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In the latter half of the 21st century earth is threatened by creatures called WORMS, which are huge artificial life forms resembling the first thing they see--usually sea organisms. After a devastating war they seem to have been defeated, only to suddenly appear again.
To fight them, a special unit of Mini-Mecha has been devised: the Sonic Divers. Curiously, these can can only be piloted by young females. The first unit consists of three teenaged girls, one of which is Otoha Sakurano, an avid kendo practicioner. The story focuses primarily on her plight, although the other girls get plenty of attention as well. In the TV series, the team gets expanded by one more girl of German origin.
The series started out with a Fan Service-laden episode, produced by Konami and released as an OVA. It later got adapted into a two-season series in which the service got somewhat toned down, although the girls still have to wear extremely skin-tight uniforms to make them "communicate" with their mecha. Despite the obvious appeal to adolescent males, the series still manages to have an engaging plot and a fair amount of character development.
For a show with a similar concept that began with an OVA and was later turned into an anime, see Strike Witches. Both shows share the same character designer, Humikane Shimada, which may further explain their similarities. For another show and toyline with Shimada's design style, there's Busou Shinki - and yes, there were Sky Girls action figures made with the Busou Shinki MMS2 body-type.
This series contains examples of:
- Ace Pilot: Eika. She soundly defeated TWO Vic Vipers using an old model aircraft. The reason? "You two relied on it too much and let your skills down." Keep in mind that the people she fought weren't random strangers, but members of a friendly rival squad. Elite rival squad.
- Accidental Pervert: The entire cast, at the same time.
- Achilles in His Tent: Elise, after she joins the team and angsts a bunch.
- After the End: The backstory has it that most of humanity has barely survived a war with a colony of rogue nanomachines called WORMs, which required the united earth forces to Nuke'Em. This caused the sea levels to rise and most settlements are trying to rebuild.
- An Asskicking Christmas
- Anime Accent Absence: Elise's Japanese is impeccable. Explained that she is a Teen Genius who is Too Clever by Half.
- Applied Phlebotinum: Plenty of examples, but especially the nanoskin gel and Delta Lock / Quadra Formation.
- Artistic Age: Frequently criticized for portraying sixteen-year-old characters with...well, just see Older Than They Look below.
- Artistic License Geography: Look closely at the maps shown with the adjusted coastlines. Somehow the sea level rose in such a way that it submerged the Andes while sparing most of the Amazon Basin, and flooded most of the central United States while leaving all of Florida above water. Check out this page for a couple of neat applets showing what the map would really look like.
- Bland-Name Product: Camon cameras, among other things.
- Not a bland name product per se but apparently in the future Apple and Microsoft are working together. A blink and miss computer screen has Mac toolbars and Windows folder designs. So it's "Maplesoft"?
- Boobs of Steel: Eika, befitting her "best pilot" status, has the largest bust of all the Sky Girls team, much to Otoha's Pettanko displeasure. Eika herself doesn't actually like it since "it gets in the way". Subverted when taken outside the team, as Nanae has the largest bust of all female characters, and she's part Mission Control, part Team Mom.
- But Not Too Foreign: Elise. Also later Aisha, although this troper does not know any Indian girl named Aisha who wears a Cheongsam...
- She's probably Indian Muslim (not all Indian Muslims migrated to Pakistan), and it's traditional Punjabi clothing she's wearing, not a cheongsam.
- The Cameo: As seen above, the cast has to compete against the Vic Viper in an air show.
- Character Development: Much like Strike Witches, there is plenty of this.
- Characterization Marches On: Due to the obvious fact that on OVA has only 30 minutes, the Power Trio is depicted in a very stereotypical way, sometimes at odds with how the series portrayed them. While Otoha's character largely stays the same, Karen's trait as a Teen Genius is more accentuated by her spouting off exact minutes and percentages, while Eika comes off as a little narcissist by taking sunbathing seriously. Other subtler traits however, are used as basis to build their characters in the series, such as Karen's shyness with boys, Eika's seriousness as the only military girl, Otoha's chemistry with Ryohei, Ryohei's love of motorbikes (alluded in the ending theme), Takumi as the Team Chef, etc.
- Chekhov's Gunman: That little ghost-boy on the hilltop in the first episode, and in the Oppama base, seems to look a lot like a certain someone's missing brother...
- Chekhov's Skill: Otoha is a great fisher(wo)man. This enables her to solve the hunger woes of the crew of Kouryuu. Also, she is apparently a survivalist; when the team gets stranded in an island, Otoha knows exactly which fruits are edible and the not-so-edible ones.
Eika: What about this fruit...?
- Child Soldiers: Justified by 90% of the male population between 20 and 30 being dead due to the first war and ensuing holocaust.
- Collapsing Lair
- Cool Ship: Kouryuu. Also the carrier that later arrives carrying the Big Vipers.
- Cool Old Guy: Nasty brigadiers aside, you have the maintenance chief, the Admiral, the chef, etc.
- Cute Little Fangs: Elise.
- Determinator: Otoha
- Disappears Into Light: Yuuki. Twice, actually.
- Distant Finale
- Doomed Hometown: poor Elise has to be evacuated from West Germany base and had to witness it being bombed to kingdom come before her very eyes.
- Eleventh-Hour Ranger: Aisha.
- Emotionless Girl: Also Aisha.
- Energy Weapon
- Expy: Possible instance. The bratty German girl who joins partway into the series is a teen genius, an arrogant and hot-headed person on proving her skill, and has a rather traumatic past. Combined with the synch ratios, hairclips, inhuman enemy monsters with unknown motives, and post-apocalyptic setting, some fans see Evangelion in the series and Asuka in Elise. Thankfully, though, Elise learns to lose the arrogance before anything too bad happens to her, and this series is not the Dysfunction Junction that Evangelion is.
- Fan Service: Lots. The OVA sets the tone when it starts with a closeup of Otoha's butt (in a micro bikini) - then pans down her entire body swimming over and then in front of the camera, legs spread. It's not nearly as constant in the TV series version, but the Motion Slits still leave very little to the imagination.
- Can anyone explain Ranko's unusual position after falling over on deck?
- Fashionable Asymmetry: In episodes 4 and 16, Otoha wears one knee high under her right sock.
- Fighter Launching Sequence: "Sonic Diver Team, launch!"
- Fun with Acronyms: WORMs are an abbreviation of "Weapons Of Raid Machines", for all the sense it made...
- Genki Girl: Otoha is always enthusiastic. When her morale finally hits rock bottom at the end of the season, it takes a very serious effort to bring her up again.
- Girlfriend in Canada: Eika claims to have a boyfriend. She refuses to give details, to Elise's dismay.
- Gratuitous English: The opening theme lyrics. However, it's a MELL song, so would you expect anything else from her?
- Heroic BSOD: Otoha, after The Reveal
- Hair Antennae: Elise. Even if they are three, instead of the more common two.
- Hair Decorations: Somehow, the Motion Slit technology requires the pilots to wear some sort of a hair dec. Most of them look vaguely resembling a mechanical version of a droopy dog ears, while Elise's stand upright like rabbit ears. See petting zoo people below.
- Hot Springs Episode
- Humongous Mecha
- Improbably-Female Cast: The entire Sonic Diver team is female. The rest of the crew and the Big Viper squadron are much more mixed however.
- Ineffectual Loner: Elise has zero concept of teamwork. It takes a good dose of several episodes and character development to mold her.
- Kansai Regional Accent: The resident mechanics Haruko and Ranko has them. While Ranko is a stereotypical Genki Girl, Haruko is much more calm, and in a true Red Oni, Blue Oni fashion, they also are red and blue themed.
- Latex Space Suit
- Luminescent Blush: Virtually the entire cast exhibits this given the proper situation.
- Male Gaze: The camera focuses on Eika's rather curvy behind for about one full second as she straddles her Sonic Diver in the opening.
- Meaningful Name: The "Rei" in Reijin means "Zero", which is why Otoha called it that. Also an allusion to the famous WWII Zero fighter.
- Chief mechanic Oto Seibi is this. "Seibi" is the homophone to a Japanese word meaning "maintenance".
- Mini-Mecha: The Sonic Divers kinda straddle the line between Power Armor and Mini-Mecha. They're not much bigger than the girls, and the limbs respond as extensions of the pilots' limbs. But it's hard to call it armor, since the pilots are completely exposed at the front in the interest of Fan Service.
- Incidentally, the in-universe documents refer to it as "Powered Exoskeleton". Talk about classification hell.
- Mission Control: Takumi Hayami and Nanae Fujieda.
- Mundane Utility: Combined with a bit of Chekhov's Skill. When the ship's supply warehouse is damaged, forcing the crew to starve, Otoha uses her genius fishing skills to turn the Sonic Divers into fishing machines. No, they don't fish using a rod, they use nets attached to torpedos.
- Mood Whiplash: As a general rule, expect a dark reveal of some sort to any "light" episodes. For example, the same episode that has Otoha running around the base to find the owner of a large bra is also the episode where Elise is introduced by having her hastily evacuated from the destroyed West Europe base. Also, the real reason why Sky Girls are formed, during an Onsen Episode.
- Mr. Fixit: Tachibana Ryohei. He becomes very passionate about maintaining Otoha's Sonic Diver, which she affectionately call "Zero". His reason? He wants to make sure Otoha can fly, at any costs. Hinted to be Otoha's Love Interest. Also Oto Seibi, maintenance chief who is a Cool Old Guy.
- Older Than They Look: Official ages of the pilots: Elise is 15, Karen and Otoha are 16, and Eika is 17. You decide.
- Omake: "Fishing Maniac Eika: Sky Girls Dynamite Fishing".
- Overprotective Dad: Eika's father opposed her becoming a pilot.
- Justified in that, were it not for the Plot Armor, she could very easily have been killed.
- Pettanko: Otoha. Don't point it out, though.
- Petting Zoo People: Strangely enough, the Motion Slits include hair decorations that vaguely resemble animal ears and has a cable extension connecting their spine to the Sonic Divers resembling tails. This become even more pronounced at the second generation Rescue Sky Girls, whose hair decs are even more varying. Seems Fumikane decided to cut the middleman and made everyone in Strike Witches magically sprout animal ears and tails without any other explanation other than their magic powers did it...
- Phenotype Stereotype: Elise, being German, has blond hair and blue eyes. Aisha, being Indian, is dark-skinned and has a mark that resembles a Tilak.
- Phlebotinum Overload: Aisha can't pilot for too long, since her 118% synchronization rate is incredibly taxing. Just a few minutes is enough to put her in a coma.
- Reasonable Authority Figure: Admiral Kadowaki from Kouryuu. Heck, he even authorized the fishing expedition. At first, he tries to give them a reason to sortie in grounds of "training", but later...
Admiral: *stomach growls* ...ahem. Sometimes, we must put our principles aside.
- Red Oni, Blue Oni: Played very straight with Ranko and Haruko.
- Retired Badass: Soya Togo is one; he was an Ace Pilot retiring due to a nasty injury and instead becomes Cool Teacher to the girls.
- Rousing Speech: Aisha gives one to Otoha.
- Obviously, the appearance of Big Vipers. This IS an anime made by Konami after all...
- That core totally got destroyed at the end of the show.
- Schizo-Tech: it seems there are technologies still reliant on oil.
- Sixth Ranger: Fourth for Elise, fifth for Aisha (even if she doesn't technically fight).
- Stripperiffic: The normally shy Karen cannot bear to go outside the changing room with her Motion Slit on, to which Eika flatly told her that she can wear something else over it (which became the norm; when the pilots are on standby, they wear a jacket over their Motion Slits).
- Super Prototype: Subverted: Although Reijin, Fuujin, and Raijin are prototypes, the mass-produced Bachstelze performs just as well. The catch? The production plant got bombed to kingdom come just after one model is built
- Talking Is a Free Action: Especially during the final assault on the Nest.
- Team Chef: Takumi Hayami, when he's not being the Mission Control - however, he's the assistant chef. (The head chef is Gen, who later adopts Elise after the war.)
- The Medic: Aki Yuko, introduced when they move from Oppama to Kouryuu.
- Theme Music Power-Up: when the Sky Girls launch on their final mission from Kouryuu, the second verse of the opening theme plays.
- Techno Babble: Quite numerous, but legible. This is the reason why the girls have to go around in a latex swimsuit with a 20 minute time limit in every battle.
- Speaking of swimsuits, even Karen notes how Motion Slits are even thinner than swimsuits.
- Teen Genius: Karen Sonomiya and Elise von Dietrich. The former is a top authority concerning nanomachine physics; while Elise is at the very least a gifted polyglot.
- Ten-Minute Retirement: Otoha, although it takes much more than just 10 minutes for her to completely recover. To be fair, The Reveal was a little cruel.
- The Brigadier: Rear Admiral Shima. He can never be relaxed around the antics of "those annoying kids". It is revealed later that he is anxious because he had seen so many of his men die during the first WORM War.
- The Reveal: The origin of the WORMS. Also why Otoha's brother went missing: He has been "synchronized" with the WORMS, giving them a close equivalent of a leader.
- The Squad: The entire anime revolves around how a Squad is formed, how it fights, and how it finally ends.
- Third Person Person: Elise.
- Transforming Mecha: The Sonic Divers can shift from G Mode (flight mode) and A mode (walker mode).
- Trauma-Induced Amnesia: A side effect of piloting the Sonic Diver for Aisha.
- True Companions: See Rousing Speech entry.
- Tsundere: Eika is a textbook type A; Otoha is a mild type B towards Ryohei.
- Twice Shy: Karen and Takumi. Nanae and Hiroharu.
- Wrench Wench: Two of them, Ranko and Haruko Mikagami.
- X Meets Y: Sky Girls is like Strike Witches meets Neon Genesis Evangelion meets Variable Fighters (minus the GERWALK Mode).
- Younger Than They Look: Is it possible for a single series to invoke both this and Older Than They Look? Yes. But only at the end, and due to a strange and spoileriffic reason.