Book: Plantes Volumes 1 – 4/2
Author/illustrator: Makoto Yukimura
Published: 2004 (TokyoPop in the US)
OH MY GOD YOU GUYS HOW MUCH MONEY AND PHYSICS DOES IT COST TO BECOME AN ASTRONAUT?
This manga series about a trash collector IN SPACE and his crew is set in the near-ish future where humans have managed to harness various bits of near-ish space to mine resources. So there’s the main guy who wants to save up for his own spaceship and eventually devotes his life to getting onto the first mission to Jupiter. His little (younger, yes; size, not so much by volume 3) brother builds and sets off rockets in their Earth back yard; his dad is a hard-living astronaut who has made his mother into a feisty contradiction of take-no-shit and resignation.
His captain is a woman who is slowly going crazy not being able to smoke in space. Her son back on Earth copes with her gianormously long absences by collecting every living creature he can get to follow him home; her husband’s kinda bland, he’s in like two panels.
The other guy on crew – oh man you guys, spoiler alert because what makes his storyline so awesome is that the series opens with him and his wife flying on an Earth-to-moon transport and it crashes and he survives but she doesn’t and the vessel becomes debris that explodes into orbit and that’s why he becomes a debris collector (space trash guy), to find the compass she always wore because she was afraid of flying.
Seriously, that character motivation is so elegantly sparse yet easy to see that it’s what made that little great read “click” sound in the back of my head. And it was right!
The story evolves into a war about control and pollution in outer space, and another spoiler alert – it does eventually get to Jupiter. It centers around the characters but since they’re all space people, the politics affect their whole way of living, so it’s high personal stakes anchored in a bigger turbulent world. And the art reflects that, too; it’s not photorealistic, but it’s detailed enough to show endless personal character/emotional details and contrast the straight intricate lines of space stations to the more unpredictable flexibility of humans and Earth.
My only problem with this series is that it’s too short, because you never see what actually happens once they actually land on Jupiter, i.e. achieve only the first part of a much bigger mission they’ll be on for seven years, and the evil bureaucrat was just warming up with his shady priest friend by the last few pages.
Bookshelf and I demand more manga! Where’s our Volume 4/3?