From an early age, Asumi Kamogawa has dreamed of becoming a “rocket driver”, but if she wants to have any chance of doing so, she’ll first have to go to Tokyo and enrol in Space School. With the support of her father, teacher and the masked ghost of a deceased astronaut known only as “Lion-san”, Asumi applies to do just that, and, together with the friends she makes along the way, she takes the first steps towards achieving her dream.
More often than not, science-fiction has proven to be most successful when it chooses human drama over abstract ideas and advanced technology, and Twin Spica is one series that takes this lesson to heart. Although both space and the supernatural play an important role in the story, at its core, Twin Spica is the powerful and absorbing tale of a young woman overcoming adversity in pursuit of her dream.
Set in 2024, the bulk of the series follows Asumi and her newfound friends during their first weeks at Space School. Nothing makes for more interesting viewing than seeing characters put through the physical and psychological wringer, and that’s exactly what the tests and assessments at Space School are all about. Despite what the protagonists (and quite possibly many viewers) would like to think, going into space is not so much glamorous or exciting as it is just plain hard work.
One of the assessments involves getting inside a giant Haro.
Interspersed with the main story are a number of flashback episodes; set at various intervals in Asumi’s past, they highlight the important events of her formative years, and also provide some insights into the character of Lion-san. Flashback episodes are often accompanied by an impatient need to get back to the main storyline, but nonetheless Twin Spica manages to downplay this by investing a lot of emotion into its ‘past chapters’, making them interesting rather than frustrating time outs from the main event.
Unfortunately, however, the series is not without its faults, most of them tied to its relatively short length. At only twenty episodes, Twin Spica is only able to cover four of the manga’s 10+ volumes, concluded with an original anime-only ending. Even at the beginning, it quickly becomes clear that twenty episodes isn’t nearly enough to do the story justice, and indeed towards the end the series just fizzles out on an anticlimactic note that leaves a slightly disappointing aftertaste behind.
Unsurprisingly, the series’ limited length does not just affect the story, but severely limits character development as well. Right from the start, the leads can hardly be said to be the most original bunch- there’s optimistic yet naïve lead Asumi, cheerful best friend Kei, standoffish Marika, laid back genius Shuu and childhood friend and protector Fuchuuya, as well as lesser recurring personalities such as a teacher with a grudge against Asumi’s family. Whilst most of them are at least likable, only Asumi, Lion-san and Marika get anything much in the way of development, with others having to make do with scattered scenes here and there. Even simple questions such as “why does Lion-san wear a lion mask?” are sadly left unanswered.
Visually, the series is solid enough if never particularly outstanding, featuring simple yet well drawn character designs and backgrounds. The music is generally unremarkable, although the OP is worthy of note for matching the music to the video extremely well.
Engrish in OPs is always good for a laugh.
Twenty episodes is not nearly enough to do Twin Spica the justice it needs, and thus while the series makes a strong effort, there are a number of flaws that just prevent it from reaching the top tier. Nonetheless, when it comes to whetting your appetite for the manga version, there are few series that can do a better job.