Rocket Girls

Genre: Sci fi
Length: 12
Score: Good

Yukari travels to the Solomon Islands in search of her father, who went missing on his honeymoon. The director of a Japanese company offers to help her look for him, but he has a condition in return: they want to send her into space.

This is a lot like Planetes, but even closer to the present day – the rocket technology used is basically the same as our own. The Japanese-backed Solomons Space Agency is trying to establish a way of doing satellite repairs on a low budget, to offer to other space agencies, but weight restrictions are making the system unreliable (rockets blowing up on the launch pad is bad PR), so they think laterally – and start hiring slim teenage girls as their pilots. By halving the weight of the pilot, making the space suit skin-tight and shrinking the capsule to fit, they save a huge amount of fuel and make possible things that otherwise wouldn’t. It’s all a bit ridiculous in concept, but the science is mostly quite reasonable (even if it’s a Health & Safety nightmare).

The three pilots are quite well developed, although the native girl Matsuri is somewhat stereotypical. The third pilot is weak girl from Yukari’s school who finds strength from looking up to her senpai. The main story is of Yukari gradually accepting a sense of responsibility, first for her own life and then for other people.