Twin Spica is the story of Asumi Kamogawa, a young girl in Tokyo who’s spent most of her life looking toward the skies, and is just now entering a phase in her life where that aspiration can become something tangible. Thus her ambition is cast toward the 2024 Tokyo Space School exams, and the premise for this 16-volume series is quickly under way.
There’s not a whole lot of setup needed to get to the meat of the story, or at least the meat of this particular volume. We know right away that Asumi lives alone with her hard-working father, the lives of both still greatly affected by the untimely passing of her mother many years prior. As a result, Asumi is often visited by a masked figure named Lion that sonly she can see; a representation of this missing chunk of her life in ways that gradually become more apparent as the manga progresses.
Kou Yaginuma’s series kicked off in its earliest form in 2000 (more on that in a bit) and struck a chord with many during its lengthy run in Comic Flapper, producing both animated and live-action adaptations of Asumi’s story over time. Even though we’re only given a slice of the pie with the first volume, the charm of the series is apparent pretty early on. Asumi is a likable lead, and acts as such throughout the first few chapters, almost to a fault.
This is most evident as the surprise second portion of the Space School exam gets under way, with Asumi vying first and foremost to bond with her project partners, wanting nothing more than mutual respect and friendship, perhaps even more than she wants to pass the exam. Her positive attitude is channeled nicely through Yaginuma’s linework, which is somewhat simplistic in a way that works for the type of story told in Twin Spica. It’s very much about family—particularly Asumi’s relationship with her father—goals, and expectations.
Though the art can certainly go from charming to stiff on occasion, especially when characters are depicted at a distance, the structure of panels and pages carries the story well, and Yaginuma is most effective during the more emotionally charged scenes. At its best, his work fuses Twin Spica with both a sense of childhood nostalgia as well as encouragement to venture beyond. Replace “space exploration” with the goal of your choosing and you have the recipe for an inspiring parable of progress.
Though volume one collects only the first four chapters of Twin Spica, it also includes the pilot story that got the series off the ground in the first place, 2015: Fireworks, as well as Asumi, a mini-series focusing on the youth of Twin Spica‘s leading lady. The latter goes in a pretty interesting direction while exploring Asumi’s life after her mother’s death.
Yaginuma is much less subtle in 2015, particularly about the death of Asumi’s mother, how she copes with it, and the appearance of the mysterious Lion. It makes sense in the one-shot context to unveil the story as such, but reading it after the first few chapters makes me appreciate Twin Spica more, as both the storytelling and, to a slighter degree, the artwork are an improvement over 2015.
Despite being billed as a “slice of life” story, I don’t think the pacing is as languid as the categorization would lead one to believe. That may have to do with being prepared for such a narrative, but I’ve got high hopes for the next volume of Twin Spica either way. It’s refreshingly divergent from the majority of the manga on shelves at the moment.
Publisher: Vertical Inc.
Story & Art: Kou Yaginuma
© 2010 by Kou Yaginuma