One of the things I was most excited about when Viz launched their digital store was the possibility that some of their backlist shoujo titles would get released in digital format. The one series I was most wanting to experience again was Please Save My Earth. I read the first few volumes of the series many years ago, but dropped it. At the time I was a bit frustrated about the lack of forward movement in the story, even though I thought the manga was interesting and well-constructed. I know that plenty of people have read the whole series and consider it a favorite so I was anxious to give it a second try.
The first volume opens by introducing the slightly strange heroine of Please Save My Earth. Alice has just moved to Tokyo from Hokkaido, and she’s having a hard time adjusting. She has an affinity towards plants and feels cut off from nature in the big city. Alice is tormented by an oddly precocious neighbor boy named Rin. As she’s excaping the stress of school she happens upon an oddly intimate conversation between two of her male classmates, Jinpachi and Issei. At first Alice thinks that she’s stumbled across a moment from a yaoi manga and concludes “this is what manga fangirls are supposed to weep with joy over!” Later, Jinpachi and Issei explain the meaning behind their conversation – every night they share the same dreams where they are male and female scientists marooned on the moon.
Rin has an accident while Alice is babysitting him and is in a coma for several days. When he wakes up, the bratty boy seems to be taken over by a much more cynical and manipulative personality and he begins to exhibit an obsessiveness over Alice that would be even more disturbing in a grown man. Alice has a dream where she’s a woman named Mokuren, on the moon with Shion, the man she loves.
As the early part of the series progresses, Alice, Jinpachi, and Issei start tracking down other people who share their alien moon dreams by placing an ad in a kooky paranormal magazine. They start having regular meetings, trying to piece together the history of what happened to the alien scientists. Many of the feelings of the adult scientists tend to transfer over to their female incarnations, as Jinpachi starts to exhibit signs of the unrequited love his counterpart Gyokuran had for Mokuran/Alice and Issei/Enju remains on the sidelines.
Hiwatari’s art shifts back and forth from a cartoonish classic 80s style showing the schoolkids to a much more lush and detailed way of portraying life on the moon. One thing that I’d forgotten that I noticed much more the second time around were the touches of humor included in the story such as a random Saint Seiya reference and the occasional mention of shoujo magazine publishing conventions. Jinpachi is congratulated on his emotional conviction when he’s so stirred that he has to be portrayed in a two page spread.
A manga that focused only on characters sharing their dreams about being teeny tiny aliens on the moon might not seem to be very compelling reading on the surface, but there’s plenty of dramatic tension in the way the Moon and Earth stories intersect. The aliens are the last outpost of a dying race, spending their remaining time observing the Earth. But some events show Mokuren and Shion together after all of their companions have died off from an unexpected disease. The mystery behind the final days of the aliens is tricky to put together, as the events shown in the dream flashbacks shift forwards and backwards in time.
Rin is Shion reincarnated, and it is difficult to tell if his scheming is a desperate attempt to put things right or a form of revenge for being left alone on the Moon base for so long that he went insane. Rin is able to manipulate both the adults and high school kids around him, tagging along with Alice and coming up with an elaborate scheme to hide his true reincarnated identity. There’s a bit of a race against time element at play, as the other reincarnated high schoolers start to piece together more and more information about their previous lives, Rin may be able to manipulate them into revealing some information that would allow him to access the dormant alien technology from Earth. Rin also has developed psychic powers, which makes him quite terrifying as a hidden antagonist to the story.
With the digital availability of this series it is very easy to read several volumes at once, and I think that will end up being the most rewarding option for most readers. I wonder if part of the reason why I was starting to grow impatient the first time around was due to delays between volumes. The story of Please Save My Earth progresses in a very compelling way, with past lives informing the reader of the character’s current motivations. I’m interested to see if they are going to play out their tragic fates again, or if free will and the changed personalities of Alice and her gang are going to cause their lives to take a turn for the better. I’m happy to have the chance to revisit this series.