Friday, April 14, 2017

Madowanai Hoshi, vol. 2 review

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Madowanai Hoshi, vol. 2, Masayuki Ishikawa. Grade: A

惑わない星 (Madowanai Hoshi, or "Not Lost Planet"). The books seem to be coming out on a yearly schedule, so it's going to take a while for this series to wrap up. Also, CrunchyRoll had announced last year April that Ishikawa was taking a break from the series due to fatigue, but that news article is missing from their site now, and I don't know how much of an impact it had on the production of the chapters at that time. Anyway, volume two hit the shelves in Kagoshima at the end of March.

(Inside front cover)

It's really hard to summarize this volume, because there's no real action or plot breaks. Essentially, it's a combination physics primer and social commentary, mixed in with the current planets standing around and anticipating the arrivals of their fellow sister planets. As a recap, the Earth is a mess. The oceans are black sludge, and the atmosphere is a constant coal gray cyclone. Japan has turned into a giant domed community with its people divided into "insiders" and "outsiders". Insiders live and work within the dome, generally as animators for producing the daily anime that's projected everywhere. The outsiders live in the dome, but they have to commute outside for their jobs.

(Inside back cover)

S-zawa and Hazuki Oikawa are two such outsiders; S-zawa mans a communications outpost, and Oikawa works with him as a garbage salvager. Because he has so much free time, S-zawa had broadcast a message to outer space, effectively saying "help save our planet." As a result, several women, all the personifications of some of the other planets in our solar system, arrive on Earth to help their ailing sister, who is named "Chikyuu" (the Japanese word for "Earth".) Oikawa wants to help, too, but S-zawa keeps claiming that there's nothing he can do himself.

(cast of characters)

In this volume, Tsuki (Moon) changes to its human shape - a bunny girl who can only communicate through a computer console - to watch a Gundam-like anime in the main dome, and now she's angry because humans don't understand basic physics. Like, space can't go to -500 degrees C, and sound doesn't travel through a vacuum. Tsuki tries to teach S-zawa and Oikawa about simple things like gravity and rocket propulsion through interactive experiments, and the other planets try to help by using the holodeck to show the relative scales of the planets, and ultimately the Milky Way galaxy's position within the known universe. Tsuki also attempts to explain how she was born as the result of a collision between Earth and Theia, as speculated by Earth scientists. But most of this goes over the two humans' heads.

(Tsuki tries to teach the humans about gravity.)

Meanwhile, some of the remaining planets approach Earth and threaten to destroy it in the collisions, until one of the individuals in the dome (Oikawa or one of the other planets) sends an electronic invitation to them, which allows them to switch over to their human shape. First is Jupiter, who revels in Earth's lighter gravity. She uses her gravity well ability to compress the local smog cover into a compact little ball, to let the humans see the night sky, and in the process almost destroys one of Saturn's moons as Saturn approaches Earth, too. When Saturn becomes human, we get a series of running gags where Jupiter, Mars and Saturn keep standing too close together and their moons all get jumbled up, and they have to spend the next few hours trying to sort them out again. The science lessons continue, with S-gawa getting more and more banged up by accident. When he asks for the secrets of the universe to be given to him directly, Mercury whispers them in his ear, and literally blows his brains out.

(Jupiter thinks that Saturn is big. Mercury wonders if anyone has information on saving Earth.)

Eventually, S-zawa gets around to asking why the planets know his name already, and they tell him that it's obviously because of the emails he'd broadcast to them during his idle downtime, Unfortunately for him, these "correspondences" consisted of daydreams where he discussed his thoughts about Oikawa. This causes Oikawa to attempt to kill him, and then demand that Tsuki turn on the gravity simulator to crush him like a bug. During this, the next planet knocks at the door and timidly asks if she's at the wrong address. This is Uranus, an incredibly cute young woman who has an inferiority complex because humans keep ridiculing her name. S-zawa and Oikawa promise to behave better. Last to arrive is Neptune, who easily uses her super wind powers to sweep the air clean of smog. (Each of the planets have their own abilities, which are compared against each other.) When all of the planets are assembled together, Earth recovers enough to sit up in her hospital bed, to Tsuki's tearful relief. Everyone, including S-zawa, says that they're happy that she's getting better.

(Mars is happy to help Oikawa teach S-zawa about gravity some more.)

All except Oikawa. We get a flashback showing that she originally was a talented history major in university, but the bureaucrats running the dome had no use for a historian researcher, and she was forced to work outside the dome sorting garbage. She blames Earth for her misfortune and demands to know how Earth could have let things get this bad. However, before she can answer, Earth collapses into a coma again. Mercury decides that Pluto was right, the humans are to blame and none of this is their business. Mercury, Jupiter, Saturn, Neptune and Mars leave, but when they get out of the dome, they hear someone calling them. The volume ends with the five planets traveling out into space and realizing that the voice is coming from the direction of the Sun.

(Earth recovers for a few minutes; Tsuki is happy to see her awake again.)

The omake is a 3-page history of Earth's attempts to send satellites to explore Venus. The Russians especially failed spectacularly, and Venus thanks them for helping her increase the number of "moons" (i.e. - dead lumps of metal) she has orbiting her.

(The book includes a nice little sticker. "Hello, I'm Moon".)

Summary: Lots of political and social commentary again, especially regarding Japan's willingness to bury its head in the ground over the damage the country is doing to the environment. By implication, all other countries have their hands dirty, too, but the disappearing into an anime-only society results in a loss of an understanding of basic math and the sciences. Madowanai Hoshi then acts as a kind of physics and astronomy primer for high school and university students. The artwork is great and the female characters are cute, which helps make the story more palatable. I consider it a fun refresher of my university classes. Recommended.

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