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The Earth Science Club’s Real Life Adventures in Tsukuba, Ibaraki, and Tokyo: An Oculus-Powered Armchair Journey of Koisuru Asteroid Part II

“The screen is a window through which one sees a virtual world. The challenge is to make that world look real, act real, sound real, feel real.” –Ivan Sutherland

In the first part, I took readers along on an Oculus Quest-powered tour of Kawagoe, home of Koisuru Asteroid. Here, I highlighted the sights and sounds that Mira and Ao would find in the city they called home, and from cafés, to train stations and shops, it was evident that considerable effort had been spent towards reproducing Kawagoe faithfully within Koisuru Asteroid. However, the anime isn’t just set in Kawagoe – instructor Yuki brings her students to Tsukuba in Ibaraki, a ways north of Tokyo, on a memorable summer camp that encourages and inspires each of Ao, Mira, Mai, Mikage and Mari. Tsukuba is best known for being home to the Tsukuba Science City, a technical development center hosting numerous institutes and laboratories. Tsukuba is actually smaller than Kawagoe, with only two hundred and forty-four thousand residents. The area had been a holy site since the time of the Heian Period, but by the 1960s, the Japanese government designated the area for scientific research, and a decade later, construction on the University of Tsukuba began. Besides JAXA Tsukuba Space Center, the Science Museum of Map and Survey and the Geological Museum seen in Koisuru Asteroid, Tsukuba is also home to the High-Energy Accelerator Research Organisation, Electrotechnical Laboratory and the National Institute of Materials and Chemical Research, to name a few. More recently, Tsukuba has placed a particular emphasis on increasing the area’s livability: being originally built purely for research, Tsukuba has been counted as being a very dull, austere place to live. To get to Tsukuba from Kawagoe, one can board the Tobu Railway or F-Liner at Kawagoe Station, which will lead to the Asakadai Station. A short walk is needed to transfer to the Kita-Asaka Station, and from there, one must take the Musashino Line to Minami-Nagareyama Station. Here, it’s a straight shot to Tsukuba via the Semi-Rapid Express. The total journey requires around two fours and forty minutes by train, so folks looking to do a trip from Kawagoe could be viable, if a little rushed. Of course, since Mira and the others have Yuki driving them, the ninety or so kilometre road trip becomes a much more manageable hour and a half of time. Beyond Tsukuba, Mai, Mira and Mikage also visit Tokyo on two separate occasions: Mira and Mikage do so to attend a geological exhibit, while Mai heads to Tokyo in order to try her hand at the Earth Sciences Olympiad competition. This particular journey is a straightforward one: the Tobu-Tojo Line will allow one to get from Kawagoe into the heart of Tokyo in around an hour, ready to see the same sights that Mai, Mikage and Mira take in.

  • In this second half of my Koisuru Asteroid location hunt post, I focus exclusively on locations outside of Kawagoe. As with the first half, every single location in this post can be found in Google Maps and Street View. The journey opens in Tsukuba, Ibaraki – I started out from the JAXA Tsukuba Space Centre and found the locations seen in the fourth episode’s openings by tracing possible paths to the Space Centre from Tsukuba Station. Tsukuba is around 60 kilometres east of Kawagoe as the mole digs and some 80 kilometres by road. As instructor Yuki drives the girls through Tsukuba, Tsukuba Center Building can be seen here: this mall is located close to the station itself, and the current station was opened in August 2005, having an average ridership of around 18671 passengers as of 2019.

  • Using Google Maps, I wasn’t able to get too close to the Tsukuba School of Nursing building, which is located immediately south of Tsukuba Medical Centre. However, despite not being able to replicate the angle as accurately as someone present in-person, the similarities between Koisuru Asteroid‘s rendition and the image seen in Street View should leave no doubt that these are indeed the same buildings. Finding the real-world locations of places that the Earth Science Club visited in Tsukuba was a relatively straightforward exercise, owing to how closely everything is located relative to one another.

  • Yuki passes by Tsukuba Expo Centre and its planetarium en route to their first destination. While the Expo Centre and planetarium are not shown in Koisuru Asteroid, the full-scale H-II model on Expo grounds can clearly be seen. The Tsukuba Expo Centre is a general science centre of sorts, equivalent to the Telus SPARK Science Centre in my area (home of the second Giant Walkthrough Brain performance). Unlike Telus SPARK, where the price of admissions is 26 CAD for adults, Tsukuba Expo Centre’s admissions is a much more reasonable 1000 Yen (12.30 CAD) for adults, which includes planetarium access (and folks looking to just check out the exhibition hall only need to shell out 500 Yen). Described as being more friendly for children, it makes sense that Yuki passes by the Tsukuba Expo Centre for the day’s feature presentations.

  • Mira and the others spot one of Hitachi’s Robot for Personal Intelligent Transport System (ROPITS) near the Tsukuba Bus Centre Terminal. The ROPITS is a lithium battery-powered single seater self-driving vehicle with a maximum speed of ten kilometres per hour and a suite of sensors to keep the occupant safe. These vehicles were originally designed to help seniors get around, and are used in conjunction with a tablet that allows the passenger to specify their destination. Folks uncomfortable with the self-driving features can operate the vehicle for themselves if they so wish. These futuristic-looking vehicles have actually been around since 2013.

  • Following Route 24 past the intersection takes Yuki underneath a pedestrian bridge to an intersection: a LED road sign and apartment building on the right-hand-side of the image, as well as traffic cones on the left-hand-side, can be seen in both the anime and real-world images. Mira’s distraction causes Yuki to supposedly miss her turn here; inspection of maps will find that this is, fortunately, not the case here. Yuki’s turn should be onto Higashiodori Avenue three intersections away from this spot.

  • Travelling along Higashiodori Avenue, one eventually reaches the front gates of the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST). On its vast campus is the Geological Museum that Mira and the others visit: both a corner of the AIST Measurement Standards Management Center and the obelisk can be seen in both images. The AIST Geological Museum is a 400 metre drive into the campus grounds: while Yuki has a car, making visiting fairly straightforward, there’s also a bus line from Tsukuba Station that brings visitors close to several attractions in the area, including the Geological Museum.

  • Opened in 1980, the AIST Geological Museum houses the Geological Survey of Japan’s impressive collection of specimens, and exhibits on minerals, fossils, plate tectonics, geology and geography. Admissions is free, and the museum is normally open to visitors Tuesdays through Sunday from 0930 to 1630 (except during national holidays). Groups of fifteen or larger, and classes, are usually required to book in advance, but for a smaller group like Mira’s, it’s okay to just show up. The museum’s exhibits are entirely in Japanese, so folks such as myself will struggle with reading the exhibit text.

  • Right out of the gates, Mikage is enraptured by the sight of exhibits housing rocks and minerals as far as the eye can see; she presses herself against an exhibit and begins taking in things with what can only be described as “indecent enthusiasm”, prompting Mari to usher Mira and Ao back a few steps. Koisuru Asteroid employs the girls’ love for their chosen disciplines as a comedic device, but in the end, these traits are meant to be seen as respectable. There are no such equivalents in my area: the closest museum in my region is the Royal Tyrell Museum of Palaeontology, which specialises in fossils. Of course, ever since I bought Smithsonian Earth (2nd Edition) during a Chapters Indigo sale a few years back, I have a handy reference to all things related to earth science: this massive 2.7-kilogram book features 527 pages of pure information and would drive Mikage wild.

  • As the Earth Science Club’s members head off to check out the Geological Museum’s exhibits, Yuki looks on. She sees herself in this batch of students, and her decision to bring them to Tsukuba’s museums and institutes was motivated as much by the fact that the girls get free accommodations at Yuki’s grandparents’ place, as much as it was by the sheer concentration of research institutes and museums in the area. I definitely appreciate what such excursions can do for students – during my first year as a summer research student, my old lab’s graduate students took us undergrads to the Body Worlds exhibit at the old science centre, and this really helped to drive home what I was building for the lab. Years later, I’d become a graduate student, and I took the new undergraduate students to Body Worlds, which had returned and was being hosted at the new Telus SPARK Science Centre.

  • The joys of the sciences has never really left me, and even though I no longer read about things like astronomy or earth sciences quite to the same extent as I did as a student, these topics still fascinate me. Where time allows, I will sit down with a good reference book on these materials. In Koisuru Asteroid, Mira poses in front of a Desmostylus skeleton. Animals of this now-extinct genus would’ve resembled smaller hippopotamuses, averaging two metres in length and weighing around 200 kilograms. They were herbivorous, and fossils have been found along the Pacific Rim, from Hokkaido, Japan, to coastal California, Oregon and Washington.

  • With the AIST Geological Museum in the books, Mira, Ao and the others head towards JAXA Tsukuba Space Centre. Unlike the model H-II in front of the Tsukuba Expo Centre, which is a model, the H-II in front of JAXA’s Tsukuba headquarters is the real deal, originally being used as a test rocket. The H-II is a source of pride for Japan, being their first completely domestically-developed launch vehicle. With a maximum height of 49 metres and capable of carrying a 10060 kilogram payload to Low-Earth Orbit. During service, H-II rockets successfully carried five payloads into orbit, but in the late 1990s, the H-II suffered a series of failures and was replaced by the more reliable H-IIA, which only failed once over 43 different missions.

  • The Tsukuba Space Centre’s Space Dome is home to an array of satellites and rocket models. Access to the Space Dome is free of charge, and the Space Centre is open from 1000 to 1700 on most days (except between December 28 and January 3, and when scheduled maintenance is performed). After entering, visitors are greeted by the massive 1:10⁶ scale model of the planet. Upon their arrival, it’s Mira and Ao’s turn to go feral. Mira drops the sign she’s holding, and in a stunning bit of attention to detail, Mai retrieves it while Mikage looks on. Mira and the others visit the Space Dome after their guided tour concludes.

  • In reality, guided tours of the facilities are offered in both Japanese and English. Spanning some 70 minutes, the tour costs 500 Yen for adults, but students and instructors get in free. Mira, Ao, Mai, Mikage, Mari and Yuki thus get to check things out without cost. As Koisuru Asteroid portrays, the tour opens with a video introduction and goes into details about the JAXA astronaut selection and training programme. Every image from JAXA’s Space Dome was captured entirely using Google Street View, and I was surprised that Google Street View was available for the some parts of the JAXA Tsukuba Space Centre, including the entire Space Dome and parts of the visitor building.

  • The technology for this has been around for a while, and I imagine that JAXA staff, armed with one of Google’s Street-View ready cameras, took a walk around and captured images of everything. These days, one’s own smartphone can be used to create these 360° images without any effort: by downloading the Street View, one can use their smartphone camera, and the app will automatically stitch a panorama together to create the interior image. Technology of this level is making VR increasingly powerful: that I was able to go “visit” JAXA the same way Mira and Ao do with nothing more than a headset from halfway around the world speaks volumes to what is possible with technology, and the same drive to innovate, which sees humanity put satellites in space, drives all sorts of wonderful discoveries.

  • This is the joy of Koisuru Asteroid, and a recurring message in the anime was about keeping an optimistic outlook on things, since the path to a goal is full of discoveries. Here Ao and Mira wonder what their next move is after learning that JAXA is more about manned space missions and astronaut training than astronomy; Mira’s spirits can’t be dampened, and she suggests they’ll just have to keep on looking and learning. Here on the right, I believe is a model of the Kibō module on the International Space Station. Used for scientific experiments, Kibō was installed over three missions between 2007 and 2008.

  • The Space Dome does indeed have a space suit for visitors to check out. The real suit has the NASA emblem on it along with the American Stars-and-Stripes flag on the left shoulder. After Mira and the others finish checking out everything in the Space Dome, they head for the gift shop. The gift shop in the JAXA Tsukuba Space Centre is visible in Inside Maps, and after taking a look, the layout there is not 1:1 with what was seen in Koisuru Asteroid. With this being said, they do indeed sell JAXA hats, which makes Yuki’s grandfather happy. Mira goes on a shopping spree here, coming out of the gift shop with no fewer than six bags. While museum and science centre gift shops have always been fun to browse, I’ve always found their products a bit pricey compared to equivalent products from a conventional store.

  • The final stop for the Earth Sciences Club is the Museum of Map and Survey adjacent to the Geospatial Information Authority of Japan. It is located 3.8 kilometres from Tsukuba Station (less than ten minutes away by car), and 6.7 kilometres from the JAXA Tsukuba Space Centre. Open from 0930 to 1630 except on Mondays and sporting free admissions, the museum was the first of its kind in Japan, being wholly dedicated to mapping and surveying when it opened in 1996.

  • Being interested in cartography and surveying, Mai is overjoyed and immediately heads off to check things out: Koisuru Asteroid chooses to give Mai some space as she explores, and instead, switches things over to Yuki, who reminisces about having come here long ago when she’d been a student. While not much of the Museum of Map and Survey is shown, some of the exhibits include a machine for simulating earthquakes, and a few map-making stations.

  • Out back, there’s a peaceful park displaying parabolic antennae. Yuki remarks that there’d been a full scale antennae on-site some years previously, but it’s since been taken down. With the Museum of Map and Survey, the Earth Science Club’s exciting summer camp draws to a close. Koisuru Asteroid‘s fourth episode had an exceptionally high concentration of spots visited, and later episodes feature one or two locations of note. With this in mind, I’ve chosen not to include Mira and Ao’s high school from the proceedings: the school is evidently a fictional location, and the same holds true of the characters’ homes.

  • In Koisuru Asteroid, Mikage and Mira attend the Tokyo Mineral Show in the final days of their summer vacation. I imagined that the location would be real, and after attempting a search with the keywords “Japan rock and mineral show”, I came upon XPOpress, a Colorado based organisation that was founded to help rock and mineral vendors advertise their events, so visitors like Mikage can explore and buy things to their hearts’ content. XPOpress includes listings for Japan, and a cursory search found eight entries. Doing a linear search of this list found that the Tokyo Mineral Show, held at Sunshine City Convention Centre, matching the location seen in Koisuru Asteroid, and just like that, I’d located the spot where Mira and Mikage pass by.

  • When Mai decides to take the Geosciences Olympiad, the episode portrays her as passing through a seemingly random street somewhere. Location hunting is a matter of patience and resourcefulness, doubly so when folks like myself do not have any familiarity with more obscure locations in Japan and are therefore limited to what can be explored using resources like Google Maps. Even though Google Maps is powerful, it has its limits: I initially had no idea as to where Mai went to for the competition. However, I did know that the Japan Earth Sciences Olympiad organisation was hosting these competitions, and digging around allowed me to learn the location of one of the exams: Tokyo University.

  • Thus, armed with this knowledge, I was able to determine that Mai enters through the Yayoi Gate by the Tokyo University’s Faulty of Engineering, and doing a few searches to see what the best way of getting from Kawagoe to Tokyo University was, I eventually managed to figure out the route Mai took through trial and error: she passes by a street that she guesses to be a former river bed en route to Tokyo University and promises to explore later, once the exam is done. While there are noticeable differences (the awning over one of the buildings is red in Koisuru Asteroid and yellow in real life, for one) there was little doubt that this was the spot that Mai passed by.

  • After inheriting the responsibility of club president from Mari, Mai initially struggles to determine how to lead the club, and decides that she should following in Ao and Mira’s footsteps, to do something big and see how it turns out. This journey takes her to Tokyo, where she befriends a fellow competitor before the exam. Even though Mai would ultimately fail to make the preliminaries, the experience was a meaningful one, and one of the messages Koisuru Asteroid has is that there are cases where failure is okay.

  • Of course, failure varies depending on the context: in some cases, failing is encouraged, pushing people to step out of their comfort zones, while at other times, failure is not an option, especially where human lives are concerned. Finding anime locations falls squarely into the former, although for my readers, I still prefer to not fail in producing a good post for the reader’s sake. One of the engineering buildings on Tokyo University’s campus is plainly visible here at the gate that Mai enters through: this is the moment that gave me what I needed to work out Mai’s route, and I’m glad to have taken the effort to do so. Altogether, these location hunt posts for Koisuru Asteroid have taken around twelve hours in total to put together: around five hours to find everything, and the rest of it was writing a good post around the spots I’d located.

  • We return to Saitama with a scene from the second episode, when Yuki gives Mira and the others tickets to Saitama Seiganji Hot Spa. This spa is located about nine kilometres east of Kawagoe, and using the Kawagoe Line from Kawagoe Station, one can get here within half an hour, disembarking at Nishi-Ōmiya Station. Seiganji Hot Spa is known for its open-air baths and bamboo forests; by nightfall, the sights complement one another very nicely. Besides an onsen (and a variety of different bath types, such as the Jacuzzi that Mari capitalises on), Seiganji also offers massages and haircuts to clients. Open from 1000 to 0100, the fee for adults is 720 Yen (and 820 yen on weekends or National Holidays).

  • The waters of Seiganji are 38.3°C, weakly alkaline and flow from a chloride spring some 1500 metres underground. As Mai mentions in Koisuru Asteroid, the effects are to slow down the evaporation of sweat and retain heat. Mikage adds that hot springs have a water temperature of 25°C or greater, but strictly speaking, the definition of a hot spring is quite vague. Some definitions are very lenient and suggest that a hot spring is any spring with water temperatures warming than its surroundings, while others are stricter and require the water come from a natural source with a temperature exceeding 21.1°C.

  • That Koisuru Asteroid turned a trip to the onsen into a well-presented aside about the science behind hot springs was an early and clear indicator of where the series was headed. Indeed, Koisuru Asteroid proved to be a celebration of intellectual curiosity; Mira and Ao’s journey may have begun from a childhood promise, but it’s matured into something more, becoming a skill set of practical value. The kind of intellectual curiosity shown in Koisuru Asteroid was particularly meaningful, demonstrating how knowledge from all disciplines can be helpful towards one’s own pursuits: much as how Mari, Mira and Ao use earth science knowledge to augment their astronomy, Mikage and Mai come to recognise constellations and astronomical properties more readily, as well.

  • Koisuru Asteroid promotes life-long, interdisciplinary learning, and this is the core of the series’ strengths: even something like a hot springs visit provides something novel to the viewers. Here, I will note that for the Seiganji Hot Spa, Google has Indoor Maps available, so I was able to explore the hot baths without violating any laws. For these Koisuru Asteroid posts, I exclusively used a combination of Google Street View and Indoor Maps to look at the locations Mira and the others visit. Given these posts, I think that my approaches were reasonably successful. However, there was a single location that defeated all of my conventional means to find it.

  • The Suzuya Bakery was the single toughest spot to find in all of Koisuru Asteroid: here, geospatial awareness and the Oculus Quest proved completely inadequate, and creative searches were unyielding. So, I fell back on using computer vision techniques to hunt down the spot. The idea is that anime locations are often faithfully reproduced to the point where there are features that match a real world location’s, and then using said features as search parameters fpr a computer vision algorithm will eventually yield the place that inspired the anime location. It’s a time-consuming process, but I eventually narrowed it down to a few Western-style buildings, and determined that La Maison de Jun in Shimotsuma, Ibaraki, was the place. This delightful bakery is a favourite amongst locals, who love their baked goods and charming atmosphere.

  • That Suzuya Bakery was modelled after La Maison de Jun meant that folks trying to search around Kawagoe for the inspiration would be unsuccessful. To get here from Tsukuba, one would need to drive or take a taxi, which takes a quarter-hour: Shimotsuma is located 16 kilometres west of Tsukuba, but the train stations do not connect, and taking the train would require a three hour trip, which sees one return to Tokyo so they can get to a station that does go to Shimotsuma. I believe I’ve covered off all of the relevant locations in Koisuru Asteroid with this two-part special, which was a thrill to research for and write about. With this post in the books, I will be returning to regularly-scheduled programming with a talk on Yuru Camp△ 2‘s third episode.

Having now used the Oculus Quest to travel through the locations of Koisuru Asteroid, one thing immediately became apparent – the faithfulness of Koisuru Asteroid‘s locations to their real-world equivalent made it clear that the series was intent on telling a compelling, plausible story about Ao and Mira’s dream of discovering an asteroid together. This initially seems like a lofty goal: while Mira and Ao both have heart, the pair are still at the start of their journey and so, do not have the same level of technical expertise as a professional astronomer might. A major part of Koisuru Asteroid was demonstrating that such an ambitious goal is not only admirable, but possible. The series’ reproduction of real-world cityscapes and attractions therefore act as a clever visual metaphor: streets, cafés and institutes closely their equivalents in reality; walking along the same spots as Ao and Mira, it is possible to sense their excitement the pair have towards their goals. It really feels as though the energy and motivation channeled within Koisuru Asteroid could be seen in youth in the real world; since this anime had gone to the lengths of making certain the science had been correct, and the locations matched their real-world counterparts, the journey that Ao and Mira take together with Mari, Mai and Mikage feels very much within the realm of possibility, feeling less like a dream and more like a journey with a well-defined end goal. Different slice-of-life anime use real-world settings for different reasons. Houkago Teibou Nisshi had aimed to capture the intricacies of fishing and show how deeply tied fishing was with the Ashikita area. Flying Witch suggested that magic is all around us, using the gentle landscapes in Aomori as the backdrop for Makoto’s adventures. Yuru Camp△ brings viewers to real camp grounds to illustrate the joys of the great outdoors. The journey the Earth Science Club takes towards realising their dreams in Koisuru Asteroid is similarly reflected in the variety of different places the girls visit – besides Kawagoe, the path to discover an asteroid, and themselves, sees the Earth Science Club’s members travel to Tsukuba and Tokyo, culminating in a special programme held at Ishigakijima Astronomical Observator in Okinawa. Each of Houkago Teibou Nisshi, Yuru Camp△, Flying Witch and Koisuru Asteroid succeed for the same reasons, convincing viewers that what may appear magical and out of reach is, in fact, closer than one realises.

The Earth Science Club’s Real Life Adventures in Kawagoe and Fujimino, Saitama: An Oculus-Powered Armchair Journey of Koisuru Asteroid Part I

“What master do I serve? What am I supposed to say, Jesus?”
“You’re from Earth?”
“No, I’m not from Earth, I’m from Missouri.”
“Yeah, that’s on Earth, dipshit! What are you hassling on us for?”

–Peter Quill and Tony Stark, Avengers: Infinity War

Because Koisuru Asteroid has an emphasis on astronomy, experiencing the activities that Mira and Ao do in real-life is as simple as looking up at the night sky. With the naked eye, one can appreciate the aurora, eclipses and meteor showers. Having a pair of binocular opens one up to dimmer stars in a constellation, star clusters and some of the brighter nebulae, as well as reveal details about the moon. Finally folks with telescopes can really begin exploring the heavens in detail: the Jovian moons become visible, along with Saturn’s rings, dim nebulae, galaxies and double stars. Amateur astronomy is a flexible hobby, and regardless of where one is in the world or what equipment one has available to them, there is always wonder to be had in looking into the skies at celestial objects, whose light has travelled no small distance to reach our eyes. This aspect of Koisuru Asteroid can be conducted from the comfort of one’s own backyard for most viewers – whether one is in Japan or Canada, the northern skies share similar constellations and features. However, there is an aspect of Koisuru Asteroid one cannot so readily experience just from walking the same paths and enjoying the same events as the Earth Sciences Club do. While Mira and Ao look upwards into the same constellations that Terence Dickinson and Alan Dyer describe, the former’s everyday experiences with the Earth Sciences Club extend well behind setting up a telescope and consulting star charts as a part of their club activities. Thus, to fully experience Koisuru Asteroid as Mira, Ao, Mai, Mikage and Mari do, one would need to put some boots on the ground in Kawagoe, Saitama. Ordinarily, such an excursion is only a plane ticket away – armed with little more than a smartphone and pocket full of Yen, one can trod the same ground and take in the same sights that Mira, Ao, Mai, Mikage and Mari enjoy as they each strive towards their own goals. With its old town host to a collection of iconic buildings, including the Toki no Kane Bell Tower, Confectionary Row with its sweets shops and Kurazukuri Street’s warehouses, the town of Kawagoe is located some thirty kilometres northwest of Tokyo and has a population of around three hundred and fifty thousand. Much of Koisuru Asteroid is set in Kawagoe, and while my Oculus Quest powered tour of Kawagoe means that it’s a few flicks of the wrist to get here, once the global health crisis is well in hand, travellers may begin considering what a real trip might look like, and the first thing to do is consider ground options for reaching what is affectionately referred to as Little Edo. For this discussion, I will assume that the traveller is landing at Narita International Airport. There are several ways of getting here from Narita, with the best option being to either board an express bus for Kawagoe Station, or use trains. With the latter, one first takes the Keisei Main Line’s Rapid Express train from Terminal 2-3’s station to Nippori Station at the heart of Tokyo, which will take around forty minutes (trains run hourly). Here, one transfers to the Keihin-Tōhoku/Negishi line, which takes them to Akabane Station in fifteen minutes. Finally, Akabane to Kawagoe Station, along the Saikyō/Kawagoe line, is a fifty minute journey.

  • A small bridge over the Shingashi River on the western edge of Kawagoe kicks off this post. This spot is only seen during the opening, as the Earth Science Club never comes here during the course of their adventures. Like the location hunt for Yuru Camp△‘s first season, I’ve elected to do this post in two parts to ensure the length isn’t excessive: for this first half, I’m going to purely to focus on locations in Kawagoe itself, and the second half will showcase places in Ibaraki, Tokyo and the nearby spa the Earth Sciences Club visits towards the end of the second episode. All images for the real-world locations in this post and the second half are sourced from Google Street View and Google Places: there isn’t any place in my location hunts that cannot be visited in the comfort of one’s own home, and I will be providing links to most places for ease-of-access.

  • Koisuru Asteroid portrays Raku Raku Bakery as a mere burger joint that Mira and the others stop at to think of a good activity for the Earth Sciences Club. In real life, Raku Raku Bakery sells freshly-baked goods and Japanese kashi-pan using wheat from Hokkaido; their breads are most similar to the sorts of bread that Hong Kong-style bakeries sell, featuring sweet bean paste and even curry mixed into the dough, yielding a flavourful bread. The soft, chewy bread that is popular in Japan is equally as popular in Hong Kong, and my favourite sandwiches have always been made using thick-cut bread with a hint of mango in it.

  • The street that Mai and Mikage walk along is adjacent to Café Torocco, a café that specialises in sweet potato dishes: for over two and a half centuries, Kawagoe has been a key sweet potato producer, and Café Torocco offers a variety of sweet potato dishes on their menu. Folks can sit down to a sweet potato cake for 500 yen, or spurge on a sweet potato kaiseki for 1900 Yen. The restaurant is located adjacent to Yamawa Pottery, and although the fledgling Earth Sciences Club never visit the café or partake in any sweet potato related foods on Ao and Mira’s quest to find an asteroid, seeing these sights reproduced faithfully does indicate that Koisuru Asteroid was serious about getting the details right.

  • This area of Kawagoe is known as Kashiya Yokocho (“Confectionary Row”) owing to the high concentration of sweets and candy stores. The area’s history is an interesting one – Tozaemon Suzuki opened a shop in the area to provide candies in 1796, inspiring other shopkeepers to open their own businesses, as well. The Great Kanto Earthquake in 1923 would help cement Kashiya Yokocho‘s reputation as a candy-selling district: the earthquake destroyed other candy suppliers, leaving Kashiya Yokocho to be the main provider of candies for a time, and today, these stories continue to manufacture candies using traditional methods. Together with the stone roads and architecture, Kashiya Yokocho is a well-known point of interest.

  • Google Street View is not so extensive as to have coverage of the entire pathway located along the shores of the Iruma River. I ended up approximating the site using satellite imagery and got as close as I could to what could be a candidate site. Of course, differences are apparent in the spot I found – mountains are not visible (the location in Koisuru Asteroid suggests that the Earth Sciences Club is holding their barbeque on the eastern banks of the river, since the mountains are westward), and there’s a truss bridge for a rail line rather than a beam bridge seen in the anime. I imagine that Yuki would’ve chosen somewhere close to the Kasumigaseki East Green Space or Kawagoe Park, but lacking the Street View coverage, this is about as close as I can get.

  • On a quiet Sunday afternoon, some time after Aoi and Mira pass their do-over exams (which resulted from a comedic bit of error-making), they meet up in front of Honkawagoe Station. Ao can be seen sitting on one of the benches, and across the way is a residential area. Observant readers will note that the Google Street View images I have appear to have a higher field-of-view (FOV) than their anime counterparts. The observable world in a single frame from Google Street View is larger than that of what Koisuru Asteroid presents, feeling more zoomed-out in comparison.

  • The contrasts simultaneously result from the nature of the cameras that Google uses, as well as the studio’s desire to keep the camera focused on the subjects (i.e. the characters) – a high FOV in anime is usually done for establishing shots or B-roll type materials. For moments such as when Mira finally gets to Honkawagoe Station, the FOV chosen is appropriate, focusing on the characters. However, the Lawson on the loop by Honkawagoe Station can be seen, along with the stairwells on the side of the building here.

  • Honkawagoe Station services the Seibu Shinjuku Line; as the terminus, it is located around 47.5 kilometres from Seibu-Shinuku Station in Tokyo, and has three tracks at the ground level. Honkawagoe Station opened in 1895 as Kawagoe Station, but was renamed in 1940 after the Japanese Government Railways opened Kawagoe Station. The station averages around 48290 passengers per day as of 2013, and in 2016, underwent expansion to make it easier for passengers to transfer to Kawagoe Station.

  • After Mira spots Moe and Mai by an ice cream stand in front of the Prince Hotel, curiosity kicks in, prompting her to ditch her original plans of going shopping for a bit of Tom Clancy-style foot surveillance. The Prince Hotel is conveniently located, being built adjacent to Honkawagoe Station, and is only a short walk from Kawagoe’s attractions: Confectionary Row and the Toki no Kane bell tower are under a quarter-hour walk from Honkawagone Station. Folks visiting Kawagoe would find this to be a reasonable option for accommodations: the average rate per night is 120 CAD, although there are better-priced accommodations nearby that are only slightly further from the heart of Kawagoe.

  • The convenience store franchise Lawson is ubiquitous in Japan, and is headquartered in Tokyo. However, it has its origins in Ohio, when James Lawson started a store to sell milk in 1939. By 1959, Consolidated Foods bought his store out, and in 1974, they signed an agreement with Japanese company Daiei Inc., opening their first store in Osaka in 1975. Daiei Lawson Co. Ltd. became Lawson Japan, and today, they operate some 11384 locations across the country, being the third-largest convenience store chain after 7-Eleven and Family Mart. One of the joys about location hunts is apparent here: common sights, such as convenience stores, prompts investigation, which often yields fascinating bits about something.

  • A kilometre north of Honkawagoe Station is Kurazukuri no Machinami (蔵造りの町並み, the Warehouse District), one of the most famous sights in the whole of Kawagoe. The area’s history dates back to the Edo period, when trade resulted in merchants requiring facilities to store their wares for easy access. However, after a massive fire that leveled a third of Kawagoe in 1893 owing to the dominance of wooden materials in period Japanese architecture, a novel construction style, kurazukuri, was devised to prevent the warehouses (and their contents) from going up in smoke.

  • Kurazukuri utilises a special kind of plaster in their roofs and layering the walls with clay, the resulting buildings proved to be much more resilient to fires. Their heavy, durable construction has meant that many kurazukuri warehouses have survived to this day, appearing much as they did after their construction. While the buildings have endured, their functions have changed over the years, and many of the buildings in Kurazukuri no Machinami are now museums, restaurants and even private homes.

  • While tailing Mai and Moe, Mira and Ao pass in front of a private residence. While the residence’s gates and window grilles in the anime resemble the real world counterpart’s, subtle differences between the two frames suggest that Koisuru Asteroid has taken a few creative liberties here. Most notable, an apartment building and power lines can be seen in the anime, whereas in the real world, this residence is located adjacent to a wooden building home to Iwata, a store that sells sweet potato products.

  • In Koisuru Asteroid, Kawagoe‘s Kurazukuri no Machinami ends up being a backdrop rather than a destination: Moe and Mai are not particularly interested in stopping here for sweet potatoes, and instead, after Mai photographs a flowerbed in full bloom, the pair head off down a side street leading away from the Warehouse District. The timing of this scene suggested that the location was actually down the side street, but using the Oculus Quest to canvas said side street, I wasn’t able to find any flowerbeds of this sort, so I concluded that this would’ve been the location Mai took her photograph at.

  • The building Mira and Ao pass by is Hinomoto Hapu, a luggage store known for selling reliable canvas bags and backpacks. They remind me of the now-closed Pipestone Travel store in my area – a few years ago, I came here to buy a small travel bag for my conference in Cancún. Because I was travelling alone, and didn’t need much in the way of carry-on, my requirements were for a bag that could hold a 9.7-inch tablet, plus all of my travel documents and had space for a water bottle. I ended up picking out a bag with RFID blocking and was slash-proof. This bag has been in service for several of my travels, accompanying me to Japan back in 2017.

  • Following the side street further will find visitors back in a more ordinary side of Kawagoe: private homes and businesses line this street, but there isn’t anything too historical or noteworthy about it. In real life, attempting to re-trace the path that Moe and Mai took during their treasure hunt based purely on what was seen in Koisuru Asteroid would be a difficult endeavour: while I’ve managed to locate everything in this post, it turns out that the district marker, which Mai had been looking for, is located in Fujimino the next town over.

  • The distance between Mai’s destination and the intersection in Kawagoe is some 6.4 kilometres as the mole digs, but accounting for road distances, is closer to 7 kilometres. This is about an hour and twenty minute’s walk – folks looking to reproduce the walk could simply walk the distance, since 7 kilometres isn’t terribly far to travel on foot, and taking the train (using the Tobu-Tojo line) would require almost an hour anyways: one would need to travel back to Honkawagoe Station and ride to Kamifukuoka Station in Fujimino.

  • Mai and Moe pass through a quiet residential area, with Mira and Ao tailing closely. An awning can be seen here both in the anime and real-world location, providing cover for one of the resident’s vehicles. This neighbourhood is located in the western edge of Fujimoto, and locating it was a matter of backtracking from the district marker. Owing to the ease of finding this spot, I feel duty-bound to remind readers that folks who do travel here to replicate Mai and Moe’s walk should be respectful of the residents here and not hassle them in any way.

  • This effect brings to mind The Dark Knight Rises, during the final climactic battle when Batman faces off against Bane for a second time. As they fight, Bane delivers a kick to Batman, which sends him from Wall Street in Manhattan all the way to Carnegie Mellon Institute in Pittsburgh. Real world locations are often mashed together in fiction to create familiar, but unique spots for the story at hand, and Koisuru Asteroid is no different. I imagine that using a real-world spot for locations is to allow background artists to create locations much more quickly: it is easier to draw inspiration from a photograph than come up with a spot anew.

  • Similarities between the houses seen in Koisuru Asteroid and real life are visible in this still, which occurs moments after Moe catches on to the fact that she and Mai had been tailed. During the course of their mini-adventure, Mira had been posting to Twitter and appending なう (Hepburn nau) to everything, indicating that her observations were being made in real-time. For English speakers, the meaning appears intuitive enough (feeling like a cute way of saying “now”), but it turns out that なう is simply a shorthand for denoting a present action. This particular trend is unique to Japanese SNS, and was also seen in Yuru Camp△ when Rin was detailing her travels to Nadeshiko during a trip to Kamiina.

  • It turns out that Mira’s live-Tweeting did not go unnoticed, and Moe soon busts them, causing Mira to wilt in shame. However, Moe’s irritation vanishes instantly when Mira wonders if the pair are on a date of sorts. Their conversation takes place on this peaceful side street, and the location is identified by the fence and hedge beside one of the houses: even though my angle is different, the similarities are indisputable.

  • Mai explains that her outing had been to see an enclave of sorts, and Moe ended up accompanying her. This still was found looking northwest, and past the row of houses on the street is the edge of town. Again, inspection of details between the anime and Street View shows the impressive extent of similarities: the house on the left has a window above its front door opened slightly, and Koisuru Asteroid reproduces the detail precisely.

  • Strictly speaking, an enclave is a geographical feature in which one territory or region is entirely surrounded by another. Mai’s explanation includes regions that are partially surrounded by other territories, but this is technically incorrect. Such mistakes in an anime usually result either from the author not having a full understanding of the material, or deliberately choosing to have their characters make a factual error to show that they’re still in the process of learning. I typically give the author the benefit of the doubt and suppose that it’s the latter, since watching (and writing about) anime is not a pissing match about who’s more knowledgeable about a given topic.

  • Moe and Ao manage to find another sign indicating where the district boarders are, and Mai celebrates with a group photo to commemorate their day together. On the topic of factual pissing contests, one wonders why I do location hunt posts when dedicated fans, both in and outside of Japan, have gotten to the finish line much sooner than myself. The answer to this question is simple: other location hunt folks often write posts with low-resolution images and may decline on disclosing locations for their own reasons. However, I’ve always found location hunts to be fascinating, as they often indicate the level of effort a studio has taken in adapting an anime: location hunts are therefore a fun way of conveying this for readers.

  • To ensure that my location hunt posts offer something different, I take the pains of researching locations as to provide readers with something beyond the comparison between anime and real life. This is why I structure my posts to also include a bit of a blurb about locations, and where possible, a link to the spot in Google Street View. I believe that information such as this should be shared rather than obfuscated, and I aim to provide a post that gives readers an outline for what a potential in-person visit to anime locations could look like.

  • After a day where Mikage and Mira visit a mineral show in Tokyo (I’ll detail that in the second part to this post), they swing by a small cake shop to unwind and discuss the day’s experiences. While Koisuru Asteroid presents this as being located by Kawagoe Station, it’s actually a stone’s throw from Honkawagoe Station. The storefronts are quite different, and finding this location was probably the trickiest, involving a bit of a trial-and-error. Fortunately, Wander is not a movement intensive app, and I was able to keep my Oculus Quest plugged in while I did my search. I eventually located the cake shop: it’s known as Chouette in real life, and serves a range of cakes and pastries. Visitors describe it as being a very peaceful and quiet location with delicious cakes.

  • Inside Chouette, there is no doubt that this location inspired the cake shop Mira and Mikage stop at after their mineral fair visit. In general, my usual technique for finding a location is to use landmarks, such as local attractions and train stations, to gain my bearings, and then use the Oculus Quest to explore the area as though I were walking on foot, searching through areas based on the paths shown in the anime between different landmarks. The full immersion and spatial awareness makes it much easier to spot things than on a conventional monitor. Once I see enough features line up, I go in for a closer look, and if it’s a match, I record the location. For easily found and obscure locations alike, I use this method: the latter only differ in that they take me a little longer to search for them.

  • For the really tough spots, I use a bit of computer vision to see if the anime location matches any known photographs of the location in real life. While Chouette was the toughest spot for this first half, I did not use those techniques: locating Chouette was a brute force search of the areas surrounding Kawagoe Station (and then realising there were no candidates, I repeated a search around Honkawagoe Station). Kawagoe Station is Koisuru Asteroid‘s Hoshizaki Station: operated by Tobu Railway and East Japan Railway Company, it is the busiest station in Kawagoe, averaging 128 thousand passengers daily.

  • Kawagoe Station was opened in 1915, and the station seen today became operational in 1989. Kawagoe Station is a quarter-hour away from Honkawagoe on foot. The imagery in Google Street View shows the pedestrian walkway as undergoing constructionKoisuru Asteroid shows the same construction in place as Mikage prepares to head home after saying goodbye to Mira, suggesting that Doga Kobo may have relied on this tool extensively to provide a reference for the different locations of Koisuru Asteroid.

  • I’ll close off this first half with a comparison of Koisuru Asteroid‘s 16-metre high Toki no Kane (“Time Bell Tower”) and its real-world counterpart; this bell tower is an iconic part of old Kawagoe and was originally built between 1627 and 1634. Kawagoe was devastated by fires in 1856 and 1893: the current tower was constructed in 1894 and chimes four times a day (0600, 1200, 1500 and 1800). The 700 kilogram bell is visible in both images. With this post in the books, I will be returning to close off my virtual, Oculus Quest-powered tour of Koisuru Asteroid at some point in the near future, and in the meantime, it’s time to make progress with the other posts that were left behind as a result of this project.

Of course, the trek I’ve described is not exactly the best idea in the world at present, but fortunately, viewers can turn to the next best alternative. A good virtual reality headset, such as the Oculus Quest, will allow one to immerse themselves in iconic locations from Koisuru Asteroid. After the successes I’ve had with using the Oculus Quest in locating Heya Camp△ and Houkago Teibou Nisshi locations, Koisuru Asteroid seemed to be the next suitable anime to try my hand at finding the spots to. Unlike Houkago Teibou Nisshi, which was set largely in and around Ashikita (with a few exceptions), or Heya Camp△, whose Stamp Rally was primarily in the Minobu/Nanbu area of Yamanashi, Koisuru Asteroid sees Mira and Ao visit a host of locations. Their everyday experiences are in Kawagoe, which I identified after spotting the Toki no Kane in the ending sequence and subsequently used to find the locations seen in the first few episodes. A cursory search for JAXA’s Tsukuba Space Centre led me to swiftly determine the locations of the Earth Science Club’s summer trip with instructor Yuki (which I will cover in part two). From there, the unparalleled ability in the Oculus Quest allowed me to explore the same old-town streets that Moe and Mai wander on the latter’s quest to find a prefectural boundary marker, and see for myself the Tsukuba Space Centre’s exhibit hall (the latter will be the topic of a later post). Even more so than with Houkago Teibou Nisshi, another Doga Kobo production, doing this location hunt for Koisuru Asteroid outlined the capabilities of virtual reality technologies and how a complete 3D immersion can offer spatial advantages for certain activities. VR technology has come a long way since I was in graduate school: back then, the Oculus Rift system had been a glorified stereoscopic head-mounted display, and the CAVE remained the simplest way of entering a VR environment. In the years following, Oculus upped their game, and with HTC Vive hot on their heels, other companies stepped up to the plate. It was not until Oculus Quest, however, where VR truly became a viable technology: unbound by wires and room-mounted motion trackers, the Quest’s easy setup and usage has made it an appealing headset to use. Coupled with a powerful onboard processor and display, plus a respectable battery life, the Quest has made it possible to fully explore the same locations Ao and Mira visit in stunning detail and comfort. The size of this post attests to the UX the Oculus Quest confers; obscure and little-known locations were found without trouble – that the Oculus Quest has demonstrated itself a versatile and capable tool for anime location hunts, it is tempting to consider what locations could be next on the list of places to check out with a hitherto unmatched level of immersion. However, before then, I will be turning the Oculus Quest’s considerable powers towards one more set of locations that were shown in Koisuru Asteroid, this time, in areas outside of Kawagoe.

Kirakira Special Issue: Celebrating Astronomy and Earth Science in the Koisuru Asteroid Mini-Animations

“There’s always that special pleasure in knowing that, when you look upon that distant light, it has travelled all those light-years – such an incredible journey – just for you.” –Ken Fulton

For my eighth birthday, I received a pair of Bushnell 10×25 Compact roof-prism type binoculars and a copy of Terence Dickinson’s Night Watch. That same evening, I turned these tiny binoculars towards the moon. I was greeted with the lunar landscape thrown into sharper relief, revealing the lunar maria and craters in far more detail than was visible with the naked eye. After locating Ursa Major and Minor, the most famous of constellations, I marvelled at being able to spot the brighter nebulae and star clusters. When winter came, I saw Orion’s nebula with a hitherto unmatched clarity, and learnt to star-hop using Canis Major and Orion as guideposts. In the years ahead, my love of the night skies led me to pursue astronomical events I could see from my backyard: I used Night Watch to plan ahead for total lunar eclipses and meteor showers, even getting up at two in the morning to watch one particularly impressive Leonids meteor shower, where I was lucky enough to see a fireball. I would check out books on astronomy, the solar system and the cosmos at the local library, rushing through my homework so I could peruse subjects of greater interest. At that age, I longed to learn everything there was to know about the heavens and its majesty. Over the years, my eyes turned inward towards the arcane world of software systems as I studied computer sciences, building constructs and worlds powered by the pulsing of electrons across a silicon transistor. However, when Koisuru Asteroid aired as the first anime of the new decade, my interest in the skies were rekindled, and although I may have forgotten the names of the constellations I once spent hours reading about, navigating the sky with naught more than a pair of binoculars remains as intuitive as it did all those years ago.

Koisuru Asteroid, in following the journey of Mira Konohata and Ao Manaka as they work towards fulfilling a lifelong promise of discovering an asteroid, lovingly presents the character’s passion for their chosen disciplines. In this way, Koisuru Asteroid, known as Asteroid in Love in English, is very much a love story – it is a romantic and sentimental tale of falling in love with the sciences, with the Earth below and night skies above. From the frustrations resulting from events beyond one’s control, to the indescribable majesty and splendour of natural phenomenon, Koisuru Asteroid suggests that a career in the sciences is no different than falling in love, with both moments of abject dejection and unparalleled wonder, a journey where individuals who persist, stick it out and put in the effort to work things out will be rewarded beyond imagination. Through its simple but touching story, Koisuru Asteroid is a love letter to the sciences, the discipline of understanding the natural world. Through the sciences, humanity has advanced beyond recognition in the past thousand years, making incredible strides in health, engineering, technology, mathematics and physics to bring about innovation of the likes that have not been seen before. Virtually every aspect of life owes itself to science, and Koisuru Asteroid is one of those few anime that appropriately convey the sorts of events that can send one down a career in science: Ao and Mira’s childhood promise creates a path for the two, leading them on a journey of exploration and discovery in the name of bettering mankind.

Facts from the Geoscience Club and A Koiasu Time-lapse

  • Mira is named after Omicron Ceti, a red giant variable in the constellation Cetus (“The Whale”). It is one of the earliest variable stars discovered, with astronomer Johannes Holwarda being credited for ascertaining that its period was 332 days. During this time, its apparent magnitude varies from 2.0 (easily visible to the naked eye) to 10.1 (requiring a telescope to spot). Being one of the earliest variable stars discovered, Mira is derived from the Latin mirus for “wonderful”, which forms the root of the modern word “miracle”. In Koisuru Asteroid, this star is what Mira is named after: her name is rendered in hiragana, みら, indicating viewers can take her name to mean “wonderous”.

  • There are three classification of rocks, mineral aggregates: from left to right, sedimentary, igneous and metamorphic. Sedimentary rocks are formed from accumulation of particles cemented together and are further subdivided based on the agent that binds them together (e.g. clastic, mudrocks, biological and chemical). Igneous rocks form from the cooling and solidification of lava. They are either plutonic (cooling slowly over time underground) or volcanic (cooling relatively rapidly as a result of being expelled to the surface). Finally, metamorphic rocks form when sedimentary or igneous rock is subject to extreme heat and pressure. There are three types of metamorphic rock, classified by the mode of formation (either by heat, pressure or both). Mira seems quite shocked when Mikage does so, but the reality is that splitting rocks with a hammer is a common practise for revealing its internal structure.

  • Lithology refers to the physical attributes of a rock at its surface, as well as the process of subdividing a region for mapping purposes. This is a multi-disciplinary practise, requiring a combination of geology and cartography to conduct. The resulting maps give a fantastic visual summary of the composition of each area, which has implications on economic activity such as mining, as well as land use and urban planning. Mai feels that with how colourful the map is, it could be worn as a bit of an avant garde dress.

  • Telescopes have two major types of mounts: the altitude-azimuth (alt-az) mount is the simpler of the two, simply being a coupling that allows the telescope to be moved left-right (azimuth) and up-down (altitude). While easier to understand, it is tricky to keep tracking of moving astronomical objects over time. An equatorial mount, on the other hand, has an axis parallel to the Earth’s rotation, and once this is set, moving the telescope in a direction will allow one to track astronomical objects more easily. In general, alt-az mounts are better suited for terrestrial objects (e.g. tactical spotting scopes), while for astronomy, the equatorial mount’s advantages make it a superior choice.

  • Index fossils (left) are named after the fact that they can be used to identify a geological timeframe based on the fact that even if the sediment they are deposited into differ, the fossils belong to the same species with a very wide distribution. A zonal fossil (right), on the other hand, is a subtype of index fossil that bears the same characteristics, but belongs to a species with a very narrow distribution.

  • The lunar cycle is, on average, about 27.54 days in length owing to the moon’s elliptical orbit. Lunar phases result from changes to the shape of the sunlit portion of the moon’s surface as a result of the moon’s position relative to the Earth, as well as the direction of the sunlight. Because the moon is tidally locked to the Earth, the same side of the moon almost always faces the Earth: this is known as the near side of the moon, and even to the naked eye, the Sea of Tranquility, where the Apollo 11 mission landed, is visible. By comparison, the far side of the moon is pockmarked in craters, lacking the basalt flats of the near side.

  • Meteor showers occur when meteors originate from a common point in the night sky. While meteors can be spotted in almost any evening as a result of small objects, usually no wider than a grain of dust, entering the atmosphere, meteor showers are distinct in that tens, or even hundreds, of meteors can be observed during its peak. Showers result from the Earth travelling through debris streams resulting from comets, which discard trails of material as their surface is eroded by solar radiation. When the Earth passes through these debris trails, the material enters the Earth’s atmosphere at an increased rate, resulting in meteor showers.

  • Inspired by the drive Mira and Ao had, Mai decides to participate in the Japanese Science Olympiad, a qualifier for making the national team which would compete at the International Science Olympiad, an event that pushes the brightest high school students around the world in terms of knowledge and exam-taking skills. Competition categories are broken up by discipline, and here, the results of previous competitions are shown. This year, the event’s been cancelled on account of the ongoing world health crisis, but last year, they would’ve occurred this past weekend. While Mai did not make the qualifying round, it still proved a valuable learning experience for her, and also helped her to gain the confidence in leading the Earth Sciences club as Mikage and Mari graduate.

  • Prior to 2006, all astronomy books indicated that there were nine planets. Since 2006, Pluto’s been designated a dwarf planet. There are thus eight planets. The inner planets are characterised by a primarily rocky composition, and the outer planets have a gaseous makeup. The planets are separated by the asteroid belt, which lies between Mars and Jupiter: in our solar system, the reason why the inner planets are terrestrial is because primarily because of their proximity to the sun. The sun had cleared most of the local hydrogen gas in its formation, and after it began undergoing fusion, solar winds would disperse gas before they had a chance to accumulate. In other planetary systems, Hot Jupiter and Hot Neptunes have been observed. They are thought to form outside of the Frost Line and then migrate into short-period orbits later.

  • Yū has a chance to explain one of her favourite atmospheric phenomenon: the circumhorizontal arc. These typically form from the refraction of sunlight through ice crystals suspended high in the atmosphere, which creates a rainbow band of light running parallel to the horizon. Because the phenomenon requires the sun to be relatively high in the sky (58º or more), circumhorizontal arcs do not occur north of 55ºN and south of 55ºS. I don’t believe I’ve ever seen a circumhorizontal arc before, but in my area, thanks to cold winter days with a brilliant sky, halos and sun dogs are much more common.

  • The question of why stars twinkle is one that children inevitably ask: the answer is simple enough, resulting from the fact that light needs to travel through the atmosphere in order to reach our eyes. The light from stars is coming from an exceedingly distant point, and the photons are diffracted as it travels through the air, which is constantly moving. Light from the planets, on the other hand, is much more intense, and enough photons travel through the atmosphere to our eyes so that the light appears constant. Of course, in particularly calm air, stars will twinkle just a little less.

  • There we have it, eleven tidbits from the Koisuru Asteroid omake specials that accompanied the BDs. These short specials are a pleasant addition to the series, and while adding nothing to the themes or story, indicate that Koisuru Asteroid spared no effort to ensure that the science is correct. It was fun to see all of the characters return in chibi form to give minute-long presentations of the various topics the anime covered in the anime; writing for this post proved equally enjoyable, as I looked through various books I have on astronomy and earth sciences to put things together. While one wonders about the decision to spend a beautiful long weekend indoors, in my defense, the weather was incredibly hot, a little too intense to be outside. With a delicious spicy burger and corn on the cob that I enjoyed on a hot Sunday afternoon, it does properly feel like summer now.

  • The other special surprise in this post is a time-lapse video that accompanied the BDs, portraying the real-world locations that Mira and Ao visited during the course of the Shining Star Challenge. With some four months having passed since Koisuru Asteroid‘s finale aired, the themes and messages I got from the series remains unchanged, although now, I further add that the show’s name, Koisuru Asteroid, can actually to be rendered as Koisuru Shōwakusei (恋する小惑星) as well as 恋するアステロイド. Multiple possible titles is a callback to the fact that in science, there can be multiple hypothesises, methods and approaches to a problem.

  • As such, for Koisuru Asteroid‘s “in love” (i.e. 恋する) piece, it is quite valid to see the series as being a love letter to science itself, and that the characters’ love refers to not romantic love for one another, but a love for the sciences. Each of Mira, Ao, Mai, Mikage, Mari, Chikage and Yū are in love with science in some way: astronomy for Mira, Ao and Mari, geology for Mikage and Chikage, and meteorology for Yū. From this perspective, Koisuru Asteroid was never intended to be a yuri series, and supposing the love refers to a love for science, the series lives up to its name and delivers the koisuru equally as well as the asteroid to viewers.

  • My verdict for Koisuru Asteroid thus requires a slight update. Upon finishing this anime back in March, I counted it as a 9.5 of 10, a near-perfect score. Having now connected the dots in a different way and appreciating what the series was intending to do, Koisuru Asteroid is a perfect 10 of 10, a masterpiece. I understand that this is a polarising statement, but for me, in reminding me of my love for astronomy, the series has indeed resulted in a positive, tangible change on my worldview. This is one of my criteria for what makes a masterpiece in my books, and as such, I have no problem upgrading Koisuru Asteroid to join the ranks of other masterpiece-tier anime, such as CLANNADAngel Beats!Sora no WotoK-On! and Tari Tari, that I’ve seen.

  • As the time-lapse special portrays the shifting skies, I’ll do a rundown of my personal four favourites as far as astronomical events go. Starting off the list is my best-ever total lunar eclipse from January of last year, which saw the moon turn bright red and reaching a level 5 on the Danjon scale. With binoculars, lunar features could be seen without any problem, and the hours leading up to the eclipse, I watched as the Earth’s shadow stole across the moon.

  • Second on my list are aurora borealis, which form when charged particles from solar wind interact with and excite electrons in oxygen and nitrogen atoms. When the electrons leave high-energy orbitals for lower ones, they release photons, which are visible as shimmering curtains of light. Aurora displays are not exclusive to the winter months and occur whenever there is elevated solar activity, and it captivating to watch auroral shows at night. One of the brightest ones I’d seen was back during January of 2016.

  • In second place is the Leonids meteor shower I saw during November 2001. This was forecast to be one of the most spectacular displays in recent history, and saw upwards of 50 meteors per hour during its peak. At one point, I saw three meteors coming out of the same point in the sky, and moments after deciding I’d had a good run, I saw a blue fireball streak across the sky.

  • Finally, my favourite moments come from being able to see a starry sky without the aid of any equipment. Many years back, as I was leaving Banff townsite during a clear evening, I looked up and found myself facing a sky full of stars. In the city, street lamps and night lighting wash the stars out, and it is only with a good pair of binoculars that fainter stars are visible. These days, the road leading out of Banff are well-lit, and such a sight is no longer possible.

  • This brings my latest, and likely the last, Koisuru Asteroid post I have, to a close: anime series that celebrate science in an everyday context are incredibly rare, and Koisuru Asteroid excels in presenting this journey of discovery. It is my hope that as a whole, public interest in astronomy and space travel is rekindled – there is nothing more humbling than seeing the scale of the universe, and nothing more inspiring than working together to reach the heavens. All of the world’s greatest advancements began with small steps, and even something as simple as a childhood promise to name a hiterto undiscovered asteroid “Ao”, can potentially yield a world-changing discovery, a giant leap for mankind. Thus, this post draws to a close, and since today is special, I note that I will have another post published in a few hours.

For the longest time, I felt a kind of melancholy in the solitude I experienced while stargazing: my peers had no interest in the hobby, and since the Columbia shuttle disaster in 2003, the American space programme began to decline. I’d grown up reading about the might of NASA and the magnitude of their accomplishments, from managing a successful docking manoeuvre in orbit with Project Gemini program of the 1960s and their crown jewel, the first successful manned lunar landing in July 1969, to the development of the Skylab space station and Space Shuttle, a reusable launch craft. Since then, the International Space Station and the fleet of Russian Soyuz craft have been about as extensive as the world’s interest in space exploration had been. However, in recent years, Elon Musk’s SpaceX program and their successes appear to have rekindled public interest in private space travel: the Dragon represents a massive leap forwards in reusable spacecraft. With it comes excitement about astronomical events, and people who share a common interest in both astronomy and space travel. Anime like Koisuru Asteroid, then, excel at showing the possibility and potential for discovery when like-minded people come together, unified by a common interest and passion for the sciences. Watching Mira and Ao start their journey, meet Chikage, Mari, Mai, Mikage and Yū and ultimately, earn their first stripes by participating in the Shiny Star Challenge, was immeasurably heartwarming and brought back memories of a younger me who’d felt joy unmatched when turning a pair of binoculars towards the night skies. Koisuru Asteroid represents a sincere, heartfelt and successful effort to capture the joys of sciences, a discipline whose members have earned my respect a milliard times over for having done so much for the world: even something as simple as a TV series can inspire viewers to take up the path of sciences, and those who pursue such a journey will find that, beyond all of the hard work and struggle that accompanies it, is an immeasurably rewarding experience, one that offers discovery and the possibility at bettering this world further. For me, I’ve decided to dust off my 10×50 binoculars and a copy of The Backyard Astronomer’s Guide – the summer skies remain as inviting as ever, and in a week, the Perseids will peak. With some luck, I may be able to spot another fireball, just as I did all those years ago.

Kirakira Special Issue: An Examination of Critical Perspectives on Slice-of-Life Anime and A Case Study In Negativity Directed Towards Koisuru Asteroid

“我係一個練武之人,遇到不公義嘅事情,我一定要企出來。呢個就係我哋學武嘅初心。” –葉問, 葉問4: 完結篇

Every season, it appears that there is always some sort of controversy surrounding anime; being a medium in which a wide range of topics are covered, it is inevitable that some series can invite trouble for their candid or graphic portrayal of certain events. The slice-of-life genre, on the other hand, is one characterised by an emphasis on themes of discovery, teamwork and camaraderie. Such series delve into topics that viewers might find unremarkable with the aim of presenting them in a new light and indicating that journeys of learning are always meaningful. These easy-going series offer viewers with a sense of calm and catharsis, focusing on everyday experiences and the mundane over anything dramatic, being particularly well-suited for helping viewers to relax and find peace in a high-paced world. As such, when slice-of-life series find themselves amidst a controversy, it is always baffling that people would go to such lengths to express their displeasure at anime they do have the option of passing over. Koisuru Asteroid finds itself at the heart of the latest bit of controversy: this unassuming but sincere anime follows Mira Konohata and Ao Manaka on their journey to fulfil a childhood promise and discover an asteroid together. While the series has been warmly-received early in its run, detractors began appearing mid-season, citing the pacing and progression as being unrelatable and boring. From a certain point of view, this is understandable; Koisuru Asteroid had given the impression it would be about the Koisuru (恋する, “In Love”), but instead, chose to focus extensively on the scientific aspects, namely, the Asteroid part of the series’ name. Koisuru Asteroid‘s detractors at MyAnimeList were the most vocal with their displeasure: they took to voting down the series, dropping it from a 7.11 to 6.86 within the space of a few weeks, and articulated their discontent in the forums. Here, it became clear that Koisuru Asteroid‘s detractors fell into one of two camps: those who were simply disappointed in the direction the series took and did not relate to the science, and those with a larger chip on their shoulder surrounding the portrayal of the sciences in the series.

Koisuru Asteroid admittedly does not progress as a typical love story would, and instead, more closely resembles a documentary or NOVA special in its execution. Much as how documentaries and NOVA specials tend to focus on the background, motivation, methodologies and results of a scientific endeavour, Koisuru Asteroid has geology and astronomy take centre stage: the anime aims to convey the idea that the sciences are multi-disciplinary, that knowledge and approaches from different fields, when used in conjunction with one another, is how new discoveries are made. To this end, Koisuru Asteroid focuses on the techniques and aspects of the field, providing enough detail such that a viewer can see the similarities between geology and astronomy to appreciate how the Earth Science club’s formation is actually beneficial to Ao and Mira’s dream. The same time spent on portraying the sciences is to take away from the time spent on the characters; while perhaps detrimental for an anime, documentaries invariably do not suffer from the same challenges because the lead scientists and technicians are on the show not to show their personal and professional development, but rather, to walk viewers through a process. In Koisuru Asteroid, the “character” gaining the most growth would therefore be the act of discovering an asteroid; Ao and Mira are merely the conduits to facilitate this process. With this in mind, Koisuru Asteroid‘s documentary-like feel can be off-putting for those who entered the series expecting a love story, and for folks who count the series as boring for covering directions they had not anticipated, I can sympathise with them, remarking that documentaries are similarly not for everyone. People are free to watch and enjoy the shows that they do, and it is inevitable that occasionally, some shows simply won’t work for some people based on expectations or delivery. It happens to be the case that I enjoyed Koisuru Asteroid greatly, but I have no problem acknowledging that this anime isn’t for everyone.

The second group of individuals dissatisfied with Koisuru Asteroid, on the other hand, are impossible to sympathise with: they argue that Koisuru Asteroid is an inadequate and inaccurate portrayal of the sciences. Such individuals are characterised by claims such as “even [someone who knows little about the topic] wouldn’t say that this series isn’t enough to satisfy those who’re looking for pure substance…this shouldn’t be seen as some sort of replacement for the real deal” and that “[a] good SOL would squeeze out interesting and engrossing scenes from the most uninteresting material”. In particular, one individual goes far as to suggest that “if you do enjoy the subject matter (sciences) it doesn’t give you enough”, and that, since “this is an Astronomy and Earth Science anime, MAKE ME CARE ABOUT THOSE SUBJECTS! When showing the view through the telescope, SHOW THE DAMN PLANETS…And I am someone who cares a shit ton about the subjects”. Remarks such as these indicate a holier-than-thou attitude, that creates the impression that these individuals mean to present themselves as experts in the field and therefore have a well-defined reason for disliking Koisuru Asteroid. Another outspoken individual indicates that “A friend told me about this series because I’m a big fan of space. I wanted to love the series but I really feel no inspiration”. Folks acting as though they are experts on the topics at hand (astronomy and geology here) and using this as a justification to tear down Koisuru Asteroid are no different than those who fall on purple prose and obtuse, arcane academic vocabulary to intimidate and obfuscate. By claiming an interest in astronomy, these two individuals make an appeal to authority, which is a logical fallacy: they feign knowledge and experience with astronomy to create the impression that, if a legitimate fan of astronomy dislikes Koisuru Asteroid, then it must be the case that Koisuru Asteroid failed to do their research and faithfully portray the elements at the heart of the series. This is, of course, untrue, and I find it highly disingenuous that people would be willing to play this card in order to sound more convincing. Such individuals are very much lacking in intellectual honesty for resorting to such means, and further lacking in intellectual curiosity if they genuinely believe that Koisuru Asteroid was an unfaithful and untruthful portrayal the sciences, where in fact, the opposite is true: the anime is very well-researched and does a phenomenal job of showing the methods used in astronomy and geology. The reality is that anyone who’s got even rudimentary knowledge with earth sciences and astronomy will be able to ascertain the authenticity and correctness of what is seen in Koisuru Asteroid, because they’ve used the equipment or have familiarity with the methods, in turn leaving them able appreciate what this anime is presenting to viewers.

Additional Remarks

  • I’ve deliberately timed this post to line up a month after Koisuru Asteroid‘s finale aired, to give things a chance to settle down before entering the fray for myself. Having said this, I’ve deliberately chosen not to name any names in this post because I am aware that the negative MyAnimeList crowd can be very touchy about opinions differing than their own: apparently, negative opinions are a form of “good writing” that “should be celebrated, not silenced”. I couldn’t disagree more: good writing is simply that which is effective at conveying an idea, and more often than not, I find that negative rants tend to devolve into incoherency because the individual holding the opinion is writing on raw emotion rather than reason.

  • The negative remarks surrounding Koisuru Asteorid at MyAnimeList’s forums are mostly criticisms limited to only a single sentence, offering no detail as to why such a lack of personal enjoyment should translate to discouraging others from watching this series, which offers very little insight as to what the rationale is. As noted earlier, people have simply dismissed Koisuru Asteroid as being “bland”, “boring” and “mediocre”. I personally dislike use of certain buzzwords in anime reviews. “Bland” and “mediocre” are terms taken straight from Behind the Nihon Review’s playbook – these words have somehow become universally accepted as the harshest criticisms one can throw at a slice-of-life work, and those who wield them seem to operate under the entitled belief that saying this about a given slice-of-life series automatically gives their opinion credibility. As it stands, without a proper justification, those words are meaningless on their own.

  • In particular, describing a show as “mediocre” is to be misleading: the common definition of mediocre itself appears to be a contradiction, being taken to mean “average, adequate” and “low quality, poor” simultaneously. As it turns out, “mediocrity” has a very specific use case: its original definition is something that is neither good or bad, but not average, either. Average is a mathematical construct with the implication that it represents a true “middle” in a data set. When people say something is “mediocre”, then, they are saying something is not consistently good, bad or average. This is a very roundabout way of describing inconsistency, and a competent writer can express this in a much more direct manner. As it stands, only an unskilled writer would use “mediocre” to describe something as “unremarkable”: when the word is used (if at all), it should be used to indicate “inconsistency”.

  • Meanwhile, the word “bland” just doesn’t roll off the tongue well, and the word itself is overused in the realm of reviews: when I see this word thrown around anywhere, I gain the impression that the speaker was unable to articulate themselves fully and are falling back on a meme to express themselves, rather than taking the effort to look back and what they were saying and elaborate more on their intentions. Similarly with the word “mediocre”, I see usage of “bland” being used in writing as an example of being an appeal to authority fallacy: imitating the style of Sorrow-kun won’t help enhance a good argument further, and it won’t make a weak argument true, either.

  • While the forums have been host to most of the discussion, the most appalling and disgraceful display of ignorance was found in one of the reviews: on the same day that Koisuru Asteroid‘s finale aired, a highly negative review was quickly published and in the space of a few short hours, had accrued some 35 upvotes. This review was a nonstop torrent of abuse directed at Koisuru Asteroid, asserting that it was nothing more than a “being regurgitated tropefests[sic] without substance merely appealing to the base emotions of escapist fanatics”. This review was, in short, insulting to the readers: the text supposes that it is the case that those who disagree with the review’s conclusions are ignorant.

  • In doing so, this reviewer closed the door to conversation. How one approaches the subject matter is important, and the reviewer demonstrated a complete lack of understanding for their review’s audience with such a claim. Someone who does not enjoy slice-of-life anime is unlikely to watch Koisuru Asteroid, but for fans of the slice-of-life genre, being told that their detractors are correct would sound very jarring. The review had just spent a paragraph telling readers that slice-of-life detractors are wrong, giving the impression that she is more knowledgeable, authoritative than the reader, but now, in falling back on the opinions of others (specifically, those they’d just insulted) to validate their own, the reviewer comes across as being indecisive and uninformed.

  • As though the reviewer was uncertain as to whether or not people would listen, they next appealed to readers, begging them not to watch Koisuru Asteroid: “Do not waste your time on this superficial emulation of something you can get better anywhere else. And if you were thinking about watching this to bridge the wait until the Yuru Camp sequels come out, please just watch something else. I mean it.” An effective reviewer never tells the reader what to do – a capable reviewer never needs to resort to this because their review convinces the reader on its own merits. In presuming to tell the reader what to do, it again creates hostility with some readers who will inevitably ask, on what grounds would the reviewer have the authority to tell others how to conduct their lives?

  • As a reader, I certainly have no obligation to accept this reviewer as the authority in spite of what their review expects me to do. Telling readers what to do is a sign of a weak, ineffective review: the position the argument poses, and the evidence selected to support this position, should stand of their own merits. A reader can then make their own judgment (either agree with the review because the points are sound, or admit that the review makes fair points, and then disagree). As it stands, a good review gives the reader an impression of what made a work worthwhile (or where it was unsuccessful) and allows the reader to form their own conclusions of things.

  • I have clearly defined what I find in a worthwhile review. However, the standards for what constitutes a good review at MyAnimeList seems quite arbitrary, and other prolific reviewers have praised this review as being “quick, intelligent, and very readable…succinctly [summarising] its issues; Like [the reviewer] said, its[sic] an amalgamation of genre trappings with little substance”.  While definitely quick and perhaps easy to read, this individual’s approach certainly was not intelligent.

  • Amidst the discussions about the review, some claims do stand out: their review is suggested as being “…pretty neat and scathing (yet not too ranty[sic] or in particularly bad faith towards those who enjoy it)”. The opposite is true: this review was written entirely in bad faith – this was most evident in the first paragraph, where the writer suggests that those who hate on the slice-of-life genre and its viewers have a valid reason for doing so. The entirety of said review is one long rant, complaining about how Koisuru Asteroid fell short of the mark without a satisfactory explanation of why this was the case.

  • Consequently, I completely disagree with the praise for this review: the writing fails to convince the reader because it was unable to adequately provide the required evidence, on top of its other deficiencies. The exact shortcoming of Koisuru Asteroid for the individual were never presented, and all readers have to go on is that the anime makes use of too many tropes, so on their verdict, other viewers should skip it. The self-congratulatory tone of MyAnimeList’s reviewer community is one of the reasons why I do not count reviews posted here being anything approaching useful. The up-vote system, which denotes how “helpful” reviews are, are similarly meaningless.

  • Fortunately, MyAnimeList’s users are aware of the shortcomings of their system. One user notes that the disproportionately high “helpful” ratings of poorly-written reviews come from being the first to write something, and from what is described, it appears that the key to having a large number of highly up-voted reviews, is to simply possess a fanatical dedication to being the first to tear down something, which increases said review’s visibility but otherwise says nothing of the review’s actual quality.

  • I have no qualms about opinions that differ than my own, but I do take exception when people agree with untenable positions with no justification, especially when the opinion-holder makes it clear that they’re not interested in discussion, and still somehow manage to be rewarded for their actions. As it was, this individual (which I won’t mention by name so that they don’t gain any more attention) does not deserve any of the upvotes they received. I (jokingly) remark that, if folks were to go ahead and upvote the other reviews to the top of the page to push this one off, that’d be helpful to some capacity, although what I’d like most is to understand why this reviewer took the approach that they did.

  • If this reviewer were ever open to suggestions (which I highly doubt), my first suggestion would be not open with a passage that makes any assumptions about the readers. The aim of a review is to inform and (where necessary) persuade: insulting those with a different opinion than oneself is not likely to be effective at convincing those same people to listen to the merits of one’s arguments. It would have been more appropriate to simply describe the genre, its general traits and where Koisuru Asteroid missed the mark, rather than petty name-calling against those who disparage or enjoy the slice-of-life genre.

  • Rather than taking a roundabout way of implying that she was more knowledgeable and authoritative than readers in her first paragraph, this reviewer would have done better to present a thesis statement (e.g. “Koisuru Asteroid‘s premise of discovering an asteroid with a childhood friend sounds promising, but in practise, the series did not succeed for the following reasons”) summarising what the review intended to provide evidence for.

  • I further note that being more tactful in closing things off would be more persuasive for readers. Egregiously calling a series a “waste of time” and telling others not to watch something because it did not not satisfy their own expectations is unlikely to leave the reader convinced, since it now creates a challenge. Instead of telling others how to think and what to do, a good review will note that a series has failed to entertain them for the reasons specified, but then also note that there may be a set of viewers who may enjoy it. Doing this is fairer to the reader, who then can make their own call as to whether or not a work is worth watching, given the evidence presented. Finally, I note that tearing down is trivially easy, requiring no skill and naught more than a chip on one’s shoulder, so being able to critique without ranting and criticise while keeping the bigger picture in mind is a skill that not all reviewers can cultivate.

  • Between the up-voting of bad reviews and use of vocabulary sourced straight from Sorrow-kun’s playbook, it is apparent that MyAnimeList is a community of excesses. Outside of the reviews, forum discussions are similarly lacking: at least a handful of people characterised “the astronomy/geology [as being a] just barely relevant twist” in Koisuru Asteorid, and that the anime “doesn’t make its main subjects of astronomy and earth sciences very appealing” (which is decisively false). The adverse reaction to the sciences in Koisuru Asteroid holds the implication that anime fans who strongly disliked the anime lack intellectual curiosity and respect for the scientific method, valuing their own ideology and emotional responses over indisputable fact.

  • While Koisuru Asteroid‘s focus was on astronomy, the anime covers ground well outside the realm of astronomy. Despite there being a bullet-proof justification for this (the study of asteroids also requires a similar skill set in geology, charting their trajectories and mapping them involves techniques from cartography, and optical astronomy is weather dependent, so meteorology is important), the anime can appear to be all over the place. Focusing Koisuru Asteroid purely on astronomy in a vacuum might allow the series to really look at astronomy in depth, but it would also diminish the idea that science is increasingly multidisciplinary.

  • The page quote is sourced from Ip Man 4: The Finale, and translated, gives “I am a practitioner of martial arts. When I encounter injustice, I must stand up (and fight). This is what it means to be a martial artist”. In this context, I am standing up for Koisuru Asteroid, a series that does have genuine heart and an earnestness that makes the series worthwhile. To watch closed-minded people tear it down was something I wasn’t going to stand for, and while I typically turn a blind eye to the capers at MyAnimeList, the attitudes towards Koisuru Asteroid were callous enough to prompt me to step up. This post is a reminder that there are those who have enjoyed this series, and we are more than capable of justifying this enjoyment.

  • The takeaway message of this post is a simple one: criticisms of Koisuru Asteroid are untenable, and in the long term, those with an open mind and a positive attitude will end up happier for it. I never understood the need to tear down a series with the intent of stopping others from enjoying it, and would be curious to hear from those who hold a perspective contrary to my own. It is also my hope that I’ve reasonably countered some of the more negative stances on the show to demonstrate there are justifications for why people did enjoy Koisuru Asteroid. With this one in the books, I do not believe I’ll be writing about Koisuru Asteroid again in the foreseeable future, at least until any sort of continuation is announced, and I return to the regularly scheduled programming, with a talk on KonoSuba‘s second OVA on the immediate horizon.

The outcome of providing counterarguments against the negativity against Koisuru Asteroid should make two things apparent: the anime is not the disappointment people make it out to be, and that there are some who believe that they can simply say they have a background in astronomy or geology to sound more convincing, where in fact, they only succeed in demonstrating their own ignorance. I appreciate that I am a very steadfast defender of slice-of-life anime, on account of how they present useful life lessons. However, I will also remark that not every series hits these notes for me. I have previously gone through series that left me disappointed, and fairly explained why my expectations were not fulfilled, based on the show itself. I certainly didn’t claim that my own background or skill-set rendered my opinions absolute, nor did I resort to using buzz words, or insult my readers (or certain portions of the audience) in any way. I strove to fairly detail why expectations were not met and never begged the reader to accept my review as fact. So, one invariably asks, can I produce an instance of a useful critical review satisfying my own criteria? The answer to this is yes: some time ago, I wrote about how Stella no Mahou lacked magic in spite of its title. I drew upon New Game!, an anime which had a very similar premise, and gave a succinct account of what New Game! accomplished that was missing in Stella no Mahou. I concluded that I was unhappy with Stella no Mahou because the path to Tamaki’s accomplishments were fraught with challenges that did not contribute to her growth, and the supporting cast never gave her the support that she needed. In the end, the achievements Tamaki did experience felt small, diminished by setbacks that overshadowed the joys of putting out a game. In my review, however, I also sought out some positives about the series (the moments that do show teamwork are heartwarming to watch, and I believe I also praised the consistently good artwork), as well as noting that while I did not like it, the series may work for others. This is what it means to write a fair critical review: instead of vehemently tearing down a series, one must apply the same critical thinking to properly express what fell through, and what one was expecting. In addition, a fair reviewer must also see why there are some who like the series, as well as work out who may enjoy the work. In a positive review, one similarly can look at what could further augment a work, and determine what kind of viewers may not find things so enjoyable. Finally, a good reviewer respects the reader’s agency and will never tell readers what to do: this is why I typically only remark on whether or not a series has my recommendation, leaving it to the reader to make their own choices.

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.