“Everyone has something they love and something they’re talented at, a world unique to them. If you’re all by yourself, you only have your world; but when you’re connected to others, the possibilities spread out endlessly before you.” –Mira Konohata
With a beautiful day ahead, Mira and Ao spend the morning learning about asteroids with Asuka and Shiho. Their instructor explains that asteroids are undifferentiated and can be broadly separated out as having either a chondrite, stony or metallic composition. It is here that Mira and Ao realise that the skills from their peers in the geology segment of the Earth Sciences Club would be valuable for understanding the early solar system. The day passes quickly, and night sets in. This time, the evening skies are clear, and the girls enjoy time star gazing together while the staff get the telescope and computer systems ready. As the evening wears on, the girls identify an object of interest, but it turns out this was an existing object. While Mira and the others are somewhat disappointed, the astronomer reminds the girls that science is also about laying the groundwork for future discoveries. Motivated by the fact that their efforts during their time in the Shining Star Challenge will help future students and scientists alike, the girls turn their efforts towards their final presentation, where they share their experiences and learnings. Mira and Ao say their farewells to Asuka and Shiho, promising to meet again one day for astronomy. After one final group photo, Mira and Ao head home with Yuki. When they return to school, they share their experiences with the Earth Sciences Club, as well as Mari and Mikage, who are on break from university. Stargazing together, the Earth Sciences Club’s current members and alumni reminisce on just how far everyone’s come: Chikage’s begun to appreciate astronomy more, and Yū has opened up to the others, appreciating the joys of collaboration. Mira mentions that her experiences have shown her beyond any doubt that astronomy, geology and all other sciences are multi-disciplinary, requiring the expertise and skill set of individuals from different backgrounds in order for any meaningful discoveries and advances to be made. With her and Ao’s experiences together in the Earth Sciences Club and the Shining Star Challenge, Mira promises to one day discover a new asteroid and name it after Ao, together with everyone.
The final quarter, and especially the finale, to Koisuru Asteroid, concludes the anime’s main theme about the importance of multidisciplinary collaboration in the sciences. Throughout Koisuru Asteroid, Mira and Ao, despite their devotion to astronomy, are given a hitherto unexpected, but not unwelcome chance, to learn about materials outside of their discipline. The original arrangements of merging the geology and astronomy clubs together, initially a curse, ended up being a blessing which opened Mira’s perspective to what multidisciplinary collaboration is, and in doing so, paved the way for her appreciation of geology, which in turn changes how she approaches astronomy and ultimately, succeed in being accepted into the Shining Star Challenge. The Shining Star Challenge is ultimately what reaffirms Mira and Ao’s commitment to their dream: it is here that they learn professional techniques first-hand and have access to knowledge from experts in the field. By using a large telescope to photograph the skies and analysing the resulting images with the same software professionals do, the key contribution of Mira and Ao’s participation in the Shining Star Challenge is that it suddenly places what was once a very distant and remote dream, into a realm that now not only seems feasible, but within arm’s reach. Even beyond the discovery of new Near-Earth Objects, the study of the asteroids themselves is a very involved field that requires an understanding of geology: the Mira at Koisuru Asteroid‘s conclusion appreciates that asteroids are not merely something of interest to astronomers, and that geologists take an interest in them because of the insights they offer into the early solar system and its formation. As Mira best puts it, no scientific discipline is an island, and it is only through cooperation and collaboration that the truly significant and wonderful discoveries are made.
Aside from presenting multidisciplinary approaches in a highly relaxing and inviting environment, Koisuru Asteroid‘s other major draw is its commitment to striking a fine balance between what’s realistic for Ao and Mira to experience, as well as what is necessary for the anime to convey its messages clearly. When improperly done, realism impedes the thematic elements and flow within a story, detracting from the message that the author aimed to communicate. In Koisuru Asteroid, realism serves to augment the message: notions of disappointment, perseverance, resourcefulness and adaptiveness accompany most everything Mira and the others do. Bad timing, poor weather, ill preparations and miscommunication drive each of Mira, Ao, Mai, Mari, Mikage, Chikage and Yū to explore creative new solutions for one another’s sake. By placing setbacks in the girls’ paths, rather than giving them a clear shot at their objective, Koisuru Asteroid is able to show the sort of mindset that each of the girls in the Earth Sciences Club will need to realise their own future aspirations. Beyond appropriately conveying real-world limitations and setbacks, the other aspect of realism that Koisuru Asteroid nails is the presentation of astronomical and geological information. Every single fact presented is correct, true to its real-world equivalent, and moreover, is communicated in a very clear manner. Much as how Mira excels with scientific communication, Koisuru Asteroid does an excellent job of conveying complex ideas in an approachable fashion. From the sky photography techniques used to detect celestial bodies, to the use of an equatorial mount on a telescope, Koisuru Asteroid is as much of an educational experience as much as it is an entertaining one. The use of real-world techniques and equipment also has one additional knock-on effect: it shows the viewers that Mira and Ao’s dream of discovering an asteroid together is a feasible one, and given that these two have begun their journey, folks watching Koisuru Asteroid, likely with dreams and goals of their own, can also achieve them.
Screenshots and Commentary
- Ao and Mira’s moods in the morning are as fine as the skies themselves, and it is with optimism that the girls go forth into their final day of the Shining Star Challenge. For this finale post, I’ve opted to go with thirty screenshots over the usual twenty, as there is quite a bit of territory to cover with the last episode of Koisuru Asteroid. I will be going through the different bits of astronomy and geology in the finale, as well as covering off some final thoughts about this series.
- Shortly before breakfast, the astronomers lead Mira and the others through some fundamentals about asteroids; while reading back a passage on asteroids, Mira’s stomach betrays her hunger, prompting the astronomers to call in a break for breakfast. Here, they are discussing the composition of asteroids – asteroids can be classified into three groups based on their compositions. The C-type (chondrite) asteroids are made up of silicates or carbon, S-type (stony) are a combination of silicates and nickle-iron, and M-type (metallic) have a predominantly nickle-iron composition.
- Because different materials have different reflective properties, it is possible to determine an asteroid’s composition based on spectral analysis: C-type asteroids are usually very dark and reflect little light, while M-type asteroids reflect more light. As it stands, M-type asteroids are the most visible, but are also the rarest, whereas C-type asteroids are relatively common but much trickier to spot owing to how dark they are. Each of the three types have several subgroups depending on the classification schema (Tholen and SMASS are the two major systems), but that is outside the scope of discussions in Koisuru Asteroid. An interesting fact about C-type asteroids is that they are among the most primitive of the objects in the solar system, and their composition gives a great deal of insight into the makeup of the debris disk surrounding a younger sun.
- The Ishigaki Astronomical Observatory is located on the western edge of Ishigaki Island, and this is the darkest location that Mira and Ao have ever stargazed under: with an SQM of 21.60 mag./arc sec² (corresponding to a Class 4 on the Bortle Dark Sky Index, perfect conditions where magnitude 6.0-6.5 stars are visible to the naked eye). Here, the Milky Way would be visible, and more complex structures can be seen with the naked eye. Besides a sky richer in stars than they’d previously seen, Ao, Mira, Asuka and Shiho also spot a meteor. Ao and Mira immediately make a wish, and although the wish is left unsaid, it is implied that both are hoping for the fulfilment of their childhood promise.
- As Shiho, Asuka, Mira and Ao unwind under the warm night skies of Ishigaki, they’ve also set up a tripod for some astrophotography. My astronomy guides, written in the early 2000s, accommodate for both film and CCD cameras, but the techniques remain similar enough for the basic camera-on-a-tripod setup: a good camera can take stunning pictures of the constellations and fair pictures of Milky Way on its own. Terrance Dickinson and Alan Dyer’s The Backyard Astronomer’s Guide recommends using a 50 mm lens set to f2 or f2.8, and then taking a 15 second exposure for a basic shot of the night sky: longer exposures will create star trails, which is a different kind of nighttime image taken by deliberately leaving the shutter open.
- While the artwork and animation in Koisuru Asteroid are unimpressive, being simplistic and minimal compared to other anime of its genre: Machikado Mazoku‘s visuals are more polished and detailed, and against the likes of GochiUsa, Koisuru Asteroid looks positively second-rate. With more detailed artwork, Koisuru Asteroid would have really been able to capture the beauty of the sciences that Mira and Ao see to the audiences. However, it speaks volumes to the strength of the characters and story in Koisuru Asteroid that even with lesser visuals, the anime was as engaging and captivating as it was.
- With excellent weather conditions all around, the time has come for Mira et al. to put their learnings from the previous night to practise. After collecting the first image and comparing them, they find a faint-looking object on the edge of the screen that blinks out light from the stars over a few frames, and more importantly, does not appear to have been an object catalogued previously. Excitement mounts – Mira, Ao, Shiho and Asuka appear to have found a previously-unidentified asteroid.
- The scientific method, however, commands a vigourous and thorough investigation of all possible outcomes, and the astronomers let the girls know that more photographs are needed to confirm whether or not the object being tracked was previously known. There’s only enough time left in the evening for one more shot: each photograph takes half an hour, and the girls still have their final presentations to prepare. Faced with making a choice between selecting a different sector of the sky to work with or photographing the same site twice to ascertain the new object’s identity, the girls decide to verify their findings and take another short of the same area of the sky.
- To everyone’s disappointment, the second image, coupled with a database query of known objects in the sky, find that the object of interest turns out to have been already identified. This is a common enough occurrence in asteroid detection that the astronomers themselves don’t think much of it, but the girls are visibly dejected by this revelation: Mira’s expression says it all. However, setbacks are temporary, and Mira’s spirits soon lift after listening to the astronomer explain the importance of tracking known objects, as well: it allows for researchers to determine their trajectories with a greater certainty.
- Thus, Mira and the others set themselves on completing their final presentation for the Shining Stars Challenge, which acts as a summary of their findings and expresses what everyone got out of their experiences. The girls pull an all-nighter to wrap up this presentation, and in the end, the results are worth it. Here, I note that during my entire career as a student, I’ve never once done an all-nighter to finish anything. The reason I dislike all-nighters are because lack of sleep corresponds directly with making mistakes, which creates a positive feedback loop of frustration and errors. In Mira, Shiho and Asuka’s case, however, this was an allocated time for them, so they make the most of it and come out with a completed presentation come morning.
- While Ao is only an observer, she nonetheless helps to provide photographs and the detailed notes that she’d taken to assist the others. With the work behind them, Mira and the others prepare to get some shut-eye, but Shiho, feeling that there’s a bit of private time now, expresses a strong desire to get to know Ao better. In a way, Shiho shares some commonalities with Moe, and Ao’s reaction is adorable. The placement of lighting in this scene (Ao is brightly lit, and Shiho is in the shadows) serves to accentuate how uncomfortable Ao is with the situation (done purely for comedy, of course).
- During the presentation, Mira, Asuka and Shiho summarise all of the learnings during the course of the Shining Stars Challenger. In a voice-over, Mira notes that in the end, no one made any novel discoveries. This was to be expected – the odds of being able to discover anything in the space of two nights is astronomically slim, and as the professional astronomer notes, a lot of it also comes down to luck, being in the right place at the right time. Such an example can be found in David H. Levy, an amateur astronomer with a doctorate in English literature. He’s credited with discovering no fewer than twenty-two comets (some in conjunction with professional astronomers Eugene and Carolyn Shoemaker) and a host of minor planets from a combination of skilful observation and being in the right place at the right time.
- With the Shining Star Challenge in the books, Mira and Ao prepare to part ways with Asuka and Shiho. In the short span of two days, Ao and Mira have made new friends, and already make plans to get together again in the future. The girls decide to take a group photo before they depart for separate destinations: Yuki and Hayakawa suggests taking a photo at a very special spot to them. In this moment, each of Asuka, Ao, Shiho and Mira have their phones in hand, and all of them look to be variations of the iPhone 8 or similar.
- Yuki and Hayakawa suggest taking their group photo at a very special spot: the same one that they’d taken after completing their Shining Star Challenge some years previously. The choice of location shows that through generations of students, some things remain constant. Ao, Asuka, Mira and Shiho thus jump into the air to a stunning sunset, creating one final memory of a priceless experience.
- On the flight back home, Ao and Mira share a conversation while Yuki dozes, reflecting on their experiences with people from all diciplines and how fun that was. The reason why I’m a proponent of multidisciplinary approaches is precisely because of the potential for collaboration and cooperation. Having majored in a multidisciplinary faculty in my undergraduate program, I saw first-hand how different skill sets are needed to solve complex problems, and even now, I attribute my unusual problem-solving methodologies a consequence of having done a combination of medical and computer sciences.
- Back home, Mira immediately calls Misa and provides her with an update on things. A digital photo frame in the foreground indicates the dynamic that Misa and Mira share: both are on good terms with one another and share an amicable relationship. Even though Misa has not had a significant presence in Koisuru Asteroid, being focused on her own goals, she still supports Mira as best as she can. I vaguely recall mentioning that Misa is voiced by Mai Fuchigami, and the differences between her performance as Misa and Miho are night and day. Girls und Panzer represented Fuchigami’s breakout role, and since then, she’s played a range of more significant characters in a variety of anime.
- Mira and Ao receive a warm welcome after returning to the Earth Science Club’s clubroom: everyone is present, including alumni and even members from the Newspaper Club have arrived to greet them, having previously been promised some sweets from Okinawa to try out and also curious to hear more about the Shining Star Challenge for the school newspaper. Such an article would be a great boost for the school, showcasing the achievements of its students in the sciences: Mira and Ao’s achievements are nothing to sneeze at, showing exemplary initiative in pursuing one’s dreams.
- While Koisuru Asteroid might be more rudimentary with respect to its artwork and animation, the series has not failed to make appropriate use of lighting, through time of day and weather conditions, to capture a specific mood or atmosphere. Ao and Mira’s return to the clubroom is set under the gentle pink glow of an early evening, creating a sense of nostalgia and the ending of one journey. The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-chan similarly used these colours to mark the end of one status quo at the series’ very beginning. While oranges and crimsons are more associated with sunsets, pink is a much more gentle colour that signifies the end of one path, and the beginning of another.
- Moe had been absent for the whole of the penultimate episode, but she comes back in full force in the finale, bearing freshly-baked goods from the Suzuya bakery and hugging Mikage after she expresses that she’s missed the Suzuya’s baked goods. Despite the presence of the snacks Mira and Ao brought back from Okinawa, the Suzuya baked goods are eaten with great enthusiasm. Afterwards, Moe and Megu prepare to head off: Megu is given a vial of star-sand from Okinawa. Named after their characteristic shape, Okinawa’s star-sand is formed by Foraminifera, who build star-shaped shells. Because shells of larger Foraminifera react to environmental conditions rapidly and have a wide geographical distributions, they make for great index fossils (fossils that are only found in one time span).
- While Mai, Chikage and Yū initially felt that Ao’s sudden decision to follow Mira to Okinawa was a selfish, uncalculated one, seeing Mira and Ao recount their experiences has unequivocally shifted their perspectives: hearing that Ao had been of a great help to Mira, the other girls are reminded that Mira and Ao are inseparable. It is certainly the case that having Ao with her in Okinawa was of a great help to Mira, who, despite her open and cheerful disposition, can be burdened by setbacks at times. Having Ao around doubtlessly helped her to regain her spirits on the morning after their first night had been clouded out.
- The time has finally come to plug in their digital camera and check out all of the photos that were taken over the course of the Shining Star Challenge. The actual camera is a Fujifilm X100F Brown: this is an unexpectedly fancy camera for the Earth Sciences Club and features a 24.3 megapixel X-Trans CMOS III APS-C sensor. Besides boasting some of the best hardware of 2018, the girls are running the model with a brown leather siding, as well. The camera has a surprisingly small number of photos, but all of them are excellent, including the night shot the girls had taken on the observatory’s roof with a tripod, and a pair of images portraying the girls jumping under a swift sunset: with its incredible features, it is unsurprising that the camera could take such nice images. The girls also hear from Asuka, who’s managed to attend a concert featuring her favourite idol.
- For old times’ sake, the girls prepare to head off to the roof and stargaze. Yuki’s already gone ahead and grabbed the key to the roof. I’ve had a chance to listen to Koisuru Asteroid‘s soundtrack in full now: the music covers a broad spectrum of moods and feelings, from the comedic to the melancholic, from the every day to the extraordinary. My favourite of the tracks are 旅立ち (Hepburn tabidachi, “Departure” or “To set off (on a journey)”) and 優しく (Hepburn yasahiku, “Gently”). Besides the thirty-two instrumental pieces, there are also five vocal songs, one each for the Earth Science Club’s original members.
- By this point in time, Mira’s become proficient with setting up a telescope, and it’s ready in no time at all for use. I note that I’ve been remarkably positive about Koisuru Asteroid, and it appears that these positive sentiments are shared by a fair number of viewers, as well. The leading criticism of the series is that it’s “boring”: from a certain point of view, staring at the ground and staring at the sky can be quite dull, especially if one isn’t into all of the underlying sciences in Koisuru Asteroid. For me, the reason why Koisuru Asteroid works so well is precisely because for me, it is watching a NOVA special in anime form. With this in mind, “boring” is a weak criticism, and I expect people to put in a bit more effort in explaining themselves if they were bored at any point (a simple “the subject is not something I’m interested in” is already leaps and bounds ahead).
- Because I’ve always held an interest in astronomy and geology as a hobby (I partake in amateur astronomy with binoculars and took a course on it in university for my own amusement), it was especially fun for me to experience an anime that covered topics that I would normally read about in a book. These interests are not universally shared, and so, I understand why the premise of Koisuru Asteroid to be dull for some viewers. This is compounded by the fact that Moe provides most of the koi in Koisuru Asteroid: beyond a few minor moments, yuri in Koisuru Asteroid is completely overshadowed by Ao and Mira’s promise, as well as the sciences.
- Koisuru Asteroid established immediately that it would be more keen on providing more about the sciences than it was about what the community refers to as “subtext”, and while this wasn’t a problem for me, I can appreciate that there are some who entered the series with the expectations that such subtext would constitute a much larger part of the narrative. This disconnect could also be responsible for the series’ comparatively poor reception by some: not every viewer entered the anime with an inquisitive drive and intellectual curiosity to learn more about the stars above and the earth below, and it is not reasonable to demand this of viewers.
- People are entitled to their opinions, and I don’t object to those who disliked Koisuru Asteroid. What I will say, however, is that people should be making their own decisions on whether or not this series is worth watching, and a handful of highly up-voted negative reviews don’t speak to the quality of Koisuru Asteroid. I’ve said this before: I never presume to tell others what to think, and for Koisuru Asteroid, I will let my readers to decide which is worth giving more weight to: open-mindedness, fairness and positivity, or criticism, bias and negativity.
- Back in Koisuru Asteroid itself, as Mira and Ao watch the others stargaze, they begin reminiscing on all of the memories they’ve created together with the Earth Sciences Club over the past year and some; the final few moments of the finale are devoted to a montage of some of the most memorable moments in the series. When I look back, there were some moments that I’m almost positive were not shown in the anime proper, so either they did occur and I’ve forgotten about them, or Koisuru Asteroid is trying to convey the idea that good memories can be numerous to the point where one cannot easily recall all of them.
- The commemorative photo that Yuki takes for Shiho, Mira, Asuka and Ao captures the emotional tenour in one critical milestone for Mira and Ao; besides providing the opportunity to learn and explore asteroid discovery from professionals, the Shining Star Challenge also led Mira and Ao towards forming new friendships. A photograph is worth a thousand words, and if there were any moments in Koisuru Asteroid that depicts the sum of the themes and motifs of the series, this would be it: at the end of the day, science is by the people, for the people.
- Thus, upon finishing the finale, it felt fitting to have Mira herself be featured as the quote for this post. Always having a good sense with words, Mira’s able to capture moments very precisely in a few lines. With this, Koisuru Asteroid draws to a close precisely the same way it began, with a new promise being made as Mira and Ao realise how far they’ve come, but also how much more that remains to be done towards fulfilling their promise. The choice of camera angles shows exactly this, portraying the girls looking upon the night sky with the same positioning and letter-boxing to reinforce the parallels.
- Altogether, Koisuru Asteroid earns an A+ (a perfect 4.0 of 4.0, or a 9.5 of ten): a superbly enjoyable series, Koisuru Asteroid only loses out on being a masterpiece (a full ten of ten) because it did not change my world-view to a considerable extent (my criteria for a masterpiece). I had already deeply enjoyed astronomy and geology previously, and I’ve always been driven by learning about new stuff (this is mandatory for any iOS developer), so Koisuru Asteroid served to remind me of what I love doing, rather than changing the way I looked at the world. With this in mind, I enjoyed Koisuru Asteroid very much, and with this, I bring this talk of my first anime of the new decade to a close.
From their early days as a newly-minted club whose members only nominally got along, to realising that everyone shared more in common than their interests in astronomy or geology and the subsequent adventures they share together, Mira and the Earth Sciences Club give Koisuru Asteroid heart. With an authentic, genuine and sincere presentation, Koisuru Asteroid touches on the romanticism in the pursuit of one’s dreams, the importance of collaboration, and the value of one’s experiences during its twelve episode run. While it may not be the most gorgeous-looking anime out there in terms of art or animation, Koisuru Asteroid more than makes up for this with its heart-warming story, immensely likeable characters and plenty of geology and astronomy knowledge, made accessible to viewers, scattered throughout the anime. The sum of what Koisuru Asteroid does well far exceeds the limitations in artwork and animation: I have no trouble recommending Koisuru Asteroid to anyone who is keen on slice-of-life series or is curious to watch an anime with a well-executed scientific component. The final topic to consider is whether or not Koisuru Asteroid will get a continuation, and the resulting answer should not be too surprising: the anime adapts the manga’s first two volumes, and there currently are a total of three volumes that are available. As such, it is definitely possible that we could see a second season of Koisuru Asteroid in the future as the manga advances; even though Koisuru Asteroid‘s anime ends on a high note, I certainly would love to see what lies ahead for Mira, Ao and the Earth Sciences Club that has come a very long way from humble beginnings and what began with a promise under the night skies.