Sunday, August 06, 2006

MANGA REVIEW - The Voices of a Distant Star

The Voices of a Distant Star (Hoshi no Koe)
Original Concept by Makoto Shinkai
Adapted by Mizu Sahara

In the interest of full disclosure here the anime version of this story always makes me cry. When I first heard about the anime I thought the central plot device of text messages rather fromagesque however once I actually saw the anime I got it. The anime has a combination of excellent animation and excellent music, both of which serve the emotional punch of the story.

The year is 2046. Humans have made it to Mars and encountered an alien race, the Tarsians, living there. Both the anime and manga are vague on what exactly happens but the first contact ends poorly and thus Earth has united in tracking the Tarsians down. Against this background The Voices of a Distant Star tells the story of Noboru and Mikako, two young students who are in love. They’re at the end of their years in middle school and working on passing their exams to get into high school (which happens around 15 in Japan.) They’re not boyfriend and girlfriend however they spend a lot of time together. Then Mikako is selected to join the mission to track down the Tarsians as a Tracer pilot, the Tracers being the token piece of mecha in the story. Once Mikako leaves Earth for her training she and Noboru keep in touch via text messages. Due to the distances involved the time for messages to travel between the fleet and Earth continues to grow longer and longer.

This is the emotional crux of the story. As the physical distance between Mikako and Noboru the messages they pass back and forth become more and more intimate. They long to be with each other. Slowly they come to admit they love each other however by the time they come to this admission Noboru is 25 and Mikako is still just 16.

I really enjoyed the manga adaptation as it did everything a good adaptation is supposed to do. It deepens the story, allowing the characters to inhabit and interact with a larger world while keeping the core story the same. I am still confused about one thing, though. Why does Mikako continue to wear her school uniform in space? It seems a little silly but I am guessing it was an artistic decision to show how Mikako maintains her innocence and does not actually age throughout the story.

All in all I found this a superior adaptation of an excellent anime. If you have not seen the anime I definitely recommend it and I definitely recommend this manga as well.

You can buy the manga, anime, and soundtrack from Amazon.

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