Monday, January 31, 2011

The Stellar Six of Gingacho Volume 2

By Yuuki Fujimoto. Released in Japan as "KiramekiGingachou Shoutengai" by Hakusensha, serialized in the magazine Hana to Yume. Released in North America by Tokyopop.

As we get into the 2nd volume of Stellar Six, the title has just transitioned from the 6-times-per-year short-series magazine The Hana to Yume to the 24-times-a-year long haul Hana to Yume. As a result, you can, as with many Volume 2s, feel the gears grinding a bit as the author starts to plan things out for a longer run. A lot of Volume 2 is hitting the plot points Vol. 1 hit for the larger readership that HtY has: friendship is forever, and Mike and Kuro are going to be a couple once the denseness ends.

The manga is very big about stressing the impermanence of all things, and Mike's struggles to rage against this are almost getting a bit much. I appreciate the nostalgia factor that the author is using, and indeed we root for Mike to be able to reunite her gang of 6 in 20 years when they'll all still be BEST BUDS, but you can also see that this is causing her to wear blinders a bit. She's the perky innocent young girl (now 15 years old instead of the 13 of Volume 1), but it almost seems to bit TOO much. I'm sure this will end with Mike getting her wish, but I hope that some of the pains of becoming an adult hit her here as well.

As for Mike and Kuro, the relationship between them provides much of the humor in the volume. It is obvious to everyone except Mike that Kuro is in love with her. Mike clearly is in love with him as well, but has no idea what that kind of love means, and when she tries to think about it too hard she just sort of freezes up. Meanwhile, Kuro is better at knowing his own feelings, but still hasn't quite gotten what Mike's 'electric shocks to her chest' are, so he's still thinking that the love is all on his end. It's the stuff shoujo manga is made of, and can get frustrating if dragged on too long. Luckily, this is only 10 volumes long, so they should be OK. There's also a healthy jolt of lampshading from the four friends, especially Iba-chan and Q, who make the best 'you are angering us with your dumb' expressions.

As for the other four, they're still pretty underdeveloped. The author notes in her end of the volume chatter that she hopes to give them more of a focus in the upcoming volumes, which will be good. They're nice and all, but I want to know more about them than their basic obvious personality. So far, Mamoru is my favorite, with a sense of humor that appeals to be greatly. "I am Uromam."

There is a short story at the end of this, one of the author's debut pieces (she says it's her first, but she sold two others before this one, which will be seen in the final volume of Stellar Six). It lacks the flair and polish of the main work, as is typical with these fill out the 2nd volume with one-shots chapters. There is a bit of a science-fiction edge to it, but you get the sense that this was just added to make the work have something to say beyond the standard 'I am moving away, and we will never see each other again, but we will always be bestest friends 4-evah'. It doesn't help that the last chapter of Stellar Six we get here deals with leaving your old friends also, and is far smoother.

So, not quite as fun as Volume 1, but still a great deal of fun. I expect we'll be seeing some long-term stuff playing out now that the author is working with a mid-sized series rather than a series of one-shots, and look forward to seeing more of the other 4 of the Stellar Six, even though I know that the stars will continue to be Mike and Kuro and their sweet, clueless love.

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