August 6, 2011

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Twin Spica Volume 2

Written by Kou Yaginuma
Illustrated by Kou Yaginuma
Vertical

Is Asumi's dream dead before it even gets off the ground? As we start moving through training, the difficulty of keeping up with everyone else who is bigger and stronger than she is starts to take its toll on Asumi's psyche. She fights hard, but what happens when the administration of the academy turns against her, too? The road to the stars is going to be hard, and maybe just a bit too hard as we find out in the second volume of Twin Spica.

Seinen manga has such a wide range of styles within it. A bloody anti-war comic like Jormungand is in the same general genre as this story, which features a little girl and her determination/redemption story. What's great is that not only do both exist, but they're both quite good. I wish those who read Western comics could bend more often and admit that there are so many different kinds of comics out there, and they can all co-exist.

I really like the huge obstacle Yaginura places in Asumi's path this volume, especially after showing how seemingly unflappable Asumi has been so far. Stories need conflict, and we're about to get it in spades. Best of all, it looks like Marika will be the one to help Asumi out, which is a nice touch. She's been set up to be so distant, it's time to give us a reason not to hate her. I get the impression that we are to root for all of the young astronauts we've met in detail, so it's definitely time for her to shine.

The only little hangup here is that, while the reasoning is diabolical (they want to save money), it also makes a bit of sense. I know part of the premise is to show that Asumi can succeed despite her size handicap, but it's not all that surprising that she might not make it. Yaginuma is going to have to work extremely hard to make it seem realistic that Asumi will make it out of the program and into space.

There is definitely a lot of drama and emotion in this volume. While Yaginuma's art style is simplistic, it's also quite effective. You can see the fear, anger, and stress within the lives of the characters, due to the artistic choices made. I do wish we got more in the way of facial features, however. A lot of times, the students in this drama tend to look like puppets rather than people because of the way Yaginuma draws them.

This volume also has two back-up stories that fill in Asumi's history before her trials at the academy. The first gives a rundown of why Asumi wants to be an astronaut and is fairly pedestrian. A teacher wants to quit, but Asumi's determination inspires her to keep going with her life. Nothing all that special, though I do like how the teacher's life and Asumi's are linked. The second backup is much stronger, as Asumi befriends a victim of the tragic crash only to be spurned when their link is discovered. Asumi's hope versus the hopelessness of others plays well, and I love the imagery of the ending, involving the power of imagination and hope.

As with just about every Vertical manga I've read, this is a strong series that is worth reading. If you ever dream of the stars, or just dream of doing the seemingly impossible, this series is for you. Read it and join in Asumi's dream. You'll be glad you did.