This episode is telling. It cements in no uncertain terms what the series values above all else, and in turn the audience has a crystal clear understanding if they will enjoy this or not. Given my affinity with astronomy and the universe at large at a very young age, it taps into a primordial fascination I’ve had with the sheer vastness and the profundity of the isolation of space. Unfortunately, that’s not to say that this particular episode had some issues that aren’t worth addressing. That first episode was a promise, the second episode was a lesson, and in more ways than one this third episode was a test.
This episode tests the patience of those who’ve bought into enjoying and identifying with Marika’s character with the presence of the scenes in school and the maid cafe since at this point they are a bit redundant. Patiences are tested further still for those who haven’t bought into enjoying Marika’s character, and they won’t be convinced otherwise by this point by more of the same scenes that attempt to invoke their allegiance through winsome smiles and hijinks similar to what we’ve seen already.
I don’t know what alternative to offer (and may be presumptuous of me to do so anyway), since some of these scenes are not only meant to illuminate Marika’s self-awareness of her own tendency toward flightiness, but also to affirm the importance of her current relationships and to establish a bit more of Chiaki Omigawa’s character, Endou Mami.
I suppose the necessity of these scenes will be contingent on the importance of Omigawa’s character later in the plot. As for Marika and her development, the second half of the episode returned to that economy of writing that I admired in the previous episodes. Though there was a moment, the first in the series, where I found myself putting up my guard and reengaging my disbelief. During the initial phases of the girls’ first space cruise, a problem arose with one of the masts of the ship and Kane MacDougal thought this to be an excellent opportunity to test the girls’ practical abilities in spacefaring. It was the preparation for this practical exam that had me rolling my eyes for a moment, since up until now the series had done a pretty good job of avoiding anime’s more puerile habits regarding sexuality (outside of Misa Grandwood’s revealing outfits in a school setting). The “skinship” session in the locker room and the subsequent loving gazes on the bodies of our teenage heroines had me disconcerted for a bit, and for a fleeting moment I had wondered whether I should scale back my enthusiasm for this show. The result of this particular test of my patience would be known after the setup of our teacher listening in on the girls horsing around, and both the nature of the show and his character would be illuminated just a little more by his response. So what happens?
He responds in probably the most appropriate way I could have imagined: exasperation. Visual sight gags and perverted responses eschewed, I let out a large laugh that may have startled my viewing partner. I think it may have been a slightly pent-up nervousness that probably wasn’t warranted in any case, but it is what it is, and I’m glad for the show to have taken the direction it did. With my disbelief successfully suspended once again, I let the rest of the episode wash over me as I traveled outside with the girls on their spacewalk.
The spacewalk scene was the strongest moment of the episode, as it not only allowed for the research the author made to be showed off, but also for the director’s talent to be highlighted as it was packaged and presented extremely well. There was more attention paid to the responsibility of adhering to proper protocols with the fastening of the suits and helmets and locking hair into place (the teacher’s unintentionally amusing hair hypocrisy notwithstanding), and even more loving detail given to the minutest points such as the helmets’ auto-darkening in the light. The mood of the scene was deftly handled as there was palpable tension during the depressurization, and a real sense of jitteryness amongst the girls. The audience can assume that nothing was going to happen to anyone this early in the narrative, but still managed to convey that something could go wrong if someone didn’t adhere properly to protocol.
There’s a danger if the show tacks to realism as it has, since it opens itself up to a different avenue of criticism in the accuracy of the details presented. For instance, the doors opening shouldn’t have made any sound after the room was fully depressurized and there’s no apparent explanation for the girls’ fine motor movements while spacewalking. Are they wearing magnets on their boots or are they relying on the ambient gravity of the craft (an incredibly risky move)? Are there any pressurized jets of air that come from the suits? But that would need years of training to master that I can’t quite see the girls learning in the few short years of club activity in highschool. Also when you’re in deep space, stars do not twinkle since that is a function of the starlight passing through various gasses in the atmosphere. The only things that could simulate that effect in deep space are pulsars and quasars, and even then the pulsing would most likely not occur in a spectrum that is visible to the human eye but rather spectra such as x-ray or gamma ray.
I suppose some of this can be had on faith however, since the artistic license taken with some of the science resulted in a scene that evoked a wonderful sense of awe. After asserting her ability to decide on actions and delegate responsibilities during this impromptu practical exam, Marika has a moment where she is almost overcome by the sheer size of the universe before her. Take a moment and watch this please:
Everyone is just a dot in space. After being instructed in the responsibility that comes with power, Marika internalizes the humility that comes with knowing that you don’t ultimately matter in the universal scale of things. Everyone is just a dot, and the pretense and grandstanding and positioning in all of human history amount to nothing in the void of space. This scares her, but she does not wilt. If anything, this realization also steels her, since it serves as a profound reminder to treasure that which she holds dear, since there’s very little else in the entirety of the cosmos. She passes her teacher’s test, humbled and emboldened. When will we see the audacity awaken within her to complement this newly bold nature?