Archive for the ‘Sci-Fi’ Category

Twin Spica

July 12, 2011

 

My rating (so far): 4 out of 5 stars

Another multi-step review here.  I find these quite interesting to write and read back through at a later date, though I hope they’re not too disjointed for people who aren’t me to enjoy.  Anyway, onwards and upwards!

EDIT: this is actually as seinen series, however seeing as it struck me as shojo-y I’ve decided to leave my original notes as they were.

After reading vol. 1:

(Rating: 3 stars)

Shojo sci-fi manga about a schoolgirl who wants to go to Tokyo Space School and learn to fly spacecraft.  I’ve read to the end of volume 1 and so far its engaging enough to make me want to get hold of more.  Its a bit on the sentimental side rather than straight up quirky and fun, but the art style suits the themes involved, and the characters are so far easy to understand and get on with.  I would also recommend this for younger readers.

After reading up to vol. 6:

(Rating: 4 stars)

I’m really enjoying this series now! I would say if you liked volume 1 at all then its well worth giving the next few volumes a chance to pull you in further.  This series is basically about the yearning some people have to travel into space, and astronaught training, mixed with a high school slice-of-life shojo manga, mixed in with some deaths and ghosts.

A big plus of this series is that, alongside the everyday lives and loves of our main characters, its not afraid to tackle some pretty serious questions about whether we should put humans into space. It starts off by detailing a massive shuttle crash and the impact that the subesquent deaths and injuries have on some of the main characters of the story.  Plus, the students at the Space School have to deal with people protesting their training as a waste of money and too much of a risk to life.

Not that the everyday lives and loves of the characters aren’t important though.  Although the overriding theme of space travel is an interesting and compelling one for me, its the drama amongst the characters that keeps me hooked.  Each person in the main group of high school friends is believeably flawed, but you can’t help but root for all of them in their own way.

The fantasical, ghostly, aspects of the series are perhaps the part that I could do most without, however they’re not as overwhelming as volume 1 led me to believe.  Although overall I find that the more fantastical elements don’t mesh as well as everything else in the series, I do quite like the connection that some of the living characters still have to the dead throughout.  The series seems to inextricably link space travel with hardship and death, which only makes the striving of the students for their goal of outer space more compelling: they know full well the hardships involved, and yet they still want to achive their dreams anyway.

This series has 16 volumes in all, so I guess there will be at least one more update to this review once I’ve finished the whole thing – here’s hoping I can bump it all the way up to 5 stars next time :)

A Drunken Dream and Other Stories

March 29, 2011

My rating: 4 out of 5 stars

I was interested in this book as I’d heard that Moto Hagio was one of the pioneers of sci-fi comics for girls as part of the ‘Magnificent 49ers’ group in the 1970s. This group included Keiko Takemiya, and I’d already read and enjoyed Takemiya’s ‘To Terra’, as well as Hagio’s own short sci-fi series ‘They were Eleven’, so thought I’d give this one a go.

When I first received the book, I have to say I was a bit put off by the print format. This is a big hardback volume with some colour pages, and very much reminds of those old ‘A Treasury of 100 Stories for Children’ doorstop-type hardback books I remember from my childhood. I was expecting more of a Viz Signature style slightly-posh tankoubon, so this threw me a bit. In the end though I enjoyed the feeling of reading Hagio’s work at a larger size, and will be keeping this book in part as a 70s shojo art reference book, as much as a story book.

This book is a collection of several short stories. They do not seem to be grouped around any strong central theme or genre in particular (bar the obvious shojo connection), but they can all be characterised by a degree of sentimentality, a focus on emotion, and leaving the reader with something a little bit philosophical to ponder after finishing each story.

The most thought provoking tales are ‘Hanshin: Half God” and “Iguana Girl”. Hanshin centres around a set of conjoined twins: a beautiful one who gets all of the attention but does not have the mental faculties to look after herself, and the more intelligent twin who constantly looks like she’s at death’s door, because she has to prop up her sister. It is very much about the relationship between love and hate, and the fact that it could be possible to both love and hate someone else, or even parts of yourself.

“Iguana Girl” is a story about the relationship between mothers and daughters. In this story the author is directly addressing issues she has faced in her life with her mother completely dismissing her desire to become a professional comics creator (and perhaps in turn, completely dismissing the parts of her daughter’s personality or life choices that she didn’t agree with) – the author talks about this a bit in the interview at the back of the book. I get the feeling that any girl or woman could find something to relate to in this story (and perhaps anyone who has become a mum and wondered why they weren’t automatically the ‘perfect’ mother).

Stories like ‘Bianca’ and ‘Girl on Porch with Puppy’ are rather more sentimental and dated-feeling. However if you are a lover of 70s shojo manga artwork these are lovely to look at, with some of the most striking illustrations in the book.

I also can’t finish this mini-review without mentioning the title story ‘A Drunken Dream’ as its the only sci-fi one in the book! I found the plot a little dated and formulaic (it reminded me a bit of Tezuka’s ‘Apollo’s Song’), but the story nails that pulp entertainment feeling perfectly: science fiction mixed with mythology and a dash of surrealism.

All in all I would definitely recommend this book to those who like older-style shojo artwork. The format means that it can definitely work as an art reference book as much as a collection of stories, though I am a bit dissappointed by the lack of sci-fi here. The slightly surreal and thought-provoking tales remind me of Haruki Murakami’s short stories (though with much more of a female perspective, and a little more dated). But even so, I would recommend this also to people who have enjoyed Murakami’s short stories, or anything involving real life with a twist of the strange.

Jyu Oh-Sei

March 17, 2011

Jyu Oh-Sei is published by Tokyopop.

My rating: 5 out of 5 stars

These notes cover the complete series, which wraps up in a tidy 3 volumes.

Delicate white-haired, white-skinned twin brothers Thor and Rei are kidnapped and left to fend for themselves on a dangerous prison planet after their politician father is killed. Can they survive on a planet populated by criminals and giant man-eating plants, and will they ever be able to get back to their home and find out why this happened to them?

This series is presented as 3 chunky volumes, each at least 1.5 times as thick as a normal Tokyopop manga volume.

The story may sound a little harsh but this is no Battle Royale: its more action/drama than horror or thriller.

The two elements I loved most about this series were:

– The plot is well paced and the story wraps up very satisfactorily. It really feels as if the author knew her ending before she started writing the series. Also, no character is safe from injury/death so any peril keeps you on the edge of your seat.

– Characters grow and evolve over the course of the series. The main character, Thor, especially is almost entirely unrecogniseable by the final volume as he has grown from a child to man. Seeing as so much time goes by, other characters also age and change their appearence over the course of the story.

The artwork is proficient: environments are very imaginative as the settlements characters live in are built to withstand some pretty scary weather conditions, and species of man-eating plants.

Extras:

I was delighted to find a section at the back of volume two with design sheets for some of the vehicles, objects and settings that turn up in the comic. In volume 3 I was surprised to find the main story finished a couple of chapters before the end of the book. In this extra space there is a side story featuring some of what happened to a couple of important secondary characters in the middle of the main story timeline. Initially I was a bit dissapointed to have finished the main story early, but the side story did fill in some info and its a big plus that it was within the Jyu-Oh-Sei world and timeline, not completely unrelated (like most of the random ‘bonus’ stories you get at the back of manga volumes).