by Kou Yaginuma
published by Vertical; $10.95 US
Review by Ed Sizemore
Asumi and her friends are now second-year high school students. Part of their astronaut training includes a three-day wilderness survival test. Mr. Lion takes a trip back into his memories and discovers a major revelation about Marika. We also learn more about Shu and his family.
As discussed during the podcast, Twin Spica isn’t hard sci-fi, where the focus is on technological innovations or exploring scientific possibilities. Instead, Twin Spica is character-driven storytelling and fits well within the shoujo sci-fi tradition. The most satisfying aspect of Twin Spica is watching the protagonist, Asumi, mature as a person and seeing her relationships strengthen and deepen. Asumi is instantly likeable. She’s smart, dedicated, compassionate, and optimistic. She’s a bit naive and wears her heart on her sleeve at times. And it’s these very qualities that allow her to make friends with the unlikeliest of people.
It’s tempting to write Asumi off as pollyannaish, but doing so ignores her past. Asumi lost her mother when the Lion spaceship crashed. Furthermore, the crash destroyed not just her father’s career, but his spirit, too. Despite these tragedies, she has chosen to an be astronaut. She has literally spent her whole childhood preparing herself to go into space.
Of course, she needed a mentor in her training, and here we find a very unusual character for sci-fi stories, Mr. Lion. As we have learned, he is the ghost of one of the Lion spaceship astronauts. Yaginuma deserves credit for not trying to come up with some pseudo-scientific explanation as to why there is a ghost in his story. We don’t know Mr. Lion’s reasons for staying in our world. Asumi’s passion for space and dedication to being an astronaut has attracted her to him. He serves as both training instructor and surrogate father for Asumi.
The art is as delightful as the storytelling. My favorite artwork comes from the flashbacks of Asumi as a young child. Yaginuma captures all the energy and intensity of elementary age kids. I love the way he draws her running with her hands held out behind her like folded-back wings. Regardless of her age, when he draws her, Yaginuma is able to convey an unlimited range of emotions in her facial expressions. His affection for her comes through clearly in the artwork.
While I chose to focus on Asumi, Twin Spica is a wonderful coming-of-age story about people dedicated to something greater than themselves. The characters get richer and more complex as the story develops. Along with Asumi, our vision of the world she lives in expands, too. The slow pace and lack of focus on technology will limit how appealing sci-fi fans find Twin Spica. However, fans of The Voices of a Distant Star or Saturn Apartments will enjoy this series. I pick up each volume as it comes out and keep hoping to see Asumi finally make it into space.