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Anime / Rocket Girls

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This is Tanpopo commander Yukari Morita. I'll enter the transfer orbit, now.

It's summer vacation. High schooler Yukari Morita is visiting the Solomon Islands to try and find out what happened to her father, who disappeared there seventeen years ago while her parents were on their honeymoon. Meanwhile, the Solomon Space Association — a Japanese corporation trying to corner a market in satellite repair by developing low-cost manned spacecraft — suffers a serious setback when its newest rocket design explodes during testing... for the sixth time. Desperate to ensure a successful flight before the company's financial assistance from the government is cut off, they decide to dust off an older but less powerful rocket design. The only problem is, using it would require their astronaut to lose a rather unhealthy amount of weight. And height. Already at his limit due to the launch failures and the sadistic tendencies of the company's doctor, the spooked astronaut steals a vehicle and flees the base, almost running down the now stranded Yukari in the process.

A wild chase ensues, and before long, the SSA has their man back in custody — but it's clear to them he's just not going to work out. The chase has however brought them into contact with Yukari, who happens to weigh in at a very petite thirty-eight kilograms. Recognising an opportunity, the SSA's unscrupulous Director offers to use the company's supposed connections with the local police to help Yukari find her father... if she agrees to do a job for them. It's just a simple job... one so easy "even a monkey could do it."

Naturally, she's a little freaked out when she finds out that they intend for her to fly a spaceship. But she still wants closure on the issue of her dad, and she's not going to get that without the SSA's help. As such, she reluctantly begins astronaut training. Joined in her endeavours by the energetic Solomon Islands native Matsuri (who turns out to be her half-sister) and later by the intellectually gifted but physically weak Akane Miura, Yukari is soon going Where No High School Girl has Gone Before... into space!

Based on a series of light novels by Housuke Nojiri and produced with technical assistance from JAXA (the Japanese counterpart to NASA), Rocket Girls is a rather hard science fiction series. It aired on Japanese TV in 2007 and was released for the American market as a sub-only DVD in 2008.

For those interested in the original books, the first two of the Rocket Girls light novels are now available in English.

This series contains examples of:

    open/close all folders 

    Plot, Premise, Setting, and Theme tropes 
  • Improbable Age: 16-year-old astronauts.
  • Indy Ploy: The second mission is essentially composed of one jury-rigged solution after another, with both the SSA and NASA astronauts and Mission Control coming up with plan adjustments on the fly to make sure that the Orpheus probe launches as planned and the girls get home safely. Which pretty much describes real space missions, too.
  • Latex Spacesuit: Skintight spacesuits are one of the technological advancements the SSA is using as part of its attempt to develop economical manned space travel (since they're a lot lighter than conventional space suits). Amusingly enough, the reactions of the characters themselves to the spacesuits seem a lot more scandalized than the series visuals would seem to warrant.
    • There is to add that there is nothing that would prevent such a space-suit to be actually used for short-time missions. Short-time, because of the missing plumbing...
      • The ironic thing is that in the light novels they apparently had said plumbing. To a certain degree.
      • NASA keeps wanting to develop these, but can't seem to get funding. Apparently better spacesuits aren't sexy enough — they should get more female astronauts, I guess.
  • Literal Metaphor: Yukari is offered a job that even a monkey can do... why, yes, there have been monkeys that have gone into space.
  • Lovable Traitor: Director Nasuda. He may be funny, but he has a bad habit of keeping secrets from the girls.
  • Parental Abandonment: More neglectful than actually absent in Yukari's case (which she lampshades after receiving a call from her mother). Subverted in the case of Akane — while we never actually see her parents, her brother reports that they were very worried about her, and the reason they weren't there to talk to her when she phoned was apparently because they'd gone to a shrine to pray for her safety.
  • Red Herring: Yukari's search for her father seems like a long term plot thread when first introduced, but it's mostly an excuse to get her to the Solomons and introduce Matsuri. Yukari actually finds him in the second episode, and it's only some fast talking on his part that keeps her from quitting her job with the SSA and forcibly dragging him back to Japan with her.)
  • Technobabble: Averted; practically all the tech jargon used in the show is real.
  • Training from Hell: Turning Yukari into an astronaut in five-minute drills.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: It's never explained why Yukari's father wandered off on his honeymoon.

    Characterization tropes 
  • Beauty, Brains, and Brawn: Yukari, Akane and Matsuri.
  • Butt-Monkey: Yasukawa, the SSA's original astronaut. He ends up becoming a taxi driver on the island. Also, the poor saps in production who keep having to pull all-nighters in order to get the agency's hardware built on time.
  • The Chief's Daughter: Matsuri is technically one, although she doesn't fall into the traditional role of being the main character's love interest (instead she turns out to be the heroine's younger half-sister, since the Chief in question is actually Yukari's runaway dad).
  • Fur Bikini: Matsuri's "native" clothing is a close cousin, being as it doesn't have much fur in it.
  • Hyper-Awareness: Satsuki makes an absurdly accurate "estimate" of Yukari's measurements just by eyeballing her.
  • Long Lost Sibling: Turns out Matsuri's father is Yukari's runaway dad. Matsuri takes this revelation a lot better then Yukari does.
  • Mad Scientist: Mihara the chemist. When she needed platinum as a catalyst for the new fuel she was testing, she used her own wedding ring to provide it!
  • Magical Native Islander: Matsuri can charm fishes to the shore by singing to them, uses the Jedi Mind Trick on a guard and survives 38 Kg. at 10G on her torso during a re-entry without even a bruised rib.
  • Open-Minded Parent: Yukari's mother is totally ok with her daughter risking her life as an astronaut.
  • Ordinary High-School Student: Yukari prior to becoming an astronaut. Following her return to Earth, she tries to insist that she still is one.
  • Salaryman: Kinoshita was one of these before he decided to follow his childhood dreams and become an astronaut. After failing screening due to a medical condition, he ended up becoming the SSA's mission director instead.
  • Small Girl, Big Gun: The .45 ACP is on the upper end of the range of handgun calibers. Considering that there is no room in the setting for a BFG, Yukari's Colt semiautomatic is pretty big.

    Metacontext and Presentation tropes 
  • The Cameo: Real life JAXA astronaut Naoko Yamazaki lends her voice to a scene in episode seven, where she welcomes the fictional Yukari as a fellow astronaut.
  • Male Gaze: In the obligatory Beach Episode, some of the technicians are astonished by Yukari's swimsuit look. The crew on Atlantis also seem to have good times ogling the girls in their spacesuits.
  • Shout-Out: Mihara may be one to Mihara "Icchan" Ichiro from Angelic Layer.
  • Shown Their Work: More like "Shown that they had advice from the Japanese Space Agency," but the effect is much the same.
  • Translation Convention: Most of the time, people appear to be speaking Japanese, including the Atlantis crew (it's far more likely that Yukari and Akane are actually speaking English, however).