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Anime / Sky Girls

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In the latter half of the 21st century, Earth is threatened by creatures called WORMS, which are huge artificial life forms resembling the first thing they see—usually sea organisms. After a devastating war they seem to have been defeated, only to suddenly appear again.

To fight them, a special unit of Mini-Mecha has been devised: the Sonic Divers. Curiously, these can only be piloted by young females. The first unit consists of three teenaged girls, one of whom is Otoha Sakurano, an avid kendo practitioner. The story focuses primarily on her plight, although the other girls get plenty of attention as well. In the TV series, the team gets expanded by one more girl of German origin.

The series started out with a Fanservice-laden episode, produced by Konami and released as an OVA. It later got adapted into a two-season series in which the service got somewhat toned down, although the girls still have to wear extremely skin-tight uniforms to make them "communicate" with their mecha. Despite the obvious appeal to adolescent males, the series still manages to have an engaging plot and a fair amount of character development.

For a show with a similar concept that began with an OVA and was later turned into an anime, see Strike Witches. Both shows share the same character designer, Humikane Shimada, which may further explain their similarities. For another show and toyline that inherited Shimada's design style, there is Busou Shinki - and yes, there were Sky Girls action figures made with the Busou Shinki MMS2 body-type.

The TV series contains examples of:

  • After the End: The backstory has it that most of humanity has barely survived a war with a colony of rogue nanomachines called WORMs, which required the united earth forces to Nuke 'em. This caused the sea levels to rise and most settlements are trying to rebuild.
  • A.I. Is a Crapshoot: The story behind the WORMS.
  • An Ass-Kicking Christmas
  • Anime Accent Absence: Elise's Japanese is impeccable. Explained that she is a Teen Genius who is Too Clever by Half.
  • Applied Phlebotinum: Plenty of examples, but especially the nanoskin gel and Delta Lock / Quadra Formation.
  • Artistic Age: Frequently criticized for portraying sixteen-year-old characters with...well, just see Older Than They Look below.
  • Artistic License – Geography: Look closely at the maps shown with the adjusted coastlines. Somehow the sea level rose in such a way that it submerged the Andes while sparing most of the Amazon Basin, and flooded most of the central United States while leaving all of Florida above water. Check out this page for a couple of neat applets showing what the map would really look like.
  • Awesomeness by Analysis: Karen. In and out of combat; her cockpit display is set to provide her a wealth of information so huge that a normal person would only perceive "noise", and she's able to both memorize the enemy's weapons firing patterns so accurately that can intercept them firing over the shoulder without looking, and calculate Nanae's breast size (that she's hiding behind documents) just upon visible measurements, human averages, angles and proportions.
  • Big Damn Heroes: Try telling to the mother, daughter and kitten they rescue from a landslide in the nick of time in their first sortie that they aren't that. Half-lampshaded, half-discussed, as TV broadcasts the whole rescue aftermath and they get to be Famed In-Story as Big Damn Heroes.
  • Barely-There Swimwear: From Otoha's clothing of choice in the mentioned OVA to the pilot suits to... just about anything else the girls wear on and off duty. Karen is visibly distressed about the revealing clothes.
  • Bland-Name Product: Camon cameras, among other things.
    • Not a bland name product per se but apparently in the future Apple and Microsoft are working together. A blink and miss computer screen has Mac toolbars and Windows folder designs. So it's "Maplesoft"?
  • Book Ends: For... basically everyone.
    • For Eika, who is introduced by being defeated by a surprise move from another test pilot in a vastly superior machine. In episode 26, she puts that same move in an inferior plane against two other superior planes and teaches their pilots not to depend too much of the machine's performance.
    • For Karen, whose introduction is she being so timid around males (even for everyday situations), that she's unable to talk wih two classmates she's helping with a report, needing her roommate to act as intermediary. In episode 26, she's shown confidently talking with those very classmates about their work, much to her roommate's surprise.
    • For Togo, whose introduction is him meeting Eika near her plane, snarking at her age with a fishing rod over his shoulder before informing her of his rank (Eika is not amused). In episode 26, he does exactly the same. (This time, Eika just snarks back).
    • For the Sonic Divers team, whose first mission was meant to be an airshow which a natural disaster turns into a rescue operation, and whose very last sortie is to put a kickass airshow for their replacements, a dedicated rescue unit of brand new Sonic Divers. Slightly Played With, as the first book end happens several episodes into the series, well after the Divers are introducted.
    • For Takumi, whose introduction is him taking photos of Karen's brother's buildings. In episode 26, he's again doing the same.
  • The Brigadier: Rear Admiral Shima. He can never be relaxed around the antics of "those annoying kids". It is revealed later that he is anxious because he had seen so many of his men die during the first WORM War.
  • But Not Too Foreign: Elise. Also later Aisha, she's probably Indian Muslim (not all Indian Muslims migrated to Pakistan), and it's traditional Punjabi clothing she's wearing, not a cheongsam.
  • The Cameo: As seen above, the cast has to compete against the Vic Viper in an air show.
  • Character Development: Plenty of it for most characters. Inverted with Togo: he already had his own development off-screen, he's exactly as he wants to be, and is instead working to change everyone else (including the whole world) to develop the same way.
  • Characterization Marches On: Due to the obvious fact that on OVA has only 30 minutes, the three heroines is depicted in a very stereotypical way, sometimes at odds with how the series portrayed them. While Otoha's character largely stays the same, Karen's trait as a Teen Genius is more accentuated by her spouting off exact minutes and percentages, while Eika comes off as a little narcissist by taking sunbathing seriously. Other subtler traits however, are used as basis to build their characters in the series, such as Karen's shyness with boys, Eika's seriousness as the only military girl, Otoha's chemistry with Ryohei, Ryohei's love of motorbikes (alluded in the ending theme), Takumi as the Team Chef, etc.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: That little ghost-boy on the hilltop in the first episode, and in the Oppama base, seems to look a lot like a certain someone's missing brother...
  • Chekhov's Skill: Otoha is a great fisher(wo)man. This enables her to solve the hunger woes of the crew of Kouryuu. Also, she is apparently a survivalist; when the team gets stranded in an island, Otoha knows exactly which fruits are edible and the not-so-edible ones.
    Eika: What about this fruit...?
    Otoha: If you serve that, you'll send us all straight to heaven... in a bad way.
    Eika: *pales*
  • Child Soldiers: Justified by 90% of the male population between 20 and 30 being dead due to the first war and ensuing holocaust.
  • Continuity Nod: OVA and series are slightly alternate continuities. Both start, however, with a shot (the OVA's, considerably more Fan Service-y) of Otoha swimming under a boat - even with the same music playing on the radio.
    • The one episode delay between Kouryuu sailing forth and Elize's Diver being operational is another nod to the OVA, depicting a three-girls team on board.
  • Collapsing Lair
  • Cool Ship: Kouryuu. Also the carrier that later arrives carrying the Vic Vipers.
  • Cool Old Guy: Nasty brigadiers aside, you have the maintenance chief, the Admiral, the chef, etc.
  • Cute Little Fangs: Elise.
  • Creature-Hunter Organization: The Sky Girls, with their nanocells suit for protection and Sonic Divers for offense they're the ones to call for fighting WORMS.
  • Deconstruction: In a series like this, it should be unlikely. From the girls being Older Than They Look (low resources society means stunted growth) to Otoha's reaction of finding out about the fate of her brother to Karen's reaction to the clothes they wear on duty, this story has some fairly realistic and dark tones.
  • Depopulation Bomb
  • Determinator: Otoha
  • Disappears into Light: Yuuki. Twice, actually.
  • Distant Finale
  • Doomed Hometown: Poor Elise has to be evacuated from West Germany base and had to witness it being bombed to kingdom come before her very eyes.
  • Dude, Where's My Respect?: Played with; the whole series is the tale of how the trope is first played painfully straight (as the HQ treats the Sky Girls and the Sonic Divers with derision as "toys"); then downplayed when they become Famed In-Story, with HQ deciding to treat them as a mere decoy of their favored project (the Vic Viper); and finally averted when their own actions earn them the respect of their peers, the recognition of the HQ, and the admiration of the public.
  • Dying as Yourself: Yukki, after being converted into a human for one last time.
  • 11th-Hour Ranger: Aisha.
  • Emotionless Girl: Also Aisha.
  • Energy Weapon
  • Enfante Terrible: Yukki, who's resurrected by the WORMS with the power to vaporize nanoskins and pilot his own Sonic Driver.
  • Expy: Possible instance. The bratty German girl who joins partway into the series is a teen genius, an arrogant and hot-headed person on proving her skill, and has a rather traumatic past. Combined with the synch ratios, hairclips, inhuman enemy monsters with unknown motives, and post-apocalyptic setting, some fans see Evangelion in the series and Asuka in Elise. Thankfully, though, Elise learns to lose the arrogance before anything too bad happens to her, and this series is not the Dysfunction Junction that Evangelion is.
  • Evil Counterpart: The penultimate episode or final battle with the WORMS has them develop their own Sonic Driver with Otoha's long-lost brother as its pilot.
  • Fanservice: More so in the OVA than the TV series version, though the Motion Slits don't leave a whole lot to the imagination.
  • Fantasy-Forbidding Father: Eika's father opposed her becoming a pilot. Justified in that, were it not for the Plot Armor, she could very easily have been killed.
  • Fashionable Asymmetry: In episodes 4 and 16, Otoha wears one knee high under her right sock.
  • Fighter-Launching Sequence: "Sonic Diver Team, launch!"
  • Fun with Acronyms: WORMs are an abbreviation of "Weapons Of Raid Machines", for all the sense it made...
  • Gendercide: 90% of the male population of military age was killed off in the initial war.
  • Genki Girl: Otoha is always enthusiastic. When her morale finally hits rock bottom at the end of the season, it takes a very serious effort to bring her up again.
  • Girlfriend in Canada: Eika claims to have a boyfriend. She refuses to give details, to Elise's dismay.
    Otoha: What kind of guy is he?
    Eika: *ahem* No comment.
  • Gratuitous English: The opening theme lyrics. However, it's a MELL song, so would you expect anything else from her?
  • Hair Antennae: Elise, though she has three rather than the more common two.
  • Heroic BSoD: Otoha, after The Reveal.
  • Hero of Another Story:
    • Elise's prized team photo of the doomed personnel of the destroyed West Europe base shows a nice, varied group, with likely candidates for all the niche roles of the genre, al of whom seem to love and care for her, and makes a very good job of letting the viewer imagine the adventures Elise might have had with them before they were all killed in a Worm attack that left no survivors.
    • The 12 pilots of the new Sonic Diver unit show a varied group of girls with variued attires and personalities, that are bound to become an elite rescue unit of their own.
  • Hot Springs Episode
  • Humongous Mecha
  • Hypocritical Humour: Otoha notices Elise's blonde hair, immediately asking if she is a foreigner. This despite the fact that Otoha's own hair is bright orange.
  • Improbably Female Cast: The entire Sonic Diver team is female. The rest of the crew and the Vic Viper squadron are much more mixed however.
  • Ineffectual Loner: Elise has zero concept of teamwork. It takes a good dose of several episodes and character development to mold her.
  • Kimodameshi
  • Latex Space Suit: The Motion Slits worn by the Sonic Diver pilots. The suit worn by the pilot of the Vic Viper is also skintight and somewhat accentuates his Heroic Build.
  • Little Bit Beastly: Strangely enough, the Motion Slits include hair decorations that vaguely resemble animal ears and has a cable extension connecting their spine to the Sonic Divers resembling tails. This become even more pronounced at the second generation Rescue Sky Girls, whose hair decs are even more varied. Seems Fumikane decided to cut the middleman and made everyone in Strike Witches magically sprout animal ears and tails without any other explanation other than their magic powers did it...
  • Luminescent Blush: Virtually the entire cast exhibits this given the proper situation.
  • Meaningful Name: The "Rei" in Reijin means "Zero", which is why Otoha called it that. Also an allusion to the famous WWII Zero fighter.
    • Chief mechanic Oto Seibi is this. "Seibi" is the homophone to a Japanese word meaning "maintenance".
  • The Medic: Aki Yuko, introduced when they move from Oppama to Kouryuu.
  • Mini-Mecha: The Sonic Divers kinda straddle the line between Power Armor and Mini-Mecha. They're not much bigger than the girls, and the limbs respond as extensions of the pilots' limbs. But it's hard to call it armor, since the pilots are completely exposed at the front in the interest of Fanservice.
    • Incidentally, the in-universe documents refer to it as "Powered Exoskeleton".
  • Mission Control: Takumi Hayami and Nanae Fujieda.
  • Mundane Utility: Combined with a bit of Chekhov's Skill. When the ship's supply warehouse is damaged, forcing the crew to starve, Otoha uses her genius fishing skills to turn the Sonic Divers into fishing machines. No, they don't fish using a rod, they use nets attached to torpedos.
  • Mood Whiplash: As a general rule, expect a dark reveal of some sort to any "light" episodes. For example, the same episode that has Otoha running around the base to find the owner of a large bra is also the episode where Elise is introduced by having her hastily evacuated from the destroyed West Europe base. Also, the real reason why Sky Girls are formed, during a Hot Springs Episode.
    • The last episode, showing how every character seems to have achieved in the end what they wanted, averts this trope particularly hard, after 25 episodes of using it more or less straight, when nothing ruins the mood.
  • Mr. Fixit: Tachibana Ryohei. He becomes very passionate about maintaining Otoha's Sonic Diver, which she affectionately call "Zero". His reason? He wants to make sure Otoha can fly, at any costs. Mildly hinted to be Otoha's Love Interest. Also Oto Seibi, maintenance chief who is a Cool Old Guy.
  • Older Than They Look: Official ages of the pilots: Elise is 15, Karen and Otoha are 16, and Eika is 17. You decide.
    • And then there are twin mechanics Ranko and Haruko Mikagami, who are supposedly older than Ryohei?
  • Omake: "Fishing Maniac Eika: Sky Girls Dynamite Fishing".
  • Phenotype Stereotype: Elise, being German, has blond hair and blue eyes. Aisha, being Indian, is dark-skinned and has a mark that resembles a Tilak.
  • Phlebotinum Overload: Aisha can't pilot for too long, since her 118% synchronization rate is incredibly taxing. Just a few minutes is enough to put her in a coma.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: Admiral Kadowaki from Kouryuu. Heck, he even authorized the fishing expedition. At first, he tries to give them a reason to sortie in grounds of "training", but later...
    Admiral: *stomach growls* ...ahem. Sometimes, we must put our principles aside.
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni: Played very straight with Ranko and Haruko. They provide the trope image.
  • Retired Badass: Several. Soya Togo is one; he was an Ace Pilot retiring due to a nasty injury and instead becomes Cool Teacher to the girls. Also, the Koryu's captain and first offficer (Admiral Kadowaki and Rear Admiral Shima), very high-ranking and very experienced Fleet officers coming out of retirement for the task.
  • The Reveal: The origin of the WORMS. Also why Otoha's brother went missing: He has been "synchronized" with the WORMS, giving them a close equivalent of a leader.
  • Rousing Speech: Aisha gives one to Otoha.
    Aisha: Whatever happens, always put your trust in me, your True Companions, and Zero. If you do that, you can fly.
  • Schizo Tech: it seems there are technologies still reliant on oil.
  • Shout-Out:
  • Signature Headgear: Somehow, the Motion Slit technology requires the pilots to wear some sort of a hair dec. Most of them look vaguely resembling a mechanical version of droopy dog ears, while Elise's stand upright like a German Shepherd's.
  • Sixth Ranger: Fourth for Elise, fifth for Aisha (even if she doesn't technically fight).
  • Spoiler Opening: The opening spoils the appearance of Elise quite a while before she even shows up and only several episodes after that she actually joins the cast proper; and it basically spoils the entire rest of the cast too. It also shows a girl whose face is obscured by a helmet; it's actually Aisha who joins very late and otherwise only showed up once to fight against Eika in a test battle.
  • The Squad: The entire anime revolves around how a Squad is formed, how it fights, and how it finally ends.
  • Stripperiffic: The normally shy Karen cannot bear to go outside the changing room with her Motion Slit on, to which Eika flatly told her that she can wear something else over it (which became the norm; when the pilots are on standby, they wear a jacket over their Motion Slits).
  • Super Prototype: Subverted: Although Reijin, Fuujin, and Raijin are prototypes, the mass-produced Bachstelze performs just as well. The catch? The production plant got bombed to kingdom come just after one model is built.
  • Talking Is a Free Action: Especially during the final assault on the Nest.
  • Team Chef: Takumi Hayami, when he's not being the Mission Control - however, he's the assistant chef. (The head chef is Gen, who later adopts Elise after the war.)
  • Theme Music Power-Up: when the Sky Girls launch on their final mission from Kouryuu, the second verse of the opening theme plays.
  • Techno Babble: Quite numerous, but legible. This is the reason why the girls have to go around in a latex swimsuit with a 20-something minute time limit in every battle.
    • Speaking of swimsuits, Karen notes how Motion Slits are even thinner than swimsuits.
  • Teen Genius: Karen Sonomiya and Elise von Dietrich. The former is a top authority concerning nanomachine physics; while Elise is at the very least a gifted polyglot.
  • Third-Person Person: Elise.
  • Thong of Shielding: Pretty much an example of their Motion Slits, though this isn't present with Elise, who is of course the youngest of the group.
  • Too Powerful to Live: Yukki and his Sonic Driver, which could overpower any driver in a one-on-one fight, even against close-quarters ones like Reijin.
  • Transforming Mecha: The Sonic Divers can shift from G Mode (flight mode) and A mode (walker mode).
  • Trauma-Induced Amnesia: A side effect of piloting the Sonic Diver for Aisha.
  • True Companions: See Rousing Speech entry.
  • Tsundere:
    • Eika is a textbook type A.
    • Otoha is a mild type B towards Ryohei.
  • Twice Shy: Karen and Takumi. Nanae and Hiroharu.
  • Wrench Wench: Two of them, Ranko and Haruko Mikagami.
  • Younger Than They Look: Is it possible for a single series to invoke both this and Older Than They Look? Yes. But only at the end, and due to a strange and spoileriffic reason.