Review by: Faith McAdams
Publisher: VIZ Media
Author: Hisae Iwaoka
Genre: Graphic Novel (VIZ Signature)
MSRP: $12.99 US
Rating: T (Teen)
Release Date: Now Available
It’s life, the universe and window washing.
Having been a fan of Hisae Iwaoka’s work since the one-shot manga called Hana Boro, I have been waiting for Volume 1 of Saturn Apartments knowing full well what to expect. Once again, Iwaoka does not disappoint in the very least as she paints a picture of life in a floating apartment complex several kilometers above a now abandoned planet Earth and a boy who finds meaning in a job he takes over after the loss of his father.
Several years ago, to save the planet, Earth was considered a natural preserve and all humans were evacuated to live in a floating man-made structure that houses several levels that separate the elite from the middleclass and finally the low class. Among the middle-to-lower class citizens is a boy named Mitsu who graduates from Junior high. Although he lives alone in his apartment after his father’s accidental death, he has people like the Kageyama family who watches over the boy.
Although he just finished school, Mitsu has secured a job as a window washer … a job that requires the staff to wear an astronaut’s suit and helmet to protect them from the hazardous ultraviolet rays and the wind. You see, the window washer before him died on the job after his rope broke and – to top it all off – the window washer in question just happened to have been his father. Thinking his dad committed suicide in a symbolic way that played to his dream of one day going down to the now deserted Earth.
His co-workers all seem to welcome the young boy warmly although the older man named Jin is a serious fellow who happens to have known Mitsu’s father and liked him. Taking Mitsu under his wing, Jin explains the basics of the job including the fact that the clients that order the window washing service come from the wealthy top level citizens of the structure. As it turns out, though, a young couple approach them with money they managed to save so that the window washers could clean the windows so they could get married under real sunlight instead of artificial light.
Mitsu first time on the job is hindered by strong winds that made it hard for Mitsu and Jin to clean the windows completely and Mitsu makes a discovery on the very spot where his father died … a fact that startles the young boy and makes him come to a realization about what really happened to his father. When he meets one of the clients in the market, she tells them the story of why it was so important for them to get married under natural light. It is their story that has Mitsu and Jin finish the job for them.
On the job, Mitsu comes to discover that not all the clients are kind. One wealthy client makes an unusual request that Jin won’t allow because it is dangerous. As the client continues to make the same demand and threaten no to pay, Mitsu discovers the reasons behind the request the old man stubbornly requires of them. Another client. Another client makes a window washing cleaning request but – strangely enough – closes the window and makes them do it all over again. Once again, it is Mitsu who meets with the client and discovers the reason behind his odd behavior.
Most importantly, though, we look into the lives of the people in Mitsu’s life including Jin who takes care of his sickly wife in a way that is uncharacteristic of a man who has all the appearance of a loner. We also meet a co-worker who isn’t so accepting of Mitsu’s presence, especially since the death of Mitsu’s father also happens to have caused an old co-worker to quit. Mitsu also meets a young girl who has met Mitsu’s father and befriends Mitsu in the end.
Iwaoka makes life in this structure fascinating but what makes this story really work are the rich characters who have their own feelings and motivations. Mitsu himself displays the innocence of youth and that transition between boyhood and manhood as a result of his job as a window washer.
Saturn Apartments is nothing short of beautiful without trying too hard and, in the end; the story will not fail to keep you interested from the first page to the last. As we follow a young boy who is discovering life as a window washer and things he didn’t know about his father, we see life in a man-made structure and the people who live within the apartment complex in the sky. Whatever you do, make sure you do not miss this one.
MANGA REVIEW BREAKDOWN
In the distant future when planet Earth is considered a natural preserve and its inhabitants moved to a floating structure above the planet, a boy named Mitsu graduates from Junior High and gets a job washing windows like his father who died on the job. As Mitsu discovers things about himself and his father, we meet some of the people in his life as well.
Iwaoka’s art is actually wonderfully detailed and the character design works well for this series. The backgrounds and the exterior backdrop is the most impressive part of her art.
A meaningful coming-of-age story about loneliness, acceptance and a future where people are still separated by classes, Volume 1 of Saturn Apartments is that wonderfully rare work that is proof that manga can be profound literature worth reading. Consider this one in the Highly Recommended list.
Review copy provided by VIZ Media