Hisae Iwaoka – Viz – 2011 – 7 volumes
I’ve got a couple random volumes of this series laying around. What better place to start than the volume that was nominated for an Eisner!
I’m not quite sure what to make of it. The story is a very quiet one, with vaguely one-shot-ish chapters that revolve around a group of characters. The chapters switch between several different characters. But while the stories are more-or-less resolved each time, the plot is advancing. I’m not sure where, or if it’s actually going anywhere, but I did enjoy the quiet nature of most of these stories.
Many of the stories are about Mitsu, the young apprentice window washer. He tends to meet with several clients, for some reason. One is lonely and wants Mitsu to spend time with her in place of her husband. One is a little boy that appears to ignore them as they was the overhead windows in space suits. Another is a woman that makes a little device to talk to him through the glass. Another is a type of material collector that wants to recruit him as a collector, since he does such a good job on the windows. Most of them come down to the simple pleasure Mitsu gets from washing the windows, or the clients resolve their own problems, or whatever. They’re cute stories, and make up the bulk of the volume.
What appears to be the forward thrust of the story doesn’t lie with Mitsu, though. One character, Sohta, was recently demoted from his job as a researcher to a guy that scrubs the inside of tanks. He seems to be getting wrapped up in research dealing with landing on Earth (the entire series takes place on a huge colony that’s suspended just outside the Earth’s atmosphere). Context has me guessing that this is taboo, though he seems to take genuine pleasure in researching the best way to do it.
One of my favorite chapters was about Sohta’s wife. She loves and supports him the best she can, and always asks cheerfully about his work. When he begins to stay away from home because of his new research, she doesn’t complain or ask him about it. She simply cooks delicious meals for his dinner every night, regardless of whether he’s around to eat it or not. If he’s not, she invites some of the other characters over, including Mitsu.
There are others, but that was the bulk of the content in this volume. All of the stories are fairly quiet and understated, and yet… they seem to miss the slice of life quality that makes a series like Aria an interesting read. Perhaps most of the details were in the first two volumes, but the minutiae of colony life is glossed over. Even if it had been covered before, one of the pleasures of a slice-of-life series is that the characters possess a joie de vivre that leads them to take pleasure in the smallest things. Saturn Apartments is more about taking a peek into the everyday lives of the characters, which are in turn a lot of interacting with one another and discussing their jobs. It is interesting, and I do like it, but it feels a little like it’s missing something.
This volume struck me as a little flat, but it’s such an unusual book that it feels unfair to judge it based on the third volume. I have one other one stashed here in my apartment, so I’m going to give it another try. It seems like it could be a pretty fun series with a fairly light touch, and I want to like it. Perhaps the first volume wasn’t striking simply because I was expecting it to be a slice-of-life series, and it’s not? It’s its own thing, and perhaps I’ll be able to judge it better after a second volume.
This was a review copy provided by Viz.