Stellvia (aka: Uchuu no Stellvia) Vol. #02 (Mania.com)

By:Eduardo M. Chavez
Review Date: Tuesday, January 31, 2006
Release Date: Thursday, December 01, 2005



Creative Talent
Writer/Artist:Akitsuki Ryo (Concept by: XEBEC)
Translated by:Michiko Nakayama
Adapted by:

What They Say
The second wave is approaching! Shima is selected as one of the members for the Great Mission, but a giant meteor penetrates their defense, the Great Wall. With the entire Stellvia force working to keep this barrier intact, it is up to Shima and her classmates to save both Stellvia and the Earth. Will they succeed with the use of the Earth's ultimate weapon, the Infinity? More importantly, will they be able to pilot this monstrous machine? The future is left in the hands of the prep students!

The Review
Packaging:
What a way to close the year for DrMaster. After improving their production over the year, this title takes a huge step backwards.

On first impressions one might think Stellvia might not be so bad. This title has been printed in a B6 sized book in right to left format. The front cover has an image of the main character Katase Shima in tight version of her school uniform holding a bottle of kompeitou. The piece is a wraparound image that continues to the opposite cover where the Big Four (in SD versions) share a nabe under Shima's hair. This Big Four image is on a blue and white background above the volume description. Very nice.

Inside, the printing is possibly the worst I have seen in the last year plus. While DrMaster includes a color plate in this GN (a yuri image with Ayaka and Yayoi hugging/grabbing each others boobs and butts), the rest of manga suffers from a horrible scan. The print is at times washed, at times dark and more often than not spotty, leaving some tone looking very dirty and lighter weights tend to not be filled in properly. Akitsuki uses a lot of tone for skin color and on costumes, so with this print suffering in regards to properly replicating tones I could hardly read this without being distracted. I found this very frustrating, as even the lines seemed to have this dirty smudgy look to them.

And unlike the previous volume, this one does not have any extras, so there is nothing to cover up for the poor print.

Artwork:
Akitsuki’s art does a fine job representing Uno Makoto’s anime character designs. The proportions and body shapes are pretty much in line with those done by Uno and Xebec. Moreover, Akitsuki adds his own style to the designs by making them a little friendlier to manga readers, by using thicker lines and less detail to eyes and expressions. Speaking of expressions, while they tend to have more negative space (because of the greater use of close ups) there tends to be more variety especially in regards to comical expressions. Costume designs are very well done. Akitsuki keeps the form fitting costumes and even makes sure to emphasize the proportions of specific fan favorite characters (Yayoi fans rejoice!!).

Backgrounds are not great, though they have slowly improved a bit. At the same time, the mechanical designs are not bad. While the mechs look a little flat, they tend to retain the designs from the anime well and seem to be properly set to scale. These designs are relatively functional and nicely represent the designs by XEBEC.

SFX/Text:
My history with DrMaster titles has been hit or miss - horrid in one title and excellent the next. Unfortunately, this one might fall on the negative way. While I did not notice any significant grammar issues or typos, I did notice some inconsistencies in the spelling of machinery and character names. Outside of that, the personalities were done rather well from the start. This is important as these characters are going through their growing pains in this series. There are moments when they make friends, work together and have to work on their own shortcomings to achieve success. Unfortunately, inconsistencies like the spelling mistakes will be remembered more often than the other details.

SFX are translated with subs in this series. Generally, DrMaster does this better than most studios and this series is no exception. What makes them unique is their use of smaller subs, so they rarely compromise art in their smaller sized GNs. The use of small subs usually gives readers a chance to take in all of the artist's work - character art, background art, layout and writing. This is one rare exception where even their subs could not find places to hide around Akitsuki’s very hyper panels.

Contents: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
The Undoukai (Sports Festival) is over and Shippon has emerged as the star of the event. Once a student situated at the far extremes of the educational spectrum Shima has developed into a well-rounded student capable of excelling at a majority of what she dedicates her efforts. The solution was simple, discover the true gift of her talent and utilize it to its fullest potential. By embracing those abilities, she was able to use them to get past all the obstacles in her way. This gave her the unique opportunity to determine her destiny on the Stellvia.

Nothing seems to be impossible for Shima. In truth, all that is in her way are her own fears and doubts. With the inspiration of her classmates and the encouragement of her instructors, she decides to challenge herself to overcome her fears. Whether she tops her class (or the academy) 100% of the time is no longer important, for success is relevant to the situation. Experience and constant progress is the goal, therefore taking risks and failing can be just as meaningful as being perfect (as long as she learns along the way). With nothing out of her reach, who knows maybe her wishes will be answered much sooner than she thought.

First, she made it to the Stellvia, then she became a star among the stars. Where will her future take her next? Was that her last time with the Big Four? What about a chance to represent the school as it prepares to protect humanity from the next wave? Either way she will determine if she will be able to continue to see the blue Earth the way she always wanted to see it.

Comments
Whenever I have to take on an anime adaptation, I usually find myself in a strange predicament. Quite often these series end up being very short, very fast retellings of the animated originals that tend to simply hit the critical points of the plot and barely attempt to present any of the characters in any well defined way. These stories generally read like summaries and tend to do inadequate jobs of properly presenting the main themes or tone of the stories they are based on. While the art can occasionally be as good as or better than the original, readers often, have to adjust to designs that can dramatically differ from the established looks the property is popular for. Ultimately, these just end up being short cheap projects that add little to the property outside of new art.

DrMaster's Stellvia falls into many of the traps of this sub-genre and ends up becoming a compact supplement to an entertaining high-spirited sci-fi anime series. You get the exact same story as the anime without the character development and the relationships that the anime was so good at. That is all there is to it. This manga is essentially a comedy version of the property. You get to see your favorite characters doing their thing - JJ is a wise cracker, Yayoi and Ayaka have a special relationship, Rina is the cheerleader, Arisa is lost and the Big Four have nabe. Those moments are fleeting and are more often than not distractions. In the end, there appears to be a relationship between Kouta and Shima but they are only together in one scene throughout this volume. The romance is gone and whatever drama there is has very little time to pan out properly.

The rest is all Shima. As a whole, this manga could also be seen as a more biography of the main character as it focuses almost exclusively on her. Each chapter presented another challenge for Shima to overcome on her way to fulfilling her dreams. Moreover, every new chapter has another supporting character briefly stepping up to offer some perspective before Shima save the day. No time is given to her problems with her mom. Nothing about her and Kouta, it is just Shima, all the time. Focus on the young heroine. Kent Burns could have done it better, but the premise is the same.

As a Stellvia fan, with more than my share of doujins based on the property, this production did very little for me. What pulled me in to this series was the comradery and friendships. The school as a whole worked together for the greater good. Stellvia felt like a youthful utopia created on the dreams of a future filled with hope. So much was placed on those hopes, the children that studied there, but ultimately if there is to a future it would be theirs to manage and shape. With how brief this version was and how limited its scope was in regards to character interactions, I could not get into it. This was not Stellvia; it was whatever Shima’s dorm room number was. This manga could not get out of that box.

Unless you really are a Stellvia fan this series is not worth your time; stick with the anime. You will get just as good art, better production values and more intangibles from XEBEC’s version.



Mania Grade: C+
Art Rating: B+
Packaging Rating: C-
Text/Translatin Rating: B+
Age Rating: 13 & Up
Released By: DrMaster
MSRP: 9.99
Pages: 228
ISBN: 1-59796-061-6
Size: B6
Orientation: Right to Left