Rocket Girls

January 29, 2012

Despite its name, Rocket Girls isn’t some sleazy anime title nor is it an idol-type anime aimed at young girls who aspire to be stars. Well though, it might have to do with stars but in a different context. Instead, this series if I could say is quite ‘intelligent’ with a pinch of comedy in its own way. We have high school girls living out their dreams by venturing into space. High school girls? Space? Mmm… Often those two words don’t come together in a single sentence but yes, this is what Rocket Girls is about. Sort of. So you think these girls have to be genius nerds to be astronauts because instead of doing what many girls their age are doing (shopping, gossiping, chatting about boyfriends and idols, etc) they’re into something astronomical, then you’re partly wrong because these girls too are ordinary girls. Just that they chose to do something against all odds and something extraordinary.

Initially before I started watching, I thought this was going to be something like Stratos 4, another anime whose theme is a bunch of girls riding up close to space and shoot down meteors. Rocket Girls isn’t close to this bit except maybe the skin tight space suit that shows their curves. Why make something that sexy? At first I thought it was for wind resistance but then it occurred to me, there is no wind in space! Fanservice? Probably. But this series is kept to the very minimal and not something you should look for. Oh, there are those darn aerospace terms too… There’ll be lots of them here so if you’re like me who have no slightest interest in science, physics, chemistry, biology and any other subjects that are associated with it, you’re going to go “Say that again, please?” most of the time. I know I did.

Episode 1
The summer vacation is here for Neris Girls’ Academy. So it’s no surprise Yukari Morita and her friends are noisily looking forward to it. But the strict principal has them remember the school’s regulations of being orderly and proper greeting. No fun. On Solomon Islands, the SSA (Solomon Space Association – staffs made up entirely of Japanese space agency workers) prepare for another trial run for LS-7 booster. This is going to be the 6th time and the previous 5 ended in failures. They have to make sure this one is successful because the public is getting fed up and viewing it as waste of funds. Isao Nasuda tells a colleague of the importance of this trial for future manned flights because of the need to perform maintenance for satellites in space in the long run. USA and Russia have refused to do it so they’ll be the ones who will undertake this mission and their ‘ignition’ to control space and the world. Inside the base, Satsuki Asahikawa, Haruyuki Yasukawa and Hiroyuki Mukai are making bets if the launch will be a failure. Satsuki bets a thousand times it will fail. Yasukawa doesn’t mind if it fails because he gets to go back to his Chitose Air Defence Force base. He remembers Satsuki’s harsh training of making him sit through a 20G simulation. He saw her happy face during his torment. The local Solomon Islands tribes people are celebrating that the Japanese are going to show them their ‘fireworks’. The odd part wasn’t how they love seeing the ‘fireworks’, but rather THEY’RE SPEAKING IN JAPANESE!!! LS-7 is launch but shortly it explodes into pieces. To the tribes people, the awesome ‘fireworks’ is a success as they rejoice. Obviously to SSA, another failure means another round of wasted time, effort and money. All down the drain. Back to the drawing board. Yukari returns home and is packing her stuff since tomorrow she will be leaving for the Solomon Islands.

Upon reaching Axia Island (note, this island is fictional), a Chinese guy, Chou ‘invites’ her into his Tenshin restaurant simply because Japanese people loves his food. She learns there is an airbase and wants to go over there. Nasuda is doing some recalculations. Man, look at his huge rocket ignition booster cigarette lighter!!! Calling a meeting with his staff, he mentions how their sponsor (some ministry) has decided to close their operations by the end of the fiscal year. But it’s too early to quit since there is 6 months left. He plans to use LS-5 to solve the weight problem instead of the thruster’s power. He has Satsuki analyze Yasukawa’s weight and how much she can strip him (he’s supposed to be the astronaut on the rocket if the trial is a success). Satsuki analyzes he will weigh around 55kg but Nasuda tells her to make it down to 40kg! Because of that, Yasukawa runs away from the base! It’s no joke! He rams through all the security in his humvee! Along the way, he sees Yukari and slams on the brakes. Yukari invites herself in for a ride to the base. However no time to argue because SSA’s helicopter is coming! They’re serious! How serious? They are preparing to fire missiles at him if he doesn’t stop! As Yasukawa puts the pedal to the metal, he tells Yukari to wave so they will not shoot. But they fire a warning shot! DAMN!!! Both sides aren’t giving in as Yasukawa is forced off the trek into the jungles. But Nasuda has an idea where he is heading. Yasukawa seeks a room to stay at Chou’s place till tomorrow morning. Chou gets the wrong idea after he sees Yukari with him and gladly lends him a room. Yukari wants an explanation so he says his job condition got worse, he resigned but it was rejected. Do you get it? As for he why she is here, she shows a picture of her father and is looking for him. He went missing 17 years ago while on a honeymoon, though he may look older now. Yasukawa doesn’t recognize this face. Yukari says she asked the police in Honiara but they replied there are many Japanese working there. Yasukawa agrees that there are around 600 Japanese people working there but that base was only built 18 years ago. Suddenly Chou brings guests to Yasukawa. It’s Nasuda and co. Did he betray him? Well, he values their patronage more than anything. Yeah, everybody can be happy this way. Really? Satsuki injects something into Yasukawa to knock him out as they take him away. Nasuda is interested in Yukari and has Satsuki analyze her proportions. 38kg, 153cm, 80-54-82. Wow! Just one look can tell. Nasuda gets even more excited and offers to help Yukari find her father in exchange for a little part time job. No, he’s not going to pimp her. What job then? Sit in front of a machine, answer when you get message, press a few buttons. A job so simple even monkeys can do it. Yeah, why not use a monkey then?

Episode 2
Yukari is taken back to SSA Base and underwent a full body examination. Yeah, every machine that ‘teases’ her body, she just gets so surprised. Ultimately Satsuki reports her as qualified so Nasuda is extremely happy that Yukari has passed to become their astronaut. Astronaut? Hey, this is what the part time job is? She won’t do it because for a high school girl, being an astronaut is way out of her league. How does Nasuda persuade her to stay on? He prays for her father… Oh, that sly dog. Next day Nasuda holds a meeting with his staffs and his calculations with a lighter Yukari that will propel them to success. So he wants them to train Yukari to the verge of death! Hey, who says it was an easy job. Okay, maybe the job was easy but they didn’t mention the super tough pre-requisites that come along. Yukari is made to undergo a 5G simulation by Satsuki, solve complicated equations by Kazuya Kinoshita (you thought algebra was bad, eh?), made to be a model for her spacesuit by chemist Motoko Mihara and basic survival training by Kurosu (see how far Yukari blown away after firing a shot!). When her skin tight suit is ready, she puts it on but feels exposed and the need to at least wear a bra. Motoko’s answer? Wear the bra outside. Yasukawa pays Nasuda a visit and it seems he’s a happy taxi driver. But when Satsuki comes in to report about Yukari’s solo hike, he gets upset that they’re putting a high school girl through hell and vows to bring her back. Yeah, Yukari is being dropped in the middle of the jungle and has to hike back to base within 3 days and with only 1 day worth of food. F*ck this part time job! Nasuda is going to do his part to look for Yukari’s dad and he recognizes the face in the picture. Flashback when he was shouting to the sky about his ignition dream, a local tribesman (which looks a lot like Yukari’s dad but very tanned), warned him that is the path to the spirits and he’ll have bad luck if he obstructs it. Nasuda gets a report that the wind have blown Yukari’s position over to the village of the Tariho tribe. Something isn’t good so he rushes his way there via humvee. Oh, Yasukawa’s taxi is stuck in the dirt.

Yukari is surrounded by the curious tribes people when she meets a local girl, Matsuri. Yes, she speaks fluent Japanese and even has a Japanese name. There’s a reason to it. When Yukari mentions her name, Matsuri realizes it’s the same as her father who is also the chieftain of the village: Hiroshi Morita. Bringing Yukari to see him, he looks like a hippy happy childish chief elder. Hiroshi acknowledges Yukari’s question that he came here 17 years ago. Yukari wants him to name her mother, his wife. He starts naming all his Tariho wives! Man, even going as far as to say all his 10 children with them! (Matsuri is one of the children of his many wives). Haha! This guy is really a joker. But he can still remember his Japanese wife’s name: Hiroko. Most guys in his position would’ve forgotten about it. Yukari gets upset and starts lashing at him that he abandoned his wife during their honeymoon. Her life was tough being raised by an average mom. She also mentions about the embarrassment when people asked her about her father. You know what is his reaction? He started crying at her touching story of a girl trying to find her father! Really a joker this guy! But play time is over. Yukari pulls out her gun and threatens him to come back to Japan with her. Oh, now he’s starting to panic. What about her responsibility to go to space? Screw it. Now that she has found him, she couldn’t care less about that life threatening job. However Hiroshi makes a deal saying that he’ll go back to Japan when she finishes her space mission. This way they’ll both fulfil their responsibilities and he’ll get to settle things in the village before he leaves. She agrees. Matsuri starts calling her onee-san (much to her dismay) and since Yukari is lost, Matsuri guides her back to the base. Desperate Nasuda than comes by. His worries were all for nothing when Hiroshi mentions about his daughter being here and that she’ll continue the space mission. Yeah, he’s asking for tobacco and medicine too. Yukari reaches back to base in record time: Half a day! Wow! She even beats Nasuda in a humvee who arrives shortly after. Mind boggling indeed. Nasuda takes a keen interest upon seeing Matsuri and Satsuki gives her the analysis of her physiques which is pretty much similar to Yukari’s. He offers her to become an astronaut and she happily accepts it. She loves the ‘fireworks’, eh? So Yukari, say hello to you back up crew. Oh, Yasukawa is still stuck trying to push his taxi out.

Episode 3
SSA is running LS-5 combustion test but it overheats and explodes. So much so you thought an oil processing refinery had been bombed by terrorists! Nasuda wants everyone to keep this a secret from Yukari and Matsuri. During meal time, Yukari isn’t thrilled with her healthy scarce meal that consists of everything low in calories. Possibly none. But why is Matsuri having fun making a mess with her food with ketchup and mayonnaise? Matsuri is being playful, Yukari is being noisy. Shhh!!! Yukari gets a call from her mom who is thrilled about her astronaut job. She won’t forgive her if she gives up halfway. As for daddy, she gave up on him a long time ago and it was her who went off searching for him herself. Yeah, she has irresponsible parents. In Kinoshita’s class, Yukari tops all his questions while Matsuri is the blur kid. But during a simulation, Yukari didn’t have the strength like Matsuri. They deduce while Yukari has total ability, Matsuri prevails in physical ability. On another simulation (Matsuri seems to be having fun), Satsuki notes how Yukari is slacking and at this rate, they can’t tell who is the real and backup pilot. Yukari says she isn’t aiming for space and came looking for her dad. Kinoshita knows her ‘convenient logic’ off not wanting to lose to Matsuri but want to be the main pilot. They report this to Nasuda about her clash of sense of responsibility and frustration of not wanting to lose to her half sister. Well, he’ll be counting on them to take care of the girls. Yukari gets this resolve that she doesn’t have to go to space and will have Matsuri go in her stead. Thus she treats everyone at Tenshin. Everybody eat your heart out! Hey, Matsuri going heavy on the ketchup and mayonnaise again. But in the toilet, Yukari makes a deal with Chou’s daughter, Han Rei. Every night, she wants her to deliver tasty dim sum worth around $30. But why $39? Delivery charges. But it doesn’t matter since she’s tasting a piece of Heaven and part of her plan to fatten up herself. The midnight snack rendezvous goes on till one day Satsuki notices Yukari’s slacking and increase in weight of 0.6kg. Yukari doesn’t seem too concern. But what is mind boggling is that Matsuri also gained weight. 0.7kg! WHAT THE?! See how shock Yukari is? Must be the mayonnaise! Yeah, she has the cheek to tell her to stop eating it!  Can’t be as Satsuki has taken this into consideration but it did not have any effect. One night after another midnight rendezvous, Yukari sees Matsuri singing to catch fish?! I don’t know if her sing is that effective but she caught 2! Oh, Yukari confronts her and tells her that in-between snacks are forbidden! She’s the one to say. But Matsuri knows that she has been sneaking out for snacks too because she could smell Tenshin’s all over her. She knows she doesn’t want to go to space and tried to be fat. If she doesn’t want to, all she needs is to say so and Matsuri will go in her place because daddy says it’s bad to lie. Yukari doesn’t appreciate her advice and tries to grab her fish away. They hear Kinoshita a few steps away asking them to be quiet. Yukari thought she is going to get scolded but he tells them to look at the Moon. Narrating back how he once watched enthusiastically the first man landed on the Moon in 1969. Ever since then, it has been his dream to go to space. Though he ended up as a salaryman, he still holds his dream close to his heart. With SSA, he thought he could continue his dream but failed an aptitude test. It was heartbreaking but the look on Satsuki’s face then was even more heartbreaking. Everyone in this base has a dream of going to space. When it seems she’s going to be crushed by the responsibility, just catch a ride on everyone’s dream. Kinoshita’s words have given enough motivation for Yukari to change her mind because she’ll start losing weight tomorrow. LS-5 combustion test continues to fail and explode. Did Motoko add some additional substance into it? I know, I know. Keep this a secret from the pair, right?

Episode 4
The engineers dread fixing the centrifuge and blame it on Satsuki. Yukari thinks it broke because she overused it. Satsuki seems to have that knack of reading people’s mind if they talk bad about her… While it’s being fixed, Yukari and Matsuri can do what they want as they head to the beach for some fun. They also meet Yasukawa there and he makes a few uncalled remarks on Kurosu. Be careful what you say, because that tough guy is really there. Now Yasukawa is going to get it. Oh, did I mention Kurose has a gun? Run faster! Yukari decide to visit the VAB (Vehicle Assembly Building) to see the orbiter she’s going up in. I don’t know why Yukari is being so violent as she tries to break down the locked door! Slamming and kicking it! Kurosu has to give up his chase to bring Yukari away. Man, she’s even kicking up a fuss. Violent girl. She thinks they have something to hide from her but the truth is, they can’t let a single speck of dust get into its construction. Nasuda finds out about her proactive behaviour but gives her the freedom to tag along till she is convinced. This includes their staff meeting. Yukari is being shown the orbiter by Mukai as he explains its makings, operations and the pros of conservative proven technological that withstands the test of time compared to new technology (my brain just turned off here. F*CK SCIENCE!!!). Mukai mentions about the recent failed combustion test due to some new solid fuel added by Motoko. Speaking of which, a loud explosion is heard at the nearby fuel plant. Yukari storms off to the fuel plant. As much as Mukai wants to stop her, she’s already gone in Yasukawa’s taxi. Yukari is feeling uneasy because she feels they have been holding things from her. She is worried that if the fuel explodes, the rocket will also explode too, right? And she’s going to ride it. Yasukawa explains Motoko is the source of it and her love for oxidation (what was this burning process again? F*CK SCIENCE!!!). She used to be a lab medicine maker till Nasuda ‘lured’ her away of making a liquid oxygen fuel for a hybrid rocket. He needed something cheap and with high propulsive force and if she can do that, she can do as she pleases. Of course that explosive nut straightaway accepts! Inside the plant, Yukari witnesses Motoko throwing her wedding ring for another KABOOM explosion. Motoko’s laughing like a mad scientist! Yukari barges into the meeting. Yeah, definitely not happy. She chides Mukai for being a hypocrite about his conservative technology and allowing Motoko to experiment on new solid fuels. Hey, she has a right to voice out. Who was the smart alec who gave her that freedom? Mukai responds that they are short of time and changing specifications will be risky. She wants to stop the production of the new solid fuel but an engineer wants to hear Motoko’s explanation. From what I understand, Motoko’s new fuel will be lighter than liquid fuel, which everyone thinks is impossible. Plus, the new fuel doesn’t actually need a container and burns from inside to outside, thus making the rocket lighter. Everyone gets excited of the new possibilities and recalculates. With the efficiency far exceeding liquid fuel, everyone approves the new specifications for a new and cheap hybrid rocket. Yukari is still not satisfied that everyone is changing specifications at this point and brings up Motoko’s wedding ring. But this makes them realize that the ring’s platinum as the catalyst to make the fuel as strong as that burn. As everyone congratulates Motoko, Yukari couldn’t understand a thing everyone has been saying and felt so left out. That’s why it was never a good idea to let her into meetings, right? Soon Yukari goes on a hunger strike and locks herself in her room. And she’s pretty serious about it. I thought they were happy in her losing weight but it seems if she loses more, they’ll need to redo the calculations again. Apparently Yukari isn’t being sore about the meeting but rather she doesn’t want to ride a giant bomb. Mukai tries to explain the new fuel is safer since it puts less burden on the rocket but she isn’t convinced with the ‘traitor’. Yukari’s stomach starts growling when Yukari’s mom comes by.

Episode 5
Hiroko works her convincing magic with her positivism. If using a fuel that’s never produced actual result is bugging her, then all they need to do is just get the results, right? Upon finding out they have 2 rockets, she suggests to a test on the unmanned one and then later launch Yukari. About losing their backup, she also suggests to build 10 rockets. Hey, the more you build, the cheaper the cost, right? (F*CK ECONOMICS!!!). Kinoshita notes it isn’t impossible but the most they can build is 3 rockets. Nasuda is excited with Hiroko’s ideas and accepts it whole heartedly. So I guess it’s the end of the hunger strike? Hiroko soon leaves since she’s a busy woman. She was just happened to be in the area so it wasn’t really her original intention to see Yukari. She learns of Matsuri and invites her to visit Japan once this is over. Yukari mentions if she takes the base’s helicopter, she’ll have time to see Hiroshi but she says she’ll do it another time. Kinoshita notes that they would love to have Hiroko as their pilot but because of her size, I guess not. So the engineers have to start working overtime in making another rocket. Soon news of Japan’s first astronaut which is a teenager catches the attention of the world! They couldn’t believe a high school girl would take on this role. This causes an influx of reporters onto the island. Now it’s bustling more than before. During the media briefing, Nasuda introduces the LS-5, Tanpopo (Dandelion) that will be making its journey into space. The media are a little frenzy over the skin tight outfit and are in a dilemma if they can broadcast this. Not naked but somewhat too sexy… They bombard Yukari with lots of weird questions (like if she has a boyfriend. What has that got to do with it all?). As for Matsuri’s relationship with her, Nasuda makes up a lie that she’s a daughter of a former Japanese soldier and thus a coincidence sharing the same surname. Yukari doesn’t like this but as Nasuda explains, they can’t say anything naive or will cause a scandal. Besides, something this sensational is to get a ridiculous amount of money. I can’t help think that the only reason why this received lots of media attention is the sexy skin tight suit… Yeah, sex sells. The girls are like SSA’s mascots.

Later Matsuri goes to see Hiroshi and tells him straight that Yukari’s flight is on 13th September and wants him not to place a curse and turn it into fireworks! So all the past failures were because of the tribesmen curse?! He agrees and wants Matsuri to protect Yukari. SSA runs a test flight and is a huge success. So the moment of Yukari’s much awaited debut has arrived. September 13th. Yukari enters Tanpopo with everyone making the final preparations and the media eagerly watching and awaiting its countdown. As Matsuri is giving support from the ground and going through pre-launch checks, suddenly an engineer spots an error. The flight is delayed tomorrow. The media hounds Yukari for answers but she tells them not to sweat it. I can’t believe they still can ask her weird questions like what’s for tonight’s dinner! Have they no better questions to ask? September 14th. Everything seems going fine. Till another error crops up. Delay again. September 15th. The media is wondering if this Tanpopo will ever get to fly. As usual, the team spots another error but Yukari can’t take it anymore and wants to take off, whether they like it or not. She won’t listen to reasons and gives them a minute to restart the launch or else she’ll launch the capsule herself. Nasuda confides with his staff and since they say that everything is alright, he gives the green light. Now it’s all systems go! Tanpopo soon blasts off into orbit. A nerve wrecking moment with each passing second as Tanpopo inches closer into space. Yukari tolerates all the G-force and pressure and vibration while reporting back to mission control. Finally she reaches space and everyone rejoices. However there is no report from Christmas Island as she should be passing over it at this point. Yukari looks out and sees an island but wonders if Christmas Island was this big. Well, it’s not. She’s over New Zealand!!! Oh sh*t!!! She drastically went off course big time!!! And the cause of how this screw up happened? Hiroshi and the Tariho tribe putting a curse because since it’s not the 13th, he guess it’s okay. Oh my. Hey, he didn’t break any promises, right?

Episode 6
Staying come and analyzing the situation, Yukari now regrets that she really should have quit this part time job! Action lah. The plan for her orbit re-entry will have her crash near Cocos Islands. As Yukari makes the necessary adjustments, suddenly Matsuri realizes she forget to tell daddy about the delay and thinks the failure is the works of the curse. Well, Yukari doesn’t really seem to believe in the work of evil spirits since it’s not as bad as being exploded. Till her capsule starts spinning violently. After taking control and analyzing the instruments, we learn the second oxygen tank is leaking. Fast. Though she’ll be safe if the first one remains intact, she sees sparks outside followed by splinters. She recognizes one of them as parts of the capsule. She starts to panic a little so Satsuki tells her to calm down since she can see her body readings. Yukari didn’t like that and got mad. Satsuki says she’s in her best shape when she’s mad. Referring to Mukai for a solution, he suspects some debris may have pierced through the capsule. As for fixing it, Motoko suggests using the fastener of the skin tight suit’s repair kit for Yukari to do extra-vehicular activity. With the media hounding for details, Nasuda agrees to let them know what is happening and any other relevant facts they have at hand. Yukari for the first time goes outside her capsule to access the damage. Seems there is a big hole at the bottom and radical cracks around it. While everyone is cracking their heads, Matsuri comes up with a suggestion. With 12 hours in Yukari’s life support, she wants to get Russia to launch Soyuz to save Yukari since due to the off course, she’ll be passing Russia’s Baikonur. Matsuri will go up in a third rocket to bring as much oxygen to Yukari. This will at least stretch her life support to 24 hours so in this period, Russia has to launch Soyuz. Everyone gets working while the engineers rush to finish the third rocket, Coconut. Yukari is starting to feel uncomfortable and breathing very hard. She thought she is at the end of her life when she sees a spirit before her but it turns out to be Matsuri. She puts a new pack of oxygen and Yukari can now breathe easy. Yukari is happy to see her as both girls watch the sunrise and wait for Soyuz’s rescue. However there is a problem: Soyuz can’t launch due to a breakdown. And the Russians aren’t giving a damn about it. When the girls find out about it, Yukari wants Matsuri to go home alone. But she’s not going to allow that. She starts ripping all her computer and electronics so that there’s enough room to fit both of them! Man, she’s strong enough to rip all those machines?! Those are expensive equipment, you know! Because of that, the screens down at mission control go blank as the base panics trying to find out the situation. It’s like they’re ‘blind’ now. Though the capsule may be little tight, they have to rely manually to press the buttons and levers. This is where Yukari comes in. She tops in this area. With teamwork and cooperation, they set the right coordinates for re-entry. Withstanding all the G-force, finally the capsule crashes into the water as the girls climb out to their relief. But wait. Why are there lots of people around them? Seems they did not crash into the ocean, but the swimming pool of Neris Girls Academy!!! Of all places! WOAH!!! Such precision landing?! Pure luck!!! I’m just amazed the school wasn’t destroyed from the impact it crashed. Oh, Yukari may get an earful from the strict principal for this.

Episode 7
Yukari is sure the big star now as all the girls watch in glee and excitement. The principal panics and is in a dilemma to call the fire department or police or whoever. She orders her pet honour student, Akane Miura to tell Yukari to see her. Akane is thrilled that Yukari finally made it as an astronaut. Yukari takes out the experimental goldfish from the capsule and notices that it’s not looking so well. Akane manages to get her attention to go see the principal but she screws that because the goldfish are more important. In a panic on what to do, Akane takes a look at the goldfish and realizes its decreasing level of dissolved oxygen. She quickly takes the tank and does a makeshift oxygen neutralizer thingy to have the goldfish back to normal. Is she a rocket scientist? Well, she’s from the biology club so she’s pretty well knowledgeable in this area. Then the Self Defence Force comes to pick up the capsule and the girls. Yukari offers Akane to come along since she’s the goldfish’s saviour. The principal is in total panic upon seeing the helicopters. First a spaceship, now the army. Yeah, all unwanted distractions. They return the goldfish to the professor and he is grateful that his 15 years of experiment bore fruit. Something about hitching a partnership with Nasuda to do research on some adaptation mechanisnm organ balancing thingy to solve the problem of vertigo (did anybody get what the professor said?). Later Akane asks Yukari about her experience as an astronaut and she explains the different and unique beauty of seeing the blueness of Earth. Noting how amazed she is, Yukari invites her to come see the base. Then the taxi comes as she has Akane go back to her school. Yukari and Matsuri are eating their heart out back at Yukari’s home. Well, mom didn’t cook it and bought it at some mall. Anyway they need to regain all the lost calories, right? Yukari mentions she’s going back to Solomon Islands to bring dad back and quit being an astronaut. But Matsuri mentions Akane may be sad not to see Yukari there since she’s the one who invited her. Hiroko gets this idea that she might move to Solomon Islands and live happily ever after. Yukari didn’t like the fact she faced death several times but mom says that comes with the job. Yukari goes to sleep as she can’t take anymore of this talk. In the middle of the night, she wakes up and looks up at the sky and notices how different it is. She can’t see any stars.

Next day in school, Yukari and Akane get an earful from the principal. By right she should’ve been expelled for doing a part time job which the school prohibits but decides to let this slide since the media has picked her story up (why is principal’s face so happy in the interview picture?). As for Akane, she’ll be suspended for a week for sneaking out of class. Yukari springs to her defence that it’s not Akane’s fault. Though the principal agrees it’s Yukari’s fault be she too must be responsible for tagging along. Akane is okay with the punishment but Yukari continues to beg on her behalf. The principal puts her foot down and reminds them about Neris’ proud, distinguished, elegant (and all that other crap) etiquette and that they should be more conscious of their position as high school students (b*tch!). Later both girls apologize but Yukari is adamant that Akane is the one who saved the goldfish. While Akane is astonished of Yukari being an astronaut, Yukari asserts she’s a regular high school student and didn’t want to become an astronaut. However the way she says it doesn’t seem to match her words. It’s like she’s still longing for the beauty of space when she was first enthralled by it. Despite of being suspended, Akane doesn’t regret being suspended. Matsuri picks up Yukari after school and they go jungle survival in Yokohama. Concrete jungle, that is. It’s no harm letting loose some steam once in a while. Shopping, eating, playing video games and the amusement park (people, don’t ever attempt a dangerous stunt like Matsuri standing on the roller coaster while moving!). As Yukari flips through the channels, she sees an interview whereby a fellow astronaut (she is a real life astronaut making a cameo as I later found out) acknowledges Yukari as her equal. Yukari refutes loudly and asserts she’s just a normal high school student. Back on Solomon Islands, Yukari packs up and is ready to leave. I’m sure the crew doesn’t want her to go (even if they have next year’s budget approved and could easily get work from around the world) but I guess it was a promise for her to do a one-time only job. Yeah, it’s like in order to aim for short term success, he just put the problem off later. Yukari isn’t happy Yasukawa’s taxi arrived late but she is surprised to see Akane stepping out of the car. But she doesn’t look good.

Episode 8
Seems Akane has motion sickness. What do you expect after 11 hours on the plane, 20 hours on the boat and 50 minutes by taxi! During her time being suspended, she thought of Yukari’s words that anyone can be an astronaut (which she herself can’t remember – yeah, it’s coming back to haunt you) and decided to go to space too. Nasuda has Satsuki analyze Akane’s physique and Yukari recognizes that phrase. Well, if Yukari is going to quit, they need a replacement, right? Well, she didn’t officially say she’s going back to Japan yet (when did she learn to twist her words?). Nasuda wants Mukai to make a double-seater orbiter since if there is only 1 pilot, she may not be able to do any other jobs. However Satsuki is against hiring the new girl since how can you put a person in a rocket when she can’t even handle motion sickness? Yukari brings Akane back to her room as the latter mentions how she didn’t like her life of living up to her honour student status that she’s struggling to do so. She admires Yukari for being able to live without limits. That’s why she wants to go up to space too. She doesn’t want her to quit so for the time being, Yukari brings her to the beach. While the engineers dread of making another rocket, when they see the girls pass, they get all the motivation to do their best. I guess the girls in a way provide a great morale booster to the overworked guys, eh? After their outing at the beach, they are picked up by Yasukawa who tells Akane the truth about the harsh path of being an astronaut. Should he scare her like that? He treats them at Tenshin and to eat their heart out since they won’t get the luxury of doing this. The girls take up his offer and order just about everything on the menu. He then starts worrying the impact it will have on his wallet. Man, the girls can really eat! And they’re ordering more! In the end, Akane feels queasy. I really thought she overate but I guess it’s her anaemia. Look, how can a petite girl like her eat so much? Akane undergoes the aptitude test but it seems she doesn’t have any endurance as she’s struggling to catch her breath. Then for the adaptability in change in pressure test, Akane continues to struggle but being an honour student, she can still answer questions that Satsuki poses. Though she has been warned by Yukari that Satsuki is a sadist, she still continues with the tests. But it feels like Satsuki has no heart to bully her. In the centrifuge machine, again Akane is struggling even if it’s just at 2G. Yukari is worried that Satsuki is trying to kill her by increasing another G but she tells her off that it’s not for her to decide since Akane hasn’t given up yet. In space, nobody can save you and you can only rely on yourself. Akane mentions how she threw everything to come here. Her parents totally opposed to this and she spent every last penny for a one-way ticket here. If she doesn’t get hired, she can’t go home. Eventually she passes out at 4G. Though the staffs lament her lack of endurance, Satsuki mentions her intellect and knowledge. So it’s ‘that’ for her. When Akane wakes up, she apologizes in tears about her failure. Now it’s Yukari’s turn to do some lecture. What about her dream to see the blue Earth? Didn’t she throw everything away to come here? Yukari vows to show her space and will take her there. Eh? Wasn’t she planning to quit? Well, she will. At one point. She’s really good at this now, isn’t she? Matsuri can tell she wants to go to space and realized that when she saw Akane. So Yukari promises the trio will go to space. But the next morning, Akane isn’t in her room.

Episode 9
As Yukari searches for her, she learns from Satsuki she has gone home. But she senses something amiss seeing her bags are still here and that they made a promise to go to space. Maybe it’s because of that she can’t face you? Upset Yukari goes to see Nasuda (eating potato chips with chopsticks?). He tells her she will have better chance of contacting her when she calms down. Going back to her room, she feels guilty that she may have made Akane that way. Hey, Matsuri eating potato chips with chopsticks too?! So it won’t get her hands dirty? But she eats everything else with her hands! However there is something fishy going on as Satsuki confides in Nasuda that they’re planning to keep a secret from the girls for 6 days. Training resumes as usual for Yukari and Matsuri but the former seems a little down. On the 6th day, Matsuri leaves for the southern jungles to collect rare nuts, Nasuda suggests of giving Yukari a special bonus. A security guard stops Matsuri from entering the jungle since a live firing exercise is being carried out. However she hypnotizes him to allow her! I thought it was her cuteness but the guard really seemed hypnotized via her eyes! What black magic did she use? Yukari is having a meal at Tenshin and she is obviously gloomy. Yasukawa comes in and is oblivious about her mood so much so you can say he didn’t care about his life. Yeah, he thinks the girls have a petty argument and even has his own opinions about it. Soon after, we see Tenshin like a battleground. The guys are cowering in fear behind the table as Yukari throws everything that she can get her hands on. I don’t think that wok is enough to protect you. Hey, Han Rei is on Yukari’s side. I guess as girls, she understands her feelings. Matsuri meets Akane in the jungle and even offers to eat the nuts together. Seems she is in some solo expedition. Today is the day she must make it back to base or else she’ll fail. Akane refuses help from Matsuri because she feels if she gets any help, she’ll fail. The reason she never told them was because if she did, they may sneak out to help her. As Akane treks along, she is about to give up when she spots a flock of swallows feeding on insects. Remembering Matsuri’s hint, she uses her biology knowledge to find food nearby. When Matsuri comes home, she sees Yukari in bed. Still gloomy. Still guilty. She has been thinking the reason she stayed was because she felt responsible for Akane coming here. Now that she’s not, she can go home. However Matsuri said that she met Akane in the forest, shocking Yukari. Whatever she knows, she tells. You can’t keep secrets with this girl! She’s too honest! And cool about it! Because you ask, you get. Yukari realized she has been fooled by that old geezer and sadistic vixen. Yukari goes wait at the gates and sees Satsuki there. Soon everyone from the team arrives. She realizes Kinoshita and Mukai are also in on this. As the day gets darker, they see a flashlight and a big probability is her. However Yukari can’t shout for help as this is a test. Matsuri knows the jungle well so she can guess where Akane is and the possibilities of where she’ll be if she goes in a certain direction. As Akane inches closer to the base, Yukari can’t help yell out to her. Well, it’s in a reasonable range so the guys let it pass. Finally, Akane reaches the finish line and into Yukari’s arms. Nasuda passes her. She mentions about getting a hint from Matsuri but they don’t know what she’s talking about (are they pretending?). Kinoshita considers that ‘hint’ as something that falls within her range of her intelligence and ability. I guess with the third astronaut on board, that means Satsuki can increase the training to 8Gs… Can’t wait, eh?

Episode 10
NASA needs to have their astronauts on Atlantis fix a damaged probe called Orpheus since they spent lots of research money on it and it needs to go all the way to Pluto. SSA is holding another press conference to introduce their third astronaut Akane who is also the mission specialist and 2-seater orbiter, Mangosteen. Nasuda receives some news during the conference so he leaves at lets the reporters have some Q&A time. Guess what they asked? Is knowing if they got boyfriends the only thing they’re interested in? Yeah, and the whole world is once again dumbfounded and abuzz that Japan has 3 teenager girls as astronauts. Way to go, Nippon! Atlantis’ Norman is fixing the probe when a little blunder causes him to slip the valve. It gets stuck deep into the probe’s crevice. Off all places it had to float to. Norman’s too big to get it. Houston, we have a problem. Seems when Nasuda learn of this, he already made a proposition to NASA and this will be a big chance for SSA to open up business opportunities all over the world. While the girls are embarrassed of the embarrassing photographs of them in the skin tight suits on the front page of the newspaper (on ALL the world’s newspaper, that is), they get an emergency call. During the meeting, they learn of NASA’s situation and Nasuda assigns Akane to be the one who will retrieve the valve. Hey, she’s the smallest size, right? That’s why sometimes being small is good. But Akane panics and doesn’t want to do it since it’s too soon (it’s only been a month since she’s in training as opposed to 6 months). She fears she might get in everyone’s way and wants them to call it off. Yukari calms her down and reminds her about her successful solo expedition. With that she gains her confidence and will do her mission. Yukari the captain and Akane will ride Mangosteen and rendezvous with Atlantis tomorrow morning since they need to exchange a spare part that’ll be coming from Texas. Back at NASA, mission director George Grant meets Professor O’Leary, the one who developed Orpheus for 22 years. He is told of the situation and contacts the Atlantis guys that the important thing is not a country’s interest but to cooperate since space research and development is like a gamble, he believes cooperation can guide that gamble to success (yeah, lots of money poured into it). There are no Americans or Japanese or any other nationality in space (hopefully it’ll stay that way). Looks like for now they those Americans have to swallow their pride and wait for help from those tiny Asian girls. With data from NASA, Akane practises via simulation in finding the best route to get the valve. That night she can’t sleep and calls her family but her brother Hideto picks up. She wants to apologize to her parents but was told they rushed to the shrine to pray for her safety since it’s her maiden flight. Even if they’re still mad at her, they’re still her parents and love her very much. Better make this one a success. Or else Hideto may get scolding on her behalf again. Later Akane along with Yukari and Matsuri take a stroll at the beach (because Matsuri is eating the stinky durian in her room!). Akane releases the fish they caught earlier on since she realizes they want to swim in the wide ocean. Then they admire the beautiful earthshine of the Moon (I felt turned off listening to Akane’s simple explanation…). Akane is confident she can be a mission specialist.

Episode 11
Mangosteen successfully blasts off into the sky and though Akane was knocked out, she’s okay when she’s awakened by Yukari. The Atlantis guys are amazed at the girls because they arrive in only 2.5 hours when rendezvous supposedly takes a day. That’s what you get for something small, light fast and cheap! Yeah, they are amazed at the gracefulness of the ‘angels’ as they dock with Atlantis. They get acquainted with the Atlantis’ crew, their captain, Wayne along with Louis and Gordon. As they start heading to the crevice, Wayne seems cocky that they shouldn’t start without him. But he calms himself down when Yukari points out he was the cause of the problem and when Akane helped him to get over (maybe his big size is making him move slower?). Akane spots the valve and tries to reach for it but her backpack is in the way. Norman thinks they should figure out another way but Akane will get it without her backpack. Is she crazy? Even with some saturation thingy, oxygen in her helmet will only last 3 minutes. Well, have some faith. They don’t plan to do suicide. Besides Yukari will pull her out once the time limit is up. The girls get started to pull this crazy retrieval. Even if you know she’s going to make it, we are put at the edge of our seat since she almost crosses her limit. Phew. The girls are invited inside Atlantis and the guys welcome them with lots of praises. They get to speak with O’Leary who is very grateful that their research on Pluto and Kuiper Belt will have some progress. Now it’s Norman’s turn to fix the valve but again he seems cold to the girls. Yukari notes his cockiness but Akane points out that these guys have to do 2 hours of pre-breathing before they can go outside unlike them. Norman could’ve done it via radio but he wanted to say it to them face to face. Once Norman fixes the valve, Orpheus suddenly ejects into orbit. What’s happening? From what I understand, due to a human error, its safety tag that allows Orpheus to receive remote control instructions from the ground is still attached. They need to remove it before it goes to Pluto. Sounds easy but neither Atlantis nor Mangosteen have the fuel to transfer to 3000km altitude. Wayne says there is no other way to do it but Akane insists there is. Okay, now my mind is so blur here. What I remember was, they’re going to use a two-stage acceleration of both ships to reach 3000km. However there is the problem of stabilizing Mangosteen’s payload bay, the timing of the second acceleration and Mangosteen’s re-entry at 3000km is very risky. Even if Akane had the confidence, Wayne can’t approve of this very dangerous mission and thanks them for doing more than enough. Yukari stands up for her that Orpheus is worth risking their lives for. They’re going to do it and come back alive. With both ground mission controls giving the green light, everybody gets busy.

Episode 12
NASA’s safety council terms the mission as very risky but approves it on 1 condition: The girls will do it. Satsuki is against the girls doing all the dangerous work and wants the girls to pull out. But Yukari thanks her for caring for them as well as everyone as SSA and loves them all. While Mukai and his team do test scenarios on the stress level on Mangosteen, Norman and Yukari are arguing who should do the rope work. Norman thinks they should just memorize the instructions. Then Matsuri’s necklace breaks. Oh no. I hope this is not a bad omen. Once the guys are done with the rope work, they want the girls to get into Mangosteen and will hold on to the rope.  Though the girls are supposed to do it, it’ll be alright if Atlantis keeps this a secret from Houston. Atlantis makes the necessary and final adjustments for Mango’s acceleration to rendezvous with Orpheus. Suddenly Mukai rushes in and in a panic. His face is visibly full of anxiety so much so he has a hard time saying it out from his mouth. Based on his calculations, Mangosteen will burn up upon re-entry. Oh no! What can we do?! Kinoshita doesn’t want Matsuri to tell the girls yet and have them continue the mission. Houston learns of this and O’Leary wonders if they have done a made mistake. Mangosteen is docked at Orpheus as Yukari reads the instructions needed for Akane to cut the jumper cable and release the safety tag. She successfully does so and Orpheus is on its way to Pluto. The girls are amazed by the beautiful sight of the sun rising over the Earth like as though it’s a scenery of twilight on Sahara. When they head back inside the capsule, they report they are ready for re-entry. However they can tell something is wrong when Matsuri doesn’t sound too happy. She can’t say it. None of the SSA crew can say it. Finally Kinoshita has them listen clearly to what he has to say. They are taken aback. Is there no other way? Any other way?

How come nobody thought of this but Gordon? Just like what Apollo did to land on the Moon, he wants to skip re-entry and do repeated ups and downs at the edge of the atmosphere to eliminate speed. Everyone scrambles to find the data and instructions needed for the girls to return safely. They will do 3 ups and downs but the problem will be timing and angle. Slightly off and you’ll bounce back into space forever. There are 24 checkpoint angles for re-entry. Since there will be no communication during re-entry, they need to carve the numbers onto the board. Akane remembers she gave her pen as souvenir to Atlantis but don’t fear, as an honour student, she can remember all the numbers. All accurate! Man, I already forgot the first one… Re-entry begins as they try not to waste any precious fuel. However halfway, Akane passes out! Oh sh*t! NO amount of yelling can wake her up so it’s Yukari all by herself. How then? Do some guesswork! But even so, the G’s are taking a toll on her body and she too passes out. But… these girls must be one heck of a lucky pair (or freaking lucky Yukari must’ve guessed it right) because they didn’t get fried and are floating over Yokohama over Tokyo with lots of military helicopters escorting to their safe landing. As the end credits role, a reporter is seen taking short interview of the supporting characters of the series. Some of them have the best closing lines: Hiroko: “Rather than getting in a car accident or slipping in a bathtub, don’t you think dying in space is better?”, The principal: “She said it was impossible to control because it was a space ship but to land it in a place like this (the school’s pool)…”, Yukari’s friends: “She sends us mail every day though I think it’s great to think of it as mail from space”, Motoko: “I think it would be better to do it while unconscious than awake”. Everyone continues their normal life. SSA still working hard, Hiroshi still Tariho’s tribe leader, Chou and Han Rei still running Tenshin. Well, maybe except for one. Yasukawa went back to being a pilot a Chitose. Gave up the taxi life already, eh? In no time, the Rocket Girls are back up in space for another mission as Nasuda narrates the unshakably brave Yukari’s unmatched pilot skills, Akane’s above-average intelligence and comprehension (though she may still have trouble with her physical composition) and back-up Matsuri’s sharp intuition, he is tremendously confident in SSA’s irreplaceable astronauts.

Space Girls Rock!
Surprisingly, this series is quite entertaining. With some of the dialogues witty enough to tickle your rib bones, it is funny in its own way. Yes, it’s the conversation and interaction that makes the comic relief parts funny. Otherwise, other than the drama, the talks involve complicated (to me at least) scientific explanation that no matter how many times I replay that scene, I will never get it. I know it shouldn’t take a rocket scientist to enjoy or understand what they say but let’s just say I’m not that smart. Maybe average people who do not have any knowledge about aerospace may find it difficult to comprehend a scenario but then again, not just anybody can venture into this field and work out the magic numbers and calculations. Because of all these, there is a sense of realism in the entire series, even if the terms sound like gibberish to me. Though there are some parts which boggles my mind like how Yukari’s Tanpopo crashed into Neris’ pool without at least cracking the building from that height and velocity. I know it’s water but even so, shouldn’t all the water be splashed out too? Or the fact about using high school girls because of their light weight? If this was possible, don’t you think the space agencies would’ve used them? Yeah, maybe girls at their age would rather go shopping, gossip and talk about boyfriends and idols. The realism is so because the show has got help and guidance from JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency). When you engage this kind of organization, you’re going to expect something authentic, bona fide or at least close to reality and not something which is totally made up. Their reputation is on the line, you know. The drama at points can get a little tense because since it’s space, any slight mistake will send you to your doom. So for me, the space mission dramas kept me on the edge of my seat but deep down, you’d feel you want to root and support for them all the way and pray that they come back alive.

The characters are the main reason why this series is successful in its own right. Here we have hot-headed and stubborn Yukari whose self imposed mission to find her father quickly turned out into a personal responsibility to accomplish her tasks that sees a development into this area. I guess with her agreeing to go onto further missions, it proves that she is sticking around, eh? Yeah, she can go see her dad anytime at the village. He’ll always be around. That guy is the total joker of the series. Wished he had more screen time saying funny stuff especially during his ‘first confrontation’ with Yukari. That was indeed hilarious. It’s still a mystery why he left Hiroko in the midst of their honeymoon and how he ended up being Tariho’s chieftain. Hopefully he won’t make any more black magic to destroy all the rockets. Whether true or not, believe it or not, sometimes the path to the stars are sacred and when native people make a claim about evil spirits even without scientific proof as backing, you can’t say they’re entirely wrong or ignore them. So maybe Hiroshi became an indigenous person because it was some sort of a ‘warning’ to the SSA people about trying to play God or at least trying to reach Him? I feel Yukari could’ve been a much better person if not for her grumpiness and moodiness but I guess that’s where her other teammates make up for it. The ever positive and truth-telling Matsuri is a great girl and because of her Tariho tribe background, some say she gets her ‘baseless confidence’ just because of that. But hey, it’s better being positive than negative, right? And yes, if you have dark secrets, never ever tell it to her. A good upbringing by her dad, she will never lie. That’s good, right? So you can count on her never joining agencies like CIA, FBI, KGB that involves double-crossing and espionage. Akane is also a positive and very polite girl that makes up for her shy demeanour and weak physical endurance. I suppose each time they head into space, she’ll be in knock-out mode and Yukari will be her ‘alarm clock’. With these trio on board, how can you not say the aerospace industry is not getting anywhere interesting?

The other supporting characters at SSA too are amusing with each their own characteristics. Nasuda is like a business-minded boss who always wants to seek business opportunities and the need of having light and cheap crafts. What better way to do so by using high school girls, right? If he was running a business in other areas, say properties or selling insurance, I guess he can be really a successful one. Hey, he ‘persuaded’ Akane to become a part time astronaut to a full time irreplaceable asset. And he didn’t even do much to change her mentality. All his cards were perhaps laid out right. Satsuki’s sadism makes her someone you’ll dread to be with at every physical test but at times she shows she cares because it’s not like she really wants to kill you. Remember, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. I think this is her motto. Or maybe she’s just being plain sadistic. Motoko has got that sleepy look on her face but when it comes to explosive, she turns into a mad scientist. If she was hired back in World War II, I think she could’ve been the one who created the atomic bomb. Kinoshita is the calmest of the lot and though he has his own dream crushed, he is happy to see others living it out. Mukai, maybe he needs more sleep so he won’t mix up crucial data that could’ve fried Yukari and Akane during re-entry. With these few people and other SSA staffs working together closely, this little base can be considered as a one big family, eh? As for Yasukawa, the reason why he stayed back for a little while as a taxi driver was most probably he felt that his previous job was given to somebody else better (a high school girl in this case) so he lingered on a while to see how she would fare. I don’t know, this was what I felt though he too is genuine that he didn’t want to see Yukari hurt when she was first given the job. The Atlantis’ American guys are a nice bunch too. But Norman’s cocky attitude is like a mirror reflection of Yukari’s impetuous. I guess every crew has got to have a rebellious one, right? Even if he is so, deep down he’s a nice guy and still wishes the best for the girls. Thankfully there aren’t any space-race politics in here to rear its ugly head. True that there is no nationality when it comes to space, the cooperation of nations is much needed to make it a success. If we can’t rely on ourselves, who can we rely on? Remember, to take a phrase from a horror alien movie: In space nobody can hear you scream.

The opening theme is Rise by ICHIKO. This rock piece wasn’t very appealing to me because it felt like the singer was shouting and some her lines were out of tune (though this is actually how the song is supposed to sound). It reminded me of her style in the Zero No Tsukaima series’ opening themes. But surprisingly the ending theme, Ashite Ike No Bus Ni Notte by Misae is a sunshiny catchy song. Can’t help do a little dance each time the lively ending song comes about. The special ending theme for the final episode, Waratte by ICHIKO is a fitting anime pop piece as the happy tune suits the happy ending and pace of the series. Well, at least she’s not ‘shouting’ here. On a trivial note, the mid-intermission shows the several vehicles that appear in the series like the rockets and oddly, Yasukawa’s taxi! We are informed of the few specs but nothing much in detail. Though I wished that they would have varied a little more vehicles like Soyuz (perhaps it did not appear in the show) and Atlantis instead of showing the same 3D rotating vehicle for a couple of episodes before changing to another one.

I still do not harbour any dreams of going to space or become an astronaut after watching this series. Heck, not even any interest gained in the topic of space at all. But watching space themed animes do make me feel how small and insignificant we are in this endless mysterious universe. I don’t think as an otaku, I’ll pass any of the aptitude tests. A complete failure! I may not even withstand 1G! But watching others do it and living out their dream is also in a way fulfilling and exciting. The amount of time, energy and money spent and dedicated for something that seems so easy yet demanding and gruelling. So who says a monkey can do this ‘easy’ job? On a side note, a monkey was indeed one of the very first animals that went up to space back in the late 1940s. I’ll be waiting for the day when man takes his first step on the red planet Mars. Or then again, it may be a high school girl who will be the first one that will do that job. To go to where no (wo)man has ever gone before. If that ever happens, you could say that a truly Heavenly Angel has arrived.