"Twin Spica Vol. 3" Once Upon a Time in Outer Space
The first class of Japanese students training for space flight have their work cut out for them. After a disastrous manned mission puts a blight on the concept, it’s up to the children of today to prove that we need them as the astronauts of tomorrow. Meek Asumi is aided by the ghost of a member of the failed mission, Mr. Lion, but her true hope lies in the support of her friends. Can she and the others make it to space? Does everyone else want them to?
It must be made clear: Sure, Twin Spica is basically about a space academy, but this is not a Space Cases sci-fi story. It’s futuristic in the sense that it takes place years from now, but not much has changed outside of the establishment of a school to study for space. There’s no crazy space action; in fact, most of the action occurs off panel or before this volume opens, with the space shuttle Lion having broken up upon launch and caused massive civilian death and damage. Realistically, you could say this was set in modern day America years after the Challenger disaster at a NASA training camp and it would be the same story. The location and time honestly don’t matter; it’s the characters and story that do.
The first arc of the book concerns the fact that not everyone in Asumi’s class will end up going to space, just because of space and time issues. When a teacher confronts them about it, this reality could either split up her group, or bring them closer together. The later arc focuses on an overprotected girl trying to break free of her confines and surviving in the world of space school. The last two, shorter stories are much more somber in tone, both dealing with classmates that could have used a little more attention earlier on in their days.
Kou Yaginuma’s art style is a perfect fit for the tone of his story; it’s purely about the innocence of youth and the time that you spend in school. Awkwardly, for a story focusing on space, we rarely if at all get a look into his astronomical work; in fact, the most sci-fi or technological thing we see is a chair to test out functionality in g-force, and even then, it either does exists or is a slight deviation on an established concept. The true highlight is the characterization. There are characters who put on a tough façade, but there are no real villains in the story. It’s all real people trying to do their best.
One issue with the story is the pacing. While it moves at a nice, slow pace befitting the slice-of-life style, it still is around fifty pages longer than the recent Superman: Earth One story, which is a complete origin story and action story: effectively, the print equivalent of a full-length motion picture. Twin Spica‘s third volume contains six chapters and a short story, and it still only feels like an episode or two of a slow-paced series. This is not a bad thing, and it’s a bit like comparing a Michael Bay action epic with a few episodes of an ABC Family drama. But when you’re spending about the same amount of money and time on consuming each, you just need to make sure this is the pace and project you’re wanting to sign up for.
Twin Spica‘s succeeds in emotion. Seeing Mr. Lion witness a wedding is nearly heartbreaking, alongside the effects of the death of someone you barely know, and yet it still hurts. It’s appropriately balanced with hopes and dreams, much like the best of Pixar films. Yet, a Pixar film manages to get a good amount of action in there, while the most action that comes on in this story is someone falling down a small cliff. Once again, this is just a slice-of-life, slowly paced drama, so don’t expect too much action.
Twin Spica is a honestly heartfelt love-letter to the concept of exploring space, and it, rather unintentionally but ironically, comes at a time when space exploration is slowing down for monetary reasons. If anything, it is a resounding affirmation of man’s need to explore the stars, and that drive needs to be cultivated at a young age.