Stellvia of the Universe: Space School and Saving the Universe

Another Tatsuo Satou Anime (It’s a Good Thing)

I haven’t completely checked the list of anime that Satou directed, so I don’t have complete assurance that this is the last anime he directed that I haven’t covered yet. But I do know that Tatsuo Satou directed Stellvia of the Universe. What other shows have I covered that he directed? Nadesico, Rinne no Lagrange, and Bodacious Space Pirates. If you have watched those shows too, then you know that he has a sort of vision of how he sees and explores his characters and worlds that are in each series. Stellvia has all of that in spades and it’s pretty beautiful honestly. No one could have directed this anime other than him. 

I rewatched Stellvia again earlier this year and I already loved this series the first time. It was during my uni days where I used to just chug down anime that had anything that had to do with space.  I loved it even more after watching it for I’m not sure how many years ago?  (I’m spoiling my opinion yet again.) This is a case where I’m older now and I’m seeing even more in this anime now. When I rewatch an anime series, there is always a decent amount of time between iterations. Mainly because this is a case where I feel like I picked up a bit more of this show each time because my life experiences have changed as I’ve gotten older. 

Stellvia’s Main Story

This show’s concept is pretty simple for a sci-fi anime, but really cool. Stellvia takes place in 2356 A.D. 189 years after a gigantic catastrophe wiped out 10% of the world’s population. A situation where the world united and worked together to rebuild. To stop the next catastrophe from happening, the Earth created space stations and schools, called Foundations (like from Isaac Asmov), to form an early warning system and stop the next catastrophe from happening many years in the future. The show starts with Shima Katase, our protagonist, showing up to a foundation called Stellvia to start piloting training school.

The beginning, or first cour, of this show is just space school. Yeah, something which is kind of easy to explain but a lot of fun to just watch. We see Shima Katase making friends with a lot of people, classes with piloting space ships, and a lot of programming. This is not Infinite Ryvius where everything goes wrong in terms of education and the kids have to fend for themselves. The teachers are actually teachers who provide good feedback in order to help their students find what they are good at or to improve on things they aren’t so good at. Actual teacher stuff.

As one would expect from how this story works out and how I mentioned catastrophes, a catastrophe happens at the end of the first arc. AT the same time, everything in that arc happens according to plan, besides some small things that are rather relaxing. The second half/cour is so much more frantic because no one expected another catastrophe to happen so soon. No one, even the teachers, know what they are doing and it’s really interesting to see these teachers trying to be so professional and supporting their students when they need their students to do these almost impossible tasks. On that level, it’s just really well thought out.

Shima Katase Is Me?

The most relatable character that I’ve ever seen in anime, in comparison to me, is Shima Katase. It’s how she carries herself, how she learns things so fast, and how she just drives herself. Absolutely accurate to how I am. Shima Katase is the kind of kid that can’t learn something until they figure it out in their own heads. That requires struggling and hitting your head against a wall until getting it then just excelling at it when you do. That’s how I work and sometimes I can pick up things really quickly and other times, it takes a long time. 

What makes it even more obvious to how her mindset is like mine comes from the second half of this series. Shima Katase is one of the most gifted, intelligent people that has saved the Earth and everything, yet she doesn’t consider herself good enough when trying to just handle her task that she was given. Especially when she is getting closer every time and can’t see herself as this great person who accomplished so much like everyone else around her. I’ve had this sort of frustration where I’ve done so many things and consider it all a failure because I haven’t followed it up with anything yet. I guess we are just both perfectionists in what we do.

Awkward Teenagers are Awkward

A massive positive to this show is allowing these teenagers to actually be teenagers. They might be the most gifted teenagers in the world to just be able to have a chance at becoming a space pilot or a mechanic, but they are just kids. I haven’t seen any other show do this sort of thing as often regarding students like this. Sure, I’ve seen so many shows have realistic characters but never genius characters because I don’t think that a lot of people in the anime industry really know what being a genius is like. Their ideas are characters closed off from the world in their own palaces while most are just people who think a little differently. That’s it. 

But yeah, at her arrival at Stellvia, Shima Katase starts forming a friends group. It is a pretty large group with her ever bubbly roommate Arisa, a boy she will eventually form a complex relationship with named Kouta Otoyama, the girl that has been through this before and has returned named Yayoi, the quiet Akira, the boisterous JoJo, and so many other characters that either fill the background by making the school feel pretty large. They study together, go through relationship troubles, celebrate together, and so many other things. Somehow, Shima Katase is the star of the group or has caused a lot of trouble where she didn’t intend to.

So there are a lot of times where some frustration happens from complete misunderstandings or characters just not being able to learn about their sorts of viewpoints. Kouta and Shima have a relationship, but it goes through so many strains because they don’t remember always seeing each other eye to eye because they both make a lot of assumptions about the other. Which of course causes that friend group to break apart until it starts coming back again a little stronger because everyone sees more eye to eye then they did beforehand. Once again, that is all realistic teenage drama because teenagers are self centered and some never leave that mindset. JoJo and Akira go through the same thing, only smaller in comparison.

Grown Adults Matter

Jinrai Shirogane, Leila Barthes, and Ren Range are the name of the teachers that are heavily involved with their student’s studies and just making sure the students are mentally healthy. Something hard to do in space. Jinrai Shirogane is the very excited and peppy teacher who mainly watches over students programming in their classroom and really likes the Astro Ball competitions. Leila is the somewhat pessimistic flight teacher who doubts Shima Katase at first for not picking anything up, but learns to take in students’ flaws and give them pointers for improvement. Ren is the hot nurse who dates someone different every episode, but tries to help students physically and mentally when they are having trouble.

The main point is that each of them are reasonable authority figures. No one is a bad teacher, but they each give punishment to students who step out of line. Shima Katase has stepped over the line in the beginning when tapping into Stellvia’s network and accidentally damaging it. At the same time, each of them find their students’ limits and try not to push them or make them unaware. One of my favorite moments in Stellvia is Leila sitting down with Shima Katase and telling Shima that she doesn’t have to fly out and face the universe itself. She’s only a teenager and she shouldn’t have those expectations behind her. They are great adults that do not try to act like they have everything figured out because they are doing their best. 

Conflict After Years of Peace?

Stellvia’s World is one that has known peace for almost two centuries. Mainly because it would take a gigantic world ending sort of thing to get humanity to possibly join together. Though, these days I’m not sure if that would be the case anymore. Regardless of that Stellvia is a very nice and peaceful sort of world environment where the conflicts come from characters not from world organizations. Well, it starts out like that at least. Especially since the first half is at the end of what most people consider the reason why the Earth was united. The Earth is saved now, what does humankind do next?

I do feel like Stellvia does jump over this a little bit because there is just another catastrophe on the way and humanity has to unite again to stop it. Immediately. But there are concepts that are touched upon and are still used. Like let’s talk about child soldiers. The foundations have been training students to fly and play dog fights against each other. Some of those students, including Shima Katase, are thrown to fight against an alien threat that they don’t understand. Why? Because not many adults are actually trained to fly around and fire lasers as well as students. These students are facing things they really shouldn’t be, but how else are they going to do it?

Not to mention the gigantic robot that is at Stellvia which was said to be used for war many years ago which no one understands what it is because no one has fought before. It’s an alien concept to literally everyone. There were some small attempts at rioting before the second catastrophe happened because of the possibility of false information. Or even talking about the possibility of foundations going to war against each other because the world was open to conflict. What I am saying is that Stellvia is a very well thought out show that has though about all of these things and thought about what would happen in the space that it presented. 

Visuals and Concluding Stellvia

On a visual level, you can tell that Stellvia is an early 2000’s show. There is a lot of that weird in between nature from cell animation to digital animation that tells you that no animation studio or animator or anyone has figured it out yet. The character designs are a bit ugly because at times, even if they are just generally good designs, because the colors are off. The animation is pretty stilted at times too and there is a lot of 2000’s cg that isn’t bad but nothing to really say about it too. I do have to say that the mechanic designs are really cool and characters piloting a space fighter while standing up makes a lot of sense for the somewhat realistic physics in this show. Plus the giant robots that do show are pretty classic and actually perform how they might in space.

Stellvia, to me, is a show where the writing does a lot of the lifting with the animation trying to catch up and it’s pretty cool for that. Especially since the show is pretty well thought out with how it approaches everything that it can feel a little too clinical and stale at times. But everything in the show makes sense, is pretty grounded and realistic, and plays out its ideas pretty well. I’m glad that I picked this one up again. It’s never been more available than it has been now, so go out and find it if you haven’t seen this one because I want Stellvia to get more love then it has. 

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