I was drawn to this slice-of-life science fiction manga as soon as I saw the beautiful cover art by author/illustrator Hisae Iwaoka. The series is a glimpse into the daily life of Mitsu and the other inhabitants of the Ring System, a man made structure that floats above the long abandoned Earth. The ring itself is divided into three levels, which indicate social status. Mitsu resides in the overcrowded lower level, inhabited mainly by laborers. At the beginning of the series, Mitsu has finished his schooling and begins work as a window washer donning a space suit to clean the outside of the Ring. It is a dangerous job and claimed the life of Mitsu’s well-loved father, Aki, five years prior (though Iwaoka drops clues that lead readers to question the details surrounding Aki’s death).
The first few chapters in the series introduce us to the people Mitsu encounters in his work. Window washing is expensive so Mitsu often finds himself working in the upper levels, interacting with the quirky inhabitants. Most in the ring don’t get to wander beyond their own level, so Mitsu has a unique look at life throughout the ring. Often his viewpoint is from outside the ring as he cleans windows, looking into apartments as if they’re dioramas.
Most science fiction series lean toward action, so I enjoy that Iwaoka allows us to explore the Saturn Apartments and meet its characters, without a sense of impending doom. I adore Iwaoka’s exterior landscapes outside the ring as well as the wide views of the interior levels. The contrast between the crowded lower level and the sparseness of the exterior ring make me feel both claustrophobic and weightless; a sensation I imagine one would encounter living in space. As the series progresses, Iwaoka hints at some exciting narrative possibilities and questions about what is left of planet Earth. Perhaps we’ll soon get to visit our old home world and see what the future holds for humanity. In the meantime, I have enjoyed learning about day to day life in the Ring.
This series is not just for hardcore manga fans. If anything, it may be more appealing to those who enjoy indie comics and offers an easy introduction into reading Japanese style comics.
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-Ruth Houston, Teen Services, Teen Underground, Main Library