This new manga series was just launched from Vertical, the publisher responsible for bringing some key Osamu Tezuka titles to print (Buddha, Black Jack, Ode To Kirihito), as well as works by Keiko Takemiya. Kou Yaginuma's Twin Spica fits nicely among such company. There's an old-fashioned feel to this book, from its soft cartoony art to the gentle tone of the story and the wide-eyed innocence of its protagonist Asumi. As I was reading it, it just felt like I was reading a classic. Twin Spica is about a girl who wants to be enrolled in the Tokyo Space School, where she would be trained to go on missions to the stars. She has kind of a mixed relationship with the space program, as a rocket crashed in the middle of a town when Asumi was a baby, and her mother was killed in the accident, along with the crew and many bystanders. And she has some sort of a friendship with an invisible friend, a young guy in a lion costume who may represent the rocket that crashed. Asumi has an extensive knowledge of space and has been looking forward to reaching the stars her entire life, so when the first big test comes along to weed out the competition, with the help of a few fellow candidates, she uses her intellect and determination to do her best to overcome what seems to be an impossible task. And that's just the beginning of what she's going to have to go through to realize her dreams. Asumi is a very likable character and she has great, complicated relationships with those around her, including her single father and classmates. The storytelling overall is clear and strong and a lot of fun, but touched with the sadness that hangs over the early years of her lonely life. This book is a real gem and is sure to be one of the best manga offerings of the year.