Twin Spica Volumes 4-6

Twin Spica is one of those series that is so uniformly excellent I sometimes have a hard time writing about it because I really just want to say “Go read this!” But that wouldn’t make for a very long blog post, would it?

Twin Spica Volume 4

Asumi and her classmates start their first real day of astronaut training. They are submerged in water wearing space suits and forced to complete a simulation of the type of movements they’d be expected to do in space. Asumi notices that her left hand is too weak, and this triggers a wave of memories of her childhood with her companion Mr. Lion. He showed her how difficult fine maneuvers are in space by having her wear a puffy glove and pick up marbles. Asumi’s father comes home to see his tiny daughter sitting against a wall working on grip exercises with a resolute expression on her face. Her dad comments “Life’s tough, eh?” Asumi washes out of the exercise but she’s determined to improve. These first few scenes really highlight what I like best about Twin Spica. Asumi’s childhood memories blend and inform her desire to get into space, and even though she’s not in the optimal physical shape to be an astronaut, she won’t back down from her goals.

On a class outing Asumi encounters a boy who comments that the uniforms of Tokyo Space school make him sick. Asumi’s classmate Marika is hiding her own health issues, and Asumi’s friend Mr. Lion appears to have a strange connection with Marika way back when he was alive. One of the things I like about Twin Spica is that while the story unfolds with some potentially weighty symbolism, the slice of life tone keeps it from being too precious. Instead an interlude with Mr. Lion and the spirit of his father seems appropriately mysterious, and Asumi’s adventures in Zero G plane training end up forging a bonding experience with her classmates through vomit.

Twin Spica Volume 5

Asumi’s encounter with the space hating boy Kiriu continues to effect them both. They’ve run into each other a couple more times, and he’s saving a rocket key chain that she dropped. He’s bullied at school, and it turns out that he was affected by the same space tragedy of “The Lion” that overshadows Asumi’s life. Despite his initial defensiveness, Kiriu and Asumi end up bonding a little bit. Asumi heads out to a more serious test of her skill as the trainees are placed in capsules and dropped of at random points in the wilderness. This is to simulate what might happen in the event of a crash landing, and Asumi is all alone without anyone to support her. An extended flashback sequence brings up more questions about Marika and Mr. Lion, as he’s shown as a young boy befriending a sick girl who seems to be trapped in her house most of the time. The boy builds a giant rocket model clubhouse out in the woods near her house, and the girl sneaks away to join him. Mr. Lion thinks “I never knew her name…their faces look similar but the age difference is too great.” When he visits his old clubhouse he sees the names Marika and Mr. Lion etched into a metal panel. Asumi’s struggles in the woods contrast with the young Mr. Lion’s attempts to befriend a lonely and sick girl.

Twin Spica Volume 6

Every few volumes Twin Spica will make me feel all weepy. Asumi manages to work her way through the wilderness challenge without a compass. When she meets up with her friends she’s surprised to see that they were all given compasses. I wonder if someone is deliberately trying to make Asumi wash out of the program. When Asumi sees that everyone is there except Marika, she decides to head back and search for her missing friend along with her other classmates. Marika has already been rescued and is resting safely, but when she sees what is happening on a monitor, she’s overcome with emotion. Shu quietly notices Asumi’s skills and concludes that she’s his biggest rival in the astronaut program. Kiriu and Asumi continue to spend some time together. Asumi has an encounter with a stoic astronaut who used to be a friend of Mr. Lion. He comes to lecture at the school and isn’t a particularly good storyteller, but Asumi runs into him after class and positions him on a bench with the ghost of Mr. Lion next to him. The ghostly Mr. Lion plays his harmonica and the astronaut is able to remember the days back when he was younger sitting with his lost friend on a roof. Mr. Lion quietly observes Marika. She’s affected when she hears a comment Asumi makes when her class completes an exercise of putting together a piece of equipment from spare parts, “Even though it’s the same thing with the same parts, it feels totally different.” Mr. Lion struggles with telling Asumi what he knows about Marika. There’s a constant tension between the past and the future in Twin Spica, as the different lives of the characters become more connected and intertwined. It makes for very rewarding reading, and Yaginuma’s simple and sometimes childlike character designs allow him to explore heavy emotional territory with a light and subtle touch.

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