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Saturn Apartments, Vol. 1 Paperback – November 15, 2011
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From School Library Journal
Gr 7 Up–Some time in the future, all of the humans are evacuated from Earth and moved to a man-made ring that now circles the planet. The luckiest people are the richest ones, because they can afford to have their windows cleaned so that they can see the planet far below them. Mitsu's father was a window cleaner, until the day five years ago that his rope broke (or was cut) and he fell down to the planet below. Now that Mitsu has graduated from junior high, he is about to become a window washer, too. It's a difficult and dangerous job because of the wind, meteorites, and radiation, but it's what he was born to do. This book introduces readers to a world that is both beautiful and tragic–people long to set foot on the planet Earth, but most of them can't even afford to see it. Iwaoka's drawings are for the most part cartoonlike and sweet, especially the people. But when the camera pulls back and readers see things on a grander scale–like Earth as seen through the eyes of a boy hanging tenuously by a rope while floating in space–Iwaoka's detail is suddenly breathtaking. Readers will look forward to the next volume because they'll be rooting for Mitsu to succeed in his career, to make new friends, to figure out what happened to his father, and to visit the surface of Earth.Andrea Lipinski, New York Public Library
© Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
As fans of Japanese comics know, character development is king in manga, and Saturn Apartments is a series that proves the rule. Humans have moved to an immense apartment complex in the sky after earth was declared a nature preserve, with those able to afford better views living on the top floors. After his father plunges to his death, middle-school graduate Mitsu takes over his dad’s job as a window washer, allowing him a view of all levels of both the structure and society. The detailed artwork, particularly the carefully rendered backgrounds, offers insight into the characters and their place in society that the narrative leaves out. There are no car chases, no high drama, and no explosions, yet the gentle stories are compelling, as are the characters and their palpable yearning for light, for love, and, most of all, for a glimpse of home. This story of a young teen struggling to live alone will appeal to YAs, and the introspective nature of the narrative will have plenty of crossover appeal for adult readers as well. Grades 9-12. --Eva Volin
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Top Customer Reviews
That is the basic premise of "Saturn Apartments," which sees a future where the entire planet Earth has been set aside as a nature reserve, and the human population has been moved to an artificial enclosed ring system in geosynchronous orbit. The ring itself is split into three levels, the upper level where the wealthy make their homes, the lower level where the poor are, and the middle level which seems to be set aside for public services like schools and hospitals.
The story follows Mitsu, who has just graduated school and is set to replace his father as a window washer for the ring system. This means he suits up in a spacesuit and rappels across the ring-structure until he gets to his client's window, where he washes it. It is a dangerous job, due to the threat of meteorites and running out of air, or even having your lifeline cut as happened to Mitsu's father. Of course, because the window-washing service is expensive, it is almost entirely the upper level that can afford the luxury, while the lower levels survive in only artificial light and no view of the outside world.
"Saturn Apartments" is essentially a "job manga" in the same was as the Science Fiction series Aria, where the story revolves around Mitsu and his various clients and his struggles to fit into the world of his father. There are a few reoccurring characters, like Jin who had been Mitsu's father's partner and now is showing Mitsu the ropes, and Sachi, a girl who lives in a cleaning-machine that perpetually crawls the surface of the ring, as is set up as a possible love interest for Mitsu. But mostly the stories revolve around the quirks of Mitsu's clients, and the various reasons why they shelled out the massive amount of cash required to get their window's cleaned.
The art is, of course, simply beautiful. Iwaoka Hisae is more than just a manga artist but has also achieved recognition as a fine artist, participating in Murakami Takashi's "Tokyo Girls Bravo" exhibition. Her artwork walks the balance between ultra-detailed and simple, with people's faces being little more than round shapes with mouths, eyes and noses dotted in, but then ring-system itself is fully realized and completely believable. Iwaoka definitely subscribes to the "dirty future" style of Science Fiction, where all that machinery and tubes and gears that keeps everyone alive in a hostile environment needs to be maintained by somebody still willing to pull on a worksuit and gets their hands dirty for a low wage.
One odd thing about Iwaoka's art is that it is difficult to tell anyone's age. Her main character Mitsu looks like he just got out of Elementary school and is about nine or ten years old, but then in another seen he is sitting at a bar with Sachi (who looks the same age as Mitsu) getting drunk. Maybe this is the way the world works in the future, but it can be a bit disconcerting not being able to reconcile the character's apparent ages with their behaviours.
But that is the most minor of minor complaints, and all in all "Saturn Apartments" is a satisfying comic. It will be interesting to see if the next volumes are all "Customer of the Week" or if Mitsu, Jin and Sachi's characters and story arcs will be further developed. Either way, I will be on board to see what happens.
Saturn Apartments is kind of like Makoto Yukimura’s Planetes, in that it focuses on the lives of working class people in a science fiction setting. It’s more about characters than human colonization of space, though, especially as Mitsu begins to interact more with his coworkers, their families, and clients of his window-washing company.
The art is a little funny, with characters of all ages drawn with toddler proportions, i.e. big heads, small bodies. Older characters do look a little less toddler-y than junior high graduate Mitsy, so I adjusted pretty quickly. And it’s more than made up for by the amazing perspective work with rooms, both large and small, and the exterior of the station during work shifts. Several times I had to stop just to gawk at a specific panel.
Very much recommended!
And now “Dosei Mansion” with the new title “Saturn Apartments” will be released in the U.S. courtesy of Viz Media.
“Saturn Apartments” is set in the future where a man-made structure is circling the Earth. The structure, a huge apartment complex which is divided into upper, middle and lower levels and where humanity now survives, while the Earth has been declared a nature preserve.
While the humans who live in the structure are separated by class depending on their jobs. And like the financial classes in humanity, the rich are the upper class while the poor are the lower class.
The manga is focused on the main protagonist named Mitsu. A lower level older teen who has been raised by friends of the family, after his father, an outer space window washer apparently died. All that was found was a cut rope and so for all these years, Mitsu thought that his father had tried to kill himself in order to fall down back to Earth.
As a new college graduate, Mitsu has become a professional window washer.
On the first day of the job, he is paired up with the older Jin, a man who had worked and was good friends with Mitsu’s father. But Jin is alarmed when he found out that his son thinks his father had committed suicide.
Their first job together is a request from the lower level and that is to clean the windows for a new couple who are getting married. What Mitsu doesn’t know is the spot that he will be working at is where his father was killed and when he goes out to the same location, he not only sees the spot where his father had died but a sharp metal sticking out and handprints on the outside.
For the first time, Mitsu learns that the harsh wind conditions in outer space combined with the sharp metal, severed his father’s rope and he died from it.
While working with Jin, Mitsu wants to begin his new life as an adult, paying for his food and not having others taking care of him any longer, as he feels it is time for him to start paying for expenses. He also starts to learn through his job of the kind of people who live in the various levels of the apartment complex, but those at work who despise him because he was treated special because of his father and after his father’s death.
As Mitsu starts to take on more jobs, he learns about the risks of being an outer space window washer but also coming into contact with people of different status, living in different levels, on the job.
For the first volume of “Saturn Apartments”, the storyline has been fascinating and delightful.
While one can describe the manga as a slice of life manga set in the future, about a young man’s job as an outer space window washer, it’s more about his life as a young adult and the transition from being a student and now earning money in a risky job.
But through his job, he learns about the various classes in the apartment complex but also meeting people who eventually befriend Mitsu, because of his naivety of the different classes but he is someone wanting to help people and listen to them.
But the more he works in the job and meets people of different status, he meets those who have worked with his father and starts to learn how his father made an impact on other people’s lives as well.
The artwork by Hisae Kwaoka is rather unique as characters are drawn with a different style than any manga you will read. It’s hard to describe, but it’s a unique style that Hisae Iwaoka is known for and it’s great to have something different art-wise than other mangaka out there. She really distinguishes herself from other artists. Her writing so far for vol. 1 is quite entertaining and seems to be a coming-of age, slice-of-life type of manga series and I can’t wait for vol. 2!
A futuristic tale about a young man named Mitsu making a transition from being a student to having career and meeting different people through his job but also learning more about his deceased father who died doing the same job. Delightful and entertaining with unique artwork from Hisae Iwaoka, “Saturn Apartments” vol. 1 is recommended!