Warning, Contains Spoiler
The front cover art of the 1st volume of Kanata no Astra.
Note: As of this review, I have not watched the TV Anime series of Kanata no Astra. The following is based on my opinions of the Manga tankoubon of the series of which I personally own.
The back cover art of the 1st volume of Kanata no Astra.
Now, if you have not read the Manga nor have the tankoubon at your side, visit your nearby bookstore and get all the 5 volumes of Kanata no Astra now! Heh, that probably may have sounded a little too forceful. The series is definitely one of the best I have read so far. Since last year was overall a bad year for me, trust me, I did not read much nor did I see much the industry had got to offer. I am glad nevertheless, to have picked up Kanata no Astra (for short, let us call it Astra) after hearing positive review about it.
After reading the entire tankoubon, I can assure you that, you do not necessarily have to be a science fiction enthusiast to enjoy Astra. A casual reader too would have enjoyed it.
The first chapter as one of the main characters, Aries gets ready for the school camp.
The series was certainly short, but it was precise. It knew what it wanted to be from the very beginning. I read through every comments there were in the tankoubon the author have had about Astra. I am just really glad that it was not any longer. The notion of anything being long for the sake of being long is just ridiculous in my opinion. Having things ended where it should be is most favourable to keep the narrative consistent and without any waste. Astra is exactly what you would want from a Manga. It is focused. It draws you in page by page. You grow attached to the characters. To boot, some very good comedy can also be found. Well, this did come from the Mangaka responsible for Sket Dance. That series was hilarious too.
What made Astra work, was how the progression of the story took place. From one arc to another everything was placed calculatively. As if it was penned out way before it was done. As a result, you got a really smooth read. There might be some ad-hoc scenarios added to the narrative, but I had not notice anything that was added in such a way. The flow of the story was nice. Especially with the Mangaka’s choosing to only have 9 characters in the series. Doing so allowed the characters’ backstories to be explored and fleshed out ensuring us readers get a good understanding of their motivations. This also made it easier to expand the relationships among the characters. We see them grow closer, as a person and as a family. The bonds can be seen constructed as the story progresses. Not everything was thrown in to you in one chapter. They were laid out nicely to help us follow the characters as they journey through space. Had this been 15 characters the author had originally set out to be, the pacing may have suffered. How things would have intertwined may have looked like a jumble of cables mushed together. It would have been messy. So, I am glad that it stayed the way it did. Simple, yet fulfilling.
The first chapter introducing the lead male character, Kanata.
The story of Astra was of course more than that. Setting in quite a far future – around a hundred years to be exact – humanity had advanced where interstellar space travel was frequent. It started with a group of students thrust into a school camp only to find themselves up in space 5,000 light years away from their original supposed destination. Through a wormhole they find themselves stranded next to a ship. Filled with the feeling of wanting to go home so much, the crew banded together though things were not as rosy in the beginning of their relationship.
As we journey further, we learned that human civilization was wiped out by a giant asteroid. Humanity, did not go along with the idea of extinction and sought ways to overcome the calamity that was bound to happen. Thus, artificial wormholes were built, and space explorers were sent out in search of a new planet to dwell. Things got really interesting after. To ensure peace, the new human civilization founded on a planet called Astra, rid themselves of boundaries. There was no religion. No countries. No race. All was one. One language, one identity. Did this solve conflicts? That may be one of the points the Manga presented which may have been overlooked. Astra is not only a story about a bunch of teenagers just trying to get home, it was a story of human’s greed and selfishness that led them to do a lot of horrible things. Despite having removed almost everything that were potential causes of conflicts, humans still resort to evil. They sought to cover up past mistakes with lies, and led people astray saying that they were doing it for the greater good of mankind.
The first chapter as the main characters first arrived on the first planet McPA.
The story of Astra, was the story of triumph. A story where one should embrace the past and not let others dictate your future. It was the story where David trumps Goliath. The Goliath being all the odds against an inexperienced group of people whose parents sought to remove from existence. It is the perseverance that led the clique of students back to their home planet. There were not much food nor water. Hopping from one planet to another. Facing all sorts of challenges just to stay alive and to get back home. They did, and they did it by understanding each other. Alone, and they fail, together and they would be able to overcome whatever obstacles. It was also the power of belief. Almost everything, the new civilization was trying to get rid of. However, the troupe accepted how humans of the old lived their lives. No matter what past they had, they were taken note of, and they move forward knowingly what someone have done in the past. It is the past, and the mistakes humans made, the belief that we have that made us who we are today. It was the environment, the experience. Had there been no war, would humanity have learnt the horrors of war? Had there been no mistakes, would we ever get this far? That was one of the lessons Astra had.
The first chapter as the gang got thrown out into space.
As for the dialogue, yes. Every once in a while you will see lines screaming friendship! Or, “… it is because we’re friends!” etc. What many of us may call a shounen cliché. Actually, they did not bother me one bit at all. In fact, they felt like the most natural thing to say. The dialogues did not feel at all forceful. Likewise, some of the comedy elements too. Though, you will have to read paragraphs of expositions along the way. I can imagine some people already being put off by that. Regardless, they felt necessary. Could they have been better? I think they fit the narrative really well.
Characters of Kanata no Astra, source: Livedoor
The characters were all charming. Apart from really well drawn, they had a myriad of personalities. Kanata was charismatic. A little rough at the beginning, he grew to become a capable leader. Aries was bubbly. Rather than being a damsel in frequent distress, she contributed a lot to the team’s survival. Although some may be typical characters of what you may find almost in a lot of other series, the author did a commendable job building the bond not just among these characters but also with the readers. Their backstory added more to their personalities, their sufferings and their experiences too. Midway, you find yourselves already attached to them. The reason is simple. As they grow, we grow on them too. This is what made the characters so lovable. Add a little comedy spice unto them, the better they became. Kanata and Luca were hilarious. Even the often serious and expressionless, Zack too had his moments. These characters were a major factor to the success of the story. Astra would not have been the same way had the characters not developed and progress the way they did.
The art, simply put. Brilliant. Every page, was a turner. So much detail, so much care. Each panel was drawn beautifully. From character designs to the planets – in my opinion, they look much better on the tankoubon though. The author also mentioned that these were drawn digitally. And that it was the first time he had done so. He did really if I must say, an astounding job. Every planet had their own unique quirk and character that brought them to life. It was interesting. From there, you can really feel how much thought have gone into creating them.
Verdict: Amazing. If I had to pick, at this point just me nitpicking, it would have been one part of the narrative that threw me off a little. Other than that, Kanata no Astra was a great read. Beautifully drawn arts, great characters and great storytelling. If you find one at your nearby bookstore, do pick them up. You won’t regret them.
You can check out:
1. The first RAW of chapter 1 here: Shonen Jump Plus
2. The first 3 chapters in English for free here: Viz
3. Buy the tankoubon here: Vol. 1, Vol. 2, Vol. 3, Vol. 4, Vol. 5 (You can always copy the ISBN code and paste them onto your preferred site)
All images were taken from Shonen Jump Plus as linked above. Featured image is from the front cover of volume 3 of the Manga.
Have you read Kanata no Astra? What are your thoughts about it? Let me know if I should start on the Anime right now! Let me know too, which is better if you have done both, the Manga or Anime down below:
Most importantly, do share your thoughts down below!
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