Overview (Spoilers Below)
Many years ago, a young girl named Mira met a boy at a camping excursion. The boy, whose name was Ao, is super nerdy as well as super impressed that Mira shares a name with the variable star in the constellation, Cetus. A variable star fluctuates at different levels of brightness from the perspective of Earth.
Ao—not to be confused with the semi-popular Netflix character, The OA—is a little bummed that he doesn’t have anything celestial named after him. Mira, feeling his pain despite having only known about her star for a few minutes, vows to help him discover a comet/star/etc. so they can name it after him.
However, after that night, the children never see each other again, but neither forgets their promise.
Years later, Mira is just starting high school and is excited about joining the Astronomy Club. Unfortunately, after a controversial incident the year before, the club has been sidelined. At least, that’s what Mira is led to believe.
She tells this bad news to her best friend, Suzu, who sympathizes despite having limited interest in astronomy. As they wallow, a friendly teacher named Ms. Endou informs them that the astronomy club isn’t completely gone. As punishment for last year’s incident, their budget has been cut, they have to hold meetings in a shack far from campus, and they were forced to merge with the Geology Club to form the school’s first ever “Earth Sciences Club.”
Ms. Endou leads them on a long walk to a presumably abandoned chapel. That’s where they meet the Earth Science members. Morino is the club president and is into astronomy. Sakurai is the VP and is all-in on geology. Veteran member, Inose likes rocks, while first-year student, Manaka is into space. Despite their differences, everybody seems to get on well. Those dynamics change when Mira is hit with a massive shock after telling everyone the story of Ao.
Our heroine is beside herself when she learns that Manaka’s first name is Ao, and she’s the “boy” who Mira met years before. Turns out, despite being a tomboy, she was a girl all along. The two re-bond immediately and become close friends who call each other at night to discuss the stars. It also appears that a romance is blooming. However, it’s hard for Mira to get through to Manaka because over the years she’s become extremely shy. Suzu does everything in her power to help the two girls connect, because she knows what’s up.
While the two sides of the club pursue their own interests, they soon realize they must work together in order to improve on their dismal budget. Morino—who was responsible for last year’s controversy—knows how to get people interested. The crux of her infamous incident saw her dressing as a Playboy bunny to entice visitors to their exhibits.
Sakurai doesn’t want her group to resort to such titillation, and instead hopes to garner interest with a modest newsletter. Everyone agrees, but don’t know what to call a ‘zine that focuses on both astronomy and geology. They eventually decide on Sparkle!
I’m in, mate. This is an enjoyable show that is easy to follow and relaxing to watch. Right off the bat, before the credits even role, we’re introduced to a handful of characters who will be our stalwart guides through the next dozen episodes. We’re looking at an all-girl cast, each of whom embraces their encyclopedia’s worth of differences that go well beyond the initial, astronomy versus geology.
Mira isn’t exactly miles away from a typical anime protagonist. Our lead characters are often eccentric, sometimes even bordering on the edge of zealotry. This girl might be a step beyond our usual spirited heroine since she has a devil-may-care attitude mixed with the notion of never-say-die. In most characters, this would amount to a paradox incapable of existing on any astral plane, but Mira somehow makes it work.
Her long-lost soulmate, Ao, plays perfectly off of Mira’s antics since she still gets quite excited over the cosmos, but is much better at keeping her cool. She may claim that her Zen attitude is due to a traumatic experience in her youth; however, I get the feeling she has also matured a bit faster than her new best friend. There’s nothing wrong with either of them, that’s just the way things work in high school. Everybody is navigating a new environment, clashing personalities big, small, and medium until the day everybody graduates.
The other members were also fleshed out quite well in this limited half hour. We spent a little time with each of them, and even got some insight into Morino’s cosplay fascination and Sakurai’s standoffish-ness among new, unfamiliar people. Despite their flaws, it looks like this gang is destined to get along famously.
Regardless of this very deep character palette, the big draw of this series will always be the evolving relationship between Mira and Ao. After having lost each other for many years, they will slowly but surely built up an amazing friendship; perhaps something much deeper and more beautiful than friendship.