We have some shiny review books, and feel obliged to post about them. :)

Last week, I was awoken early in the morning by a knock at my door. Now this is an unusual occurence for two reasons:

1) I sleep like a log.
2) No one ever knocks on my door.

But obviously my ears were alert to the fact that it was the postman here to deliver me a number of shiny manga that I was kindly sent review copies of. I signed with a flourish and ran them straight back up to my room so I could oggle the goods. I opened the parcel to find an eclectic set of books, each one pristine and shiny, just waiting for their first reader.

Needless to say, I grabbed the two I hadn’t heard of, and set off with the reading…Which brings me to the focus of this blog: S.S. Astro.

Despite its name, S.S. Astro isn’t set in a sci-fi universe on a massive space ship. Or a small spaceship. Or even a ship. In fact, forget the name. It’s misleading. The name is actually derived from what would perhaps be a more suitable, but less exciting name for the series: “Asahio Sogo Teacher’s ROom”. See if you can work that one out. If you’re still wondering where the name comes from, you can always check Wikipedia, but as I said: Forget the name. It’s not important.

S.S. Astro isn’t a particularly well known manga, and I’m not at all surprised. It is a collection of 4 panel comic strips that begins with newly qualified teachers Maki Izumi and Yoko Nagumo, friends since school, as they embark on their first year of teaching, at the school that they both attended, making friends with a wide range of stereotypes in a short period of time.

The manga follows a format that publishers, Yen Press, have advertised as ‘a genre made popular by Azumanga Daioh’, and is comparible to more recent works like Lucky Star. The difference being, instead of following the students, S.S. Astro follows the teachers. As a story concept, you may think this is an interesting twist on the norms, and it is. The only problem with this twist is that it doesn’t suit the format. To succesfully pull off a 4 panel strip, you need spontanaity, strong characters that can drive towards a joke in a short time period, not the more balanced, mature and emotionally driven personalities that adults seem generally limited to.

S.S. Astro, to me, seems like it is trying too hard to be something it isn’t. It tries to fit in character quirks, and it makes admirable attempts at spontaneous humour, but most of the time it just falls flat on its face. The only solace I can take from it is, at least it was easy to read. And perhaps as an addition, at least the art was nice.

It’s no surprise that I’d never heard of it, and equally, it’s no surprise that volume 1 is the only volume published. All in all, I think there are far better things to do with your life than reading the day to day lives of fairly unrealistic, unfunny characters. And if you don’t have anything better to do? Here’s something to get you started.

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