Saturday, June 15, 2019

Madowanai Hoshi, vol. 4 review

(All rights belong to their owners. Image from Amazon used here for review purposes only.)

Madowanai Hoshi, vol. 4, Masayuki Ishikawa. Grade: A
Been a long time since volume 3 came out. In it, the Sun got showcased as a live-in video gamer that dominated the online gaming universe. When he finally got talked into returning back to his place in the center of the solar system, the Japanese inner dome newscasters go overtime in reporting on the "loser offspring" of the Sunsun family corporation group, and the rest of society moves on with their lives. Meanwhile, a pair of similar "burning" women (see cover above) make their approach towards Earth, and we're also blessed with the appearance of dwarf planet Sedna

S-zawa is a bit miffed at how quickly the "Insiders" (people who live and work in the inner dome, largely animators for entertaining each other) have written off Sun, but he's not that surprised. Back at the observation dome, Oikawa is finally starting her "due diligence." Her job has been to put on a hazmat suit and go out into the raging crap storm that is Earth's atmosphere now and rummage for salvageable items. But, she's begun wondering what the limits of her suit are. No matter how much time she gives herself, or how much air she brings with her in her little autocart, there seems to be a barrier around "Japan" (the name of the Japanese dome) that she can't get past. In general, her suit and the autocart will start beeping and flashing a "turn around" warning on her heads-up visor display, and that's what she does. One day, though, she puts on a new generation (and highly embarrassing) suit and takes 2 day's worth of air with her. When she gets to the barrier, the autocart screams at her to turn around, and she orders it to shut up. She takes one more step, then collapses to the ground, unconscious. She's rescued by Sedna, and returned to the dome unharmed. Oikawa wakes up, but complains about feeling really dopey. She suspects that she'd been drugged by something in the airline.

As Oikawa then searches the observation dome's records for what she can learn about Earth's, and "Japan's" past, and the universe in general, S-gawa is subjected to a series of "science experiments" to "teach" him about gravity, potential versus kinetic energy, and other simple elements of physics (he bruises more than he learns) under the tutelage of Moon, and with the help of Neptune and Saturn. Turns out that Sun had given S-zawa a switch board that allows him to summon all the planets, and right now, S-zawa's favorites (because they're cute) are Saturn and Neptune. Along the way, Moon tries to teach the two Earthlings about the speed and dual nature of light, and the paradoxical nature of things that travel near but not over) light speed.

Eventually, Oikawa decides to push her luck, and asks Sedna to show her what's beyond the boundary, and she leaves an email behind for S-gawa, asking him to follow after her (destroying the email after reading it so Moon doesn't learn about what she's doing). When Oikawa and Sedna reach the boundary, all they see is raging air-polluted clouds. Sedna warns her to stay back, and starts to advance. She gets hit in the head by something, and says that apparently there are machines out there that are shooting at her. They can't tell if the machines are intended to protect the humans in the dome from some unknown danger, or if they're intended to keep the "insiders" "inside." S-zawa gets the email and tries to sneak out of the dome, but he forgets to delete the email, and Moon (in bunnygirl form) soon joins him. S-zawa has never been outside for very long before, and he's awed by the idea that Oikawa has been working in this hell nearly daily up until now. He and Moon track down his partner and the dwarf planet, where they've just started to talk to the two new women, who remind Oikawa strongly of Sun. The taller woman claims to have been given a lot of names by humans in the past, and is obsessed with learning what her correspondent (S-zawa sent a letter to her as well) will call her. Actually, Moon had been filling him in on the way, and he says that they're the stars Sirius A and B.

There's a problem, though, and that's what sticks in Oikawa's craw. Sirius Alpha is 8.6 light years from Earth, so it should have taken 17 years for S-zawa's letter to reach her, and for her to come to Earth. But, S-zawa sent out his letters only recently, and Moon had said that faster than light travel is impossible. Someone must be lying to them somewhere. Sirius replies that the ancient humans knew stuff that the current generation is going to have to rediscover on their own. Oikawa then asks "what's beyond the barrier?" Sirius Alpha (Beta can't or won't speak) says that she's prevented from answering that.

The two humans return to the dome, and S-zawa uses Sun's call panel to summon all of the planets to Earth, but most of them are annoyed to find that all Oikawa wants is to ask them the same question. They all say either that they're prevented from saying, or it's a secret. When S-zawa pushes them on this, asking "who" is preventing them, they answer "you guys did." Sirius A adds that the humans need someone with a strong resolve, either from in the dome, or nearby. The volume ends with a short history of probes sent to Mercury, including the joint JAXA-ESA BepiColombo mission which, at the time of the release of this volume, should be completing its final swing-by of Earth for a December 2025 arrival at Mercury.

Summary: This is not an easy read. Lots of harder kanji, and overviews of astrophysics and quantum mechanics. Still, there are a lot of jokes, and now we have a true mystery on our hands. The artwork is great, and I love the personifications of Sirius Alpha and Beta, and the solar system planets. My new favorite is Sedna, although I also still like the goth portrayal of Pluto. Madowanai Hoshi shows that learning can be fun! Highly recommended.

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