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Lunch » Tags » Books » Reviews » Voices Of A Distant Star » User review

This is the reason why I still read manga even after having watched the animated version.

  • Mar 18, 2010
  • by
Rating:
+4


There are so many things that conjure up emotion...
The softness of dirt in Spring...
Clouds in the Summer sky...
The smell of the Autumn wind...
The sound of raindrops on a silk umbrella...
The chill in the air on the way home from school...
The scent of the chalkboard eraser...
The sound of a distant truck driving away in the night...
Or the safe and comforting feel of a convenience store late at night...

I just wanted to share all of those feelings with you...
For the rest of my life.

     And so begins the manga-adaptation of Makoto Shinkai's Voices Of A Distant Star. In 2002, Makoto Shinkai wowed audiences with his twenty-five-minute OVA Voices Of A Distant Star, and in 2006, this little gem was published. Although it hasn't had the same effect as its OVA counterpart, it, too, is beautiful, in its own right. 

     Voices Of A Distant Star is a love story that takes place in the year 2046 in the midst of a war between the UN Space Army and a race of alien creatures known as "Tarsians". Mikako Nagamine, a middle-school student, is drafted into this army, forcing her to leave behind her closest friend, Noboru Terao. Thus begins Voices Of A Distant Star's narrative; throughout Mikako's stay with this Space Army, she struggles to maintain contact with Noboru by means of text messages, while also making new friends and adjusting to her new life. However, the further that Mikako and the rest of the army venture into the deep recesses of space, the longer it takes her text messages to reach Noboru. By the end of the manga, Mikako and her team have traveled so far that her text messages take approximately eight years to reach Noboru's cell phone. 

     Having experienced both, I think that both the anime OVA and the manga have their own advantages. While the OVA has stunning animation and a moving soundtrack, the manga goes much more in depth in terms of exploring Mikako's time on the Lysithea (the spacecraft that Mikako and the rest of the army/research team are aboard) and Noboru's life back on Earth as he struggles to live his life without her. 

     One of the problems that I have with this entire story is the fact that Mikako was able to join this army in the first place. In Japan, I am fairly certain that middle school (also known as lower secondary school) covers grades seventh through ninth, meaning that the students would be between the ages of twelve and fifteen. Since Mikako is said to be in middle school, it is highly unlikely that she is eighteen-years-old yet, and so I don't know how she was able to be recruited at all. Didn't this girl have parents? I also am not certain whether Mikako joined the research team willingly, or whether she was drafted. Several online sources say she was drafted, while the back of the manga states that she "joins the research team". If she was drafted, that goes back to the age-issue I mentioned earlier. If Mikako joined willingly, then my problem is the fact that this entire manga centers around the pain that Mikako and Noboru feel at being separated, which makes me wonder why Mikako would join this research team if she felt this way about being away from him. My guess is that she joined willingly because of the magnitude of such an amazing, once-in-a-lifetime experience, not realizing at the time just how much she would miss her dearest friend. That then raises an interesting question: Is there any experience worth forsaking true love for, or is love really the most beautiful adventure of all? 

     Unlike the OVA, which centered mainly on the present events and time, the Voices manga jumps between past and present, allowing the reader to see just why it is that Mikako and Noboru came to be so close in the first place. This developing of their relationship definitely helped me as a reader to better identify and sympathize with their problems. There are several short anecdotes, such as one where Noboru tries, to no avail, to fix Mikako's favorite hair clip, and ends up just replacing the broken clip with a new one without telling her, that show just how much Noboru cares for Mikako as a person, and not just as a potential girlfriend. Noboru understood the sentimental value of said hair clip, and he was just as upset as she was over the fact that it had broken. This isn't your typical shallow love story, and while seeing Noboru declare that his life lost meaning after Mikako left could become old after a while, the fact that the manga is only one-volume in length keeps the angst from becoming excessive or overdone. This manga also does an excellent job of not just building the main characters' relationship, but their own personalities as well, mainly because there is a lot of dialogue and interaction between all of the characters. 

     One of the negative things I have to say about this manga is in terms of its translation. There are several instances where a word is translated incorrectly; for example, one part of the manga mentions a convenience store, yet the sentence reads "convenience story". These are just minor flaws, but nonetheless, I have had this happen with other Tokyopop titles before; it seems to be a result of laziness. There are also times when I cannot tell who is speaking, or what is a flashback and what is happening in the present time. These problems are more prominent, because they interfere with the reading experience.

     While the character designs in this manga aren't exactly unqiue, you can tell all of the characters apart, partly because there aren't very many of them. Those who have seen the OVA will be glad to hear that the character animations have since been drastically improved. Whereas in the anime OVA, more work seemed to have gone into animating the amazingly gorgeous background scenes, the manga focuses much more on the animation of the characters themselves. I must applaud illustrator Mizu Sahara, for the characters in this manga are so full of life, and their facial expressions are so delicately yet expertly expressed, that one cannot help feeling the pains of their plight. It is all very subtle. Another thing that I liked about the manga was the fact that the first few pages are illustrated in color.

     Overall, while I have enjoyed this manga more than once, I believe that its overall experience has lost some magic in the transition from film to manga, mainly because the outstanding musical score is absent. However, this is still a wonderful love story that I find to be accessible and enjoyable to not just fans of manga, but to anyone in search of a heartbreaking yet heartwarming character-driven story. Both the OVA and the manga are exceptional pieces of work on their own, yet the manga doesn't seem to have received as much hype or praise as the OVA. This is highly recommended.

If interested, please also see:

Voices Of A Distant Star (anime OVA)

I just wanted to share all those feelings with you...

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April 14, 2010
I must have considered this title a dozen times in the past year alone. Great review. In fact one that eases my concerns of the fairly short runtime. I'll be slipping it on my list right away.
 
March 18, 2010
This sounds great! I love the opening of the review too.
March 18, 2010
Thanks! So do I. After reading that part, I knew I was in for something special.
March 18, 2010
By the way, I've sent out word about the idea for a community based on creative writing a few minutes ago and I'm waiting for responses. I may mention it to the Lunch team as well and see if they could recommend any people in addition.
March 18, 2010
Great idea, thanks so much!
March 18, 2010
 Nice idea, Sean and Ulalume! I was hoping someone would create a writing group. Reading and writing--my two greatest passions in life. :)
March 18, 2010
Ulalume gets all the credit. All I've done is try to convince her that a writing community would be worthwhile. Does this mean that you'd be interested?
March 18, 2010
Thanks Adrianna. To reiterate, would you be interested?
 
March 18, 2010
Great review! I will need to check this manga and anime out because it sounds like one I would like. I really enjoyed how you compared and contrasted the manga to the anime. Both styles have different strengths, but just because they are based on the same story doesn't mean that they will read/view the same.

For me, animes usually win out because of the musical scores. The music adds such an important element to the stories that cannot translate into the manga. 

Do you usually watch the anime first then read the manga?
March 18, 2010
It depends. If it's a long manga series with more than one volume, then I'll usually just watch the anime because, in the long run, it's faster and cheaper. However, if the manga is relatively short, with only one or a few volumes, I'll usually do both. I'd love to read all of the manga as well as watch their anime counterparts, but there just isn't enough time. I agree that the musical score usually adds something to an anime. I actually said something about that in my review of the Voices Of A Distant Star anime.
March 18, 2010
Makes a lot of sense! I'll check out your anime review right now. :)
 
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My user-name was derived from the title of a poem by Edgar Allan Poe. I came to Lunch with the hopes of publishing reviews that would be appreciated by others and reading the reviews of others that hope … more
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Wiki

To what distance would you go for your one true love? In a future filled with a boundless potential for interstellar peace and prosperity, Mikako joins a research team to explore the recent contact between humans and alien races. She ventures out into space, leaving behind Noboru, the one young man she loves. As she travels deeper into this new frontier, her only connection with her best friend is through cell-phone text messages. But the years pass, and Mikako barely ages in the timelessness of space--while Noboru grows older and considers moving on with his life...In this timeless romance between star-crossed lovers in the most tragic of settings, there are some places man may not be ready to go.
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Details

ISBN-10: 1598165291
ISBN-13: 978-1598165296
Author: Mizu Sahara, Makoto Shinkai
Genre: Drama, Mecha, Romance, Science Fiction
Publisher: Tokyopop
Date Published: 1 August, 2006
Format: Paperback
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