Mania Grade: C+
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- Art Rating: C+
- Packaging Rating: B+
- Text/Translatin Rating: B-
- Age Rating: 13 & Up
- Released By: TOKYOPOP
- MSRP: 9.99
- Pages: 240
- ISBN: 1598165 291
- Size: B6
- Orientation: Right to Left
Voices of a Distant Star Vol. #01
By Sakura Eries
October 13, 2006
Release Date: August 01, 2006
Writer/Artist:Makoto Shinkai/Mizu Sahara
Translated by:Monica Seya Chin
Adapted by:What They Say
To what distance would you go for your one true love? In the midst of an alien invasion, Mikako joins the resistance, leaving behind the one young man she loves. As she goes deeper into space, Mikako's only connection with her boyfriend is through cell-phone text messages. The war rages on and years pass, but Mikako barely ages in the timelessness of space while Noboru grows old. How can the love of two people, torn apart by war, survive?The ReviewPackaging:
The cover is a wraparound design in blue and white and has more of a matte than a glossy quality. It features a pensive Mikako painted in watercolors against a white background. The design is simple and elegant, but I would have liked it more if Sahara had drawn her differently. Sahara attempts to give Mikako a windswept look, but instead of emanating an ethereal quality, Mikako comes off as sloppy, as if she is in dire need of a comb and iron. The title in blue font is at the top of the front cover with the authors' credits to the lower right, and a vertical light blue Tokyopop border is placed along the right edge.
Only a little bit of Mikako's outfit extends to the back so the back cover design is mostly empty white space with the light blue Tokyopop bar along the left edge. The manga title is repeated at the top, and the story summary is aligned to the center-right. At the very bottom are rating and genre icons in red and the ISBN barcode.
The first eight pages are printed in color, which is a treat. However, the print seems to run dark in parts of the black and white sections, and the cut is too close on some pages. Binding and materials are otherwise average. Extras consist of a one-page afterword from the mangaka and ads for other Tokyopop titles. Art:
Shinkai's anime exhibited all the best CG has to offer -- vibrant colors, breathtaking effects, crisp designs. In contrast, Sahara's drawings seem to be all gray tones and sketchy artwork. Her character designs are not particularly impressive and mainly leave you with the impression that all of them are either in a wind tunnel or have just gotten out of one. There's not a lot of detail in the backgrounds, the mecha designs are dull, and the warp scenes, which were so spectacular in the anime, don't make much of an impact.
Sahara's use of tonework is not so much to depict the actual appearance of characters or objects but to convey emotion and internal turmoil. However, she uses it a bit overmuch. It would be fine if she limited it to, say, flashbacks, but she uses it constantly. I found it irritating that Noboru's hair color kept changing from panel to panel with all the "mood indicative" grays around him.
The action in Mikako's first battle was somewhat difficult to follow given the placement of sound effects (embedded in the background) and the way Sahara draws explosions and speed lines. After the battle, Hisa, another pilot who suffers injuries from the skirmish, makes a reference to friendly fire. It's an odd comment, and for the life of me, I can't tell if she is referring to a mistake made by Mikako or someone else.Text/Translation:
Dialogue translation is satisfactory. As for honorifics, there don't really seem to be any in this translation; everyone appears to be on a first name basis, even Mikako and her captain. Text on books/pages, phone screens, and most signs are translated with English overlays, and the rest are left untranslated. They don't put too much effort into having the overlay text match the original style though. The font used for phone text pretty much matches the dialogue font. Sound effects, however, are left untranslated.Content:
In 2039, the first manned mission to Mars resulted in the discovery of extraterrestrial life. Alien ruins on the Tarsis Plateau led to amazing leaps in technology, including faster than light travel. However, everyone on that first Martian mission was wiped out by these aliens. To further investigate and engage the Tarsians, as the aliens are called, the U.N. Space Force organizes teams to send out to space. Among those selected for the Third Tarsian Mission is 15-year-old Mikako Nagamine, a Tracer (fighter) pilot and youngest member of the crew.
The contrast between Mikako's new life in space and her old life on Earth is staggering, and her only link to her previous life is the text messages she exchanges with Noboru, her close friend and classmate. However, as Mikako travels deeper into space, the distance strains their bond. The distortion of time associated with space travel, which causes Mikako to age more slowly in space than on Earth, only complicates matters.
As weeks and then months pass between Mikako's messages, Noboru begins to despair of ever seeing Mikako again and considers forgetting Mikako and moving on with his life. Meanwhile, Mikako struggles to adjust to life in space, to find purpose on this space mission, and to survive in combat where the possibility of injury or death is very real. And all the while, both Noboru and Mikako grapple with the sense of being left behind by the other.
As Mikako prepares to journey to Agharta in the Sirius System, over 8 light-years away from Earth, she sends Noboru a message that will ultimately change the course of his life. As for Mikako, the most profound discoveries she makes in her journey are not about the Tarsians, but about herself.Comments
Tokyopop has appropriately categorized this manga as a romance. While it has science fiction elements, this story has more to do with human nature and relationships than mecha and aliens. For those familiar with Shinkai's anime, the manga covers the same basic plot points although the ending does diverge from the original. As in the anime, the manga begins with Mikako already in space and touches on her training on Mars, her first skirmish with the Tarsians, and her arrival on Agharta. The manga has the luxury of expanding the story in a way that the anime could not, and these additions include more flashbacks, secondary characters (on Earth and in space) and more details on Noboru's life and his thoughts.
While fans of the anime may enjoy this more in-depth look into the lives of Shinkai's characters, I cannot say that I am particularly impressed with Sahara's work as a standalone manga. She does a satisfactory job of portraying Noboru's despondence at Mikako's departure, and his attempt to start a relationship with another girl is fairly realistic. Mikako is less convincing. She has accomplished things well beyond her years, things her peers could never hope to achieve, but her feelings about being a pilot are largely indifferent, which doesn't jibe at all with her accomplishments (you would think that a person who has made it as the youngest-ever selected Tracer pilot would have some sort of drive or motivation). Plus, while we get a glimpse of Noboru's mom and other friends, Mikako seems to have no friends or family at all except Noboru. Then there is the whole question of the nature of Mikako and Noboru's relationship. In the beginning of both the anime and manga, the two label their relationship as "friendship." In fact, Mikako tells Captain Miwa that Noboru is "just a friend." However, by the end of both stories, their feelings have slanted more towards the spectrum of "love" than "like." There is enough ambiguity in the anime that I can almost accept that shift; not to mention, neither character gets overly sappy about their "romance." However, in the manga, it seems unrealistic for Mikako to send Noboru a message describing them as "two lovers separated by time and space" when none of the manga flashbacks really support that sort of communication and especially considering Noboru is at the brink of starting a romantic relationship with another girl.
Sahara's setting is another weakness of this manga. I can get over the 15-year-old-fighter-pilot-goes-to-outer-space part (after all, it's extremely prevalent in anime science-fiction stories), but it seems ridiculous that these teenage pilots don't have U.N. issued uniforms and are just flying their fancy mecha in their high school uniforms (or, in Mikako's case, her junior high school uniform). Also, there is a bit of a plot hole in regards to the time lag that is the source of so much trouble for our main characters. The problem that Mikako and Noboru have in maintaining communication is the fact that their messages can only travel at the speed of light; for example, if Mikako is at Pluto, it will take a little over a year for a message to travel to Earth. However, at the end of the story, the Lysithea receives a message from Earth with the names of the people on the next Agharta team, and this message seems to be received instantaneously. What happened to the time lag? Mikako does mention that the ship officers have priority over the communications system, but if this instantaneous communication is actually available, it seems rather mean that the officers are forcing their soldiers to use snail's pace technology to inform their loved ones of their status and whereabouts.
This title is rated 13+ for mecha versus alien combat scenes and lots and lots of and angst.