Stellvia

Genre: Sci fi, Drama
Length: 26 episodes
Score: Good

In 2167, the Earth was devastated by the impact of a nearby supernova. It’s now 2356, and humanity has recovered and expanded into space – but the second wave of destruction will arrive in a few months. Stellvia is a space station and academy, and the among the new class of trainee pilots is Shima, a clumsy and emotional girl.

Space opera is a genre well-populated with rubbish, but Stellvia avoids the clich├ęs that dog the others. It has a bunch of different threads, but the main one is that of competition in a high-stress environment. In a school where the strongest students stand out, and where the fate of the world may rest on every last pilot, the pressure is constantly high. Shima is a genius, but she’s not the only one there and doesn’t have the grounding of experience. Others in her class include a girl who was dropped from the class of two years ago after an accident in which she nearly died.

The science is handled well, which I feel is a pre-requisite for a decent science fiction story. The star whose unexpected supernova triggers the story is identified (Beta Hydri, a main sequence star similar to Sol, 24ly celestial south). Given the gravity-control technology available, the behaviour of the various space craft is quite realistic. There is no faster-than-light travel, though travelling to a station 35 AU away in merely 40 days is damned impressive.

In a way, this story is very anime – “schoolkids in space” sounds like a dreadful pitch. But it doesn’t fall into the obvious traps of melodrama, humour or fanservice, instead telling an emotionally realistic story.