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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.

Controversed: Moyatori’s November Workshop (Part IV), On Handling Critique, Criticisms and Controversy Fatigue

“A person who was demoralised is unable to assess true information. The facts tell nothing to him. Even if I shower him with information, with authentic proof, with documents, with pictures; even if I take him by force to the Soviet Union and show him [a] concentration camp, he will refuse to believe it, until he [receives] a kick in his fan-bottom. When a military boot crashes his balls then he will understand. But not before that. That’s the [tragedy] of the situation of demoralisation.” –Yuri Bezmenov

We’ve come to the last item in Moyatori’s Controversed: as a short refresher, it’s a bit of a special workshop Moyatori’s been hosting to understand how peers become versed in maturely and expertly navigating controversial topics. For this final week, the name of the game is handling criticisms and feedback from readers – up until now, the topic has always been how we wrote about difficult topics. However, the readers’ inputs are also a key part of the process: they may offer insights to augment our own, challenge us with different ideas or, my personal favourite, swing by with colourful insults, never to be heard from again. The comments are thus a necessary part of any discussion involving controversy, and Moyatori’s questions this week deal in some of the more memorable experiences that we’ve had in the community with bad comments, specifics behind how everyone handles feedback, and the sort of things I do to combat fatigue amidst flame wars. Thus, for this post, it’s time to go storytelling for the first item, spend some time explaining my own comments policy and style, and then wrap up with another story. Before I begin, I will note that all comments here, and most other WordPress blogs, are moderated automatically by a tool called Akismet, which automatically filter out spam comments from bots looking to sell essays or Sildenafil from dubious, malware-infested sources. New comments that are not determined to be spam are pushed to a queue that I personally review, and only after being cleared, will comments become visible to all readers. As far as my WordPress comments experience with this blog goes, a vast majority of readers, I am happy to report, are civilised, well-mannered and rational people who have interesting and valuable things to say. By speaking with them, I learn or have a good time in considering different points of view. Over this blog’s nine year history, I have only ever deleted a single comment from a user who clearly had nothing of worth to add to my discussion of the Kokoro Connect Incident, and in general, I tend to keep even the ad hominem comments, if only so I can make an example of those who are unable to have a civilised discussion. In short, my WordPress experience has been very smooth sailing, and I have no horror stories to report here.

  • It is a bit surprising to see that the end of November is already upon us, and that this is the fourth Controversed post. Because Moyatori indicated that the deadline was going to be the upcoming Sunday at noon Pacific Standard Time, I figured that I should get this done as soon as possible. This event has been quite fun for pushing me to explore directions that this blog wouldn’t normally explore, although I do get the feeling that far from helping readers to understand how I do things, I’ve only really succeeded in dropping my follower count.

Because my blog has been around for quite some time, it’s drawn readers who have found the content here to be enjoyable or relevant to them, and some of these readers have been courteous to spread the word by sharing links to my posts elsewhere online. Most of these conversations use my materials as a starting point for their own discussions, and I do not begrudge people for doing that in any way. However, it is also off-site where almost all of the criticisms are levelled at this blog. There is a recurring trend in that some readers find my style to be very dense, dry and difficult to read. I find this to be perfectly valid: I have a particular style, but I don’t find it easy to write in a conversational manner. I try to address this with my figure captions, where I do get to be more informal. Beyond this, I’ve been accused of being self-aggrandising, writing to “listen to the sound of my own voice” and the like, as well; again, had these folks decided to leave the feedback here, it might’ve been possible to query them and gain insight into what precisely they were looking for: it could be the case that I am being pedantic for readers, but it is equally possible that I happened to disagree with them and found a way to so thoroughly shut their argument down, that their only retort amounted to naught more than a juvenile insult. If folks insist on making their criticisms in their own venues (Reddit and TV Tropes are where most of my critics congregate), then there is no opportunity for conversation or understanding, since I don’t make it a point to ensure a hundred percent approval rating from websites that I am unrelated to. The goal of this blog is certainly not to appease Redditors or Tropers to validate their egos, and with this being said, I typically find that the off-site criticisms about this blog remain relatively mild compared to the story Moyatori’s looking to hear for this Controversed. In response to whether or not I have a horror story about feedback, I do happen to have such a story, and it is a thrilling one.

  • The page quote is sourced from Yuri Bezmenov, who spoke of the “active measures” that the Soviet Union had employed to undermine the foundations of western civilisation. While it seemed improbable that generations of people would suddenly stop believing in facts, what I’ve seen around the internet has indicated that, foreign influence or no, the western world does seem to be trending towards a lack of respect for facts and science. Some nobody with a Tinder-style Twitter profile picture is more trustworthy than an expert in the field, and in their minds, should be afforded equal respect.

This story deals with K-On! The Movie, which follows Yui and her friends as they travel to London after a miscommunication results in the group setting up a graduation trip to cover their actual goal of writing a song for Azusa. During the course of their travels, Yui sees what Azusa means to her and the rest of Houkago Tea Time. With Naoko Yamada directing, this movie was a smash hit by all definitions. However, the series’ success has also been viewed by a small, but vocal group of people as being detrimental to the industry. In the summer of 2012, shortly after K-On! The Movie‘s home release had become available, AnimeSuki’s Reckoner (a writer at Behind the Nihon Review) published a lengthy harangue about K-On! The Movie. Behind The Nihon Review has had a history of criticising K-On!, and while Sorrow-kun, the site’s lead writer, always maintained that they were a bastion of intellectual discussion, the reality was that they had used academia and intellectual methodology as an immature (but effective) cover to complain about genres that made anime look like anything other than intellectually stimulating treatises on philosophy, sociology and politics. Ten days after the movie came out, I awoke on Saturday to find this atrocity of a “review” in my list of subscribed threads:

K-ON! has always been one of the most disingenuous anime franchises of all time to me. If there is any big reason why this movie ultimately falls flat on its face it is because they try to strike a sentimental chord about the nostalgic high school years in a franchise whose sincerity has gone completely bankrupt a long time ago. Not to mention the amount of distraction that is caused by what ultimately felt like a minor side point to this story, their trip to London.

Seriously what was the point of this movie in ever venturing off to London? Half the movie, if not maybe a little more actually takes place back in Japan. The time they do spend in London is just waltzing around random parts of the city and hardly utilizing any elements of the culture and setting for the purposes of the movie. When they did their little performances, one was at a sushi bar and the other was at a Japanese cultural fair. Home away from home? Give me a break. This movie never needed to go to London to do what it did because it never actually really used the goddamn setting in anyway meaningful. The focus here is completely off.

I also have to note why people in London were portrayed like the biggest weirdos ever. I mean c’mon now, I know Japanese people tend to not be very good with foreign countries but this sort of ridiculing portrayal of foreigners has got to stop. I usually forgive TV more for this since well they don’t got the budget and stuff, but this is a goddamn movie and they can’t actually do a better job here? Worst the engrish still exists and they can’t get proper english speakers? Give me a break.

If this movie was supposed to be about how they wanted to say goodbye to the their good friend, then good grief did they go about in the most roundabout manner possible. It does not help that most of movie is pretty much recycling the same old jokes and personality quirks that have long since gone past their life time of freshness and amusement.

And like always this franchise hasn’t been about music. That became very clear in its very first season and it still is clear now. I never got the impression that the music was something deeply important to the character, rather it was the experience with themselves as friends that they seemed to value more. Essentially the hobby didn’t matter, it was just that they all interacted with this hobby. To the very end this permeated the show, and I still have to ask the question here, why music? If K-ON!! ever truly sent the message here about why music was here in the first place, I never got it. It had about as much purpose as it did in something like Angel Beats, it’s just sort of there. This franchise is still completely false advertising in this regard.

I also do not like how they always manage to play so damn perfect in their songs. Oh we wrote a song, we don’t really practice it and all of a sudden they’re on stage and the whole crowd eats it up. Great. It’s a disservice to the process of music completely. The only time they did any different was the very last song that they prepared for Azu-nyan, but these scenes were far and few in between through this entire franchise and even in the movie.

In reality this didn’t need to be a film. The pacing throughout was completely off and very uneven. The production values were honestly a bit disappointing for a Kyoani effort. A lack of a cohesive narrative structure plagued the film all throughout because of two completely different focuses never meshing together. The sentimentality doesn’t work because it never properly built a base by distancing itself from its obvious 4-koma roots in the first place. When most of your show consists of eating cake and drinking tea with 4-koma styled humor and interactions throughout, it just does not feel sincere. The film wasted too much time in an ultimately pointless side adventure to make up any ground here on this front.

I hope this is the last we ever of the K-ON franchise. This film was extremely, extremely poor.

Within moments of finishing reading this that morning, counterarguments began racing through my mind: if anything, it was Reckoner’s “review” that was extremely, extremely poor. Reckoner was wrong on all counts about K-On! The Movie. This “review” demonstrated his emotional bankruptcy, as well as small-mindedness and inconsolable envy at the fact that a series with a theme on something that wasn’t “intellectually stimulating” could perform well. The London trip in K-On! The Movie was an accident, a consequence of the girls trying to conceal their graduation gift to Azusa, and that the fact it happens shows that Houkago Tea Time is very much a go-with the flow band. The movie also used native English speakers, and I felt it reasonable to suppose that Reckoner is probably a non-native speaker if he had trouble with comprehending the dialogue. The series has never been about music, and instead, was a story of discovery and appreciation, as well as expressing thanks through music. Houkago Tea Time’s consistently high standard of performance comes from the fact they’ve been playing for three years and know how to put on a show. Reckoner’s dishonesty was disgraceful in his “review”, and calling the movie out for poor production values is to be outright lying: the film looked and feels sharper than anything seen in the TV series, making use of sophisticated lighting and camera angles. Behind the Nihon, if anything, was false advertising, claiming to have “intellectual” discussion when all they did was complain about moé anime. It was fortunate that beyond AnimeSuki, Reckoner’s “review” never made it anywhere else, as it represented an unsatisfactory effort based on emotion rather than well-reasoned thoughts. Amidst this jumble of thoughts, I knew that Reckoner was entitled to his opinions of the film, but as I’ve continued to maintain, being entitled to an opinion does not mean one is entitled to an audience, or entitled to having people agree with him for free.

Thus, rather than counter-argue against the “review” directly, I attempted to probe further and see if I could get Reckoner to rationally justify why he had watched the movie if he’d never been a fan of the franchise. If people were going to agree with him, I felt that Reckoner would really have to earn this right. However, I never got any further: back in those days, AnimeSuki possessed a reputation system that was originally intended to show which forum members had anything useful to say. Naturally, Reckoner, being a longtime user of the site, had a much higher reputation score than myself. When I asked why people were agreeing with Reckoner despite his rant being contributing nothing of value to the discussion, this prompted people in the discussion to dole out negative reputation to my account. Over the course of an hour, I’d gone from being reputation positive to being very reputation negative, which resulted in my being totally ignored in all parts of the forum. All of this resulted from challenging a longtime member to really justify their conclusions properly in the spirit of discussion. Because Reckoner had completely convinced his arguments were indisputable and counting on his reputation rather than merit, to defend his position, he resorted to crude means of closing the discussion, expecting that people agree with him simply because he’d been around at AnimeSuki for longer. At Reckoner’s request, for months afterwards, all of my posts were completely disregarded, which completely defeated the purpose of participating in the forum, and my blog even experienced a significant drop in traffic as Reckoner asked in the Behind the Nihon Review community to boycott me for challenging his authority.

The lesson learnt from this incident was that there are people with frail egos who do not like to be challenged, and on virtue of their reputation, demand agreement from others. Were I to go back and do things over, per Moyatori’s question, I’m not sure if there is anything I could’ve done differently to have a conversation with Reckoner directly – this writer from Behind the Nihon Review had a large, but fragile ego and had been utterly convinced that K-On! was something no one should watch. I imagine that had I continued, I would’ve simply been banned. In retrospect, while attempting to get a rational answer from Reckoner was impossible, I could’ve turned the entire situation around by re-writing Reckoner’s review from a completely positive standpoint and made a more concerted effort to gain the support from the other forum goers, to prove that the positives in K-On! The Movie far outweigh the negatives. I never did get around to doing this, however: in the end, I ended up speaking with the admin, who noted that, while Reckoner’s actions were in the wrong, reputation was not something they preferred to deal with (if they allowed me to reset my reputation, it would set a precedence where people could also ask for the same). However, they did permit me to deactivate my old account and spin up a new account for a fresh start. Since my old account was deactivated, I was not violating any rules with the new account. Since then, I’ve been rocking this new account. Further to this, AnimeSuki did away with the reputation system as a result of this incident, and with reputation gone,  all of the forum members were now on equal footing, and I found it much easier to properly have discussions with people when I did rejoin. While it created new problems, allowing Sumeragi to hijack threads and flood them with lies (I’ll discuss that in a few moments), removing reputation was largely a positive move for AnimeSuki: without reputation, Reckoner had to defend his opinions on merit alone and began posting with a dramatically reduced frequency. Finally, as for Reckoner’s efforts to boycott this blog, people soon forgot about things: today, this blog seems to be doing well enough, and dare I say, considerably better than Behind the Nihon Review, which gets as much traffic in a year as I do in a day now.

  • I absolutely stand by my assertion that the hostility towards K-On! stemmed from the fact that the individual had saw himself as being above the creators. This brand of thinking has since permeated the world, with people believing their own knowledge supersedes expert opinion. This is because if their truth is overridden by the truth, the foundations of their world no longer make sense to them, and further to this, the instant gratification afforded by the internet, and social media in particular, mean that highly specialised, technical disciplines are not worth pursuing to them simply because they take a great deal of time to cultivate. Patience and social media do not align: if it takes years to acquire the expertise and skillset needed to understand a topic, it won’t help one get retweets or upvotes, these people reason.

On the matter of how I address my critics and criticisms, I start by noting that there is precious little I can do about discussions that happen off WordPress, and I suspect that my most vocal critics deliberately choose to attack my blog off-site for this reason, likely fearing (non-existent) retribution. However, they are mistaken in their assumption that I censor everything the same way Sony NA does, and in fact, I count this blog’s commenting policy as being very open. Further to this, I strive to be fair to readers who take the time to comment: assuming the comment has cleared the spam filter, is relevant to the discussion and is free of prohibited materials, I always aim to ensure my reply to a comments are close in length to the original, and I strive to answer the commenter as best as I can if they have a question. Readers who leave a sentence and a reaction will likely get a smiley face with their light-hearted reply, and commenters who take the time to write paragraphs will receive a paragraph back in response. The goal here is to foster discussions from across the spectrum: if users are looking for a quick reaction, I can accommodate that as readily as I do lengthier conversations. All sorts of comments are welcome here, and I usually make an effort to reply to comments as soon as possible, usually before I publish my next post. There is only one exception to this rule: I have a zero tolerance policy for memes because of their repetition, which is wasteful, and in particular, the so-called “pepega” meme is outright prohibited here. Posting that hate symbol is the fastest way to be permanently banned from commenting. Beyond this, I welcome comments from readers – besides offering insights I may not think of, there are the occasional comment where a reader writes about how my posts have helped change their lives in a tangible, positive manner, and those are always a joy to read and respond to.

  • Consequently, there is decreasing respect for the scientific method, experts and facts, and this means that controversies become more common. When there is no foundation to build discussions off of, people only have their subjective experiences and emotions to argue from. I call these “feels” in a derogatory manner, and my participation in Controversed found that a lot of misunderstandings in controversies happen precisely because of these so-called “feels”: without context and facts, some people fall back on a knee-jerk reaction to simplify complex issues into a us vs. them debate. In a proper discussion, this does not happen because there is context, and a common ground to build arguments from.

The last item on today’s itinerary is how I handle the potential exhaustion that may result from discussing controversial topics. We suppose that avoiding them is not an option in this case, since my nominal answer is to simply sit them out while they’re raging: a few years ago, a forum-goer calling themselves “Sumeragi” was arguing that Miho was not justified in saving her teammates in Girls und Panzer, and claimed that his own personal views were the correct way of living out life. This resulted in a massive flame war, and while other forum members attempted to counter with logic and reason, Sumeragi insisted on how his beliefs and backgrounds proved that all other arguments were void. This is something straight from the playbook of extremists who’ve rejected reality and replaced it with their own delusions. Against a foe of this sort, it is simpler to not participate. In the case, however, where one is entangled, I would suggest disabling notifications to posts and replies in the social media environment, and for forums, using submit-and-forget approach. The key to avoiding fatigue is understanding that a constant presence in the debate and a swift reply is not worth the stress it introduces. For social media, disabling notifications means not being constantly bombarded with updates, while on forums, writing infrequently and only responding periodically reduces the amount of effort one has to spend replying to people who may not be arguing in good faith. In both cases, the idea is to make the person on the other end of the screen endure the deluge of notifications and refresh their pages anxiously. Even with this approach, heated discussions can get very tiring, and in this case, my favourite course of action usually follows: head offline and do something fun, whether it be going for a walk, grabbing a beer, or unwinding with a good film. There is a price to “winning” online arguments, whether it be suffering from anxiety or, in Sumeragi’s case, a permanent (and well-deserved) ban from AnimeSuki. I remark that there is a difference between a spirited discussion done with folks one is familiar with, and arguing with anonymous people who are convinced they are in the right: with people where a mutual respect is shared, discussions happen at a casual pace, and there is never any exhaustion.

  • To undo demoralisation, then, people must look to accepting that there are other people in the world who specialise and excel in different areas, and that it is the sum of this knowledge that progress is built upon. This means having faith in a physician’s diagnosis of a patient, an engineer’s designs for a building and the software developer’s explanation of how an algorithm works, rather than deciding that one’s own access to Wikipedia makes them equal to an expert. These are my closing remarks for Controversed, and I assure readers that December will be a lot more conventional in nature, as I focus on my usual topics: perhaps then, the readers I’ve frightened off may return.

I believe that with this post, I’m now finished Controversed. I’m not too sure how useful my content has been for Moyatori, and if anything, participating has helped me to recall why I prefer to avoid online controversies altogether – a recurring phenomenon in controversies is that people are often unwilling to listen. Even when presented with the facts, people will cling to their ideology and emotions until the bitter end. A computer program or mathematical proof is insufficient to convince these people of reality, and they stubbornly insist they’re correct even in direct contradiction to empirical data. In this situation, we speak of the demoralisation that Yuri Bezmenov warned the world of decades earlier: when facts fail to be respected, and argument boils down to “feels”, there is nothing to be learnt, and no discussion to be had. Social media exacerbates this, and it gives the terrifying impression that rational, logical thought is rapidly going the way of the dinosaurs. Logic and reason are the sole tools in ensuring that in a controversy, people find the willingness to listen to all sides of the argument. In an age where this is often forgotten, complex issues are reduced to matters of black and white, where all context is stripped from the argument. This accounts for why controversies continue to erupt over every trivial thing in anime and other matters. While knowing how to navigate controversies and discuss these topics is doubtlessly important, the topic Moyatori chooses to close off Controversed is equally important – in a world where every debate is potentially black and white, and where neither side refuses to yield or concede that the other side has merits, knowing precisely how to handle difficult individuals and situations is vital in keeping one from burning out. As long as there are enough people who adhere to civility, logic, reason and a willingness to listen in their arguments, interesting discussions will always be had without getting out of hand, and within the circles I’m a part of, I’ve had no trouble asking difficult questions of my peers, who’ve given me insights I certainly wouldn’t have heard otherwise.

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.