by Kou Yaginuma
published by Vertical; $10.95 US
Now that I’m well into this series about a girl who wants to be an astronaut, I’m finding the pacing a bit odd.
I was very curious to find out how the cliffhanger — what did her dad have to do with the spaceship crash that so changed everyone’s lives? — from Book 2 played out, but its impact was blunted here. Instead of drama, we get Asumi running home… only to never meet up with her dad. I would have rather seen the confrontation, even if it turned out to be discussion or reconciliation.
Perhaps that lack of encounter is meant to be important in itself, reflective of how Asumi needs to rely on herself more — in which case, I found myself wondering why Mr. Lion is playing more of a role? I thought he’d be gone now that she’s in school and on her way to following her dreams. The teacher who was threatening Asumi seems like a different person as well, losing his menace when his class begins boycotting him. Ultimately, he and Asumi are on the same side, an oddly mature end to that particular storyline, but one that feels like a late course correction. At least the extraordinarily lovely art is still consistent throughout the volumes, with a well-realized world to examine.
It makes me wonder if there are more cultural differences to this series than I previously thought. I can’t imagine a teacher being disciplined here because he championed individuality over group self-sacrifice, for example. I also realized that Mr. Lion probably isn’t named that. Instead, he’s probably Lion-San (or the equivalent). I figured this out when everyone kept calling Marika “Miss Ukita” to indicate their distance from her.
Much of the focus in this volume is on the school kids bonding and the importance of friendship, nice to read but more similar to some other series I follow. I liked what previously made this book unique to me, the focus on what Asumi needs to learn to be successful as an astronaut. I was somewhat more satisfied with the second half of this volume, which spotlights Marika, the snobby pretty girl loner, and what made her that way, even if her story raised more questions than it answered.
Although I didn’t like this installment as much as the previous two, I appreciate the author being willing to shake up the series mood and direction. It makes me want to see in what direction he takes book four. And my impression isn’t shared by others; Sean Gaffney, for one, praises the pacing for its deliberateness over the entire series length.
A strange note: No explicit translation credit is included in this volume, although the translator of the previous two, Maya Rosewood, is one of three people credited for “Production”.