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Friday, June 23, 2017

Anime Hajime Review: Rocket Girls

***Warning, the following may contain spoilers for Rocket Girls. Reader discretion is advised.***

Series Synopsis

Yukari Morita (voiced by Eri Sendai) has come to the Solomon Islands to search for her long-lost father. Hoping for closure, her life instead changes in a way she never expected.

The Solomon Space Agency, the SSA, wishes to pave the way for commercial space travel. Yet every one of their launches has been a colossal failure. They are now desperate to salvage what they can to achieve their goal. Even if that means resorting to unconventional tactics.

Yukari has a run in with the Agency. And for them, the high schooler is the godsend they had been searching for. The SSA offers to help Yukari look for her father. In return, she will become their newest astronaut.

Taking the deal, Yukari manages to find her father. As well as learn of the existence of her younger sister, Matsuri (voiced by Hitomi Nabatame). A development which couldn’t have made the SSA any happier. For they had found their second crew member.

The world catches wind of the two youngest astronauts ever. And no one is sure how this long shot gamble will pay off. Least of all Yukari.

Series Positives

I didn’t like this one.

Okay, that’s a little unfair. What I should be saying is this.

I hated this one.

Rocket Girls was dumb. It was stupid. It made no sense. Everything that happened was painful. Every decision that got made was the wrong one. It was non stop. There almost never a moment when this series wasn’t headache inducing. And it was immediate. From episode one to the final end credits.

My God, this one was so hard to sit through.

On a technical scale, everything was fine. The animation was okay. It wasn’t spectacular. The CG showed its age, but it wasn’t distracting. Plus, there were a few locations that were beautiful.

But that’s not credited to the show or the scenes it created. It was because these scenes were set in space. Looking down at the Earth, staring up the stars and the Moon, in space.

Space is inherently awe-inspiring. You have to be really trying to even hope to screw that up.

And I’ll give Rocket Girls this, it had interesting hints of realism. Oh, it hurts me inside to use the word “realism” in association with this show.

I know nothing of rocket science. It might as well be a foreign language to me. Yet when this series had a mission, it felt like an actual command center. The amount of prep and coordination that went into each launch felt genuine.

And I’m leaning towards the belief they were. As it turns out, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, a.k.a. JAXA was involved in Rocket Girls’ production. And in episode seven, Naoko Yamazaki, the second Japanese woman to qualify as an astronaut, lent her voice as herself. That’s certainly a cool bit of promotion.

None of this ended up helping.

You know for a while, I was worried. I thought there would be nothing positive for me to say about this show. I’ve had to stretch this section before, but I was drawing a blank. Fortunately, something, or rather, someone came.

Akane Miura

Akane (voiced by Shizuka Hasegawa) was first introduced in episode one. It was a quick glimpse, but enough to show this girl was important. She was someone we were meant to remember. Akane didn’t appear again until episode seven. Piss off show.

It’s always frustrating whenever a series introduces one its main characters so late. And it was even more aggravating this time. This was the character Rocket Girls should’ve been about.

Before I go any further, I want to acknowledge two things.

First, how Akane was brought into the story was maddening. Re-entering Earth from their first mission, Yukari and Matsuri could’ve landed anywhere. My guess would’ve been the ocean.

But no. Where did they end up?  In the fountain of Yukari’s high school. Imagine the odds. Seriously, imagine the odds.

Second, I want to believe Akane is a good character. I want to believe me liking her is genuine. Yet I will concede this. There is a chance I might be over inflating her. I mean I cannot stand the rest of this series. So yes, I could be grasping at straws.

Regardless of all that, Akane was a bright spot.

Unlike Yukari, Akane wanted to see space. Granted she wanted to see space with Yukari. Even so, she wanted to be here. It was her choice. No had to “convince” her, I’ll get to that, to move forward. Plus, she had academics on her side.

Yukari and Matsuri weren’t dumb. They were intelligent girls. But to master rocketry and piloting in a single month? Akane, though, well maybe. She had a passion for this kind of stuff and took to it. What she lacked was the physical strength to do the job.

During her training, Akane was struggling. She was far below the level to where she needed to be. Yet she never gave up. She never gave in. And again, since this was something she wanted, you could feel her determination.

Here body gave out more times than her spirit ever did.

When Akane became part of the show, for the first time I saw potential. For the first time, I saw what this series could be. Too bad that was where it stayed.

Like it or not, Akane wasn’t the lead. She came in way too late. And Rocket Girls damaged itself well beyond what one decent character could fix.

Series Negatives

Often in this situation, I ask myself, “Where do I start?” For Rocket Girls, I know exactly where to start.

High school astronauts.

Is this idea dead on arrival? No, Akane proved that. Or at least the suspension of disbelief wouldn’t have been as great.

You mean to tell me, anyone recruited at random, can learn how to be an astronaut. Not only that, start training and be in space within a month. Guess what? This wouldn’t bother me. That is unless a series decides to take it seriously. Much like Rocket Girls did.

Let me put it into perspective. I mentioned Naoko Yamazaki earlier. I could be way off base with this, but I would assume it takes years of study, practice, and experience to be space ready. To see if I had any basis for this, I decided to a little research on this woman. What I found out was, this lady is quite awesome. Her list of accomplishments is beyond impressive.

Ms. Yamazaki was a graduate of Tokyo University. There she received a bachelor’s degree in Aerospace Engineering in 1993. And a master’s degree in the same field and university in 1996. In 1999, she was selected to be one of three Japanese candidates for the International Space Station (ISS). She began her training in April of that year and was certified as an astronaut in 2001. In 2004, she arrived at NASA’s Johnson Space Center to undergo even more training. She then qualified for flight assignments as a Mission Specialist in 2006. In 2008, she became a crew member for the STS-131 (19A) mission. And then in March 2010, she, at last, made it aboard the ISS.

If you want to read her whole bio, as well as the rest of the JAXA astronauts, go ahead and follow this link:

For the sake of what Rocket Girls was, being ready for space in a month does not bother me. What does bother me is that at no point did any think this was a bad idea. Instead, the exact opposite happened. Why couldn’t a high schooler be an astronaut? I don’t know if it was intentional, but that question got answered.

Yukari was ready to blast off for her first mission. Except rocket problems delayed the launch for two days. On the third day, there were signs that things still weren’t ready. It seemed as if there would be another delay. Yukari wasn’t having it. She threatened to fire her capsule herself if mission control didn’t give the go ahead. Instead of trying to convince her that would be bad, they capitulated. The rocket launched and sure enough, there were problems.

You know what could’ve prevented that? Not listening to an impatient teenager. A seasoned, well-trained astronaut won’t whine like a baby and throw a temper tantrum. All because they didn’t want to wait anymore.

But this was just one of many poor decisions made in this series.

The Solomon Space Agency

I lost track of all the thing that upset me in this show. It doesn’t matter though. They all came from a single source. The Solomon Space Agency.

To start, labeling this place a Space Agency is generous. This was a collection of con artists and the rejects of more reputable agencies. How they got their astronauts was closer to kidnapping than hiring. If anyone appeared to meet this place’s weight requirements, that was good enough. That or anyone could apply like they would a part-time job. And they cared more about business and saving a buck than the people who worked for them.

I’m not joking. They had no problem putting Yukari in a rocket with an untested fuel source. It was cheaper and quicker so it was fine. Not surprisingly, Yukari said screw that and locked herself in her room. Rather than thinking, they went too far, they were ready to charge Yukari with sabotage. The situation would’ve stayed that way if not for good old deus ex machina.

Of all days, Yukari’s mom happened to show up. You’d think she’d side with her daughter and tell the Agency off. Nope. Instead, she told Yukari that she had the chance to be a trailblazer. YOU'RE A HORRIBLE MOTHER!

And then she left. What?! She was there for five minutes and that was it.

I’ve already said this too. Yukari didn’t come to the Solomon Islands to be an astronaut. She was looking for her father. She only agreed to be one because the Agency said they would help her look. That took about a day. Yukari then stayed because she had a "responsibility" to fulfill.

No, she didn’t. Yukari did what she came to do. She had no obligation to anyone. Least of all this group of psychos with dreams of grandeur.

As you’d expect, Yukari put up some resistance. She had every right too. Yet everyone claimed Yukari was having trouble because she knew she could do better. She wanted to be number one. She wanted to be the best. She didn’t like to lose. And other nonsense like that.

Or is it more likely that this was the case? Yukari was having problems because she got forced into a situation against her will. Not only that, she learned she had a surprise sister. Plus, her long lost dad was a deadbeat.  A deadbeat who didn't see any issue putting a curse on the rocket his daughter might be on. But you know show, you’re right. It was because of her pride.

Fortunately, Yukari had a change of heart. She realized this was something she had to do. She was fulfilling everyone's dreams. One of the directors gave this moving speech of his love of space. How for the longest time, he wanted to be an astronaut. And the Solomon Space Agency could’ve at last been that opportunity. Yet alas his body was unfit for space flights.

Now what Rocket Girls tried to play off as inspiring, I would call manipulating.

Who cares if this was this guy’s dream? This wasn’t Yukari’s dream. But regardless, it worked on her. You know why? It was because she was a teenager and couldn’t see this guy was full of it.

I could keep going, but I don’t want to. I don’t want to think about this show anymore. This was an exhausting experience.

Final Thoughts

This took a lot out of me.

Rocket Girls was not good. If you, for some reason, decide to watch this one, have a bottle of aspirin at the ready. Or alcohol if you’re of drinking age. Not both, that’s dangerous. This show’s not worth that. But it is bad.

It’s stupid. It’s frustrating. It makes no sense.

For any small sliver of decency, you must slog through the thickest of mud. Don’t put yourself through that. Rocket Girls is a hard skip.

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