Yuriko Akase's debut work, Sazan & Comet Girl, is being given a new chance to shine in the recently released English-language omnibus from Seven Seas Entertainment! Originally released in Japan back in 2018, the full color manga promises audiences high-stakes adventures in space, with surprisingly more down-to-Earth characters -- and does not disappoint.
Containing both original volumes, the omnibus tells the complete story of the titular Sazan and Comet Girl from beginning to end, making for a satisfying, somewhat long read. Sazan is a simple construction worker living on Earth and working off-world, when he meets Mina and quickly finds himself following her into a galaxy of space pirates and bounty hunting. Sazan's single-mindedness and willingness to put himself in danger to accomplish his goal grounds what could be an otherwise high-concept narrative. By putting the focus on this Earthling, Akase makes the story accessible to her audience and extremely engaging.
The universe Akase paints in stunning watercolors is vibrant, jumping off the page and full of life. From incidental background characters to buildings in the distance, Akase makes the galaxy, from Earth to a space-pirate hangout, feel lived in and realistic -- like there's more going on that we can't see, just out of frame. As the sole artist and storyteller, Akase is able to fully control the narrative, from the symbolism of the colors she uses to panel sizes and dialogue.
The watercolor, unusual for a manga, resembles the movies of Studio Ghibli, and the story shares a similar tone. Like Spirited Away, Sazan & Comet Girl's story spends more time focusing on the characters and their individual wants and desires, and how they interact with the other character's wants and desires than on any hard-lined plot. The pig-like alien pirate Kidd even seems reminiscent of Porco Rosso -- though with much less noble flair. Like those Ghibli classics, darker moments are handled with care, making them just as vital to the experience as space itself. Just be prepared to cry a bit.
The sense of scale in the manga is massive. The watercolors really emphasize the vastness of space and the juxtaposition between Sazan and his goal -- multiple times characters note that humans as a species tend to be "fragile" when compared to other space-faring species -- which can hold powers like invisibility, x-ray vision and size-changing. This makes Sazan seem even smaller and weaker, and his goal of crossing space to find Mina even more ludicrous. However, Sazan is an innovator, coming up with unique engineering concepts and more than capable of implementing them to perfection, a fact that comes in handy on his adventures more than once.
The other main character, Mina, is the titular Comet Girl -- something the cover makes no secret of. She's brash and quick-acting as a result of being hunted for most of her life and used to making split-second decisions. If Sazan needed some excitement, Mina needed some quietness, and as a result, the two complement each other, making for a compelling protagonist duo. While there aren't that many supporting characters, the aliens with their varied and distinct designs are memorable and fun, regardless of what side they're on.
Akase also is a master of facial expressions and body language, which really helps to sell each character's 'acting', whether it be sheer joy or heart-wrenching sorrow. She takes advantage of both her environments and the unique properties of her alien designs to make each character's emotions as clear as the stars' glow piercing through space at light-speed.
Overall, the Sazan & Comet Girl omnibus invokes memories of classic utopian sci-fi, where anything can and would happen, setting the scene perfectly for this simple story's high-concept-adventures. With grounded characters and easily understood motivations, it's a fun and colorful romp through the stars for those looking for something a lighter on the reading-side, or who want to escape from this world, if only for an hour or two.