The Stellar Six of Gingacho 1 by Yuuki Fujimoto: B+

From the back cover:
Mike, Kuro, Iba, Q, Sato and Mamoru star as the Stellar Six, the children of various store owners of the Galaxy Street’s shopping district. Once inseparable childhood friends, they find themselves falling out of touch. But when a store on their home turf falls victim to vandalism, the Stellar Six come together again to help out, remembering the roots they share and the bonds that keep them close. In this story of true friendship, six best friends learn the importance and power of growing up together.

Well, TOKYOPOP, you’ve done it again. I’ve lost count now how many times one of their review copies has sold me on a series I’d previously heard nothing about. Trust me, it’s been a lot.

The Stellar Six of Gingacho is the story of a group of six friends, each the child of a merchant in the Gingacho Street Market. When they were younger, they were inseparable, but when they entered middle school, the unthinkable happened: they were all in different classes. As time went on, they made new friends and drifted apart.

Although adults try telling her that’s just the way it is, Mike (pronounced Mee-kay), the second-eldest daughter of the green grocer, refuses to accept the dissolution of this friendship as inevitable. Stubborn and child-like, Mike decides that participating in a dance contest is just the thing to get everyone together again, and is upset when no one seems all that keen on the idea. When a local bar owner’s establishment is trashed by a hoodlum with a grievance, however, the kids band together, compete in the contest, and donate their cash winnings to the repair bill.

Now, I admit… this looks like your typical wacky shoujo plot. Characters are forever getting involved in thoroughly random tournaments, it seems, but this one somehow made me kind of verklempt. I think what elevates The Stellar Six of Gingacho over, say, the random beach volleyball contest in a recent volume of Maid Sama!, is that it’s genuinely nice to read about friends reconnecting after some time apart. There’s something important happening story-wise beyond just the pursuit of a particular prize.

The second chapter focuses on the especially tight bond between Mike and Kuro, the son of the fish merchant, who was born in the same hospital and has always been the same height and weight as Mike. “Kuro is more than just my best friend,” she thinks at one point. “He’s my partner.” Somewhat predictably, Kuro nurtures more serious feelings for Mike, but she is too oblivious to notice. Although this chapter rolls out the old “characters are locked in the gym storage shed” cliché, I quite liked the scenes where Mike realizes that Kuro’s hands have grown much bigger than hers and that, yes, he is a guy. Again, this is familiar territory, but it’s presented in such an amusing and comforting way that it really appeals to me.

I also appreciate the fact that families and other adults are present in the story and frequently step in to curtail the kids’ (mostly Mike’s) behavior, as needed. Additionally, one of the girls—Iba-chan, daughter of the rice store proprietor—is rather stocky, but this is never mentioned in the story at all nor is she drawn as a caricature. Her weight is not an issue and does not define her character. In fact, she’s quite awesome—the most level-headed of the bunch, she frequently serves as the voice of reason within the group. The only tiny reference to her weight is one panel during the dance competition when two of the boys strain a bit to lift her up, but they never say a word about it.

Overall, I enjoyed The Stellar Six of Gingacho quite a lot. There’s no exciting plot here, but I suspect I’ll enjoy learning more about the rest of the kids and other denizens of the market. If it’s feel-good shoujo you’re in the mood for, this should do nicely.

The Stellar Six of Gingacho is published in English by TOKYOPOP. The series is complete in Japan with ten volumes.

Review copy provided by the publisher.

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