One of the series that I have been regularly following with each new chapter has been Astra: Lost in Space. Initially released as single chapters for free, the manga is finally getting a trade release in digital and print form.
Here’s the description for this volume:
In the year 2063, interstellar space travel has become the norm. What sort of adventure awaits on the new frontier?
It’s the first day of Planet Camp, and Aries Spring couldn’t be more excited! She, along with eight other strangers, leave for Planet McPa for a weeklong excursion. Soon after they arrive, however, a mysterious orb appears and transports them into the depths of space, where they find an empty floating spaceship…
The Initial Reaction
Much like The Promised Neverland, I’ve been following Astra: Lost in Space for quite a while (starting back in June 2017) and it’s been an interesting read to say the least. This series is good; REALLY good, especially as time goes on and more revelations come to life. However, after rereading it again, it’s almost quaint how quiet, unsuspecting, and very typical the beginning of the volume is. Sure, there are some interesting moments and hooks, but the first volume does not signal all of the shock, surprises, and memorable character moments that are to come in the future.
The first volume of _Astra: Lost in Space_starts off pretty decent all around, laying out all the groundwork for what will come. The first two chapters set up the situation and trouble the characters are in and what their plans are for getting back home. The rest of the book is about the cast reaching their first planet and gathering supplies, where we build up some mysteries, establish everyone personality-wise, and even get into some decent characterization and development already. The book does a solid job establishing everything you need to know and giving you plenty of material to get interested in. Nothing here is badly presented plot or story-wise.
I dunno. Somehow he is making him shine and glitter, so that is kind of impressive.
On the other hand, it’s hard to say this is something that’ll immediately grab you. It feels very familiar and something like you’ve maybe seen before from an old live action kids show, the teen book section, or another manga. It’s a story about a bunch of teens who get lost in space and try to find their way back home, while learning the value of friendship and teamwork. From what’s here, it feels very much like a dime-a-dozen plot and doesn’t show much in the way of intrigue or hook outside of a few moments. As such, from just reading the first volume, it’s easy to recommend it to a younger audience first getting into manga, but maybe not to older fans who’ve seen these kinds of series before. However, knowing what I know and how the manga plays out as time goes on, things get a lot more interesting and more rewarding. It’ll keep its big themes of friendship, but the way things go certainly aren’t as expected as one may think.
There are approximately nine characters introduced and the creator does a decent job introducing them all. Not very in-depth for most mind you, but enough to get a read of their personality and understand each of them (some admittedly do feel like archetypes you’ve seen before, however). There’s Ulgar, who is the brooder and loner of the group. He’s not pleasant or likable, but he is willing to help everyone out so that he can survive and get back home. Luca is a very upbeat, excitable, pleasant character who is prone to being goofy, but is able to buckle down during serious, big moments. Charce is the sort of playboy of the group, flirting with the other girls, but he also helps out with his advanced knowledge of biology and science to benefit the group in its mission. Yun-hua Lu is the shy, reserved girl with little self-confidence in herself. She doesn’t ultimately contribute much at the moment, making her the weakest and least memorable one of the group.
Then there are the characters who have a bit more personality and growth to them. Zack is both very smart and very stoic, rarely ever showing any emotional expression besides stern and neutral. He acts as the team pilot and has a more personal connection to Quitterie, having known her for most of his life and being her only friend (though he doesn’t seem to notice her crush on him). Speaking of which, Quitterie has a bit more going on with her. She’s very stubborn, harsh, and critical towards most — in other words, a jerk. However, her behavior stems from how she was raised. Her mother never once cared for her, leaving her servants to do all the work and never getting her much in the way of social interaction. She’s never been able to make friends due to her ego and selfishness, even affecting her own strained relationship with her adopted sister, Funicia, who is just trying to connect with her. By the end of the volume though, she seems to have grown a bit more, burying the hatchet with most of the characters and learning to be much closer with her baby sister. It’s a quick, speedy character arc, but one that works and still has room for growth.
The last two characters are Aries Spring and Kanata Hoshijima, both of whom serve as our main characters, since the book switches the most between their perspectives. Aries is a ditzy sort of individual — she’s very bright, cheerful, and almost always tries to keep everyone positive and happy. She can make friends very easily and is sort of the heart of the group. Despite that, she is also rather sharp at times and can come up with solutions or ideas to problems, actually being the one that sets them on the path to start making their way home. Meanwhile, Kanata is a very positive, happy character like Aries, but also very realistic and a take-charge kind of a guy. He so wants to be the captain of the group and someone everyone can get behind due to a terrible incident as a kid that pushed him to the brink. It made him change his life and want to go to space, viewing becoming a captain as the way for him to go. He’s brave, courageous, and smart to an extent, but he’s also in over his head. He’s trying his best to lead, but he doesn’t always seem like he knows what to do, like when he is constantly agreeing with everyone in an early chapter when he clearly has no idea. However, he’s also willing to sacrifice and put himself at risk to help people when situations don’t look good. Overall, the two leads are pretty good, if a bit similar to other characters.
Shinohara’s artwork on the manga is perfectly acceptable, though it’s a bit familiar in its style. The characters in particular look rather generic in the body types, hair styles, and face department. None of them are bad and everyone is very distinguishable from each other, but it doesn’t quite jump out or pop like My Hero Academia or The Promised Neverland. The alien and sci-fi designs aren’t too bad though, with a bit of variety and look here. The layouts are very easy to read and follow along with at least, despite never really pushing itself much visually. The most notable thing I took away from the art were the spacesuits and their designs. They look like they are from Mass Effect, especially with how skintight they are and how they ride up people’s asses. It never looked comfortable there and especially doesn’t look good here.
Astra: Lost in Space Vol. 1 is a solid start to a series that has barely begun to show its cards and reveal what it’s truly all about. Knowing what comes next excites a person like me, who has been following Viz’s free chapter releases. However, as it stands by itself and for anyone who knows nothing about the manga, it’s hard to recommend over other series. It just doesn’t feel too special right now. While I do recommend the series, I would say maybe wait for another volume or two before you jump in. This is a manga that gets a lot better the longer it goes.