Viz Media’s Astra Lost in Space Vol. 2 collects chapters 8-18 of the sci-fi comedy series. Written and drawn by Kenta Shinohara, Astra Lost in Space follows nine grade schoolers on their quest to survive in outer space after getting mysteriously teleported thousands of light years away from Earth. In this volume, the protagonists face the revelation that their teleportation might not have been an accident, and that there might be a murderer in their midst. They also stop for supplies on an alien world where the flora and fauna are not what they initially seem. Does this volume handle the suspenseful subject matter well while still remaining humorous? Is it good?
The sense of mystery and danger in this volume is impressive. I was engrossed by the plot from the get-go, largely because Shinohara makes sure that none of the major plot points are predictable. Most of the main characters have distinct personalities, and none of them stick out as the likely villain. Most of them are also quite likable. The group leader, Kanata, is my favorite because of his humorous survival tips. He literally drops survival advice into normal conversation, reciting bits of it as if he has a full enumerated list memorized. Another cast member who stands out is Yun-Hua; her character arc about anxiety and self-expression is one of the most well-developed aspects of this volume.
My favorite parts of this volume plot-wise are those that take place on the planet Shummoor. I appreciate any sci-fi creator who acknowledges that life on other planets would likely be very different from our expectations or perceptions, and Shinohara does that. The Gloopies, a species of mountable, bipedal animals, are adorable. The planet’s fungi are also cool–what sci-fi ever bothers to include alien fungi? Major props to Shinohara for that, too.
I also enjoy the artwork in this volume. The characters’ facial expressions are great throughout both gag moments and more suspenseful scenes. Shummoor is also pleasing to look at, thanks largely to its charming variety of native species. The art does have some downsides though. Some of the fan-service is uncomfortable given the young age of the characters being depicted. This uneasiness is only heightened by the fact that the characters who are most often drawn nude or or otherwise sexualized also receive the least character development.
Astra Lost in Space Vol. 2 is a fun sci-fi adventure with mystery, humor, impressive artwork, and unique alien lifeforms. Most of the characters get some time to shine and the pacing is solid throughout. This volume does a good job building anticipation for the series’ next installment, which I am looking forward to reading.