Monday, September 29, 2008

Manga Monday: S.S. Astro

S.S. Astro (Volume 1)
Negi Banno
S.S. Astro is a manga series told in the "yonkomo" format, or vertical four-panel comic strips. The "Astro" in the name is an acronym for "Asahio Shogo Teacher's ROom." The book features a pair of women (Maki Izumi and Nagumo Yuko) who are teaching for the first time at Asahio Shogo, a school they used to attend, as well as a handful of other teachers, including a demented nurse (Arai Setsuna) who loves it when kids come into her office with injuries. S.S. Astro reminds me quite a bit of the only other yonkomo manga I've ever read, Kiyohiko Azuma's Azumanga Daioh. Not only do they both take place in school, but they also have a very similar feel to them: silly and cartoony and very whimsical. Although Azumanga Daioh concentrates more on the students of the school (where a pair of teachers are also featured prominently), S.S. Astro distinguishes itself by solely examining the teachers. There are plenty of fun characters in S.S. Astro, but they're very two-dimensional and aren't really examined beyond one aspect of their personalities: There's a teacher who eats a lot and never gains weight, a teacher who's in love with another female teacher, etc, with the same sort of scenes played out over and over again for each of the teachers without much evolution. It's gets a little tired, even though there is a continuity that carries on from one strip to the next for the most part (focusing on a tournament between teachers or obsessing over video games or whatever). In Azumanga Daioh, I just felt that the characters were flushed out a bit more, and the situations were more interesting. When things happened to characters in that manga, I cared about the repercussions, even if it was silly for the most part. In S.S. Astro, I didn't feel invested in the characters whatsoever, and there weren't any moments that really stood out as utterly cute or funny - it was all just sort of mediocre.

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