From the Earth to the Moon

On August 25, 2012 we lost a man who was a not only a real American hero but a symbol to all mankind. Neil Armstrong, the first man to ever step foot on the Moon, passed away at the age of 82.

We are rather enamored with the idea of space and space travel. Our article in May was a love letter to space and two series dealing with space travel. While the space program has been in decline for a while projects like the Curiosity rover prove there is still some life in the project.

While the Moon is closer than anything else in the universe, it is still so far away. Even at its closest it is 221,600 miles away from Earth. At times it seems so close that you can touch it and at other times it seems completely unreachable. But it has been reached. And it will be reached again. The shows we picked are all visions of that future. Each of us picked three shows the deal with the Moon because while we have reached it, it is still a very mysterious place.

So instead of mourning what has vanished, we will instead celebrate the Moon!

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A Season of Friendship

I don’t know if I can pin down other season of anime as having a theme. And it probably isn’t intentional, but nevertheless this season has a lot of shows that seems to fit together in a special way. This season celebrates friendship in so many different ways that it heightened my awareness to it in each show. From new friendship (Tsuritama) to teammates (Kuroko’s Basketball), from unexpected connections (Kids on the Slope) to brothers (Space Brothers).

The Internet keeps telling me that friendship is magic and so it seems that this season of anime is here to reenforce that notion. It is not as if anime is unfamiliar with the power of friendship. Most of  modern Japanese society is almost obsessed with the harmony of the group and working together so shows emphasizing solidarity among peers is not unheard of. But I think Narutaki was inspired by this season because even the common place can seem extraordinary if done correctly. This seasons shows have been very good and the bonds of comradery have been shown superbly as well. This article will look at relationships beyond the standard shonen “I beat you up so now we are blood brothers” but at people who form real bonds.

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The Dream of Space

hisuiconOn August 31, 2011 the U.S. shuttle program was officially ended. Due to high-profile shuttle disasters, increased results from unmanned space research, and the overall humongous expense the US decided that the money invested in the shuttle program is not worth the dividends. Now with one of the main pieces of the Space Race being the Cold War is long over the zealotry behind sending people in space is long gone. There are no dirty Commies to beat to the moon. The America that dreamed of sending a man into space, creating lunar and martian colonies, and extending its reach beyond the solar system is no more. Growing concern over domestic issues and a perceived notion that space travel is frivolous and dangerous has transformed modern space travel from a high concept to a farcical joke. Look at the reaction to Newt Gingrich’s proposal for a lunar colony. He might have well suggested throwing money into time travel research and cloning dinosaurs for a gigantic amusement park. In America, the dream of space travel is dead or at least in a fairly permanent coma for the time being.

At the same time Japan still seems oddly optimistic about manned space travel. I remember being slightly shocked that Sumire Kanou from Toradora! legitimately was studying to be an astronaut. I also remember Orihime Inoue off handily mentioning she wished to grow up to be an astronaut. While it is foolish to assume the aspirations of fictional characters are a one to one  correspondence to the desires of a nation the fact that Japan still writes popular stories in which people dream of exploring space in their fiction is remarkable.

You have the anime and manga for Planetes and Moonlight Mile both of which involved characters who wanted to explore deep space. Even the recent Kamen Rider Fourze has a space travel motif with Yuki Jojima being a hardcore space otaku and the rest of the cast having various levels of interest in space. You don’t get three space travel anime every season but they do appear frequently enough. Two series that we have recently beeen enjoying exemplify this infatuation with the hope for cosmic exploration: Twin Spica and Space Brothers. In their own way both of them revolve around a passion for celestial exploration.

Having just finished the Twin Spica manga and starting to watch the Space Brothers anime in the new season, I’ve become very emotionally attached to the dream of space travel again. These two series show so much hope and promise to the idea of becoming an astronaut and taking that first trip to space.

This was once a big dream in the U.S., too, but in the last decade excitement over current space exploration seems to be drying up. I recall one of my elementary school teachers being way into space and she worked it into lessons as much as she could. We built moon colony dioramas and I wished for space camp. I never did but I maintained a fond attachment to the idea of space travel.

I don’t know about you, but I can’t help but believe in that impossible yet incredible dream of space. Putting a face to the hope that traveling out past our atmosphere is what makes it resonate so strongly. Maybe in the U.S., we need our own Asumi and Mutta.

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