Astra Lost in Space Chapters 8-18 – Manga Review
Astra Lost in Space Synopsis: Itʼs the first day of Planet Camp, and Aries Spring couldnʼt be more excited! She, along with eight other strangers, leave for Planet McPa for a weeklong excursion. Soon after they arrive, however, a mysterious orb appears and transports them into the depths of space, where they find an empty floating spaceship… (Official Viz Synopsis)
(Warning: Spoilers to Follow)
Chapters comprising Astra’s second volume, 8-18, continue from Volume 1 with the supposition that there’s a traitor/spy/murderer aboard. One of our lovable characters is secretly a bad guy, but we just don’t have any idea who. As Astra runs with this plot line, the comedy starts to take a significant backseat and disappears entirely when the ship itself is in jeopardy of destruction. It’s the same thing that happened when our heroes first got stranded in space after the orb absorbed them and teleported them away from Planet McPa. However this plot runs for a much longer length of time, near comprising half of the collected chapters that’ll make up Volume 2.
The series largely succeeds at this shift away from comedy, offering up an increasingly gripping narrative as our band of characters struggles to keep themselves alive. It also acts as our first step towards understanding Yun hau, one of two characters severely under explored up till now. Yun hau is a large girl, quiet, shy and styles her look into something altogether plain and unassuming. Up till now she’s done little to help with the adventure and, despite some efforts to change, Yun hau still comes out useless during this arc. It’s eating her up inside though, and makes for a really compelling slow build.
While comedy doesn’t entirely disappear during this particular arc, it does take a backseat. And what little remains doesn’t actually work all that well. Particularly there’s a scene in Chapter 10 when Aries downplays her photographic memory and Yun Hau exclaims at the explanation. It feels incredibly out of character for Yun Hau, an otherwise deeply troubled and quiet girl, whose entire arc is about coming out of her shell.
Once we’re back to exploring a new planet however, Astra Lost in Space rarely falters. Comedy takes center stage again, at least until our heroes meet their next great challenge of survival. If there was ever a major complaint I could lodge against Astra it’s that these planet missions feel perhaps too formulaic, a flaw in a narrative where our heroes reach each planet desperate for food and water, making their initial footsteps feel a tad too ‘samey.’ For now it’s a minor issue, as Astra’s in its early days, but it’ll be important that the series begin to vary up how these first few moments on a planet play out.
Outside of that this planet arc is strong, stronger than the very first planet they visited in Volume 1. It’s clear plenty of thought went into developing the planet’s life cycle, making for a well thought out adventure, save for the reasoning behind a late story obstacle, which feels far more narrative driven than anything grounded in actual science. It’s a jarring misstep, but one easily overlooked when Yun Hau’s character arc, the other major focus, is so strong.
We learn a lot about Yun Hau, more than perhaps any other member of the crew outside Aries, Kanata, and maybe Quitterie, who’ve already had some backstory explored. The series does an impressive job of tying her character troubles to the problem at hand, and while she doesn’t get to be the outright hero, that still falls to Kanata, she plays a significant role in keeping the crew together while they face death yet again.
Despite a couple missteps here or there, Astra Lost in Space remains a strong sci-fi adventure. It’s comedy gets sidelined when it needs to get more serious, and while that can sometimes feel jarring, it’s far better than comedy that actively ruins a tense situation by keeping things too jovial. If anything these chapters actually made me appreciate the series even more, actively aching and hoping I can review it with far more regularity than I do now.
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Astra Lost in Space is a partially free manga available at Shonen Jump. Volume 1 released on December 5th. Chapter 1 is free to read at Shonen Jump’s website, as well as all chapters following the first collected volume. Volume 2 (Chapters 8-18) will release physically in March of 2018.