Vertical continues their release of acclaimed anime director Makoto Shinkai’s back catalogue with a new printing of the manga adaptation of one his earliest works, the 2002 short film Voices of a Distant Star. Mikako Nagamine is recruited as a pilot to fight in the interstellar war against a force of alien invaders, leaving behind her one true love. Mikako’s only connection to Noboru Terao, who continues living the life of an ordinary student, is through cell phone text messages. As Mikako travels light years away, it takes longer and longer for Noboru to receive her messages, until finally one arrives eight years and seven months after she sent it…
A theme that has been prevalent in most of Shinkai’s since the beginning is distance and connections. Voices of a Distant Star takes this theme to the furthest level possible with the distance between the two main characters crossing time and space. It is a unique merging of sci-fi and teen drama not often seen as the alien battle takes a backseat to the communication between Mikako and Noboru. The battle with the Tharsians is constantly referred to and the alien threat that Earth’s force are going up against is always in the background. But it is Mikako’s attempts at text messages and subsequent long waits which are the most enthralling parts. Text messaging as a form of communication is something most take for granted. So when it gets to the point where it takes over a year for your message to be delivered, it takes on a whole other dimension.
Both Mikako and Noburo make efforts to carry on with their lives (with Mikako making new friends amongst her comrades and Noburo almost getting a girlfriend from the archery club at his school), but both find their minds constantly fixated on the other as the length of time it takes for their messages to arrive gets longer and longer. In an especially tragic twist – because of time dilation -Mikako is aging at a slower rate than Noboru meaning she is still 16 years old whilst he is racing towards graduation. As with most Shinkai projects, it provides plenty of punches to the gut and has a unique theme that makes most long distance relationships look tame in comparison. The tragedy of Mikako’s situation is particularly harrowing and it never gets any easier for her. Given that this manga version has more space to expand on the original story, Mizu Sahara does a top notch job of building on the themes and set-pieces of the film without anything coming off as forced or meaningless. She is no slouch in the art department either with plenty of stunning pages depicting melancholic teenage life and the odd space battle sprinkled in being the perfect accompaniment to Shinkai’s crushing plot.
Fans of Makoto Shinkai who missed this manga when originally published by Tokyopop will want to pick this up as it is a vital entry in any Shinkai library, whilst anyone who has recently discovered his work after the monumental success of Your Name should not miss this chance to delve deeper into the early work of one of the heavyweights of today’s anime industry.
Voices of a Distant Star is out now from Vertical
9781945054662 – P/B – £10.99
Post by Leo