Twin Spica 1 by Kou Yaginuma: A-

The year is 2024. Fourteen years ago, Japan’s first attempt at a manned space mission ended in disaster, as something went wrong 72 seconds into the flight, causing the craft, “The Lion,” to crash in the middle of a city. The crew, and many civilians, lost their lives. Asumi Kamogawa’s mother was among the wounded, lingering in a coma for five years before finally succumbing to her injuries.

Even so, Asumi grew up with a passionate love of the stars, and spent many hours stargazing with her mysterious friend, a young man—wearing a lion’s-head mask—that no one else seems able to see. As a child, Asumi wasn’t shy about sharing her dream, but lately guilt over leaving her father behind compels her to take the entrance exam to the Tokyo Space School without telling him. When he finds out, Dad proves he’s not so helpless after all, since he’s been working and saving for years in order to be able to make his daughter’s dream come true.

This frees Asumi to continue with the admissions process, the next step of which is a test that requires her to live with two strangers in a room for seven days. This is a fun glimpse at the space school world she’s about to enter, as well as Asumi’s strengths relative to those of her prospective classmates. Physically tiny, she possesses a child-like sense of wonder, which sometimes leads her to ask seemingly stupid questions, but is also able to see patterns in things that others miss. While most of the other candidates fail, Asumi’s team is a success, thanks in no small part to her contributions.

Instead of forging ahead with her promising future, the rest of the volume is composed of short stories—the success of which was ultimately responsible for Twin Spica becoming a series—depicting incidents from Asumi’s childhood and revealing the true identity of her masked friend. The second tale, “Asumi,” in which Asumi dreams she is able to help her mother’s spirit reach its destination, is especially touching. I admit it: I cried. The existence of Mr. Lion, and the supernatural possibilities he introduces into the story, means that this encounter really could have happened, too.

Artistically, Yaginuma’s work is clean and attractive, with lots of white space—as is appropriate for the “closed-off environment adaptability test”—and a variety of panel layouts. The one thing that bugs me is that Asumi looks really, really young throughout. She’s supposed to be smaller than others her age, but she winds up resembling a second or third grader in comparison. I hope this isn’t a hint of moe infiltrating what is otherwise a very fine story.

With this first volume, Twin Spica is just, if you’ll pardon the awful pun, getting off the ground. I definitely look forward to discovering what is to come, and especially appreciate Vertical’s commitment to releasing all sixteen volumes of this series by 2012. I could make another pun here about climbing aboard now, the better to experience the journey, but I’ll spare you.

Twin Spica is published in English by Vertical, Inc. Only the first volume is out so far, but the series is complete in Japan with sixteen volumes. The review copy I received included the following publishing schedule:

Volumes 1 to 4: 2010
Volumes 5 to 10: 2011
Volumes 11 to 16: 2012

Review copy provided by the publisher. Review originally published at Manga Recon.

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Comments

  1. Danielle Leigh says

    Meep! I’ve pre-ordered so I’m trying to not read reviews too carefully (when oh when will my pretty book ship? *sighs*) but I look forward to seeing what you, Melinda and Kate had to say about the book once I’ve read it.


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