Monday, June 14, 2010

Manga Monday: Saturn Apartments

Saturn Apartments (Volume 1)
Hisae Iwaoka

New from Viz's IKKI line is Saturn Apartments, which features a future Earth where humans live in a huge structure shaped like a ring that surrounds the planet, a ring inspired by the natural one that surrounds Saturn.  This man made ring is 35 kilometers into the sky and is humanity's home while a sick Earth recovers from the damage humans have done to it.  There are different classes aboard the ring, the lower floor being the working class, the middle floor where everyone goes to school among other things, and the upper level being where high society lives.  Being from the lower levels, Mitsu follows in the steps of his father to be a window-washer.  Window-washing is a dangerous line of work aboard the ring, as high winds, meteorites and other hazards can come out of nowhere to harm the unsuspecting workers.  Mitsu's own father was lost to high winds while completing work, falling to Earth far below.  Basically, Mitsu and his co-workers wash windows for rich clients, usually people from the upper levels who wish to have the dirt and grime cleaned from their view to see the sun in all its glory.  So, in Oxygen suits, they clamber out onto the treacherous outside of the ring, attached to ropes, to clean the glass and repair any damage from debris, and that's how they make their living doing one of the most dangerous jobs available on the ring.  Amid this work, Mitsu has a lot of drama in his life, problems with co-workers, getting to know his partner, and in general piecing together the father he lost via the stories the people he now works with relate to him.  It's kind of a depressing environment, basically growing up in a space station, but there are nice moments with the people in Mitsu's life, and when they get a glimpse of Earth below them, it makes their job's risks well worth it all.  Iwaoka's art is the big draw for me here.  She has a great attention to detail, beautiful backgrounds, and great designs for the ring and their gear and clothing.  I also really just love how she draws the people in this manga: big round heads, quite stout, and with simple, but very expressive eyes.  For such an imaginative premise, the stories told here are much quieter than you'd expect.  No in-your-face space craziness, but more human, character-driven scenes, full of contemplative workers and people trying to just figure one another out.  It's probably not what most people expect when they pick something like this up, but it's a refreshing, original tale full of pretty amazing artwork.

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