mira will eventually allow the gap between her and Mira to be closed. I was particularly fond of this rooftop scene here, as it gives Moe and Ao time to speak away from the hustle and bustle of the classroom. In addition, the vastness of the sky and its deep blue hue acts as a very subtle metaphor: it creates a feeling of new possibility and hope.

  • Later that evening, Ao picks up her phone and decides to call Mira. Verbal conversations are different than textual ones, with cues like tonal shifts and speed of speech having a major impact on how words and phrases are interpreted. After a slower start, Ao hits her stride when she begins talking about planet-gazing. Mira’s spent the past several years catching up and getting acquainted with astronomy, so by this point in time, she’s got the basics down and is able to keep the conversation with Ao going.

  • This is the part where I get to break out my background as an amateur astronomer: the brightest object visible in this screenshot is Mercury, which is often counted a moderate challenge to sight. Appearing only around 28° from the sun and at its brightest at 10° to 15° above the horizon, Mercury has an estimated apparent magnitude of anywhere from -2.48 to +7.25. The apparent magnitude describes how bright something is to the naked eye, and measurements can vary wildly amongst even individuals. Ao characterises Mercury as being -4, which would peg it as being equivalent to Venus in brightness. By comparison, a full moon is -13, and the naked eye limit is around +6 to +7.

  • Being a Manga Time Kirara work, Koisuru Asteroid may potentially see discussions split into two distinct buckets; there are those who are content to discuss the story and character dynamics, while others seem to have an unusual fixation on the technical details. For instance, since Mercury’s apparent magnitude is -2.48 at brightest, there are some who would then spend an entire forum post at Tango-victor-tango claiming that the authors did not do their research, then treat the rest of the readers to a long seminar by quizzing other people on how magnitude works. At present, the individuals who are fond of dredging up technical questions to quiz other forum-goers and show off their own “intellect” are nowhere to be seen. Back in Koisuru Asteroid, an elated Mira is very happy to have connected properly with Ao via a phone call during the past evening.

  • Discussion at Tango-victor-tango regarding Koisuru Asteroid is limited to one individual stating that while the club activities are “boring”, the dynamics between the characters drive things forward: many of the others have already dismissed the series as being “weak”. On first glance, Koisuru Asteroid does not seem to be a series that stands apart from others in its direction, themes and even characters. However, the presence of astronomy, coupled with my own background and experience in amateur astronomy, means that I am confident in saying that I could offer some interesting discussions and provide interesting tidbits on amateur astronomy that folks at Tango-victor-tango, or anime forums, won’t be able to supply.

  • The Earth Science club’s first activity as a club is to determine how to mitigate the issues that plagued the previous year’s astronomy and geology clubs. The latter had been shafted at the culture festival from a lack of interest, while the former resorted to below-the-belt tactics to draw people in. Mai decides that one way to kick-start things is with a newsletter, which would allow the Earth Science club to increase their visibility and show their fellow students what the club does in their activities. Topics for articles are actually easy to come by, although the girls struggle to come up with a suitable name for their newsletter.

  • Towards the end of the first episode, we have a fantastic moment of all the characters heading off to a restaurant after a long day’s worth of classes and club activities. From left to right, we have Mai, Mikage, Mira, Ao and Mari: only an episode in, I’ve already learnt the names of all the critical players. I’m greatly looking forwards to seeing where Koisuru Asteroid is headed, and I imagine that it will lean more towards the character development side rather than the technical details of astronomy. To be honest, this suits me just fine: while it will be fun to make occasional mention of astronomy and its intricacies to keep my posts fresh, my goal for anime, first and foremost, is to enjoy and appreciate the journey characters go through.

  • Over burgers, the club agrees on a publication name for their newsletter: Kirakira (Sparkle). Ao chose the name, and since both the stars and minerals glitter, it is a fitting one that everyone takes to. I note here that some may think me hypocritical to say that I abhor mention of technical details in relaxing slice-of-life series like Koisuru Asteroid, and then proceed to mention those exact things in my post. I clarify that my intention is to keep my posts refreshing to read, and inclusion of things like binocular aperture properties, or what apparent magnitude is, is so that readers can come away having gained new knowledge. The individuals that I see less favourably are those who see themselves as a lecturer and draw upon knowledge to intimidate or impress, rather than enlighten, or else are too indolent to read about something they do not understand.

  • Mikage, being a former geology club member, is determined to make Mira, Ao and Mari see the worth of geology: she greatly resembles Anima Yell!‘s Hanawa Ushiku in mannerisms and appearance. She’s very focused on her club activities, and knowing this means that the Earth Science club can be assured of some progress through the series’ run. With the first episode in the books, I’ve immediately taken a liking to all of the characters, so what Koisuru Asteroid‘s focus will be in the future will be how the Earth Science club’s members get closer to one another and what they gain from their time together. Instructor Yuki already has planned a barbeque for the upcoming weekend, foreshadowing a booked schedule for Mira and the others.

  • As the day draws to a close, Mira and Ao share another conversation together, with Mira expressing gratitude for being able to stargaze and talk again in the present. Ao is gazing out at Orion, one of the most famous and brightest constellations in the sky. With its distinct “belt” of three stars, Mintaka (leftmost, a binary star), Alnilam (blue supergiant) and Alnitak (rightmost, in a triple star system), it is immediately recognisable in the skies and is visible between the late autumn and late winter months in the northern hemisphere. This brings my first anime-related post for 2020 to a close. The new anime season is off to a solid start; besides Koisuru Asteroid, I’m also going to be following and writing about Magia Record and Heya Camp△.

While Koisuru Asteroid is a Manga Time Kirara adaptation and therefore, will share thematic elements and messages similar to other series of its lineage, the focus on amateur astronomy means that this anime is one I’ve immediately taken a liking to. There’s a bit of a personal story behind this, and it may perhaps be a surprise when I say that I’m an amateur astronomer myself. My journey began when I was eight; I got Terence Dickinson’s Skywatch, a beginner’s guide to amateur astronomy, along with a pair of 10×25 binoculars for my birthday, and I still remember pointing those binoculars at the moon for the first time, marvelling at the maria and other lunar features on the moon in hitherto unseen detail. Since then, I’ve made use of binoculars as my workhorse to stargazed to find planets, famous constellations, and nebula in the night skies. I’ve also seen aurora, many total lunar eclipses, a handful of meteor showers (and even a fireball) and a pair of partial solar eclipses. My love for stargazing and astronomy comes from the fact that the hobby is relatively straightforward at the entry-level, and that the stars in the night skies really drives home how vast the universe is. As such, with amateur astronomy being something I still partake in from time to time, Koisuru Asteroid offers a place to both see a fictionalised portrayal of astronomy and its joys that I’m curious to see. Because of the presence of astronomy in Koisuru Asteroid, I presently have plans to write about it at quarterly intervals for the remainder of the season, so that I can continue to offer readers both my thoughts on the anime, as well as provide enjoyable (and useful) information about amateur astronomy and my experiences with stargazing. In particular, I look forwards to seeing how the journey of exploring the night skies to fulfil a long-standing promise will bring Mira and Ao together.