By Kou Yaginuma. Released in Japan as “Futatsu no Spica” by Media Factory, serialized in the magazine Comic Flapper. Released in North America by Vertical.
In Japan, this was released in two volumes, but it’s probably best for my heart that they came out here in this thick book. After seeing these characters bond and grow over the course of the series, we finally get the fruits of all their labors. After so much tragedy and blame and heartbreak… Japan is returning to space, and our heroes are graduating.
So much of this volume deals with the joy and sorrow of parting – even though they know that they’ll always be friends, the nature of the space school, and the fact that there will be only one student advancing to the final year, means that the idyllic school life that brought them all so close together is gone. We see everyone – even Marika – struggle with this, and trying to see how to go forward in life while still treasuring what they have. This includes, of course, Asumi, who is the student that gets chosen. (Sorry if that spoils you, but come on – she’s the heroine.)
This is not to say that Marika, Kei and Fuchuya don’t get a lot of attention. Not getting one’s dream does not necessarily mean abandoning it, and they all need to find a way to move forward on different paths while still remaining true to their desires to go to space. Whether it be Fuchuya’s preparing to take over the family business and trying to find ways to do fireworks in space; Kei’s love of photography and her pictures of the stars; or even Marika simply trying to find a cure for herself and others like her, this is a cast that has grown tremendously since we started. (The teacher talking about how much Kei’s enthusiasm meant to the class was possibly my favorite moment of the entire volume – that ogre!)
And so Asumi goes to space. And it’s as amazing as it sounds, so I won’t dwell too much on it. Surprisingly, the manga does not end there. Or rather, it’s not that surprising after all – the emotional climax of this series has never been ‘will Asumi get to space’, but about the relationship between Asumi and Mr. Lion. And now that she’s returned and has decided on a teaching career while waiting for the next mission (it’s not like they send a rocket up every 2 weeks, you know), Mr. Lion has realized that at last, there’s nothing really keeping him here. It’s a tough realization – we see a lot of Mr. Lion just sort of bumming around aimlessly here, even more than usual. But he says goodbye to Asumi, and it’s as heartwrenching as it sounds. But beautiful. Like the majority of this series.
In the end, things don’t necessarily end happily ever after for everyone – because this isn’t an ending, their lives will continue. Marika is still struggling with her illness, and we’re not sure if she’ll be able to discover a cure. Fuchuya still hasn’t really confessed to Asumi (who, as a time capsule towards the end reveals, was pretty much hung up on Mr. Lion anyway) so there’s no romantic resolution. But it’s still a great ending. In this cast we have hope not just for their own futures, but for the children of Japan. Seeing all the kids wanting to join the school after seeing Asumi go to space just puts a big grin on your face.
Twin Spica has been quite the journey, and I’ll miss it. Combining realistic depictions of what a space school might be like with the fantastic realism that comes with Marika and Mr. Lion (well, OK, Marika is merely sci-fi extrapolation, but…), and of course the gut-wrenching emotional tugs that are the core of this series. Every time you read it, you want to tear up – both happy tears and sad tears. It’s wonderful to see a series this affecting in North America. I wish Asumi and her friends the best on their outward journeys.