Finished: Dec. 3, 2010
First Published: Japan, 2002 (English May 4, 2010)
Genre: YA, manga, science fiction
As my vision faded to black, I thought I saw a tiny star.
Acquired: Received a review copy from Vertical.
Reason for Reading: This is a Cybils '10 nominee and required reading for me as a graphic novels panelist.
I think you could say I read my fair share of manga, and as time goes by I'm reading more and more; it has become one of my reading passions. I don't think I've ever been this enthused about a first volume since I've been reading manga. Absolutely brilliant! First off we have an utter realistic science fiction story, set in 2024, about a 13yo girl, Asumi, who wants to be an astronaut and takes the exams to enter space training school. Her mother died shortly after she was born when Japan's first ever completely Japanese made fully-manned rocket was unsuccessfully launched and crashed into a city causing many deaths. This rocket was named The Lion, which becomes a theme carried on in the story. Now Asumi and everyone who passed the space school entrance exams have been taken to the school and put under a 7 day confined space test in groups of three. What happens is an amazingly well-written science-fiction story.
While the present story is going on, we also learn much about her character and back story through frequent flashbacks to her childhood. It is at this point that an edge of fantasy, or perhaps magical realism is added to the plot, as Asumi had an invisible friend growing up called Lion, who looked like a man with a lion mask on. Now whether he was imaginary or a ghost from the past is something that is explored and though it sounds strange becomes integrated seamlessly into the story.
Asumi has been characterized with insightful skill, the reader gets inside her head and learns what makes this girl tick, what she feels and how determined she is. Asumi is also a nice person, regardless of who she meets up with she manages to let her own true character prevail through others often heated discord. This volume ends with the final selection of those who passed the test (which was very intense) and will make up the space program class.
Following this we get the *bonus material* which includes the original short story that was the inspiration for this series. Then Yaginuma followed the story up with a mini-series about Asumi's childhood, which follows next. That mini-series was such a success that he followed it up with this sensational series we are finally able to read in English. But that's not it! To finish up the book Yaginuma gives us one more extra short story about Asumi. The first four books are out and I plan on buying them, 5-10 are planned to be released in 2011 and the final 11-16 in 2012. This is a definite must read for me!