#1 Intergalactic aid to overcome shyness
It’s never easy to move away from a place you’ve known all your life, but 10-year-old Tsubasa Shiina has it especially rough. She is a shy, anxious young girl who is forced to move from Tokyo to Hokkaido and then finds herself friendless and bullied at her new school.
Tsubasa is very believably written and many will find aspects of her character to relate to. She has a lot to cope with: she doesn’t have the confidence to make new friends or speak up when she is treated unfairly, she feels guilty about getting her bullies into trouble when they are caught, and there are issues from her past that still weigh on her. Then, something miraculous happens: a spaceship crashes near her new house and Tsubasa’s dog runs off towards it.
After giving chase, Tsubasa rescues the life of the ship’s pilot and accidentally comes into contact with an alien device that ends up creating a clone of her. This clone has all of her memories, but she has a personality of her own and is far more outgoing and confident than the reserved Tsubasa. The clone comes to be called Hikaru and, after some alien brainwashing, everybody is led to believe that Tsubasa has always had a twin sister.
Tsubasa and Hikaru make for a fantastic duo of characters as they help each other grow emotionally and tackle their respective challenges. Through Hikaru, Tsubasa finds the inner strength to speak up and assert herself, to make new friends and leave her comfort zone. It’s a heartwarming journey to see how much Tsubasa grows throughout the show’s 13 episodes, which is steadily and believably paced. Her progress is full of stumbles and setbacks, and those make her successes shine all the brighter.
Hikaru herself ended up being a new favorite of mine. The story of what she actually is fascinated me and she is such a lovable protagonist with a strong devotion to helping and protecting her new sister. However, she is not without her own flaws and dealing with those becomes more of a focus in the latter half of the show. On top of that, there is the constant knowledge that the aliens will be wanting Hikaru back eventually and might not consult her new family about that.
#2 Shy girl vs alien horrors
Hikaru is a Ribers, an alien technology made from living metal that acts as a battle suit to protect the wearer. When the spaceship crashed, it lost its cargo of monster eggs, which are mutating and growing more powerful in Earth’s atmosphere.
D.D. is an alien policeman charged with returning the eggs and, having failed that, to kill the Maguars that hatched from them. However, his own Ribers died and so he comes to rely on the help of Tsubasa and Hikaru to fight them for him. Child labor laws evidently don’t apply to intergalactic peacekeeping organizations.
The Maguars aren’t the most original monsters out there and start to recycle after a while, but action scenes with them are always cool. The Maguars are constantly evolving and adapting to the girls’ tactics and weapons, making the fights increasingly difficult and adding a ticking clock element to the story. Later episodes get very intense and action-packed, but even the earlier battles are made a joy to watch thanks to the sublime animation work.
#3 My God this show is gorgeous
Figure 17 is an odd duck. It’s a TV anime, but each episode is a whole 45 minutes long, and I was caught off guard by just how nice those episodes looked. It was produced by OLM and had a dream team of people working on it, with particularly art director Shichirou Kobayashi (Simoun, Berserk, Basara) being a hype inclusion.
There was never a point where Figure 17 showed its age. Backgrounds, characters, they all look great and animate fine, despite the longer-than-average episode length. This wasn’t a weekly show either, it actually aired over the course of 13 months and the longer production cycle, in combination with the experienced talent on board for the project, really paid off and is constantly noticeable throughout the show.
Those big watercolor landscapes that keep popping up in the outdoors scenes make me so moist.