21 Mar 2004 2:17 pm

Twin Spica is a bright star in this season’s anime offerings. For those of you already groaning, yes, that pun was intended, but then this review isn’t for you — you’ve seen the show! Stop reading and stand poised over your .torrent streams, and wait for the next lovingly fansubbed episode to come down the pipe.

Asumi Kamogawa in a spacesuit, chasing after a harmonica

Asumi Kamogawa

For those who’ve missed it (and there seem to be quite a few who have, judging from the lack of buzz on forums and newsgroups), Twin Spica is a coming-of-age character drama, featuring young Asumi Kamogawa and her quest to become a “rocket driver”. The show begins rather inauspicously, when a spacebound rocket crashes into the heart of a city; unfortunately, Asumi’s mother is badly injured in the crash as she tries to protect her baby daughter. From the get-go, you’re aware of just how tinged with personal tradgedy the stories of the primary characters will be, and so far (eight episodes in), we’ve already seen the painful pasts of three of our five leads (or four of six if you count the ghostly Lion-san).

Lion-san, midsummer's festival

Lion-san

One of the great strengths of this show is that our primary leads are so very likeable. Asumi is a gentle and sweet girl with a nearly encyclopedic knowledge of all things space-related and possessed of hidden depths; Lion-san is easygoing and endlessly patient, and a perfect big-brother-figure to the young and lonely Asumi. (I’m leaving out Kei, Marika and the others because they haven’t really had time to show off more of their character, what with only eight episodes fansubbed).

Asumi, Aki, Yuko and Marika

Our main cast

Another appealing aspect is how this show seamlessly tends to blur the line between hard science fiction and Japanese philosophical mysticism — I mean, you accept without hesistation and with equal reality that Lion-san is a ghost, and that regular space launches have become common enough that they’ve opened a nation school for astronauts.

With that in mind, I’m tempted to state that this show’s theme is of travel and discovery; upcoming episodes will prove or disprove that theory.

The plot seems to unfold slowly, allowing the characters time to play off each other and let us build greater emotional investment with each of them; I’m personally glad to see that raws for episode 19 are available — a half season just wouldn’t have been enough.

On a parting note, I’m really, really fond of the opening theme “Venus Say” by Buzy. It’s fiendishly energetic and enigmatic, and only has one cringe-worthy line of Engrish in it.

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