In a Tokyo of the not-too-distant future a young girl looks up to the stars with melancholy in her heart and hope in her eyes. Thirteen-year-old Asumi kamogawa’s whole life has been tied to those stars; her future may very well be among them. And she is not alone… Asumi is on of many young people with ambitions to some day head into space in Japan’s first manned space mission.
The dream of going into space is one man has had for centuries, and was finally fulfilled in the last few decades of the 20th century. But no matter what happens, that dream never dies, as we see in the series Twin Spica, a new title from Vertical about 5 young people working to make their dreams of space travel into reality.
The focus of Twin Spica is on Asumi Kowagawa. She has some strong and tragic connections to space. When she was 1, Japan’s first attempt at a manned rocket flight into space failed, and crashed into her city. Her mother was badly burned and put int a coma, dying 5 years later. This tragedy doesn’t stop her from dreaming of going to the stars. Asumi is a great character. Her determination to go on despite the tragedies is very life affirming. She is cute but not naive. She’s open and earnest with her feelings, making her someone you can feel comfortable with and trust.
This volume starts Asumi on her journey to become an astronaut, from her struggles to break the news to her father to her getting through the final test to get into the newly formed space school. Though her journey we meet some wonderful characters. Mr. Lion is the first person we see Asumi with, though no one else does. He is the spirit of the pilot of the doomed rocket, and only Asumi can see him. He appears as a lion mascot, with oversized, caricature head. He is like a big brother to her, teaching her about space and offering her guidance when she needs it. I like Asumi’s father, who was changed by the rocket crash and loss of his wife. He isn’t like a lot of the other fathers you see in manga. His reactions are very realistic to someone who has been through what he has.
Asumi’s strengths come into play as the final test is administered. It’s her strength and determination that gets her and other two examees, Kei and Ukita, through. The three girls are very different. Kei is friendly and outgoing, while Ukita is more cold and loner. With her honest feelings, Asumi is able to keep the peace and get them all through the test, and even manages to make a crack in Ukita’s wall around her own feelings.
It’s hard for me to describe how much I enjoyed reading this first volume. It’s touching without being melodramatic. The drama is well done and very compelling. Like life, it doesn’t pull any punches, but it still has an uplifting feeling about the future. Yaginuma pulls you into the stories with strong characters that you really become invested in. You can almost feel the same things they do. The two short stories at the end, which were written before Twin Spica became a series, make a great foundation for Asumi’s character and the world it takes place it. They help to flesh it out nicely.
It would be impossible for me not to recommend this first volume. Whether you’re interested in space travel or science fiction or not, the characters and drama of this title are just too compelling to pass up.