This anime was lent to me by Anthony I., who spends almost as much time dreaming about space as the lead character. It took me ages to get around to watching but it was quite addictive once I started, although I hope Anthony has an open mind because the reason is not the one you might think.
The show opens with the launch of a rocket, destined for space. It's the work of many people and the proud first step for the Japanese space program. Thus it hurts many people deeply when an exploding booster rocket causes it to crash back to Earth creating a dramatic fireball. Some of the more immediate pain coming from those unlucky enough to be in the town it lands on. It is truly a disaster on a monumental scale that will leave scars and loss for lifetimes.
Most specifically we follow Asumi, a young girl traumatized by the painful and lingering loss of her mother and her dad's retreat into a deep depression (he being one of the project's engineers). However she, with the help of an unexpected outside source, proves to have the strength to overcome it. Not only that she sets her sights, and her dreams, on becoming an Astronaut herself. The formation of a "space school" in Tokyo gives her the possibility of realising her dream, but will she be able to overcome the barriers both internal and external that are set in her way?
Such an odd title really. I can sort of see how the plan for it would work. The lead, as seems typical, is dimunitive and seemingly untalented but is able to harness her passion, compassion and strength of will to occasionally surprise those around her. This is tested by the harsh training at the school, and her involvement in the trials and tribulations of some of the other members of the cast. Indeed her good hearted nature seems to make her a bit of a magnet for troubled souls. One member of the cast, Marika, bordering on the fascinatingly psychotic in her behaviour. She actually manages to make a good portion of the show her own and her background, once discovered, is actually enough to justify her behaviour.
It's good hearted and quite watchable. Most people who can cope with the character driven material (feel free to stop reading if you are after action, there's none of that here) will find Asumi and many of the other characters likeable and interesting. It is true that their backstory is a little too contrived and is depended on to drive the plot. A great deal of time is spent flashing back to early events and how they affect the mature individual. At times it seems like taking the easy way out because it would be more interesting if most of the issues developed from events that occurred during the story. Stated another way too much of the characters identity is linked to their origin rather than their actions. This is especially true for the interloper character (Lion-san) who is pretty cool but storywise a bit of a dead end because he's irretrievably bound to the past. It also means that closure tends to be a little artificial because it needs people to preach somewhat pretentiously in order to address a root cause they have no reason to know or understand. Marika's eventual transformation being an excellent example.
At this point some readers might be wondering when I'm going to start talking about the space bits. After all, this is a space themed anime about kids going to astronaut school. If so then you fully understand the experience of watching the anime, because the whole space thing comes to virtually nothing in practice. Which is part of the reason the personal drama has to come to the fore in order to fill up the running time. I kept expecting the space element to blossom and was ultimately disappointed.
The core premise of the show is extremely silly anyway. A manned space mission costs so much money that an agency is not going to advertise for astronauts in the paper. They would of course be selected and trained as part of the project, and paid for their time. Thus the idea of young children paying high fees to become "freelance" astronauts is daft. It would work if the setting was high tech, where space flight has become a much more standardised process, although that would remove the dramatic intensity of the "pioneer" element. This flaw shows up very clearly in the training itself, the vast majority of it being obviously irrelevant to the actual skills one imagines an astronaut would have. Sure, they would have to be fit (running figures prominently) but knowing how to operate their particular vehicle would be far more critical. However since the show posits "general" astronauts, and the creators don't seem to have done their research, no such thing is possible. Thus the school actually feels more like a way of ripping off naieve kids, as evidence by their dodgy "training" and miniscule budget, than a realistic proposition.
So, while it is watchable if you are amenable to character based drama, it has some really serious flaws. The fact that the space element ends up being somewhere between silly and boring fairly much cripples the foundation of the show. Some unlikely co-incidence, corny dialogue and a lack of character growth also works to limit the enjoyment of the other portions of the title. The conclusion actually doing quite a lot of this damage, feeling rushed, contrived and primarily demonstrating the poor judgement of the main characters.
The crisp and clean production is pretty easy to watch. Asumi's character design is a little too plain perhaps, with her rosy cheeks seemingly painted on to make her distinguishable. This is partly why the striking, and dramatic, Marika is able to dominate many of the scenes. There's no action to speak of, the technical design is hopelessly weak, and there's far too many repetitive flashbacks. Taken in all it is competent but unexciting animation. The voices are quite good, especially for some of the laid back male characters (Lion-san especially) and the opening song is catchy and visually enticing. The closing song is a lot less exciting, and has some oddly differing stills, and the incidental music is nothing to be thrilled about.
The ambition of a young girl and the immense challenge that is conquering space and the stars. How could such a drama go wrong. Well, they certainly find a way with a show that has good character but is extremely light on any actual content ... it almost feels like the creators didn't do their research. The animation is also pretty plain and there is no action, or even space technology fanshots, to fill up the time.
I didn't search too hard, but I didn't see any reviews from my regular sources.