An accident caused the Japanese space program's manned rocket, the Lion, to crash into Yuigahama. Asumi Kamogawa, who was one year old at the time, survives the incident, protected by her mother Kyouko, who is badly burned and falls into a coma.
Five years later, Kyouko dies without ever having regained consciousness. After the funeral, Asumi meets a strange man wearing a lion head from a mascot costume and playing a harmonica. Although she doesn't believe him at first, he is the ghost of one of the astronauts killed in the Lion incident. Between her teacher and her father telling her that dead people become stars, and talking with Lion-san, she decides to become a "rocket driver" when she grows up.
To that end, Asumi applies to the prestigious and expensive Tokyo Space Academy, to enroll in the newly created astronaut training course. During the rather unusual entrance exam, she meets Marika Ukita and Kei Oumi. At the same time, her childhood friend Shinnosuke Fuchuuya, who has followed her to the school, meets Shuu Suzuki, and the five of them eventually form a group.
Since this is a whole new area of study for this level, the teachers and administrators are feeling out what needs to be done and learning as much as the students are. This leads to some rather odd training scenarios combined with the more expected. It doesn't help that one of the teachers knew Asumi's father.
The main story line covers Asumi and the others during their time at Tokyo Space Academy, but there are numerous flashbacks to earlier periods.
The anime is only 20 episodes long, with a non-ending. It follows the manga fairly closely until the end of the anime, but only covers part of the first five volumes, most of what was out at the time. Given the length differences, many of these tropes only apply to the manga.
A Live-Action Adaptation produced by NHK aired in the summer of 2009. Vertical has released the entire manga in the US, but it's not in print anymore due to low sales, so some physical volumes might be very expensive nowadays. They are available from Amazon as Kindle e-books.
Tropes applied in this series:
- The Ace: Subverted. Shuu is initially played up as a Brilliant, but Lazy Ace, but after becoming True Companions with Asumi and co. he admits that there are quite a few things that Asumi is better than him at.
- Airplane Arms: Young Asumi does this a lot
- Anime Theme Song: The music pre-dates the anime, but the lyrics for the opening were written for it
- Attention Whore: Shuu is frequently accused of doing this by shaving his eyebrows. In reality, he does it because he has his father's eyebrows and is trying to distance himself from him.
- Big Fancy House: Marika. Shuu's family has one as well, but he lives in a dinky little apartment
- Big Sleep
- But Now I Must Go: Lion-san in the second-to-last chapter.
- Cherry Blossoms: One of Asumi's flashbacks covers this in detail
- Cool Chair: The multi-axis chair
- Diegetic Soundtrack Usage: The ending theme is frequently played on a harmonica by Lion-san
- Drill Sergeant Nasty: The instructor doesn't do very much yelling, but he always has a hearty laugh when he's giving students even more Training from Hell on top of what they already did (to the point that the students - Kei especially - have taken to calling him "Ogre".)
- Fatal Flaw: Asumi, who nearly drowned as a child, is afraid of water. Which is something of a problem, given that they have to be able to swim in full flight gear and do a lot of simulated zero-g work in pools
- Free-Range Children: 6 year old Asumi runs all around town and forested mountains with only a ghost for company and on one occasion nearly drowns.
- Genetic Memory: Current Marika sometimes remembers things the original Marika knew
- The Glasses Gotta Go: Kei switched from glasses to contact lens after she had successfully enrolled in the school, hoping to make herself more attractive.
- Government Conspiracy: The real cause of the Lion incident is apparently corner-cutting and outsourcing of what was supposed to be the first manned rocked designed and made entirely in Japan. Which The Government has been trying to keep under wraps.
- Great Escape: One of the stranger class projects involve one of these
- Incurable Cough of Death: Started with a nosebleed for one. Possibly building to a straight version of this with another character. For the second time.
- Intrepid Reporter: Ichimura, who recognizes Marika during the media attention surrounding Shuu after he's been selcted to participate in a Shuttle mission, and starts investigating.
- I Remember Because...: Asumi remembering their room number in the closed environment adaptation test due to the number corresponds to the distance in light-year from Earth to Spica.
- Magic Realism: Lion-san brings this to the table in an otherwise fairly realistic sci-fi series.
- Meaningful Name: "Asumi", when written in kanji, would mean as much as "view into the future"
- Meganekko: Kei, until she switches to contacts
- Missing Mom: Asumi's mother, among others
- Motifs: The harmonica is featured prominently, both musically and visually.
- Next Sunday A.D.: Started publication in 2001, the Lion incident happening in 2010. This leaves a list of space travel disasters and ISS's deorbit date mentioned early in the series disproved by reality.
- Obsolete Mentor: Lion-san's advice to Asumi ranges from helpful to worthless. Justified in that he was an astronaut before any established training regime, and the new course at the Tokyo Space Academy is the first attempt to establish one.
- One-Note Cook: Asumi never seems to make anything other than riceballs or curry
- Ordinary High-School Student
- Parental Abandonment: Done in various ways, from dead parents to ones that are simply never mentioned
- Perpetual Poverty: Asumi. Kei is surprised to find out she doesn't even have a cell phone
- Potty Failure: Volume 4 has them don diapers as they train in space suits for long stretches of time. Kei forgets to use the restroom before starting, and is humiliated at being forced to pee in her diaper.
- Rebellious Princess: Sort of. Marika and Shu are the kids of a wealthy businessman and a politician respectively, and are going against their father's wishes by training to become astronauts (the latter is even disowned for it.)
- Replacement Goldfish: Marika is cloned to be a replacement of the original Marika
- Rousseau Was Right: Even the Sadist Teacher is just misguided. Although there is that whole Government Conspiracy thing that hasn't been resolved yet
- Sadist Teacher: Sano to Asumi. Kei's view of the phys ed teacher
- Scenery Porn: There are some gorgeous drawings of the night sky, the sea, the forest, cherry blossoms, and of course Asumi's view of the earth from space
- Selective Obliviousness: Asumi doesn't have much room in her head for anything besides space
- Sempai/Kohai: During their second year, another girl, Mikan, moves in to the dorm Asumi stays at. Due to Asumi's appearance, it takes Mikan a while to acknowledge Asumi as sempai
- Sitting on the Roof: Shuu likes to do this for stargazing
- Team Spirit: Not quite played straight, since the point is made repeatedly that few of the students will actually be able to go in to space, but no-one can go in to space alone
- Trademark Favorite Food: Shuu has a fondness for Chinese Honey Orange juice
- Training from Hell: The astronaut training program likes to push the students physically. Especially with jogging, obstacle courses, orienteering, and more high-tech things like pressure chambers and the multi-axis chair
- Unwinnable Training Simulation: The final 3rd year test is so utterly grueling and unrelenting that nobody was expected to pass it (in fact, the instructor eventually tells the people taking it that the test is all about finding each person's limit, and how far they can go beyond it.) Indeed, in the end, nobody manages to clear the final leg of the test.
- Wham Line: "Shuu passed away earlier today."