“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.