The Infinite Zenith

Where insights on anime, games, academia and life dare to converge

Category Archives: Koisuru Asteroid

Connected Cosmos: Joys of the Multidisciplinary Approach and Methods in Koisuru Asteroid’s Finale, A Whole-Series Review and Recommendation for Asteroid in Love

“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 GochiUsaKoisuru 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.

The Shining Star Challenge!: Clearing a Path to the Heavens in Koisuru Asteroid’s Eleventh Episode

“Some people don’t like to admit that they have failed or that they have not yet achieved their goals or lived up to their own expectations. But failure is not a sign of weakness. It is a sign that you are alive and growing.” –Buzz Aldrin

Mira is shocked to see Ao in Okinawa with her, but Ao explains that with everyone’s support, she’s come to observe Mira. Yuki later finalises the procedure that allows Ao to remain as an observer. Mira meets the other successful participants of the Shining Star Challenge: Asuka Tomori and Shiho Makita. Asuka is a fan of idols and applied to the competition with the goal of meeting an idol who was into astronomy, while Shiho aspires to be a counsellor and figures that participating in the challenge would let her meet more people. Following introductions, the participants are taken on a tour of the Ishigakijima Astronomical Observatory, including the VERA (Very-Large Baseline Interferometry Exploration of Radio Astrometry) telescope, a part of the Geospatial Information Authority’s radio telescope array, and the Murikabushi Telescope, the largest reflecting telescope in Japan that is used for visible and infrared wavelength observations. Mira and Ao separate for their evening meal after being instructed that their night will entail observing the night skies for asteroids. Back home, Mikage and Mari coordinate the Earth Science Club’s visit to JAXA’s Tsukuba Space Centre, and spend the evening with Yuki’s grandparents, who share stories about Yuki’s own participation in the Shining Star Challenge. Overcast skies dash the girls’ ability to make use of the telescope, and the technician decides to set the girls some practise on interpreting older data to prepare them for the task ahead. Fearing the weather might not be in Mira and Ao’s favour, Yū decides to make teru teru bōzu with the hope of helping the skies clear, and the next morning, Mira wakes up to blue skies in Okinawa, steeling her resolve to make a discovery before the programme ends. Koisuru Asteroid ramps up the intensity as its finale approaches, and now that Mira and Ao are on Okinawa, it’s a race against the clock to complete their childhood promise.

This penultimate episode’s portrayal of the realities of astronomy fall entirely within the realm of what professional and amateur astronomers face: cloudy skies are the arch-nemesis of every astronomer, obscuring out the ability for ground-based visible-spectrum observations to be carried out. Cloudy weather is inevitable, and as an amateur astronomer myself, I’ve seen my share of poor observing conditions cloud out otherwise rare and exciting astronomical events, such as total lunar eclipses, meteor showers and aurora peaks. This is very frustrating, to say the least, but it is also a common enough occurrence that all astronomers, professional and amateur alike, have expressed that this is something one must accept as coming with the territory. Cloudy skies are a test of every astronomer’s patience, as well as resourcefulness, and when the clouds do appear, a seasoned astronomer will take advantage of the time to learn more about their equipment and methods with the others in their party. The end result is an evening that, while not quite what was expected, was one that was nonetheless worthwhile, and this makes those nights with clear skies all the more rewarding, when patience yields dividends and those extra bits of knowledge contribute to an even more enjoyable viewing experience. This is what Koisuru Asteroid intends to share with viewers in the eleventh episode, and while their first night might be cloudy, Mira and Ao get to learn more about Asuka and Shiho a little better, as well as discover their instructor’s own background, and become more familiar with the software and techniques needed to identify potentially new objects that they end up photographing.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • At the expense of sounding like I’m tooting my own horn (to clear up any ambiguity, I totally am!), I daresay that I’m currently hosting the only discussion out there on a blog that deals with the more technical aspects shown in Koisuru Asteroid and I will note immediately for anyone doubting the series’ accuracy, I have independently verified that everything mentioned in the series is correct. Koisuru Asteroid‘s portrayal of the sciences is fully accurate, and a part of the reason for this post will be to present a more accessible explanation for what the girls are doing as a part of the Shining Star Challenge.

  • The first order of business is sorting out Ao’s unexpected arrival in Okinawa with Mira; while the contest allows people to participate as observers, in the heat of the moment, Mira completely skated over this, but the turn of events will allow the two to remain together. After seeing Mira in the wings, waiting to thank the program’s director for allowing Ao to observe, I was reminded of Sam and Frodo in The Fellowship of the Ring: after Frodo decides to take the Ring to Mordor during the Council of Elrond, Sam appears and promises to go with him. Elrond remarks that separating the two is hardly possible, and in this instance, similarities between Mira and Ao, and Sam and Frodo, are apparent.

  • It turns out that the remainder of the Earth Sciences Club do not endorse Ao’s actions, feeling the decision to be selfish, but because it was one born from an unshakable desire to fufill a long-standing goal, it seemed right to support Ao. Most Manga Time Kirara characters do not discuss the repercussions of certain actions, so Koisuru Asteroid stands out for being able to have its characters be more truthful about one another. Because nothing ever really stays buried for long, it allows characters to be open, and this in turn builds much stronger, more plausible relationships.

  • After arriving at the Ishigakijima Astronomical Observatory’s Youth Center, the successful applicants are asked to give a brief introduction about themselves prior to a tour. Ao notices that Mira has no trouble fitting in with the others, and out of the gates, befriends Asuka after sharing an energy drink with her. While Ao’s watching, Shiho introduces herself and mentions that despite her outward appearance, Ao’s actually pretty bold, expressing a desire to get to know her better.

  • The radio telescope at Ishigakijima Astronomical Observatory is a part of a much bigger array, VERA (VLBI Exploration of Radio Astrometry; note that Astrometry is not a typo, and refers to a subset of astronomy involved in precisely measuring the paths, trajectories and distances of celestial objects). Owing to the long wavelengths of radio waves, the phase shift becomes greater with distance, and so, large radio telescope arrays can mimic one large radio telescope with high resolution. Very-Large Baseline Interferometry (VLBI) telescopes operate on this principle, and setups like VERA use atomic clocks to syncronise their data. In astronomy, radio telescopes are used to gauge distances of astronomical objects to a very high precision by means of triangulation.

  • The technician leading the tour notes that radio observatories use MASERS (Microwave Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation) as the stellar objects for measuring astronomical distances: a MASER is really just any source that generates microwaves, and strictly speaking, the technician refers to astrophysical MASERs originating from extragalactic sources like quasars (super-massive objects with a high radiation output) or star-forming nebulae. It is the case that being able to compute the trigonometric parallax of these objects will give their distances, which is valuable in determining the movement between galaxies: Ao is absolutely right in describing it as cartography on an astronomical scale.

  • Observatories with optical telescopes use reflector telescopes, which use a series of mirrors to produce an image. Large telescopes are exclusively reflectors because at larger sizes, use of refracting materials will almost certainly result in the absorption of some wavelengths (degrading the resulting image) and because different wavelengths travel through a given material at different speeds, creating chromatic aberration. Moreover, reflectors are a bit easier to manufacture, assemble and maintain. At large scales, reflectors are superior in every way compared to a refracting telescope, and the reason why refracting telescopes are common amongst amateur astronomers is because they can yield satisfactory image quality while being much more compact and portable than a comparable reflector (larger Newtonian reflectors, while offering great quality, also require two people to set up, defeating portability).

  • There are several types of reflecting telescopes, with the Newtonian type being the most inexpensive per inch of aperture, but their disadvantage is that they require a very long tube. The Cassegrain reflector places the mirror in the path of the light coming in, and while the mirror’s placement creates an obstruction that reduces the brightness of the resulting image, this also allows the tube to be more compact. The Schmidt-Cassegrain telescope is a popular choice amongst amateur astronomers for their compact design, especially for astrophotography. Back in Koisuru Asteroid, with the tour complete, the students split into two groups: Mira’s group is set for optical observation, which requires darkness, while the EMR team can begin right away.

  • Exemplifying her uncommon talent of becoming close with most everyone she meets, Mira’s already got nicknames for both Shiho (Makki) and Asuka (Tomorin): aside from Ao, Mira refers to everyone else by their family name. This distinction is to reinforce the idea that of everyone she’s with, Mira is indisputably the closest to Ao, familiar enough to call her by her given name. Thus, to indicate that Mira is quick to accept those she meets, Mira’s main trait is to give people nicknames based on their family names. It would have been hilarious had Mira called Shiho “Shiporin”.

  • While Mira has dinner with others of the Shining Stars Challenge, Ao’s evening meal is with Yuki. They go to a fast food restaurant that is an A&W in all but name: there are a few in Okinawa that were opened in 1963 and was transferred to Japanese management in 1970. Because of the American presence in Okinawa, it was thought that the locals would be more receptive to American-style fast food. In Canada, A&W is Home of the Burger Family™ and boasts the best root beer this side of the planet. I’m especially fond of them for their thick-cut Russet potato fries, and their burgers are of an excellent standard, whether it be their Teen Burger (a personal favourite) or the lighter, but equally-delicious Crispy Chicken Burger. Ao, however, wants to get back to the observatory as quickly as possible and begins to scarf down her dinner (which resembles the double Buddy Burger and speaks to Ao’s relatively small eating capacity), but when one of Yuki’s friends and fellow instructor, Hayakawa, arrives, both instructors sit down to a conversation and catch up.

  • Shiho and Mira are at the top of their game with the fundamentals: both appreciate that the best way to observe asteroids is at opposition, which occurs when two celestial bodies are at opposite sides of a celestial sphere. In other words, relative to the Earth, it means the body is in the same direction as the Earth from the sun and therefore, at its closest; at this time, the body is brighter and appears larger, as well as visible for longer. Because asteroids are so tiny relative to other celestial bodies, this is the optimal positioning to locate them using a telescope.

  • Koisuru Asteroid has come to this stage at last: the astronomer explains that they will be observing small sections of the sky, with an angular diameter of 0.2°, using astrometry image analysis. Angular diameter refers to the apparent size of an object in terms of degrees, and without a diagram, it’s more tricky to explain the concept, but fortunately, there is a simple way to describe things. When one holds their hand at arm’s length, their little finger is about 1° wide, and fist is around 10°. So, 0.2° is a fifth of the little finger’s width. Here, the astronomer explains that to find asteroids and other celestial objects, sections of the sky are photographed over a period of time and then compared: the scale of 0.2º shows how small the target sections really are, and accentuates just how exacting astronomy is.

  • Any changes to the image, caused by a celestial body passing in front of a star, for instance, would indicate the presence of an object. The astronomer then explains that using software like Astrometrica or CCD Astrometry, the motion of objects that causes a blink can be tracked. However, when Mira learns that it takes time to collect enough photographs to make any sort of observation, Mira grows frustrated. Mira’s enthusiasm, doubtlessly troublesome in the real world, comes across as being adorable in the context of an anime, and I note that it is only in anime where certain mannerisms are viable – the real world tends towards folks who are more composed and stoic.

  • When Mira learns the sky is clouding over, she becomes worried. Back in Tsukuba, after spending the day introducing Chikage and Yū to the various museums and the Tsukuba Space Centre, the girls return to Yuki’s grandparents’ place, where they hear about Ao and Mira’s worsening sky conditions. Unexpectedly, it is Yū who leads the initiative to make some teru teru bōzu to help them out, before hearing a story from Yuki’s grandparents on how Yuki was as a high school student. This episode’s focus is largely on Ao and Mira, so Chikage and Yū figure less prominently than in previous episodes, and this is the first time where Moe is entirely absent from the episode.

  • As the cloud cover thickens, the girls decide to kick back and enjoy some evening snacks. Shiho comments on the appropriateness of eating after dinner, and Hayakawa mentions that the guilt factor only serves to enhance the enjoyment snacks at this hour. Yuki and Hayakawa recall that, when they’d participated in the Shiny Stars Challenge, the weather had also been unfavourable. This seems a recurring trend: I’ve been fortunate to have had good weather and bad when I’ve turned my eyes to the sky for an astronomical event, having seen meteor showers, a fireball, sky-filling Aurora Borealis, partial solar eclipses and total lunar eclipses under perfect conditions, as well as having missed out as a result of overcast skies.

  • At about the same time Yuki’s grandparents tells Chikage and Yū of her youth, the astronomer recalls Yuki’s high school days as well. In contrast to the Yuki of the present, high-schooler Yuki was much more serious and unsmiling. With Hayakawa and another classmate and Nishina, they became friends during the course of the challenge. Of everyone, Nishina ended up pursuing a career as an astronomer, and for Yuki, even though they didn’t find anything, the experience set her along her current career path. Yuki is still young, and so, when she begins talking about the importance of such experiences, the others remark on how uncharacteristically mature Yuki is, much to her embarrassment.

  • It is here that Asuka and Shiho share their reasons for taking up the Shiny Stars Challenge, and it would appear that of everyone, Mira’s reason is the most related to astronomy. By now, the skies have become completely overcast, and the astronomer decides to lead the girls in practising the techniques within the astrometry software on existing data. While it’s a disappointment to be sure, the evening accomplishes two critical things: first, it lets Ao and Mira become closer to Asuka and Shiho, and the second is that it gives everyone a chance to learn the older data sets, plus the software needed to make discoveries of any sort.

  • The next morning, the skies over Okinawa are clear, and in Tsukuba, the girls feel that their evening’s work with the teru teru bōzu have been successful. Here in Koisuru Asteroid‘s soundtrack, traditional Okinawan instruments can be heard in the incidental music. This subtle touch adds a great deal of heart to the series, and Non Non Biyori had done the same thing in its movie. Aside from the Okinawan touch in the later episodes, the soundtrack for Koisuru Asteroid is solid, and I am looking forwards to listening to the music in full: the album retails for 3300 Yen (42.42 CAD) and will have thirty-seven tracks, a mixture of incidental and vocal pieces.

  • Shiho notices that Mira is dejected; after the events of the previous evening, the number of nights they have to utilise the telescope and observe is down by one, and Mira fears that there won’t be enough time to capture an asteroid. However, she quickly picks herself back up and prepares for another day ahead, where the visible-light observers are slated to learn more about practical techniques and theory, leaving audiences to also support her.

  • Both Mira and Ao are fired up as the episode comes to a close, with a renewed determination to conclude things on the best note possible: it’s one final push to the finish line now, and what discoveries await the two will be seen on short order. The last episode is titled “Connected Cosmos”, which is aptly named, for it represents the idea that space has connected many together, starting with Ao and Mira. The choice of title is well-made, betraying nothing about what is to happen next, and so, it is with great anticipation that we now enter the finale.

With Koisuru Asteroid entering its endgame, the series has consistently maintained a high commitment towards factual accuracy, while simultaneously delivering a highly endearing and engaging journey for Ao and Mira. However, considering the lengths that Mira and Ao have gone to fulfil their promise, and all of the discoveries they’ve made along the way, I feel that from a narrative and thematic standpoint, it is only fair to at least give Mira and Ao a clear night sky in the finale so they have a shot at observing something meaningful. The odds of a youth discovering an entirely new body in one evening are astronomically slim; Koisuru Asteroid has remained very faithful towards what is and isn’t possible from a real-world standpoint, and allowing Ao and Mira to complete their dream here would almost be anti-climatic, so for the finale, I speculate that Ao and Mira will not find something of interest during their time at the Ishigakijima Astronomical Observatory, whether it be through visible-light observation or by digging through older records. However, their experiences will pave the way for future discoveries; Ao and Mira will both now be better equipped to fulfil their long-standing promise as they continue to pursue their goals. Such an ending would strike a fine balance between the realism Koisuru Asteroid has committed to, and at the same time, give some closure to this stage of the journey that Mira and Ao have shared so far, without closing the door on the possibility of a continuation. After all, the manga series is still running, and there is quite a ways to go yet before such a grandiose and romantic promise can be fulfilled: anything worth doing will take time and effort.

Rain With Occasional Fortune Telling: A Submission to the Shining Star Challenge in Koisuru Asteroid’s Tenth Episode

“我跟你打” –萬宗華, 葉問4: 完結篇

Chikage Sakurai (Mikage’s younger sister) and Yū Nanami take an interest in the Earth Sciences Club: to welcome the new members, Mira decides the time is ripe for another barbeque, and while it rains on the day of, instructor Yuki decides to go ahead anyways, having found a spot that keeps them out of the rain. As the girls share food and conversation, they learn that Yū’s background is in meteorology. Unlike Mira and the others, Yū appears to demonstrate no love for her specialty, having taken it up to save others from trouble. Some time previously, Yū’s relatives had gone through a flood, and while no one was hurt, the resulting flood damage left her aunt in a difficult situation. The rain stops, and the girls manage to get Yū to warm up when a circumhorizontal arc (common name “fire rainbow”) appears. Mira and Ao begin preparing for the Shining Star Challenge, which screens participants with an essay. This challenge marks the first step towards a studentship at an observatory to discovery asteroids, and both girls put their best efforts into their essay. However, only Mira’s submission was accepted, and both end up being heartbroken. When Mira goes to Okinawa for the studentship, she and Yuki discover that Ao’s accompanied them, as well. Koisuru Asteroid is an anime full of surprises, and the final quarter opens strong. The new club members are immensely likeable from the beginning; Chikage gives a very calming, gentle aura standing in contrast with her sister’s intensity, and Yū’s meterological aspirations are relatable. Seven years ago, a 100-year flood affected my home town, devastating every neighbourhood near the river, and while I was not directly affected, I saw for myself how destructive nature could be. I consider myself immensely lucky to live somewhere where natural disasters are comparatively uncommon, and watching the community unite to recover was very encouraging. I myself donated to the flood recovery efforts in a bid to help out, and it’s easy to see why Yū’s taken up the choice to go into a profession that can help forecast and mitigate tragedy.

Much of the tenth episode was devoted towards welcoming Yū and Chikage into the Earth Sciences Club, but like clockwork, Koisuru Asteroid has also set in motion the journey that Mira and Ao must take towards fulfilling their promise to one another. The final minutes of the episode has Mira and Ao finalising their applications towards the competition that they’d missed the previous year, which only admits even applicants. The application entails writing As the starting point towards discovering an asteroid, Mira and Ao both pour their hearts into the qualifying essay, which asks participants to express their feelings about space and the stars. It is here that Chikage and and Yū begin to see how devoted Mira and Ao are to their craft; for Yū, she’d initially felt that Ao, Mira and Mai were too easygoing, but hearing that Ao and Mira have spent the past evenings completely dedicated towards writing and polishing their essays leads her to see them in a new light. Chikage dabbles in geomancy and forecasts that of the two, only one will make the competition. While this threatens to divide them, the two should push forwards with their dreams anyway; this ends up being precisely what happens. Mira appears to have written about the joys of sharing discoveries and fun with others, and it is here that I am reminded of a similar application I submitted to earn my admissions to the University of Calgary’s Bachelor of Health Sciences programme in bioinformatics. I no longer have the original essays that I submitted as a part of the application, but I vividly recall expressing the importance of melding the disciplines of computer science and biology as the capabilities of software and algorithms become increasingly powerful, which would let the medical sciences identify patterns and solutions in health more readily than previously possible. The end result of this path was my graduate thesis: applications of game engines to better visualise and illustrate complex biological processes for educative and communicative purposes. The nostalgic factor in Koisuru Asteroid led me to wonder: what would Mira’s essay look like? I thus answered myself, that it would be a fun exercise to recreate Mira’s essay using what we’ve seen so far in Koisuru Asteroid so far. The parameters I’ve applied for the essay are: “Describe how you feel about astronomy, the stars and space, within a 500 word limit”. The resulting composition is below:

Looking up into the blackness of space, I’ve always felt a sense of longing to explore: it’s easy to forget how large the universe is when we’re so busy in our everyday lives, but when the sun sets and the stars come out, we remind ourselves that up there in the heavens, there are entire worlds, each with their own stories to tell. The universe that we can see is estimated to be 13.7 billion light years across, but it is so incredibly vast that light from these distant worlds have not yet reached us. The size of the universe gives perspective on how small we as a species are, but it is also an invitation for discovery. Through the lens of a telescope, I’ve gazed upon the craters of the moon, and Saturn’s rings. From these images of the celestial bodies in our solar system alone, it becomes clear just how extensive the universe is, and just how much more there is to learn. There is no shortage of new discoveries to be made, making astronomy a meaningful pursuit.

Even when we look closer to Earth, the neighbourhood around our world is incredibly crowded: there is an estimated 22000 objects (as of March 2020) that have been catalogued. These objects are of interest owing to the potential dangers they pose both to our world and space travel, and I’ve long been interested in helping to discover more of these objects. Identifying asteroids in the Earth’s neighbourhood is important towards determining the threat from an asteroid impact: there are at least 1955 objects which may pose a danger in the future. Even if some of these asteroids are not likely to collide with Earth in the near future, those that pass by offer a valuable opportunity to study objects that may help us to understand the early solar system and its formation.

However, even if we look at just the neighbourhood surrounding itself, the scale of space is mind-boggling, too large for any one person to begin looking at. The experiences with my high school’s Earth Sciences club have shown me that scientific discoveries and knowledge is something to be shared, to pursue together. Our club was merged from a group of astronomy and geology students, and while we started out with distinct interests, spending time towards learning about one another’s disciplines has shown me that discoveries are most meaningful when they are made together. I believe that this is how we go about understanding more about our universe: we must do so together, collaborating and sharing what we find for the betterment of us all.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Whereas haircuts for anime characters typically signify a failed relationship and the desire to re-imagine one self, in Koisuru Asteroid, Moe’s haircut shows that she’s taken Misa’s advice to heart. It would appear that after her kokuhaku, Misa replied that Moe should begin by looking after herself first and admire herself above all else, rather than chasing after others. This advice has had a tangible effect on her, and with her shorter hair, Moe’s noted that business at the Suzuya Bakery has only increased.

  • I absolutely enjoyed seeing Yū and Chikage join the ranks of the Earth Sciences Club. We’ve previously seen the two during the culture festival. Chikage enjoyed every bit of it but was presumably too shy to make an appearance, while Yū, despite enjoying it, feels that the Earth Science Club’s not doing enough from a practical standpoint to help the world out. I had long wondered what Yū’s story was, and here, we begin to gain insights into the more subtle elements from earlier episodes.

  • Chikage is a ray of sunshine: while she possesses all of Mikage’s love for geology, she’s soft-spoken and kind-hearted. I immediately found her character to be likeable; although this means Mira won’t be trading barbs with anyone any time soon, Chikage’s got a very soothing presence similar to that of Mai’s. By comparison, Yū gives off a more aloof, distant vibe, and feels decidedly more serious than anyone else in the club. Ao characterises her as being responsible in nature.

  • After seeing the Shooting Stars Challenge, I felt an inclination to take a shot at the writing essay myself. My love for astronomy is not to the same extent as Ao or Mira’s, but I felt it to be a worthwhile exercise to try my hand at seeing if I could create an essay for the contest written from Mira’s perspective. Admittedly, it was difficult to write in a voice that isn’t my own, and I’ve made several key assumptions here (e.g. the essay is more of a qualitative one rather than quantitative and has a word limit). It’s a little challenging to step into someone else’s shoes, but following Koisuru Astreroid, I feel as though I’ve got a good measure on what Mira is feeling.

  • On the day of the barbeque, the moody weather seems to mirror the sense of gloominess that Yū brings with her. Koisuru Asteroid‘s main weak point lies in its pacing, which is inconsistent even for a 4-koma adaptation, and it suddenly strikes me that such a series could have done well to have double its run time, such that everything is properly explored. Slower slice-of-life series like Koisuru Asteroid may not prima facie appear to benefit from an extended runtime, but my favourite instance of a series that fully utilised an extended runtime was K-On!!, whose second season slowed things down enough to help viewers really appreciate what Yui, Ritsu, Mio and Mugi meant to Azusa.

  • The joy that Mira and the old guard of the Earth Sciences Club convey stands in stark contrast to the rainy weather: Mira, Mai and Ao are dressed in bright colours that make the stand out, symbolising how they bring their own energy and warmth with them. The barbeque is thus under way, and in anime, yakitori and kushiyaki skewers are often presented, featuring succulent cuts of meat with corn on the cob, onion and green peppers. Over good food and good company, conversation begins to venture into the realm of the sciences, and as it turns out, Yū’s interest in meteorology comes from a personal experience.

  • It turns out that Yū’s relatives had experienced a devastating flood that destroyed most of their worldly possessions, and Yū began to wish she had the power to forecast and mitigate such outcomes. There is no denying that natural disasters have a profound impact on those who live to see such times: the Alberta 2013 floods had a massive impact on Calgary in particular, and while I live far from the Bow River, the effects permeated every aspect of life here. The sense of community allowed us to overcome this particular disaster, and even now, amidst one of the worst pandemics in recent history, I continue to hold my faith that people will prevail so as long as we set aside petty differences and work together to reach a solution for recovery.

  • After hearing Yū’s story, Chikage offers her a stone cast of Blue Lace Agate, which is supposed to help provide clarity and understanding in communication. Chikage mentions it to help the mind relax and dispels negative emotions, as well. Unlike Mikage, Chikage has a natural talent for reading the atmosphere and is very much a people person despite being so soft-spoken. Here, the girls also explore the applications of each of their fields: geology has value in seismic research and mining, astronomy’s most practical use is identifying and tracking near-Earth objects  and facilitating the launch of satellites.

  • That Mira is able to so readily identify her favoured field’s applications shows that she’s become knowledgeable on her interest. While Moe prepares a baumkuchen, the others admire a circumhorizontal arc that’s appeared in the sky following the dissipation of rain clouds. Yū’s tough shell dissipates with the clouds: upon seeing this phenomenon for the first time, she’s quick to admire the fire rainbow and explain its formation from hexagonal ice crystals refracting light. Mira initially misidentifies it as a rainbow, and indeed, the common name for the circumhorizontal arc, “fire rainbow”, is a bit of a misnomer, since this is not a true rainbow, nor does it involve fire in any way.

  • While Yuki might be lazy at times (indicated as such when she leaves Mai and Moe to cook earlier), she genuinely does care for her students and imparts wisdom where needed. She notes that Yū’s advanced knowledge of meteorological phenomenon shows that whether she admits it or not, she does have a love of the material, given how much time and effort she’s spent studying it, and encourages her to have a little more fun in the process.

  • Together with the Earth Sciences Club, Yū thus begins to embrace her interests and look on the positive side of things, as well. I feel that warming Yū up to the others is something that could’ve been spaced out over two episodes, but Koisuru Asteroid is very rapidly reaching the end of its run soon, and so, things are condensed. With this being said, Koisuru Asteroid manages to retain the emotional impact of each moment, and so, there is nothing particularly forced about how Yū comes to accept Mira, Ao and Mai’s interpretation of the Earth Sciences Club as a more laid-back environment.

  • Mai had made a large number of teru-teru bōzu earlier to ward off the rain. These hand-made dolls are composed from cloth or tissue and have their origins from the Edo Period, and depending on how they are hung, can either be a prayer for clear skies (right side up) or rain (up side down). The west has its own set of weather-related superstitions, with some being rooted in science (e.g. “red sky in morning, sailor’s warning” and halos around the moon preclude inclement weather).

  • It should be clear that with its new members, the Earth Sciences Club’s future is secure. Mira and Ao had secretly hoped for new members earlier so they could secure the funding for an equatorial mount, but Yū and Chikage’s decision to join has a more important function. Here, the girls stargaze as darkness sets in, and Yū demonstrates the proper technique for taking a collimated photo, in which she aligns her camera’s lens to a special point from the eyepiece to photograph the moon. This is equivalent to taking a photo with the telescope as a zoom optic, and can be tricky.

  • Yū’s growth ultimately is set over the course of one episode, and after their barbeque, Yū is now very much acclimatised with Mira and the Earth Science Club’s way of doing things. If memory serves, K-On! actually took two episodes to detail how Azusa would come to terms with the easy-going, carefree spirits of the light music club. With her story resolved, the remainder of the tenth episode deals with the Shining Star Challenge.

  • On their way home, Chikage calls upon geomancy to see what’s in store for Mira and Ao. The ensuing results is that she expects one of the two to be accepted into the competition, and that despite this setback for the other, both will remain unified in their pursuit of fulfilling a longstanding promise with one another. One could easily attribute this to the powers of geomancy, but the reality is that geomancy is about as reliable as astrology, and it is more reasonable to suppose that Chikage is just an excellent judge of character and very much attuned to what those around her is feeling. In conjunction with a bit of common sense (e.g. how the competition may only allow for one successful applicant per school to be selected), Chikage’s prediction is based off of educated guesses rather than anything in the realm of the supernatural.

  • I ended up including this moment because it shows the focus and tenacity both Mira and Ao have: anime like Koisuru Asteroid typically show the club members doing fun things rather than the sorts of things that really drive the club’s progress, and so, one of the most common criticisms levelled against slice-of-life series is that the characters often do not “earn” their successes because they’d rather hang out and drink tea than practise or further themselves. However, this is a deliberate choice: fun moments serve to humanise the characters and reinforce that how everyone comes together is as important as the more technical aspects of being in a club.

  • Admittedly, I was initially a little surprised that Ao’s composition was not successful: of the two, Ao seems more knowledgeable about astronomy and its applications. However, in retrospect, Mira’s successful application makes sense. Between the two, Mira is more outgoing and personable than the quiet and shy Ao: Mira’s long been shown to have a talent for scientific communication, being able to capture the attention and interest of children in an age-appropriate manner whenever communicating about astronomy, whereas Ao seems more limited in that she’s unable to express herself fully without resorting to more technical terms. Thus, I did my best to capture Mira’s ability to tell a more convincing story through clear applications and intents, notions of multidisciplinary collaboration and strike a balance with the numbers in my re-creation of her essay.

  • Mira ends up falling into melancholy despite her own acceptance to the competition, and ultimately, it takes a phone call to Mikage and Mari to lift their spirits. Mari reminds the two that while only Mari might be attending, the learnings will help both of them, and Mikage encourages Mira to seize the chance, saying they’ll be around to support. With Chikage mirroring this sentiment, Mira and Ao prepare for the next step of their adventure.

  • In a way, that only Mira was selected, and Ao’s remaining behind parallels astronaut Michael Collins on the Apollo 11 flight: while he never shared the experience of walking the lunar surface with Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, he never once despaired about his assignment, understanding that his role was critical all the same: in his autobiography, he wrote that: “[this lunar mission had] been structured for three men, and I consider my third to be as necessary as either of the other two”. Similarly, while Ao might not directly be participating, her role in supporting Mira is no less important.

  • For the competition, Yuki and Mira arrive in Ishigaki, Okinawa, some four hundred kilometres southwest of Naha. This island is home to the Ishigakijima Astronomical Observatory, and the Murikabushi telescope is the largest in Japan. In a surprising twist, Ao’s also followed the two along. While perhaps impractical, this moment was endearing, bringing the tenth episode to a close. The page quote comes from Ip Man 4, from when Master Wan agrees to fight Barton Geddes after the latter challenges him to prove the inferiority of Chinese martial arts. Throughout Ip Man 4, Wan is presented as being stubborn, but honourable, and its relevance here in Koisuru Asteroid is that, Ao is similarly stubborn, but loyal, having followed Mira all the way to Okinawa in a heartwarming, if unexpected, moment.

That Koisuru Asteroid‘s final quarter has already prompted me to come back with what is, in effect, a special-topics episodic post speaks volumes to the strength of the series. Far from being unremarkable or dull, Koisuru Asteroid captures the intellectual curiosity and appreciation of teamwork that characterises human achievement, of which the greatest-known would be the 1969’s Apollo 11 mission in which Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin became the first humans to ever walk on another world. While Mira and Ao’s aspirations are not quite to the same scale, they are nonetheless founded on the same intents, to learn more about their world and satisfy their curiosity. The same wonder about the cosmos that drive Ao and Mira to find an asteroid led humanity to build engines that could reach other worlds, and in doing so, learn more about ourselves in an unprecedented capacity. It is this reason that compels me to keenly follow Koisuru Asteroid, and as we advance into the final two episodes, I am very excited to see what awaits Mira and Ao as they make steps towards fulfilling a long-standing promise with one another: the inclusion of two capable and unique juniors in Yū and Chikage only serve to further enhance the series and keep things dynamic, engaging. Given that Koisuru Asteroid has consistently yielded meaningful discussion, a question that I raise for myself is whether or not to take an episodic route for the remainder of the series, especially now that the groundwork for Mira and Ao’s asteroid hunt is laid down.

Koisuru Asteroid: Review and reflection at the ¾ mark

“I keep the subject of my inquiry constantly before me, and wait till the first dawning opens gradually, by little and little, into a full and clear light.” –Sir Isaac Newton

While Mai is nervous about taking on the mantle of responsibility that accompanies being the Earth Science club’s president, Ao and Mira do their best to support her, helping out with an astronomy event for children. Mira, Moe and Megu manage to keep the children engaged, but Ao notices that one of the girls in the group seems aloof. She speaks with her and explains that the stars themselves provide insight into the past, drawing her curiosity. Later, Ao becomes sick, prompting Mira and Mai to pay her a visit. Mari and Mikage gear up for their entrance exams, and when Mari fails her first choice, Mai decides to apply for an Earth Science Olympiad examination. Despite failing the preliminaries, Mai is glad to have attended, having befriended another participant. Christmas approaches, and as a gift to their juniors, Mari and Mikage give Ao, Mira and Mai an album of their time spent together. During the New Year, Ao reveals to Mira that she’s set to move in March owing to her father’s work. When they share this news with the others, the others come to the suggestion that Ao should live with Mira; Misa is going to university come Spring, leaving a room open at Mira’s place, and this would allow the two to continue pursuit of their dream together. Ao and Mira’s parents agree to the proposed arrangement. During Valentines’ Day, Mikage gifts homemade chocolate to everyone as thanks, Mikage also encourages Moe to summon the courage to give proper chocolates to Misa, whom Moe had feelings for. When graduation arrives, the juniors gift parting mementos to both Mikage and Mari; the latter realises she’s had an excellent time as an Earth Science Club member. March soon arrives, and Ao moves in with Mira, but the two conflict when Mira goes through Ao’s belongings. The two reconcile, and with a new term under way, Ao and Mira begin recruiting for new members even as Mai protests that their club technically doesn’t have the permission to do so.

Three quarters of the way into Koisuru Asteroid, the series has ventured into a transition period as Mai takes over the Earth Sciences Club. This transition has been a bumpy one, a journey of discovery: Mai’s not particularly confident she’ll do a good job as the president, but with encouragement from the others, attends a children’s stargazing event. The photos coming back from this event turn out poorly, mirroring how transitions are rarely smooth: Mai has some large shoes to fill and cannot be reasonably expected to flawlessly perform her duties overnight. However, support from her friends means that Mai does begin seizing the initiative to be more effectual as a president, culminating in her taking an Earth Science Olympiad competition exam. While she fails, that Mai took charge and ended up befriending someone shows that, although challenges lie ahead, she’s better prepared to handle them, opening up to new people and experiences. This becomes especially important now that Mari and Mikage have graduated, as the club prepares to take on what appears to be two new recruits. The other aspect of Koisuru Asteroid that the third quarters covers is the unexpected curve-ball that Ao and Mira face to their promise: Ao’s moving comes at a difficult time, and while Ao is overwhelmed by fear of disrupting the club, her sharing it with Mira causes Mira to worry about not being more attentive to Ao’s situation. Of course, the solution that Ao and Mira find comes from reaching out to their fellow club members and those around them: the choice to have Ao lodge with Mira is a novel option that shows the importance of resourcefulness, and by exploring different options, a compromise that works for everyone is reached.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • The third quarter of Koisuru Asteroid is much more focused on character development than the first half was; astronomy and geology takes a lesser priority as the club strives towards ensuring a smooth transition for Mai. While Mai drops the ball on a few occasions, support from Mikage and Mari help her to grow into a proper club president. We return after a minor delay: back in February following the halfway point, production issues led the seventh episode to be pushed back by a week. Theories abound as to why this is the case, but remain within the realm of speculation and are therefore, unrelated to my discussions.

  • Moe might not be an official member of the Earth Sciences club, but her presence is often enough that, for all intents and purposes, she’s a member in everything but name. After being blasted with the revelation that her special lunar pancakes were only worthy of a second place finish in the school festival, Moe strives to keep moving forwards to the best of her ability. Her presence in Koisuru Asteroid might initially be one of yuri, but she has her share of great ideas that help the club out.

  • As the children’s stargazing event gets under way, Mari and Ao initially have trouble bringing order to the group of children. It takes Moe and Megu’s baked goods to settle everyone down, speaking to the nontrivial role that the Suzuya bakery has played in helping the Earth Sciences club. I’ve had experience in this field; being a ni-dan, I occasionally help teach younger children, and it can be difficult to get them settled down. In karate, each lesson opens with seiza (正座), and since our dōjo’s grand master trained with the Hong Kong Police Force, we start class by calling “Squad, Fall In”. All students know to settle down at this point.

  • As it turns out, once the children are quiet, they take great interest in listening to the facts that Mira presents, as well as taking turns looking at Saturn through the club’s telescope. Saturn is always a solid choice for children: the second largest planet in the solar system, it is characterised by its distinct ring system, the most complex of any planet in the solar system, and its composition of hydrogen means that it is the least-dense planet in the solar system. If a hypothetically large pool of water could be found, Saturn would float in it.

  • Besides Saturn, having a telescope also allows the children to look at the Andromeda Galaxy (Messier 31): this spiral galaxy is about 2.54±0.11 million light-years away and is thought to have twice as many stars as the Milky Way. A telescope is not required to view the Andromeda Galaxy: a good pair of binoculars can render the galaxy visible as a diffuse patch, but with a six-inch telescope, more details, like the galactic core and dust bands, can be resolved.

  • Haruka, the little girl who seemed so disinterested in astronomy, reveals that she’s not so good with people, and doesn’t really see the worth of stargazing. However, Ao manages to capture her interest when she ventures into the realm of the more technical: the vastness of the cosmos is such that photons, with a speed 299792458 m/s, takes years upon years to travel stellar distances. The light-year thus becomes a popular unit of measure for astronomical distances, and there is a bit of romanticism to the fact that the objects we see are as they appeared that light-distance ago. To put things in perspective, from a hypothetical planet in the Andromeda Galaxy, the light they see today would be as the Milky War appeared late in the Permian period.

  • The speed of light is why the age of the universe can be approximated: light from before that simply wouldn’t exist, and the universe hasn’t existed long enough for stars to fill it with light. If the universe had always been here, then irrespective of stellar distances, the night sky would be filled with stars in all directions, creating a white wall of light. This is where scientific communication becomes incredibly valuable, and Koisuru Asteroid shows that different level of details appeal to different individuals. An effective communicator can capture interest from all groups by adjusting the level of granularity: Mira’s suited for putting things in terms suited for a general audience (which is, incidentally the basis of the Giant Walkthrough Brain project), while Ao is capable of presenting more technical items for those interested.

  • When Ao catches a cold from staying outside for too long, Mira and Mai visit her. While discussions on Koisuru Asteroid have been scant, I vividly recall a question somewhere wondering how it’s possible to catch a cold over such a short period of time. The common cold is caused by rhinoviruses (lit. “nose virus”), and contrary to its name, is not caused by exposure to lower temperatures. There is an increased prevalence in the winter, but the correlation between cold temperatures and the common cold is still being investigated. It is thought that lower temperatures do is increase susceptibility to rhinovirus infection by increasing the ease of transmission, weaker immune responses from the cold weather and social factors. In Koisuru Asteroidhow Ao gets sick is irrelevant: some suggest that it’s meant to foreshadow Ao’s state of mind, although if true, the anime’s not conveyed this very effectively.

  • Mai is disappointed to learn that all of her photos from the children’s stargazing event turned out blurry, and that even the basic point-and-shoot digital cameras have some nuances in their operation: entry-level models do not have built-in image stabilisation and require a few moments to capture their image properly. However, it turns out that Mai’s technique is at fault: having acclimatised to using smartphone cameras, which have an even simpler operation. While smartphone cameras have become ubiquitous and have shifted consumer trends since the release of the iPhone 4 in 2010, they are unlikely to displace dedicated professional DSLR cameras.

  • It turns out that Mikage’s future is a little more certain, having passed the entrance examination and secured a recommendation for her post secondary school of choice, whereas Mari’s still in uncertain waters for the time being. Mai, Ao and Mira become disheartened when they learn of this, but as Mikage says, this is Mari’s fight to deal with. To take her mind off things, Mai decides to attempt an Earth Sciences Olympiad examination for the experience: these competitions are separate from a students’ curriculum and while they are time-consuming to study for, they also can help students refine their learning methods, improve confidence and cultivate reasoning skills.

  • I’ve admittedly never done any competitions of any sort during my time as a student, although when I once held aspirations for medical school, I took the MCAT. Like Mai found, the exam was unlike anything I’d previously wrote, although my decision to take the MCAT was made months in advance, and I had adequate preparations; Mai failed her Olympiad, and while I ended up scoring a 35T on my MCAT (equivalent to a 517 today), medicine was a path I did not end up pursuing. In spite of the results, Mai’s taken away something from the experience, learning there are plenty of people out there who are excited about the material, and moreover, also proves to herself that even in difficult times, she can strike up conversations with others.

  • No Manga Time Kirara series would be complete without a Christmas episode, and Koisuru Asteroid takes a leaf from The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya, having the girls host a nabe party in their clubroom. Thanks to the ancient circuitry in their building, simultaneously plugging in a hot plate and running the heater trips a breaker. Mai considers heating up rocks to use in cooking: while rocks have about half the heat capacity of water on average, their heat capacity is roughly 2.85 times better than that of air, so they can still hold onto heat for a good period of time, and traditionally, heated rocks have been used in cooking.

  • While Mai intends to find dacite as their rock of choice, Mira shoots this plan down and asks Ao for suggestions. Ao simply suggests using the heat from the hot plate to prepare the food and bundling up, so when Mikage and Mari arrive, they don thermal blankets. Mari takes an immediate liking to the gold blanket that Mira’s brought during their trip to JAXA during the summer: Mari likens it to being a man-made satellite: the blanket does resemble the Multi-layer insulation (MLI) on satellites, used to prevent thermal loss via radiation (in a vacuum, conduction and convection are not concerns compared to radiation).

  • When the girls try their nabe, it turns out to be much spicier than expected. It turns out that when Ao was told to add everything, she accidentally included all of the chili peppers, as well. I’m particularly fond of a hot hot pot, and will add chili peppers on top of chili oil to mine: hot pot is traditionally eaten in winter, and especially with a good amount of heat, it really warms one up on a cold day. Enjoyment of spicy foods is a consequence of capsaicin tolerance, and frequent exposure to this chemical, responsible for creating a sense of heat, eventually causes the body to produce less Substance P (a neurotransmitter) in response to heat.

  • In between dinner, the girls decide to stargaze on the roof. It is here that Mikage and Mari give to their juniors a photo album of all of the Earth Science Club’s best moments: Mari is a bit of a shutterbug and is very fond of photographing her fellow club members, so she’s accumulated a vast collection of images. With Mikage’s help in curating a collection of the best, an album of memories is born, moving the girls to tears.

  • I’ve heard whispers that on other anime sites well outside the realm of the places I visit for discussions, criticisms of Koisuru Asteroid have been very harsh, with people deriding the series for being mundane, niche and requiring a functional background in geology and astronomy to appreciate. The complaint that anime like Koisuru Asteroid offers “nothing new” is strictly a matter of opinion, and for me, one I am inclined to dismiss. Slice-of-life series are not made to explore entirely novel aspects of life, but to show the commonalities that different disciplines and activities share, as well as foster an appreciation for the more ordinary things in life.

  • As it stands, criticisms of Koisuru Asteroid are purely a subjective matter, and I suggest folks to make their own judgement rather than paying deference to the opinions of people whose backgrounds and aims might be radically different than one’s own. Back in Koisuru Asteroid proper, it turns out that something’s been bothering Ao for some time: her father’s occupation requires that their family moves frequently, and so, Ao is set to move somewhere else in March. Having reunited with Mira, Ao is reluctant to do so, but feels that she has no say in what her future will be.

  • Mira herself becomes melancholy in the aftermath of this news, feeling as though she’d been so wrapped up in her own world that she’s completely neglected to consider Ao’s feelings. As it stands, it takes the entire Earth Sciences club, plus two of the newspaper club’s members present to begin considering a viable course of action. Naturally, when Moe arrives and she learns of the news, she takes things the wrong way, and emotions take over.

  • Moe thus makes off with Ao from the club room at top speed, with Mira in the rear trying to restore order. It’s a moment of comedy in what is one of Koisuru Asteroid‘s more subdued moments, and while the presence of such moments are intended to remind viewers that things are most certainly not doom and gloom, some might argue that use of comedy creates a sharper divide when the mood turns serious, as in Peter Jackson’s interpretation of The Fellowship of The Ring: having Merry and Pippin stealing from Farmer Maggot, before prompting Frodo and Sam to tumble down a hill right before the Black Rider is encountered creates a much greater sense of fear, to have something so ominous and threatening in the Shire.

  • Misa eventually arrives to check up on Mira and the others, having returned from the student council with some of her belongings, creating yet another lighter moment. The unexpected news of Ao’s move came out of left field for me; most series don’t do this out of the blue, and indeed, it left viewers with much to speculate on what the outcome would be for Koisuru Asteroid. However, Misa offers a solution: she’s set to move out to attend post-secondary, freeing up a room that Ao might be able to take.

  • While Ao’s mother is initially reluctant, Mira’s parents are open to the idea, and after a tense conversation, a decision is reached: Ao will move in with Mira. The outcome is precisely why I did not bother thinking on things; Manga Time Kirara series are predictable in that events never progress in a manner that compromises the theme in the series. To separate Ao and Mira, while the plausible route, would also disrupt messages of promises and exploration. Such an outcome, that keeps Ao and Mira together, is then inevitable. While folks may count predictability as a bad thing, I personally care for it to a much lesser extent: the journey matters more than the destination.

  • When Mira and Ao visit Moe, they find that Moe’s distracted by something. Because of her upbeat and positive attitude, it can be difficult for viewers to know when Moe is serious or not about something – she’s generally free-spirited and messes with everyone, especially Ao, but a part of the ninth episode has her agonising over the fact that Misa is moving away and anxiously awaiting for messages from her. However, an unexpected request comes out of the blue from Mikage, prompting Moe to help out.

  • Mikage understands what her love for geology must look like to the others: when she approaches Moe in seeking some professional guidance on making a proper batch of Valentine’s chocolate for the Earth Sciences Club, she’s treated to a crash course from Moe on the intricacies of properly preparing chocolate, right down to what temperatures to melt the chocolate with after it’s been prepared and what duration of temperatures are needed to allow the chocolate to consistently re-solidify. The culinary arts might be deemed as arts, involving creativity and thoughtfulness, but the methodologies for making excellent food are as exacting as any science.

  • The end result are some nice chocolates that Mikage later give to the Earth Sciences club. The exercise allows Mikage and Moe to interact with one another without the others, and both share a headstrong personality that conceals a more sensitive side that makes it difficult for them to be forward with their feelings. Mikage and Moe end up calling the other out for this, and both become openly aware that this is something they’ll need to work on. While Mira burns through the chocolates at breakneck speed, Moe finds the courage to make her feelings for Misa known.

  • Graduation is soon upon Mikage and Mari: it’s a time of separation as the Earth Sciences club’s two most senior members part ways. Mari and Mikage recall when their club was first merged, things hadn’t started smoothly: Mikage and Mari were immediately at odds with one another, but with Mai, things stablised over time. It’s a time of farewells and new directions; Mira and Ao present their seniors with mementos from their time together to remind them of their time together, as well as new photos from the album they’d been given earlier.

  • Mai’s still a bit green when it comes to photography, and the group’s final photo together has Mai tripping en route into the photo. Such a photo, however, shows the true spirit of the Earth Sciences club as one step of their journey draws to a close, and I find that this transition was probably meant to help build a club that could continue developing into the future; having Mai, Ao and Mira become more senior members forces them to look after new members and continue the club in their own style even as they work towards fulfilling their own aspirations.

  • Because she’d been so focused on keeping the Earth Sciences club together, Mari wonders if she’d done anything in the Earth Sciences club of note. The photo album Mira and the others show her is tangible proof that yes, Mari did indeed have a good time as a member of their club. Time together also overcame the rift between Mari and Mikage: their friendship now is unshakable, genuine.

  • While friendships can be strong, conflict is a natural part of things, as well: shortly after Ao moves in with Mira, Mira’s carefree nature clashes with the more structured approach that Ao takes. When Mira begins rooting through Ao’s stuff, and she finds an item Ao wasn’t ready to share yet, the two get into a minor disagreement. Misa assumes this is over the formation of the moon, and I will quickly note here that the Capture Hypothesis does not fully account for why stable isotopes between the Earth and Moon are identical, whereas the Giant Impact Hypothesis would account for the unique rotational properties, as well as the fact that the lunar surface was one vast magma ocean at one point. The Giant Impact Hypothesis supposes that the moon formed when a Mars-sized planet collided with Earth, and while this planet’s denser minerals sunk into the Earth, the resulting debris disk, composed of lighter material, coalesced into the Moon.

  • Misa speaks with Ao, and learns that things like these are inevitable. Once things cool down, Ao and Mira properly apologise to one another, and Ao reveals that she’d intended to give Mira a special mug on the day that she was set to move. As evening sets in, the two begin stargazing again, reminiscing on how they’d first met. The warming weather of March in Koisuru Asteroid is unlike what we’ve got back home, and yesterday evening, I had dinner at a local Cantonese restaurant. Dinner included wor-wonton soup with shrimp wontons (alongside brocoli, prawns, chicken and char siu), deep fried oysters with eggplant, crispy chicken, stir-fried pea shoots, almond-battered fish fillets, sweet and sour pork and a seafood yi mein, amongst other things. Dinner was delicious as usual, but it’s really hit home as to how hard the COVID-19 outbreak has hit Chinese restaurants in the area. Normally, this restaurant is packed with people on a Saturday, but yesterday, it was very quiet; there were only four other groups besides ourselves.

  • Thus, while it is strange for me to say so in a Koisuru Asteroid post, I want all of my readers, no matter where you may be in the world, to stay safe and healthy. These are trying times ahead, but respect for the sciences and resilience will allow us to outlast the COVID-19 outbreak. Back in Koisuru Asteroid, on the first day of the new year, Ao and Mira begin advertising the Earth Sciences Club, while Mai chases behind them. The episode closes with two potential recruits being shown, and with this, we’re now moving into the final segment of Koisuru Asteroid. I will be returning to write about the series as a whole once the finale airs at the month’s end. Now is also a good a time as any to mention that I will be writing about Heya Camp once all of the episodes air, and similarly, I am looking to do a review of Magia Record when it wraps up. Both posts are scheduled later this month, and in the meantime, things will be a little quieter here, so I will be exploring some other topics as time allows.

With nine episodes of Koisuru Asteroid in the books, the transition period for Mai has elapsed, and the unexpected surprise that threatened Ao and Mira’s dream appears to be resolved in full. The third quarter of Koisuru Asteroid proceeds at a much higher pace than the series had up until this point: the pacing feels inconsistent as the series attempts to fit as much of the character growth accompanying a transition in these three episodes as possible. While more time could’ve been spent on things, the resolution reached is not an unreasonable one, and paves the path for the final quarter of Koisuru Asteroid. As a series with its share of pleasant surprises, one does wonder how the series will go about presenting Ao and Mira’s path towards asteroid discovery. From a personal perspective, the most plausible approach that would allow the series to retain its atmosphere and pacing, while simultaneously providing the two the starting point, would be to have the two begin applying for, and being accepted into the asteroid competition that had been mentioned during the summer camp. During this time, Mira, Ao and Mai would also need to balance the addition of two new members into their club and take on the role of a senior. These small discoveries are just as critical to Koisuru Asteroid as Ao and Mira’s promise; one cannot begrudge the series for focusing on the characters, and in the realm of character growth, Koisuru Asteroid has done an admirable job. The only question that remains is what Ao and Mira will do to begin fulfilling that long-standing promise to one another, although one thing should be apparent: this will be an enjoyable and meaningful journey.

Koisuru Asteroid: Review and Reflections At The Halfway Point

“That’s the key to new and good ideas; they come from having a very broad and multidisciplinary range of interests.” –Robin Chaseen

With summer break in full swing, instructor Yuki takes the girls to her grandparents’ place. While Mira and the others are initially surprised, it turns out that Yuki’s grandparents live near both Tsukuba Geological Museum and the JAXA Space Centre. While Mikage takes in the sights of the geological museum on day one, Mira takes a rock to be appraised by a palaeontologist, who finds that Mira’s “fossil” is a pseudo-fossil, formed by minerals crystallising into organic-looking dendrites. The girls visit JAXA the next day. Here, Mari takes in everything with an ardent fervour, while Mira and Ao inquire about programmes for discovering asteroids. Back at Yuki’s grandparent’s place, the girls stargaze, and Yuki reveals the existence of a contest where the winners could join an asteroid discovery program. The girls visit the Science Museum of Map and Survey for Mai, and Yuki recalls her own interests in astronomy. After the girls return home, Ao and Mira visit the beach with Suzu, who becomes jealous at Mira’s increasing closeness to Ao. Mira also spends a day with Mikage, attending a minerals exhibition. Mikage, being a third-year, is worried about her future. When term resumes, the Earth Sciences club encounters the newspaper club’s Sayuri Ibe and Ayano Usami, who’d come to take a look after the Earth Sciences club’s success with their newsletter. They end up determining what the Earth Sciences club should do for their culture festival exhibit: a themed-café showcasing various facets of astronomy and geology. While Mai and Mikage focus on obtaining a bore sample from their school grounds, Mira, Ao and Mari create a model solar system. Their café ends up being successful, and once the festival draws to a close, Mari and Mikage announce their intent to step down from a leadership role, handing the baton to a surprised Mai. At Koisuru Asteroid‘s halfway point, Mira and Ao have definitely closed the distance between one another since their reunion, and all of the Earth Science club’s members have begun to appreciate the merits and curiosities of both astronomy and geology. The series is, in short, very enjoyable after six episodes, although for the present, there does appear to be a delay, as the episode scheduled next is a recap episode.

Six episodes into Koisuru Asteroid, the series’ themes are beginning to materialise, being pushed to the forefront of what Mira and the others are doing during their time together as members of the Earth Sciences club. While the merger of the two clubs have indeed created a bit of a divide in the sense that Mira, Ao, Mari, Mikage and Mai must all balance one another’s interests, the union of the two seemingly unrelated fields has a very tangible benefit for everyone: while technical details and methodologies differ greatly between astronomy and geology, both fields offer unique approaches towards solving their problems. From a low-granularity perspective, the approaches that Mikage and Mai take towards geology can help Mira, Ao and Mari with their challenges, while the methods each of Mira, Ao and Mari use in astronomy can similarly be inspiring for Mai and Mikage. The synergy between different fields is commonly referred to as the multidisciplinary approach, and this method is particularly valuable because it combines the knowledge and skill-set from a variety of areas to approach problems that are multi-faceted and complex in nature. From an industry and academic perspective, this affords a team with the diverse array of perspectives and experience to tackle different aspects of a problem, while in Koisuru Asteroid, it means that the Earth Sciences club’s members can each appreciate what the other side has to offer. The culture festival in Koisuru Asteroid, then, is a culmination of the club’s multidisciplinary nature: this year’s showing is clearly a result of both the geology and astronomy students putting their heads together to put on their café, and it therefore stands to reason that, if the Earth Sciences club can pull together and make a successful event, as a club and a team, they are ready for whatever their next aspirations are.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Right out of the gates, I will note that Koisuru Asteroid has very quickly proven itself to be an excellent series; while not particularly novel with its setting, writing or execution, the anime succeeds in creating a very imaginative and enjoyable portrayal of two disciplines that are not always represented in anime. The girls open their travels to a part of Japan near Yuki’s grandparents’ place; Yuki’s chosen it because of the location’s proximity to several research institutes: Tsukuba is home to several scientific installations as a result of the Japanese government’s desire to create a dedicated space for research and development in 1963, both to relieve overcrowding in Tokyo facilities and to provide Japan the means of keeping up with Western scientific innovations and development.

  • The closest equivalent of the geology museum I have in my area is the Royal Tyrell Museum, and if I may, it is a superb museum for folks interested in geology and palaeontology. My most recent visit was a few years ago, after they’d discovered the “Hellboy” fossil, so-named for its distinct-looking plates. Even as an adult, there’s nothing quite like the joys of visiting a museum, and taking in all of the exhibits. It’s one thing to read about various things in books, but quite another to actually see them in person: Mikage certainly seems to think so and is just barely able to contain her excitement.

  • The girls subsequently speak with a palaeontologist regarding a rock Mira’s found. To Mira’s initial disappointment, this is merely a pseudofossil, which form from chemical processes creating distinct patterns, as opposed to true fossils, which form when minerals crystallise in cavities left behind by decayed organic matter or seep into hardier organic matter, such as bones, shells and teeth. Closer inspection, however, yields the fragment of a true fossil: while far too small to be resolved by the naked eye, it is visible in a microscope.

  • The next day, the girls visit Mira, Ao and Mari’s destination of interest: JAXA’s Tsukuba Space Center. This installation is located in Tsukuba Science City in Ibaraki Prefecture, about 50 kilometres northeast of Tokyo as the mole digs and 20 kilometres away from Ooarai. The facility opened in 1972 and is involved with research on space exploration; Japanese astronauts train here, as well as at NASA’s Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center. The closest I’ve ever been to a proper Space Centre was the NASA Ames Research Centre, but there’s not a visitor centre per se, only a small gift shop on its edges. I visited last year, while down in Southern California for F8, the Facebook Developer Conference.

  • Faithful to its real-world counterpart, there’s a H-II Rocket at the facility’s front gates, and the girls attempt to touch it, feeling it’s their first step towards space travel. The laws of gravity prevent them from reaching the rocket’s main body. Early on in their time as members of the Earth Sciences club, the girls do not yet have a sense of camaraderie and don’t really consider lifting each other up to reach the rocket, but one of the core aspects of Koisuru Asteroids is watching the club grow closer together: this is a common theme in Manga Time Kirara works, and I anticipate that the club’s achievements will come precisely from this.

  • I’ve never been to a dedicated space museum of the same calibre as that of the Tsukuba Space Centre or NASA’s facilities, but I definitely understand the girls’ excitement to visit. Ao and Mira are moved to tears by an introductory video of space travel, and while this may seem far-fetched, the enormous achievements in space travel are awe-inspiring; fictional films like First Man and Apollo 13 instil a sense of vigour and amazement, and even the drier documentary style films at museums are always fun to watch. During the tour, Mari grows quiet, absorbed in her own thoughts about what it will take to join a space program.

  • Mira and Ao’s minds are on asteroid-searching, and a space centre is probably no place to ask it: the staff are more familiar with space travel and the feats of engineering involved, rather than astronomy and the tools astronomers use to study the heavens. However, in spite of this, the girls nonetheless get inspired to inquire about, and visiting the Tsukuba Space Centre reinforces the girls’ excitement and desire to fulfill their promise to one another. As the girls look around at the various exhibits, I find myself curious to visit a proper Space Centre and its museums, to see for myself the implements of space travel, as well as the Saturn V rockets, Apollo CM and LEM.

  • Unlike Mira, I’ve always been a bit more conservative at museum gift shops: while it is fun to browse around and see all of the cool stuff they have, I always derived the biggest joy from reading about space travel, astronomy and geology through books, rather than through building a model rocket or splitting my own geodes open. As such, when I was a child, I only ever got small items from gift shops, where things are overpriced anyways. Instead, I would save my funds for books relevant to the topic of interest: unlike the various souvenirs, books held their value, and I could always go back to them as reference.

  • After a barbeque, the girls enjoy the night sky: a full moon might be blotting out the stars, but with a good telescope, the lunar surface is thrown into sharp relief. Being the closest celestial body to Earth, the moon appears amazing in a telescope, and even with a good pair of binoculars, looking at the full moon can yield a surprising amount of detail. One commonly-asked question is whether or not one can see where Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landed. The Sea of Tranquility is visible during the full moon, being on the “mid-right hand side”, although it should be obvious that no Earth-based telescope can resolve the actual LEM.

  • Up until now, Mira had only used an alt-azimuth mounted telescope, which affords a telescope with two degrees of freedom with respect to rotation. The equatorial mount also offers two degrees of freedom in rotation, but unlike the alt-azimuth mount, the equatorial mount uses a declination axis that moves the telescope north and south. A right ascension (polar) axis then points the telescope east or west. By pointing the polar axis at the north celestial pole, the telescope becomes parallel with the earth’s rotational axis, and so, adjusting the polar axis will allow one to track objects much more easily: equatorial mounts are well-suited for astronomy. The concept of an equatorial mount can be a bit tricky (I know I had a bit of trouble visualising it when I first read about it), so I’ve linked to an animation that illustrates how an equatorial mount works.

  • Koisuru Asteroid presents the girls as being afforded a realistic night sky to look at: in most anime, the cast are afforded with a beautiful night sky with an SQM (Sky Quality Meter) of 22.00 mag./arc sec² (corresponding to a Class 1 on the Bortle Dark Sky Index, perfect conditions where magnitude 7.5 stars are visible). With this level of darkness, the sky is vividly filled with stars, and the Milky Way is brightly visible. Where Mira and her friends go, I imagine that the SQM is between 21.78 mag./arc sec² and 21.61 mag./arc sec² (between a Class 3 and 4): in a rural to rural-suburban transition, the naked eye limit is about magnitude 6.0 to 7.0, which is pretty good. With the moon out, however, this goes down, and fainter stars become harder to spot.

  • On the topic of realism, I’ve heard complaints coming from one “Kotomikun” that, with the revelation that it takes special equipment and techniques to do so, Mira and Ao’s desire to find an asteroid is highly “unrealistic”. This is unfounded, since Koisuru Asteroid also introduces a special contest that could give Ao and Mira such a chance: the narrative would accommodate this journey, and so, there is nothing remotely “unrealistic” about the two’s aspirations. The fact that Ao and Mira have such a clear goal is something to be envious for Mikage, whose biggest worry at present is wondering what she would do for her future.

  • Aside from more obvious reasons, I have a fondness for what are colloquially referred to as “beach episodes” in slice-of-life anime: placing the cast of a given show on a beach of white sand, azure-turquoise waters and a deep blue sky gives a series a chance to really show us what they’ve got with respect to visuals. For me, nothing is more relaxing than infinite skies of deep blue, and one can really feel the warmth and tranquility in these moments.

  • While the beautiful weather in Koisuru Asteroid is a far cry from the weather in southern Alberta, I have no complaints about the weather this year: after a bitterly cold week in January, this winter has been rather more mild, and so, when I went to a raclette party last night, it was only a little chilly, compared to last year, where it was -40°C. In this year’s raclette party, I had a chance to meet up with some old friends from high school and university that’d I’d not seen in over two years. Conversations and reminiscence dominated the evening as we enjoyed tortilla chips on home-made salsa, French bread cheese fondue, three different kinds of sausage, scallops, mushrooms and peppers grilled alongside brie and raclette cheese.

  • It strikes me that we’ve now been doing raclette for nearly a decade, and one joke we realised was that it took us ten years to figure out how to get the cheese for the fondue just right, but because we do them so infrequently, we’ll probably forget the next time. Back in Koisuru Asteroid, owing to the geology of the beach Mai and the others visit, the area is susceptible to rip tides. The diagram explains that the flow of currents into the bay creates an area where the water has nowhere to go but out, which creates these strong currents: because water is incompressible, the water pushed in has to go somewhere, and so, for their latest challenge, the girls risk losing Mira if they’re not careful.

  • When the girls see a jet ski ride, they decide to participate. By this point, the competition for Mira’s attention is all but gone, and the girls simply spend their time having fun to the best of their abilities. After everyone falls off the jet ski, they catch a breather by some strata: these rock layers are immeasurably valuable for geologists, giving insight into things like atmospheric composition and climate.

  • Whereas Mira immediately accepts an invitation to hang out and check out a mineral exhibition, the others are busy, leaving Mira alone with Mikage. At the exhibition, a variety of terrestrial minerals are showcased, and there is a geode demonstration. As well, they also sell small pieces of meteorites: Mira is shocked to learn that even a millimetre-wide fragment can go for ninety CAD. When she speaks with one of the vendors, her weak English leaves her lost, but fortunately, Mikage is able to step in and pick things up.

  • Mikage and Mira don’t particularly see eye-to-eye by Manga Time Kirara standards owing to their different interests, and the two tend to subtly undermine the other at times. However, by having the two spend a day together, this helps the two to understand one another better. One of the biggest joys of slice-of-life series is precisely this: being able to see combinations of characters spend time together helps to bring out a different side in them, and overall, strengthens the friendship within a group. Different character combinations also lend themselves to different jokes, which is precisely how series like GochiUsa and Kiniro Mosaic are able to keep things entertaining despite their simple premise.

  • When classes resume, Mira and Ao find the newspaper club’s president, Sayuri, and her friend, Ayano at their building. The two are in a bit of an awkward situation, and it’s clear that Sayuri is attempting to gain clandestine access to the Earth Science’s club’s club room by means of rappelling down in a strange fashion that is sure to be irksome for any special forces teams who are trained for such entries. As it turns out, Sayuri is jealous of the attention the Earth Sciences Club is getting and plans to extort them, but this backfires when Mari captures everything Sayuri’s said and turns the tables on her.

  • With the school culture festival coming up, the Earth Sciences club decides to cook up something special, an amalgamation of both the former geology and astronomy club’s exhibitions held together by baking Earth Science-themed items. Mikage and Mai decide to obtain a core sample to show the composition of the earth surrounding their school, while Mira, Ao and Mari do a model solar system. Initially, Mikage objects to this idea, arguing that the diverse array of exhibits will appear disorganised, but recalling her desire to find a path, consents to the plan, knowing that she should still do her best towards something meaningful.

  • Mikage and Mai use a home-made pile-driver as their gravity corer to obtain their sample, although it’s slow going. When Sayuri and Ayano recruit some friends from the baseball team, the coring goes much more quickly. The softer composition of the land surrounding their school makes this possible, and with some teamwork, the girls finally have their sample ready. Mikage becomes a little embarrassed that others were willing to help out, but she thanks the baseball team, Sayuri and Ayano all the same; despite her tough and confident exterior, Mikage is also a little unsure of herself at times, as well.

  • Yuki explains that it takes a bit of a good impulse to get the core out: some damage to the core is inevitable during the extraction process, so professional coring methods often entail cutting the core along with the tube it came in to preserve the integrity of the specimen, or else using a non-destructive technique to scan the sample without exposing its contents to the atmosphere (which would contaminate the sample and preclude an accurate assessment of its composition). In the absence of more sophisticated methods, Yuki decides to extract it the old fashioned way but ends up destroying the top layer, causing Mikage to burst into laughter.

  • Mari, Ao and Mira have a grand ol’ time painting the planets, placing a great deal of detail into the terrestrial planets and the moon. Ao begins to fear they’re running out of time, but as it turns out, the gas giants are easily painted owing to their cloud layers being relatively low in detail, and in no time at all, they’re done. Here, the translations put Mari as calling the moon a planet: the moon was only regarded as a planet in classical and medieval astronomy, and this is meant to show that Mari has a very romantic view of astronomy, being inspired by her grandmother to pursue a space-related career. But under modern definitions, because the moon does not orbit a stellar mass capable of thermonuclear reactions (i.e. a star), it is not a planet. I’ve heard a case made that a draft of the IAU 2006 definition of a planet could allow the moon to be classified as a planet, but this was on a technicality owing to the proposed definition of a double-planet system.

  • In the drafted IAU 2006 definition, a double-planet system is where both planets have similar mass and where the barycentre is roughly equidistant between the two bodies of that system. While it should be obvious that, because of the significant mass disparity between the earth and moon means the barycentre is not equidistant, the Earth and moon cannot be a double planet system, owing to tidal forces interacting between the Earth and moon, the moon’s distance to Earth changes (four billion years ago, the moon would’ve been massive, looming in the night skies), and there would come a point where the moon’s distance would push the barycentre of the Earth-moon system to an equidistant point, thereby allowing the moon to be counted a planet. This is a rough edge case arising from a technicality, and so, it is understandable that the definition was rejected. Back in Koisuru Asteroid, after the girls finish, they fail to notice Moe, who comes bearing baked goods. They promptly finish the food before Moe can ask them to help her fine-tune the recipes, and Moe scoops up Ao in a princess carry in exuberance afterwards when Ao hugs her for having read about the lunar cycle, while Mari photographs everything.

  • On the day of the event, it turns out that everyone’s decked out in maid outfits, as well. Koisuru Asteroid is very forward with its yuri elements, but this never interferes with the story at any point. Watching the girls get creative with their culture festival exhibit brings to mind both my fascination with science, and my own desire to see youth be more engaged in science; I participate in volunteering for science fairs precisely to encourage youth to continue pursuing science if it is something they enjoy, and the first of the science fairs are coming in just a shade over a week.

  • Like every instructor in earlier Manga Time Kirara works, Yuki has a freeloading, perverted side to her character, as well. Prior to the culture festival opening to the public, she swings by, samples all of Moe’s baked goods and inspects the maid uniforms to ensure they are of the “appropriate length”, before declaring that everything checks out and leaving the girls to run things. This teacher archetype is something I’ve come to accept as a part of anime, although I am curious to know where this particular set of traits originated. While strictly relegated to anime on account of it being illegal in almost all places, such a character type is present in anime primarily to drive humour.

  • When Ao’s attempt to explain their solar system model to a small child fails (the child wonders what the cloud-like ring around the solar system is, and Ao’s explanation ends up being too technical), Mira steps in to regain the child’s interest by giving her a piggyback ride. Science communication and engagement is a skill: Mira’s explanation fits perfectly with what a child should hear, and for readers, this cloud represents Kuiper Belt, composed of small icy bodies left over from the solar system’s formation. The choice to represent it as a cloud is an appropriate one, since the Kuiper Belt would, from a distance, could be counted a cloud of these planetesimals.

  • When Mira’s sister, Misa, shows up, Moe becomes bashful and flustered: she offers Misa the best item on their café’s menu, a moon-themed pancake with whipped cream to simulate the current moon phase. Misa is implied to be a rather technical individual, finding it difficult to describe things in non-quantitative terms. However, it should be clear that she greatly enjoys Moe’s pancakes. Besides Misa, Mira’s parents also visit, along with Moe’s younger sister, and even Ao’s mother.

  • When Ao’s mother decides to grab a photo of Ao in maid attire, Ao lets out an adorable cry of terror that surprises everyone – no one had expected Ao to ever sound like this. On the whole, the Earth Science Club’s culture festival café was a great success, having drawn in and engaged a sizeable crowd without resorting to the cheap tricks Mari had been forced to employ the previous year for the astronomy club. Thanks to everyone’s efforts, the geology club also got more exposure than they had the previous year. However, not everyone is fully happy with the café, a few of Mikage’s visitors seemed disappointed, and this could form the basis for a future story that will need to see resolution for.

  • Koisuru Asteroid conclude its first half with the surprise announcement that the seniors are stepping down from their position, transitioning things over to Mai. It is a bit of a shock for her, and I foresee that Mai will grow into the role with some help. Between this and Mikage’s own challenges in finding her future, we are positioned to see the third quarter sort out lingering questions before turning focus towards Ao and Mira’s promise. With this post in the books, I will turn my attention towards The Division 2, now that I’ve cleared all of the strongholds, and once I unlock the Type 11 in Battlefield V, I will also do a talk on where things currently stand with what has been a rather turbulent experience.

What we’ve seen in Koisuru Asteroid insofar has been very relaxing and uplifting to watch: if I were to be entirely truthful, this is the sort of series that I could see myself writing for in an episodic fashion, as there is no shortage of material to discuss. The girls’ excursions to a variety of museums brings back memories of my own trips to museums and the joys of viewing exhibits. My first memory of visiting a museum would be the local planetarium, but my favourite memory from my childhood was when my parents took me to the Royal Tyrell Museum some 140 kilometres east of Calgary: this is one of the best and most comprehensive palaeontology and geology museums in the area, located in the heart of the Alberta Badlands. Even in the obligatory beach episode, Koisuru Asteroid sneaks in a bit of information on riptides and how their occurrence can create strong currents that sweep people far from the shore. There is no shortage of material to consider and talk about: while nothing novel is presented in Koisuru Asteroid, the anime has done a phenomenal job of presenting my geology and astronomy reference books in an anime form. Therefore, there is no higher praise when I say that Koisuru Asteroid has the same magic as The Magic School Bus. Koisuru Asteroid differs considerably in that it has a very substantial yuri component (which is especially evident with Moe’s actions), but this is seamlessly integrated into the science communication aspects of the anime. With this combination, Koisuru Asteroid has been superbly enjoyable, and as we move into the third quarter, I imagine that some time will be spent on helping Mai acclimatise and become comfortable with her role as the Earth Science club’s president, before the series ventures into seeing how Ao and Mira begin their journey towards accomplishing their childhood promise.