This sci-fi manga is about a young girl named Asumi who leaves home to attend the Tokyo Space School to become an astronaut. If you only look at the cover and flip through the first few pages where Asumi interacts with a guy with a lion head, you might think this is some manga that would only interest tween girls and Matthew Brady. (The cutesy-sounding title doesn't help, either.) But it's actually pretty great.
It starts getting cool fairly quickly, as all the kids who want to go to space school are locked into rooms for several days straight and asked to line up thousands of dominoes as a sort of entrance exam. Most of the story takes place with Asumi and two other girls stuck in their room, trying to overcome this test of smarts and willpower. It reminded me of Ender's Game, a fantastic book about genius kids in space making tactical decisions in a zero-gravity battle simulator. (Ender's Game was written by Orson Scott Bigot, in case you want to find it in your library.)
Twin Spica also has got some solid heart-wrenching going on: Asumi has a tragic past and has had to deal with a lot even though she is so young. Her new roommates also appear to have some issues, which helps to keep the drama cauldron bubbling. I'm interested to see their relationships develop as they face new tests and hardships. One can only hope that this reaches the same emotional highs that we experienced when Leaf "Joaquin" Phoenix became "friends for-ev-er" with the robot named Jinx. Ah, Space Camp.
(Space Camp is a fine movie. Yes, that's Lea Thompson and Lamar from Revenge of the Nerds floating in a space shuttle. Not pictured: Tom Skerritt.)
About the only downside is Yaginuma's odd penchant for occasionally only drawing one eye of a character, even though the character is standing at an angle where you should see both eyes. Instead, Yaginuma leaves a blank spot. I assume it is some kind of manga quirk that I haven't seen before, but it didn't seem to add anything and just distracted me. Other than that, the art is solid and there are some pretty lovely images in there.
In sum, at first I was a little worried, but I quickly came around and I really enjoyed reading this. But don't just take my word for it -- tastemakers both real and fictional approve of this book! Retailer Christopher Butcher recently tweeted:
I'm handselling the hell out of Twin Spica! ... The covers make it a bit of a tough sale. :-/ But I persevere.And fictional retailer Lydia from The Rack recommended volume two:
Uh. It's science fiction manga that's good. Like, it's Planetes good. That's really good.I'm with Lydia on this one. Give it a shot.
READ MORE: Vertical's website has an excerpt.
BUY IT: From Amazon here: Twin Spica vol. 1
RELATED: Vertical also publishes Osamu Tezuka's Black Jack, and I reviewed volumes 1 and 2 and volume 3.