When Asumi was just a baby, a space shuttle accident changed her life, and the lives of the townspeople of Yuigahama, forever. As a young woman, the spirited Asumi has only one desire: to someday travel to the stars in a rocket, with her father and ghostly friend Lion-san along for the ride. With heartache, happiness, and plenty of determination, Asumi and dozens of talented teenagers now face the greatest challenge of their lives: the test to enter a prestigious space academy, so that they may one day reach out and touch the stars...
StoryI just want to put a big note at the beginning of this that explains how hard this review is to write. When Twin Spica was first being released, I was probably the largest fan you could have talked to. I convinced everyone I knew to watch it, telling them that it had elements of Planetes and Stellvia, amongst others. It had such, such potential through the first seven episodes, and at that point I stopped watching due to the glacial release schedule. I recently watched the entire series from start to finish, and what I can say is that my feelings completely reversed from sheer enjoyment and admiration, to complete and utter disappointment. Thus, when you read this review, please keep in mind that I didn't go into this knowing I'd dislike it because I don't like slice of life (untrue, I like slice of life), and/or that when I first saw this, I was incredibly impressed. If anything, hopefully that helps you understand how truly disappointed I am. Twin Spica starts out in a compelling fashion, showing us a horrific space shuttle accident that claims (ultimately) the life of a young girl's mother, a teacher's husband, and countless others. We see Asumi as a child as she copes with her mother's death, and as she meets Lion-san, a ghost who wears a lion head and becomes her companion. Fast forward to the present, and Asumi wants to enter a space academy so she can fly a rocket to the moon. In fact, the beginning of every episode (at least, for around half the series) is Asumi dictating this dream, with crayon and paper type scenes being shown in the background. We see Asumi testing to enter the school, which involves various hardships, and I can't say much more about the plot without spoiling things. Nevertheless, it's this beginning section (Asumi testing to enter the academy) that ultimately is the most interesting and compelling. It reminded me a great deal of Stellvia or They Were Eleven, and made me think that later on in the series, Asumi and her friends would train at an academy and ultimately go into space. This sci fi element combined with slice of life was very fascinating and I held such high hopes... until I saw the rest of the series. Whereas prior to the academy entrance exam was filled with a perfect mix of character development, slice of life, and sci fi, the rest of the series nosedives into a completely terrible place that it never gets out of. It's really hard to explain why it started sucking as much as it did. It just... did. First of all, the series went from somewhat slice of life (with still a very strong main character who had specific dreams, as well as major plot points) to COMPLETELY slice of life. Now, keep in mind, I love slice of life series, even the ones that seemingly go nowhere and nothing happens (such as Piano). In Twin Spica, this slice of life aspect was just incredibly boring and uninteresting, and I'm not really sure why. We see minor character development in the realm of Figure 17, but almost nothing plot related happens anymore, at all. Maybe that's one reason I was so disappointed... the fact that it started out seeming like it would be a blend of slice of life AND sci fi related plot, and ends up being completely uninteresting slice of life in entirety. Actually, I take that back. There were a few "story" aspects that made up very, very miniature arcs (if you can even call them that), but this further confused the pacing and idea of the story. Is it slice of life? Is it plot based? What the hell is it? In addition, almost half the episodes are flashbacks. Quite frankly, these flashback episodes are the very ones that were actually interesting! (Past the entrance exam, that is.) Not only did they provide a great deal of character development, but they were engaging and thoughtful (and very heartbreaking, in many occasions). The present-day episodes provided nothing of the sort, most of the time. Also, the flashbacks were too prevalent. Yes, they were effective, but showing them every other episode really hindered the flow of what should have been the TV series. They could have been shown in a row, or once every three episodes or so, but showing them all over the place meant it took away from the regular "story" (even though there wasn't really one). My disappointment leaving this series was partially because of this poor attempt at pacing and story structure. The first 7 or so set it up, and then the last 13 or so can't decide which way to go, so it's all over the place and feels scattered and ultimately weak in all areas. And then there's the absolutely RIDICULOUS inclusion of the quasi dating-sim mystery bullshit. Instead of moving along with the albeit very poorly paced story and character development, it's like the creators stopped and said "hey, why don't we take one of the secondary characters, make her the focus during the last few episodes, and consequently give her some sort of dating-sim-stolen sci fi idea about who she is, and what her past is! Gee, wouldn't that be great and totally original?" Newsflash: not only did it seem contrived and totally uninteresting, but it managed to make the attempt at a story lose EVEN MORE focus than it had before, which was difficult to achieve as it is. I felt annoyed and irritated that the creators decided to throw such a thing in. As if it wasn't convoluted enough, it had to throw in BS like that that not only helped the story zero, but took focus away from Asumi and her aspirations, and made you think, at the same time, "wtf?!" Twin Spica started out good. Really good. Unfortunately it then fell into the death pit of poor pacing, poor story (even for a slice of life series, which generally don't need such a thing), poor character development (with the character mentioned above, whose "past" came out of nowhere for no reason) and overall a very disappointing feel when you see the ending and take a deep breath. For something that had such potential, I almost feel cheated in a way that it went so, so downhill. AnimationThe animation in Twin Spica ranged from very good (the beautiful scenic backgrounds, the space shuttle) to very strange looking, such as Asumi's round red circles on her face that made her character look extremely silly and childlike. Character designs in general were VERY simplistic, with almost no face shading, very solid and simple hair (not a good thing, I might add) and not a lot of detail. But again, then the backgrounds would be shown (like a sweeping shot of the harbor) and I'd be in amazement again. These scenes in particular were full of detail and almost looked like they had been created with watercolors, to be honest. The crudeness of the rest of the animation, though, was a turn off. Regardless, it was usually more positive than negative so I still rated the category high. The only other animation type things to mention would be the intro bits that contained the paper and crayon type scenes (when Asumi would go into her speech each time), and the outro scenes which were still. I did really enjoy the eye catcher, which showed the main characters lifting their eyes to the heavens in tune with the music. Given what the overall underlying theme of the show was, this was very effective and appropriate. SoundThe audio also was polarized between very good and very bad. Let's start with the good. The normal music was usually piano or orchestral, which fit very well with the overall mood and feel of the lighthearted yet melancholy series. It was played at all the appropriate times and didn't detract from what was going on. On the other hand, Twin Spica had probably the world's worst/most inappropriate intro/outro songs EVER. The intro song was jazzy and poppy and quite frankly, I can't think of *any* show it would be complimentary with, let alone a completely mellow slice of life one. The outro was something that came straight from god know's where, with a nasal man singing amidst orchestral instruments. I can't describe why it was so terrible, just listen for yourself. These songs were so out of place that I literally would jump for the skip button as soon as I thought it was becoming near the end of the episode. The voice acting was fine. I just can't get over how poorly chosen the intro and outro songs were, seriously. The rest of the music was fine, but these intro/outro songs definitely bump the music score down considerably. CharactersYet again a score that I think will anger many folks out there, but hear me out. Though Twin Spica ultimately comes down to being a story about character development, very few characters were actually developed in any way. Asumi definitely is the only reason this section got the score that it has. Through the plentiful flashbacks, we are able to understand poor Asumi's past very well, and understand how strong of a person she is. Unfortunately, this doesn't really fit with the direction of the story, which pretty much goes nowhere, even though we think in the beginning that the show will be about Asumi succeeding and living her dream. It's like the climax of a suspenseful scene in a movie if the suspense was to be suddenly gone. It would feel interrupted, and that's what Asumi's development felt like, due to the pacing and actual "story". The other character that was developed was Marika, who was a very secondary character until the last few episodes (when the creators decided to drink themselves silly and came up with the nonsensical idea of developing her in the way they did). As mentioned before, she was given a sci fi/terrible/dating-sim caliber "past" that totally ruined the slice of life feel of the rest of the series. It was totally unwarranted and quite frankly, the show would have been better without her character at all, given how she turned out. Other secondary characters were either developed none or developed in a small fashion, none of which tended to affect us in any way (except the Yuigahama school teacher and her story). Some characters were only introduced for a few episodes, developed in some way, and then left. This was reminiscent of such things as Kita he, which were supposed to be very episodic. Once again, with Twin Spica, it gave a sense of confusion and erraticness to the viewing. What type of show was it, again? OverallIt's difficult to give this rating, just like it has been difficult to write this review. Indeed, as we speak I think I've spent about an hour writing this, whereas with regular reviews I spend only maybe 20-25 minutes. I know this will draw the ire of many fans, but I'd ask you, seriously... what did you like so much about this show? It started great, the character development with Asumi was fantastic. The animation (sometimes) was great, but the story de-evolved into such chaotic mush that I can't see how anyone can claim this was "perfect" or fantastic, in any sense of the words. It's a series about sadness, heartbreak, and the spirit to move forward. It's also a series that is driven by very poor and erratic pacing, a storyline that becomes non-existant and is on the back burner to the very boring slice of life that was presented (not counting the flashbacks, which were good), and of course, the quasi-dating-sim past of Marika, which felt like the subject was drawn at random out of a hat and then thrown in the show. I wish it had stayed consistent. I wish it had retained its compelling story. I wish a lot of things, but regardless, Twin Spica did not turn out to be a fraction of what it made itself out to be. Rarely do I walk away from a show feeling almost cheated at how drastically it turned from good to bad, and rarely do I feel this disappointed about a show that I once touted as being one of the best of the season. I guess I was wrong. I kept Twin Spica at a high (for my final opinion) 6.7 mostly because I couldn't bear to score it lower. Watching the first seven or so episodes would probably be ideal, though I know most people won't want to stop midway like that. Good, yes... fantastic? No. Disappointing? Absolutely.
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