About half-way through this series it occurred to me that I was watching two loosely-connected but very different stories:
- A coming of age story about twin girls living on a farm in Hokkaido.
- A science fiction adventure about fighting monsters with the help of an unusual type of mecha.
The two stories even look different: the first has a bright, cheerful hand-drawn appearance; the second is dark, with the rather soulless look that comes from over-reliance on computer-generated images.
The coming of age story is very well done (though very sentimental) and gets most of the screen time.
The science fiction story is definitely the lesser of the two. It is not particularly original and not as thrilling as it wants to be.
This led me to wonder if the science fiction story could have been eliminated entirely. Something similar to the first story could have been written without including the SF elements, but I don’t think it would really have worked. There is one important respect in which the main story needs the science fiction story.
If you like sentimental stories about children growing up then you probably will like this one a lot. On the other hand if you can’t stand stories like that, you should consider yourself warned.
Figure 17: Tsubasa & Hikaru
Drama, Coming of Age, Science Fiction, Mecha (sort of)
13 45-minute episodes on 6 DVDs
Anime World Osaka,
Region 1 Publisher
Anime Works / Media Blasters
As is often the case, the English dub is the weakest part of the DVD release. I’m sure the American voice actors did their best, but they are totally outclassed by the Japanese cast, especially Fumiko Orikasa in the crucial role of Hikaru. (Somehow Willow Armstrong manages to make the character sound rather irritating. Perhaps it just takes a lot of skill and sensitivity to portray a character like Hikaru without making her seem irritating.)
My advice is to switch to the Japanese soundtrack with subtitles for a much better viewing experience.
This series is appropriate for teenagers and adults.
It does not contain anything that most parents would consider inappropriate for younger viewers. There are no sexual situations of any sort. The monster-fighting action sequences might be frightening to young children, but would not disturb any American ten-year-old.
However the story itself contains some very sad elements that would keep most preteen viewers from enjoying it.
Premise and Characters
First Episode Summary
is a 10-year old girl who has just moved from Tokyo to Hokkaido. The move is not easy for her. A shy, quiet girl, haunted by the death of her mother, she is heartbroken at having to leave her best friend behind.
Tokyo is one of the worlds largest cities: dynamic, exciting, noisy and crowded. Hokkaido is rural and sparsely populated. Numerous animes begin with a character moving from one place to the other (usually in the opposite direction) and experiencing culture shock.
Feeling lonely and isolated, Tsubasa retreats into a shell. Her classmates at her new school assume that she is a stuck-up city girl who thinks she is too good for them.
is Tsubasa’s father, whose desire to escape from the life of a salaryman is what prompted the move. He loves Tsubasa very much, but he has no clue about what she is going through. Also he is too busy right now to spend much time with her.
The story takes an extraordinary turn one night when Tsubasa, left alone in the house, sees a bright light and hears an explosion. The farm’s dog runs into the woods to investigate. She runs after it and comes upon a crashed UFO, with an injured alien pilot.
A grotesque creature emerges from the crashed spaceship. It is a Maguar
, a fierce, extremely adaptable monster inimical to all other forms of life.
The pilot (whose name, we find out later, is D.D.
) wakes up just in time and decides to fight the monster using an advanced weapon system called a Ribers
. This is some sort of ultra-sophisticated shape-changing battle armor designed to obey the mental commands of its wearer.
The Ribers turns into a glowing cloud that surrounds D.D. and solidifies into a sort of robot-like thing that looks like him.
D.D. and the Ribers fight the monster, but he doesn’t seem to have too much talent for this sort of thing. The fight ends with them tossed to the ground and D.D. knocked unconscious. His Ribers vanishes.
Pursued by the monster, Tsubasa runs into the crashed spaceship. Somehow the case containing a spare Ribers gets broken.
The Ribers surrounds Tsubasa…
…And takes the form of a robot-like thing that does not look like her. Instead it looks like a rather well-endowed young woman. (Maybe that is supposed to be what Tsubasa will look like when she grows up?)
Inside the Ribers, Tsubasa hears a voice which promises to protect her and gives her advice on how to fight the Maguar.
Somehow Tsubasa and the Ribers are able to kill the monster.
Now that the Maguar is dead, the Ribers separates from Tsubasa…
…And takes the form of a little girl who looks just like her. Not only does it look like her, it knows everything that she does, having acquired copies of all her memories. This may bring up uncomfortable thoughts of Invasion of the Body Snatchers
, but fortunately the Ribers just wants to be friends.
It, or rather “she”, decides to call herself Hikaru
. (This is a verb meaning “shine” or “sparkle”. “Tsubasa” means “wings”, so we seem to have an aspirational theme going on here.)
Although she looks just like Tsubasa, Hikaru’s personality is quite different. She is cheerful, outgoing and very brave.
D.D. has a problem. His ship was carrying six Maguar eggs. One produced the monster that was just killed. The other five are missing, presumably scattered around Hokkaido.
Will Tsubasa have to fight more monsters? And how will people react if they find out that she now has a twin? Stay tuned for the next episode…
is Tsubasa’s home room teacher.
is the class officer, a bossy but good-hearted girl.
is Asuka’s best friend.
is an unfriendly, bad-tempered boy.
His buddy Shinji Ogawa
can also be rather annoying.
However their friend Sho Aizawa
is a friendly, sensitive boy who wants to be a writer.
is the sort of girl who looks sweet but is actually very hostile.
is a boy from another class with a bad attitude.
is another alien who arrives to rescue D.D. and stays to help with the Maguar infestation. She must outrank D.D., since he always follows her orders even when they seem ill-advised.
is a gruff old farmer.
His wife Rin Ibaragi
is a cheerful grandmother who likes to indulge children.
Their son Shinichi Ibaragi
manages the bakery where Hideo is working.
is Shinichi’s wife.
Their daughter Sakura Ibaragi
is a sullen adolescent. She hates living on a farm and dreams of moving to Tokyo.
is a jolly farmhand.
So is Atsushi
is a bored reporter who decides to investigate the rumors of strange happenings in the area.
I want to comment on the ending, which necessarily involves giving it away. If you have not seen the series you should NOT click on the following link: Spoilers: The Ending of Figure 17.
Anime News Network
Wikipedia Article (mild spoilers)
Area Seven Fan Site