By Dustin Cabeal
My oh, my, is there a lot of character development in this volume of Astra. We also finally go back to their home planet and see how the folks are holding up with the kids being gone. I was wondering when the story would flip back to earth, but Kenta Shinohara surprised me in that the scene with the parents didn’t play out like I thought it would at all.
When we go back to the crew of the Astra, they have landed on their third planet… which is a goddamn paradise. There are talks of just staying on the beach planet, but of course, that wouldn’t be much of a story… or would it! With an ensemble cast like Astra, the focus is always going to jump from one character to another. There are three underdeveloped characters left to tackle, and that’s exactly what this volume does. On the paradise island we find out how Ulgar and Luca’s life are intertwined, but not until a significant bit of drama. The connection gets the group thinking about how they’re all connected, but they’re just not there yet. It’s interesting because apparently people are either holding back info or it just hasn’t dawned on them yet. Much in the case of how Ulgar was connected to Luca’s family.
They’re forced to leave paradise because as it turns out, it's not paradise all the time. On their way to the fourth planet, they try to suss out their connection when it’s revealed that Charce has been holding back info. He tries to play it off when Aries calls out his lie, but it doesn’t work… because she’s still got that photographic memory of hers. He reveals that he too was a transfer student and we learn all about his backstory. There’s also the possibility of a connection between him and Aries that she’s unaware of. The romance between Aries and Kanata begins with a big push from Quitterie which makes for some great, lighthearted scenes.
The mystery of this story is only half the reason to read it. There are a lot of genres at work here with the space adventure, the scientific elements of each planet and there are two mysteries now, who wants them dead and how is the mole? What’s even crazier is the ending for this volume because in a typical manga everyone would shout yay and the story would move on, but not our gang. They’re freaked out and confused because something impossible is happening to them which, bingo, means we have a third mystery going on. My bet is time-travel, but we’ll see.
The writing continues to be strong. The character development is methodical and paces the story perfectly. The characters that are focused on fit the planet that they’re on. Their talents are shown, their weaknesses exposed and their backstory revealed to the perfect location. More than likely Zack will be the focus of the next volume and possibly Kanata as well, and I won’t be too surprised if they have more hidden in their past waiting to be discovered.
The artwork is wonderful. Sure this was the obligatory bikini volume, but the story doesn’t dwell on the fanservice, but instead gets it over with and moves on. The passion and heart of the characters come through in the art. Ulgar goes through a range of emotions, from happiness to rage, to utter defeat. He’s a new character by the end of this story, and it will be interesting to see what comes of him next. The art certainly refreshes him which was a nice touch. The action continues to be easy to follow, while the alien planets are imaginative and unique. Seeing the different planets has become one of my favorite aspects of this series.
Astra: Lost in Space is a genre crushing story. It has so much going on that I wouldn’t dare say it’s just “a sci-fi murder mystery,” because it’s not. There’s something for everyone with this story, but the three different mysteries going on continue to push this story forward in exciting ways, while completed supported by the sci-fi adventure that’s running concurrently. I’m already looking forward to more.
Astra: Lost in Space vol. 3