The Infinite Zenith

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Tag Archives: Mikage Sakurai

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

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

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

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

Facts from the Geoscience Club and A Koiasu Time-lapse

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Additional Remarks

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Everyone has something they love and something they’re talented at, a world unique to them. If you’re all by yourself, you only have your world; but when you’re connected to others, the possibilities spread out endlessly before you.” –Mira Konohata

With a beautiful day ahead, Mira and Ao spend the morning learning about asteroids with Asuka and Shiho. Their instructor explains that asteroids are undifferentiated and can be broadly separated out as having either a chondrite, stony or metallic composition. It is here that Mira and Ao realise that the skills from their peers in the geology segment of the Earth Sciences Club would be valuable for understanding the early solar system. The day passes quickly, and night sets in. This time, the evening skies are clear, and the girls enjoy time star gazing together while the staff get the telescope and computer systems ready. As the evening wears on, the girls identify an object of interest, but it turns out this was an existing object. While Mira and the others are somewhat disappointed, the astronomer reminds the girls that science is also about laying the groundwork for future discoveries. Motivated by the fact that their efforts during their time in the Shining Star Challenge will help future students and scientists alike, the girls turn their efforts towards their final presentation, where they share their experiences and learnings. Mira and Ao say their farewells to Asuka and Shiho, promising to meet again one day for astronomy. After one final group photo, Mira and Ao head home with Yuki. When they return to school, they share their experiences with the Earth Sciences Club, as well as Mari and Mikage, who are on break from university. Stargazing together, the Earth Sciences Club’s current members and alumni reminisce on just how far everyone’s come: Chikage’s begun to appreciate astronomy more, and Yū has opened up to the others, appreciating the joys of collaboration. Mira mentions that her experiences have shown her beyond any doubt that astronomy, geology and all other sciences are multi-disciplinary, requiring the expertise and skill set of individuals from different backgrounds in order for any meaningful discoveries and advances to be made. With her and Ao’s experiences together in the Earth Sciences Club and the Shining Star Challenge, Mira promises to one day discover a new asteroid and name it after Ao, together with everyone.

The final quarter, and especially the finale, to Koisuru Asteroid, concludes the anime’s main theme about the importance of multidisciplinary collaboration in the sciences. Throughout Koisuru Asteroid, Mira and Ao, despite their devotion to astronomy, are given a hitherto unexpected, but not unwelcome chance, to learn about materials outside of their discipline. The original arrangements of merging the geology and astronomy clubs together, initially a curse, ended up being a blessing which opened Mira’s perspective to what multidisciplinary collaboration is, and in doing so, paved the way for her appreciation of geology, which in turn changes how she approaches astronomy and ultimately, succeed in being accepted into the Shining Star Challenge. The Shining Star Challenge is ultimately what reaffirms Mira and Ao’s commitment to their dream: it is here that they learn professional techniques first-hand and have access to knowledge from experts in the field. By using a large telescope to photograph the skies and analysing the resulting images with the same software professionals do, the key contribution of Mira and Ao’s participation in the Shining Star Challenge is that it suddenly places what was once a very distant and remote dream, into a realm that now not only seems feasible, but within arm’s reach. Even beyond the discovery of new Near-Earth Objects, the study of the asteroids themselves is a very involved field that requires an understanding of geology: the Mira at Koisuru Asteroid‘s conclusion appreciates that asteroids are not merely something of interest to astronomers, and that geologists take an interest in them because of the insights they offer into the early solar system and its formation. As Mira best puts it, no scientific discipline is an island, and it is only through cooperation and collaboration that the truly significant and wonderful discoveries are made.

Aside from presenting multidisciplinary approaches in a highly relaxing and inviting environment, Koisuru Asteroid‘s other major draw is its commitment to striking a fine balance between what’s realistic for Ao and Mira to experience, as well as what is necessary for the anime to convey its messages clearly. When improperly done, realism impedes the thematic elements and flow within a story, detracting from the message that the author aimed to communicate. In Koisuru Asteroid, realism serves to augment the message: notions of disappointment, perseverance, resourcefulness and adaptiveness accompany most everything Mira and the others do. Bad timing, poor weather, ill preparations and miscommunication drive each of Mira, Ao, Mai, Mari, Mikage, Chikage and Yū to explore creative new solutions for one another’s sake. By placing setbacks in the girls’ paths, rather than giving them a clear shot at their objective, Koisuru Asteroid is able to show the sort of mindset that each of the girls in the Earth Sciences Club will need to realise their own future aspirations. Beyond appropriately conveying real-world limitations and setbacks, the other aspect of realism that Koisuru Asteroid nails is the presentation of astronomical and geological information. Every single fact presented is correct, true to its real-world equivalent, and moreover, is communicated in a very clear manner. Much as how Mira excels with scientific communication, Koisuru Asteroid does an excellent job of conveying complex ideas in an approachable fashion. From the sky photography techniques used to detect celestial bodies, to the use of an equatorial mount on a telescope, Koisuru Asteroid is as much of an educational experience as much as it is an entertaining one. The use of real-world techniques and equipment also has one additional knock-on effect: it shows the viewers that Mira and Ao’s dream of discovering an asteroid together is a feasible one, and given that these two have begun their journey, folks watching Koisuru Asteroid, likely with dreams and goals of their own, can also achieve them.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Ao and Mira’s moods in the morning are as fine as the skies themselves, and it is with optimism that the girls go forth into their final day of the Shining Star Challenge. For this finale post, I’ve opted to go with thirty screenshots over the usual twenty, as there is quite a bit of territory to cover with the last episode of Koisuru Asteroid. I will be going through the different bits of astronomy and geology in the finale, as well as covering off some final thoughts about this series.

  • Shortly before breakfast, the astronomers lead Mira and the others through some fundamentals about asteroids; while reading back a passage on asteroids, Mira’s stomach betrays her hunger, prompting the astronomers to call in a break for breakfast. Here, they are discussing the composition of asteroids – asteroids can be classified into three groups based on their compositions. The C-type (chondrite) asteroids are made up of silicates or carbon, S-type (stony) are a combination of silicates and nickle-iron, and M-type (metallic) have a predominantly nickle-iron composition.

  • Because different materials have different reflective properties, it is possible to determine an asteroid’s composition based on spectral analysis: C-type asteroids are usually very dark and reflect little light, while M-type asteroids reflect more light. As it stands, M-type asteroids are the most visible, but are also the rarest, whereas C-type asteroids are relatively common but much trickier to spot owing to how dark they are. Each of the three types have several subgroups depending on the classification schema (Tholen and SMASS are the two major systems), but that is outside the scope of discussions in Koisuru Asteroid. An interesting fact about C-type asteroids is that they are among the most primitive of the objects in the solar system, and their composition gives a great deal of insight into the makeup of the debris disk surrounding a younger sun.

  • The Ishigaki Astronomical Observatory is located on the western edge of Ishigaki Island, and this is the darkest location that Mira and Ao have ever stargazed under: with an SQM of 21.60 mag./arc sec² (corresponding to a Class 4 on the Bortle Dark Sky Index, perfect conditions where magnitude 6.0-6.5 stars are visible to the naked eye). Here, the Milky Way would be visible, and more complex structures can be seen with the naked eye. Besides a sky richer in stars than they’d previously seen, Ao, Mira, Asuka and Shiho also spot a meteor. Ao and Mira immediately make a wish, and although the wish is left unsaid, it is implied that both are hoping for the fulfilment of their childhood promise.

  • As Shiho, Asuka, Mira and Ao unwind under the warm night skies of Ishigaki, they’ve also set up a tripod for some astrophotography. My astronomy guides, written in the early 2000s, accommodate for both film and CCD cameras, but the techniques remain similar enough for the basic camera-on-a-tripod setup: a good camera can take stunning pictures of the constellations and fair pictures of Milky Way on its own. Terrance Dickinson and Alan Dyer’s The Backyard Astronomer’s Guide recommends using a 50 mm lens set to f2 or f2.8, and then taking a 15 second exposure for a basic shot of the night sky: longer exposures will create star trails, which is a different kind of nighttime image taken by deliberately leaving the shutter open.

  • While the artwork and animation in Koisuru Asteroid are unimpressive, being simplistic and minimal compared to other anime of its genre: Machikado Mazoku‘s visuals are more polished and detailed, and against the likes of GochiUsaKoisuru Asteroid looks positively second-rate. With more detailed artwork, Koisuru Asteroid would have really been able to capture the beauty of the sciences that Mira and Ao see to the audiences. However, it speaks volumes to the strength of the characters and story in Koisuru Asteroid that even with lesser visuals, the anime was as engaging and captivating as it was.

  • With excellent weather conditions all around, the time has come for Mira et al. to put their learnings from the previous night to practise. After collecting the first image and comparing them, they find a faint-looking object on the edge of the screen that blinks out light from the stars over a few frames, and more importantly, does not appear to have been an object catalogued previously. Excitement mounts – Mira, Ao, Shiho and Asuka appear to have found a previously-unidentified asteroid.

  • The scientific method, however, commands a vigourous and thorough investigation of all possible outcomes, and the astronomers let the girls know that more photographs are needed to confirm whether or not the object being tracked was previously known. There’s only enough time left in the evening for one more shot: each photograph takes half an hour, and the girls still have their final presentations to prepare. Faced with making a choice between selecting a different sector of the sky to work with or photographing the same site twice to ascertain the new object’s identity, the girls decide to verify their findings and take another short of the same area of the sky.

  • To everyone’s disappointment, the second image, coupled with a database query of known objects in the sky, find that the object of interest turns out to have been already identified. This is a common enough occurrence in asteroid detection that the astronomers themselves don’t think much of it, but the girls are visibly dejected by this revelation: Mira’s expression says it all. However, setbacks are temporary, and Mira’s spirits soon lift after listening to the astronomer explain the importance of tracking known objects, as well: it allows for researchers to determine their trajectories with a greater certainty.

  • Thus, Mira and the others set themselves on completing their final presentation for the Shining Stars Challenge, which acts as a summary of their findings and expresses what everyone got out of their experiences. The girls pull an all-nighter to wrap up this presentation, and in the end, the results are worth it. Here, I note that during my entire career as a student, I’ve never once done an all-nighter to finish anything. The reason I dislike all-nighters are because lack of sleep corresponds directly with making mistakes, which creates a positive feedback loop of frustration and errors. In Mira, Shiho and Asuka’s case, however, this was an allocated time for them, so they make the most of it and come out with a completed presentation come morning.

  • While Ao is only an observer, she nonetheless helps to provide photographs and the detailed notes that she’d taken to assist the others. With the work behind them, Mira and the others prepare to get some shut-eye, but Shiho, feeling that there’s a bit of private time now, expresses a strong desire to get to know Ao better. In a way, Shiho shares some commonalities with Moe, and Ao’s reaction is adorable. The placement of lighting in this scene (Ao is brightly lit, and Shiho is in the shadows) serves to accentuate how uncomfortable Ao is with the situation (done purely for comedy, of course).

  • During the presentation, Mira, Asuka and Shiho summarise all of the learnings during the course of the Shining Stars Challenger. In a voice-over, Mira notes that in the end, no one made any novel discoveries. This was to be expected – the odds of being able to discover anything in the space of two nights is astronomically slim, and as the professional astronomer notes, a lot of it also comes down to luck, being in the right place at the right time. Such an example can be found in David H. Levy, an amateur astronomer with a doctorate in English literature. He’s credited with discovering no fewer than twenty-two comets (some in conjunction with professional astronomers Eugene and Carolyn Shoemaker) and a host of minor planets from a combination of skilful observation and being in the right place at the right time.

  • With the Shining Star Challenge in the books, Mira and Ao prepare to part ways with Asuka and Shiho. In the short span of two days, Ao and Mira have made new friends, and already make plans to get together again in the future. The girls decide to take a group photo before they depart for separate destinations: Yuki and Hayakawa suggests taking a photo at a very special spot to them. In this moment, each of Asuka, Ao, Shiho and Mira have their phones in hand, and all of them look to be variations of the iPhone 8 or similar.

  • Yuki and Hayakawa suggest taking their group photo at a very special spot: the same one that they’d taken after completing their Shining Star Challenge some years previously. The choice of location shows that through generations of students, some things remain constant. Ao, Asuka, Mira and Shiho thus jump into the air to a stunning sunset, creating one final memory of a priceless experience.

  • On the flight back home, Ao and Mira share a conversation while Yuki dozes, reflecting on their experiences with people from all diciplines and how fun that was. The reason why I’m a proponent of multidisciplinary approaches is precisely because of the potential for collaboration and cooperation. Having majored in a multidisciplinary faculty in my undergraduate program, I saw first-hand how different skill sets are needed to solve complex problems, and even now, I attribute my unusual problem-solving methodologies a consequence of having done a combination of medical and computer sciences.

  • Back home, Mira immediately calls Misa and provides her with an update on things. A digital photo frame in the foreground indicates the dynamic that Misa and Mira share: both are on good terms with one another and share an amicable relationship. Even though Misa has not had a significant presence in Koisuru Asteroid, being focused on her own goals, she still supports Mira as best as she can. I vaguely recall mentioning that Misa is voiced by Mai Fuchigami, and the differences between her performance as Misa and Miho are night and day. Girls und Panzer represented Fuchigami’s breakout role, and since then, she’s played a range of more significant characters in a variety of anime.

  • Mira and Ao receive a warm welcome after returning to the Earth Science Club’s clubroom: everyone is present, including alumni and even members from the Newspaper Club have arrived to greet them, having previously been promised some sweets from Okinawa to try out and also curious to hear more about the Shining Star Challenge for the school newspaper. Such an article would be a great boost for the school, showcasing the achievements of its students in the sciences: Mira and Ao’s achievements are nothing to sneeze at, showing exemplary initiative in pursuing one’s dreams.

  • While Koisuru Asteroid might be more rudimentary with respect to its artwork and animation, the series has not failed to make appropriate use of lighting, through time of day and weather conditions, to capture a specific mood or atmosphere. Ao and Mira’s return to the clubroom is set under the gentle pink glow of an early evening, creating a sense of nostalgia and the ending of one journey. The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-chan similarly used these colours to mark the end of one status quo at the series’ very beginning. While oranges and crimsons are more associated with sunsets, pink is a much more gentle colour that signifies the end of one path, and the beginning of another.

  • Moe had been absent for the whole of the penultimate episode, but she comes back in full force in the finale, bearing freshly-baked goods from the Suzuya bakery and hugging Mikage after she expresses that she’s missed the Suzuya’s baked goods. Despite the presence of the snacks Mira and Ao brought back from Okinawa, the Suzuya baked goods are eaten with great enthusiasm. Afterwards, Moe and Megu prepare to head off: Megu is given a vial of star-sand from Okinawa. Named after their characteristic shape, Okinawa’s star-sand is formed by Foraminifera, who build star-shaped shells. Because shells of larger Foraminifera react to environmental conditions rapidly and have a wide geographical distributions, they make for great index fossils (fossils that are only found in one time span).

  • While Mai, Chikage and Yū initially felt that Ao’s sudden decision to follow Mira to Okinawa was a selfish, uncalculated one, seeing Mira and Ao recount their experiences has unequivocally shifted their perspectives: hearing that Ao had been of a great help to Mira, the other girls are reminded that Mira and Ao are inseparable. It is certainly the case that having Ao with her in Okinawa was of a great help to Mira, who, despite her open and cheerful disposition, can be burdened by setbacks at times. Having Ao around doubtlessly helped her to regain her spirits on the morning after their first night had been clouded out.

  • The time has finally come to plug in their digital camera and check out all of the photos that were taken over the course of the Shining Star Challenge. The actual camera is a Fujifilm X100F Brown: this is an unexpectedly fancy camera for the Earth Sciences Club and features a 24.3 megapixel X-Trans CMOS III APS-C sensor. Besides boasting some of the best hardware of 2018, the girls are running the model with a brown leather siding, as well. The camera has a surprisingly small number of photos, but all of them are excellent, including the night shot the girls had taken on the observatory’s roof with a tripod, and a pair of images portraying the girls jumping under a swift sunset: with its incredible features, it is unsurprising that the camera could take such nice images. The girls also hear from Asuka, who’s managed to attend a concert featuring her favourite idol.

  • For old times’ sake, the girls prepare to head off to the roof and stargaze. Yuki’s already gone ahead and grabbed the key to the roof. I’ve had a chance to listen to Koisuru Asteroid‘s soundtrack in full now: the music covers a broad spectrum of moods and feelings, from the comedic to the melancholic, from the every day to the extraordinary. My favourite of the tracks are 旅立ち (Hepburn tabidachi, “Departure” or “To set off (on a journey)”) and 優しく (Hepburn yasahiku, “Gently”). Besides the thirty-two instrumental pieces, there are also five vocal songs, one each for the Earth Science Club’s original members.

  • By this point in time, Mira’s become proficient with setting up a telescope, and it’s ready in no time at all for use. I note that I’ve been remarkably positive about Koisuru Asteroid, and it appears that these positive sentiments are shared by a fair number of viewers, as well. The leading criticism of the series is that it’s “boring”: from a certain point of view, staring at the ground and staring at the sky can be quite dull, especially if one isn’t into all of the underlying sciences in Koisuru Asteroid. For me, the reason why Koisuru Asteroid works so well is precisely because for me, it is watching a NOVA special in anime form. With this in mind, “boring” is a weak criticism, and I expect people to put in a bit more effort in explaining themselves if they were bored at any point (a simple “the subject is not something I’m interested in” is already leaps and bounds ahead).

  • Because I’ve always held an interest in astronomy and geology as a hobby (I partake in amateur astronomy with binoculars and took a course on it in university for my own amusement), it was especially fun for me to experience an anime that covered topics that I would normally read about in a book. These interests are not universally shared, and so, I understand why the premise of Koisuru Asteroid to be dull for some viewers. This is compounded by the fact that Moe provides most of the koi in Koisuru Asteroid: beyond a few minor moments, yuri in Koisuru Asteroid is completely overshadowed by Ao and Mira’s promise, as well as the sciences.

  • Koisuru Asteroid established immediately that it would be more keen on providing more about the sciences than it was about what the community refers to as “subtext”, and while this wasn’t a problem for me, I can appreciate that there are some who entered the series with the expectations that such subtext would constitute a much larger part of the narrative. This disconnect could also be responsible for the series’ comparatively poor reception by some: not every viewer entered the anime with an inquisitive drive and intellectual curiosity to learn more about the stars above and the earth below, and it is not reasonable to demand this of viewers.

  • People are entitled to their opinions, and I don’t object to those who disliked Koisuru Asteroid. What I will say, however, is that people should be making their own decisions on whether or not this series is worth watching, and a handful of highly up-voted negative reviews don’t speak to the quality of Koisuru Asteroid. I’ve said this before: I never presume to tell others what to think, and for Koisuru Asteroid, I will let my readers to decide which is worth giving more weight to: open-mindedness, fairness and positivity, or criticism, bias and negativity.

  • Back in Koisuru Asteroid itself, as Mira and Ao watch the others stargaze, they begin reminiscing on all of the memories they’ve created together with the Earth Sciences Club over the past year and some; the final few moments of the finale are devoted to a montage of some of the most memorable moments in the series. When I look back, there were some moments that I’m almost positive were not shown in the anime proper, so either they did occur and I’ve forgotten about them, or Koisuru Asteroid is trying to convey the idea that good memories can be numerous to the point where one cannot easily recall all of them.

  • The commemorative photo that Yuki takes for Shiho, Mira, Asuka and Ao captures the emotional tenour in one critical milestone for Mira and Ao; besides providing the opportunity to learn and explore asteroid discovery from professionals, the Shining Star Challenge also led Mira and Ao towards forming new friendships. A photograph is worth a thousand words, and if there were any moments in Koisuru Asteroid that depicts the sum of the themes and motifs of the series, this would be it: at the end of the day, science is by the people, for the people.

  • Thus, upon finishing the finale, it felt fitting to have Mira herself be featured as the quote for this post. Always having a good sense with words, Mira’s able to capture moments very precisely in a few lines. With this, Koisuru Asteroid draws to a close precisely the same way it began, with a new promise being made as Mira and Ao realise how far they’ve come, but also how much more that remains to be done towards fulfilling their promise. The choice of camera angles shows exactly this, portraying the girls looking upon the night sky with the same positioning and letter-boxing to reinforce the parallels.

  • Altogether, Koisuru Asteroid earns an A+ (a perfect 4.0 of 4.0, or a 9.5 of ten): a superbly enjoyable series, Koisuru Asteroid only loses out on being a masterpiece (a full ten of ten) because it did not change my world-view to a considerable extent (my criteria for a masterpiece). I had already deeply enjoyed astronomy and geology previously, and I’ve always been driven by learning about new stuff (this is mandatory for any iOS developer), so Koisuru Asteroid served to remind me of what I love doing, rather than changing the way I looked at the world. With this in mind, I enjoyed Koisuru Asteroid very much, and with this, I bring this talk of my first anime of the new decade to a close.

From their early days as a newly-minted club whose members only nominally got along, to realising that everyone shared more in common than their interests in astronomy or geology and the subsequent adventures they share together, Mira and the Earth Sciences Club give Koisuru Asteroid heart. With an authentic, genuine and sincere presentation, Koisuru Asteroid touches on the romanticism in the pursuit of one’s dreams, the importance of collaboration, and the value of one’s experiences during its twelve episode run. While it may not be the most gorgeous-looking anime out there in terms of art or animation, Koisuru Asteroid more than makes up for this with its heart-warming story, immensely likeable characters and plenty of geology and astronomy knowledge, made accessible to viewers, scattered throughout the anime. The sum of what Koisuru Asteroid does well far exceeds the limitations in artwork and animation: I have no trouble recommending Koisuru Asteroid to anyone who is keen on slice-of-life series or is curious to watch an anime with a well-executed scientific component. The final topic to consider is whether or not Koisuru Asteroid will get a continuation, and the resulting answer should not be too surprising: the anime adapts the manga’s first two volumes, and there currently are a total of three volumes that are available. As such, it is definitely possible that we could see a second season of Koisuru Asteroid in the future as the manga advances; even though Koisuru Asteroid‘s anime ends on a high note, I certainly would love to see what lies ahead for Mira, Ao and the Earth Sciences Club that has come a very long way from humble beginnings and what began with a promise under the night skies.

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

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

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

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

Screenshots and Commentary

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“我跟你打” –萬宗華, 葉問4: 完結篇

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

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

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

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

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

Screenshots and Commentary

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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