Andromeda Stories, Volume 1
Written by Ryu Mitsuse and Keiko Takemiya; Illustrated by Keiko Takemiya
When I was a kid, I would’ve loved to get my hands on a book called Andromeda Stories. Just knowing that there was a galaxy full of solar systems and planets next to ours nearly killed me with the story possibilities. What kind of people lived there? What fantastic worlds existed?
Unfortunately, I missed the boat or the boat missed me; the English translation of Andromeda Stories comes about fifteen years late and I’m not able to appreciate it as much as I might have as a kid.
The story is there. Though it only takes place on a single world, there are rival kingdoms, cities whose designs should make George Lucas envious, jealous princes fighting for a beautiful and virtuous princess, roguish gladiators, a mysterious warrior woman, palace intrigue, rival heirs to a throne, a subversive invasion by alien machines, and rebellion. It has all the ingredients for a wonderful space opera, or at least a compelling fantasy.
Unfortunately, Andromeda Stories, Volume 1 is repetitive and hard to follow. I just started reading Volume 2 today, so we’ll see if this changes, but there’s a ton of telling going on with very little showing. The dialogue is full of exposition like this sequence between a young man and a visiting merchant who’s surprised to find a parade going on when he arrives in town.
Merchant: “Well, well… some commotion this is. What’s it all about?”
Boy: “Huh? You mean you don’t know?”
Merchant: “Why should I? I’m a thread buyer. I arrived here from the west early this morning.”
Boy: “You’re in luck my old man! The new king is being crowned today. A happy day that doesn’t come often in one’s lifetime.”
And these aren’t major characters either. Actually, they’re not even minor ones. They exist only to have this conversation and let you know that there’s a coronation celebration going on and that that’s a rare occurrence. Surely there are other ways to give this same information in a natural way that actually contributes to the story instead of taking time away from it.
Another example from a few pages later as dignitaries begin to arrive for the ceremony. An unseen parade-watchers observes, “It’s General Valt! Pretty stately to bring out the Dragon Calvary.”
To which his or her companion comments, “Me, I don’t like him. He’s an arrogant schemer.”
Thanks for telling me exactly how to feel about him.
Then there’s the confusing art. Even though it’s a black-and-white book, major characters’ hair color manages to change from panel to panel and the costuming is inconsistent, making it difficult to follow who’s doing what. Some of the action is also really muddy, especially during fight scenes.
In spite of all that, I’m really interested in continuing the series to learn what’s going on. Like I said, there’s a lot of plot and it’s all good stuff. The characters are all familiar archetypes, but there’s a reason archetypes work and Andromeda Stories makes full use of it. I like Prince Milan and rooted for him to be able to rescue his sister Lilia from her alien-possessed husband who rules the neighboring kingdom. I also like Il, the mysterious warrior woman I mentioned earlier. I don’t know what she’s up to or why she’s involved in the story, but that seems to be intentional at least. I’m looking forward to finding out more about her. And the alien machines who are invading the planet? Thoroughly chilling.
And in the quieter moments, the art is stunning. Takemiya’s designs of costumes and cityscapes are gorgeous and she’s able to communicate a lot through character expressions and body language. Which makes it even more frustrating when the text over-explains what she’s already said in her art.
Though I think I’ve got a good feel for the series after Volume 1, I feel like this is sort of an incomplete review. I want to read at least Volume 2 before passing final judgment on the whole series (there are three volumes total), but that’ll come in the next couple of weeks. Scoot back off the edge of your seats; I’m a slow reader.