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AKA: ロケットガール (Japanese)
Genre: Space exploration / adventure / comedy
Length: Television series, 12 episodes, 24 minutes each
Distributor: R1 DVD from Bandai
Content Rating: 13+ (suggestive themes, somewhat revealing body suits, some fan service)
Related Series: N/A
Also Recommended: Planetes
Notes: Based on the light novel series by Hōsuke Nojiri, which ran from 1995 to 2007 in Monthly Dragon Magazine. This series was made with assistance with the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency. Japanese astronaut Naoko Yamazaki guest starred as herself in episode 7 of the anime.

Prior to the 2007 T.V. series, a pilot was also produced in 2001 with very different character designs.
Rating:
 

Rocket Girls

Synopsis

(Mostly) taken from Wikipedia;

16 year old Yukari Morita secretly visits the Solomon Islands during summer vacation to search for her missing father, Hiroshi, who disappeared on her mother's honeymoon. Meanwhile, the Solomon Islands Space Association's (SSA) latest rocket, the LS7, has another launch failure. And if the SSA doesn't succeed soon, they will lose funding. SSA director Nasu Tian Hoon meets Yukari after tracking down an escaped astronaut, talking her into becoming an astronaut on the LS5, a more reliable rocket that does not have enough power to lift a full adult. She eventually accepts, unaware of the training and excitement that would await her on her training to become a teenage astronaut.

Review

One of the things I enjoy most about animation is its ability to do things one cannot replicate in real life: the slapstick violence of the Road Runner / Wile E. Coyote cartoons, a man living in a whale (Pinocchio), a cat and mouse bombarding each other with household objects, or the often chaotic visuals of The Three Caballeros (which includes scenes involving dancing cacti and anthropomorphic ducks dancing on top of stars while also singing on the moon). Typically, the more outlandish and fun a cartoon is, the more I like it. There are exceptions of more down-to-earth cartoons I like (I’ve reviewing a few here on THEM Anime), but for the most part I like my cartoons to be fun and inventive. I fail to see the point of making a cartoon that has a story that can just be as easily duplicated in live action, if not better.

This brings me to Rocket Girls, whose concept intrigued me somewhat from day one. While it’s not the first series to feature to a teenage girl in space, it is among the few anime I've seen that treats space as a place of exploration, not a battleground or a place where wacky aliens crash land on Earth to have fun. To be honest, at first I was expecting the story to be told at a level no greater than the high school grade of its heroine; that the series would just be mindless, potentially decent entertainment. Man was I ever wrong.

Like Yakitate!! Japan, Rocket Girls is an example of a series where its writers actually do their homework. The scientists in the series take into account every situation possible regarding Yukari and her ability to fly into space, even down to her weight in terms of how much the ship itself can hold. They even threw in actual astronomy/space terms in here; it really does show that the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency had a hand with assisting this series.

The smart writing would be wasted, however, if its characters weren’t up to snuff. Fortunately that’s not a problem, because our main heroine, Yukari, is a great character. Part of this is she because she actually likes a teenager – she gets annoyed, depressed, excited, worried, and anxious about the situations she’s. Most of her reactions regarding the events in front of her practically mirrored my own while watching the series. It actually takes her quite a while to get the hang of the position she’s in, making the final episodes and her doing a complete 180 on her earlier behavior in the series that much more remarkable when it happens.

Of course, Yukari is not alone on her aerospace travels. She is accompanied by two other girls; Matsuri and Akane. Matsuri is an island girl not too far away from the area Yukari trains for space travel in, and at first looks like the “comedy relief” girl of the trio. The series could’ve turned made her out to be another energetic weird girl not unlike Kaolla Su from Love Hina, but the series avoids that completely. Instead Matsuri is actually pretty insightful of the situations around her, as well as actually being the most level-headed of the trio. She quickly became one of my favorite characters in the series with her optimistic attitude and cheerful demeanor. On the other side is Akane, who fulfills the shy, small, cute girl role of the three. At first she’s weak and faints quite easily (which are two big no-no’s for those aspiring to be astronauts), but over time develops the ability to withstand such weaknesses. Not completely, though, because the series is somewhat realistic in that regard; after all, you can’t gain the ability to withstand several G’s of force overnight. Like I’ve said before, the series is realistic in the way its characters act.

For all the realism the series has, you may be wondering why I talked about animation and how it can achieve effects one cannot duplicate in cartoons in my opening paragraph. I mentioned it because for all the realism the series strives for, the concept of Rocket Girls is not one that could be duplicated in real life. The very concept of sending teenager girls into space, as well as seeing said girls repair machines in space, would never happen in real life (at least not while I'm still alive). And although it might be possible to produce a film similar to this series as a live-action Hollywood movie, it simply wouldn’t have the same effect.

The art and animation in Rocket Girls is pretty good as well. The heroines’ eyes (Yukari particularly) took me a while to get used to, but it didn’t bother me for long. All three heroines are very cute, but the series doesn’t go overboard with their cuteness like other shows (Lucky Star) do. Even Akane comes off as shy, scared, and worried more so than “moe”. The voice acting is great as well, with the versatile Hitomi Natanabe as Matsuri being among my favorite actress in the series. The background music is also quite good, though not quite as engaging as many of the other aspects of the series.

That’s about all there is I can say on Rocket Girls. It’s a short, cute, fun series about three teenage girls going into space. And if you can stomach the impossibilities of a plot like that, you’ll find a lot to like in this series, as well as be rewarded with rich characters and surprisingly smart writing. I highly recommend checking it out.

Fun, entertaining, and even a little educational, I recommend you to take this anime for a ride.Tim Jones

Recommended Audience: Teenagers and up. Although there isn’t anything particularly offensive that would alienate parents from showing this show to their kids, I doubt they’d be as entertained by this as those of a slightly older age group. (This was based on a seinen novel series, a demographic typically targeted toward adult males.)



Version(s) Viewed: Prerelease fansub; R1 DVD
Review Status: Full (12/12)
Rocket Girls © 2007 Housuke Nojiri – Muttiri Moon / Fujimishobo / Happinet