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.
Foreshadowing can be a dangerous thing, especially when we want to be wrong. In amongst all of the love of space and hope for the future and plucky youngsters banding together, Twin Spica has taken us to some very uncomfortable places. And this volume makes us realize that they aren’t going away, and that our gang of five is not going to be together forever like many a manga series before it. Real life is intervening.
It’s especially ironic given that we also deal in this volume with the sheer stubborn determination to never give up that several of the lead characters have. Marika’s poor self-image and distrust of her own feelings and memories wars with her determination to go past that and see what she can achieve as her own person. Fuchuya continuing to persevere despite the fact that it still appears that he only is doing this so that he can be near Asumi. And of course Asumi herself, who may be incredibly tiny but still has the endurance of most grown men, and is running herself half to death even on her days off.
The middle of this volume shows the five kids relaxing once again in Asumi’s hometown for a vacation. It’s mentioned several times that they should try to do this every year – in fact, it starts to be a little ominous. And once Marika reveals her secret to the others, we begin to suspect that this story is going to end, if it does pick one, with only Asumi actually making it out into space. I don’t know any spoilers, but the basic theme of “keep on trying even if you lose your dream” seems to speak to that. Powerful words, but they can be hard to live up to.
In addition to Fuchuya’s crush, hidden to Asumi but obvious to everyone else, there’s also Kei and Shu. Her crush is even less hidden, and it’s possible that Shu does know about it, but he’s so inscrutable that it’s hard to get a handle on him. Their scene together at the festival is really sweet and heartwarming, giving you a brief look at typical awkward high school romance in a series that in generally not about that.
And then we get that ending, which I will attempt not to spoil. Again, I note Twin Spica’s ability to be both uplifting and soul crushing at the same time. The majority of this volume has tended towards the former, so we were probably due. Of course, it’s mostly a cliffhanger here, and I’m sure we will deal with the fallout in volume 11. But I admire the author’s ability to convey on the page what’s going on – that feeling where your heart stops, your head is buzzing and dizzy, and you want to deny everything that’s being told to you. This is where the silence of the printed page works best.
Due to Vertical’s condensing of the series into 12 volumes, we’re only 2 away from the end. (I believe that this volume was half of 11 and all of 12 in Japan). I’ll miss it. Asumi is a heroine you really want to root for, and I’m really curious as to how realistic this series will get. Will one of the group – OK, will Asumi if we’re honest – he able to get past all the roadblocks and make it into space? Or will this be like all those sports mangas that show the team all coming together but losing in the semifinals? And will I be able to read the start of Volume 11 without curling into a tiny little ball?